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It is very
Seat is visible, a mile distant, and on the north side of the Dee, the camp of Caer Drewyn, concerning which let antiquaries decide, or “ agree to differ,” whether its origin was Roman or British. It is one of the chain of forts extending from Dyserth. And now we enter that valley of jewels, and jewel of valleys, Llangollen.
We enter, that is to say, with the Dee, as attendants on the progress of the princely stream. Llangollen--the town, not the valley—boasts few points of interest in itself. pleasantly situate on the south bank of the river, in a hollow, surrounded by hills; it brews good ale and makes good flannels, and is deservedly prosperous in a steady, unpretending way; it supports, by the divided favour of tourists, four or five hotels. The scenery on all hands is softly beautiful, and visitors who are not too exacting, or too mindful of the studied comfort to which they may have become used in the hotels of Switzerland and other countries of the European Continent, may manage for a few days to make the town of Llangollen their head-quarters for excursions to neighbouring spots. Plas Newydd, a sort of little Strawberry Hill in its way, being a perfect mosaicwork of antiquities, put together with small heed to fitness or relationship, is never missed, unless by some tourist who may have an ambition to figure as an eccentric. Eccentricity, by-the-by, hovers in the spirit about Plas Newydd, and ought rather to invest it with a curious attraction for wanderers of a congenial character. Every one has heard of the “ Ladies of Llangollen,” the inseparable pair, who renounced the world for the delight of their own society, and who sacrificed all ideas of married life to a romantic vow of celibate friendship. Though the story represents them invariably as
"attractive young persons,” there was a disparity in their ages which is somewhat at variance with this popular description. Lady Eleanor Butler, aunt to the Marquis of Ormonde, was, in fact, sixteen years older than her companion, the Hon. Miss Ponsonby, a member of the family of the Earls of Bessborough. Of course—or the romance would halt and droop most drearily—the “ Ladies of Llangollen ” had many lovers, whose proposals were, in a prudent and worldly sense, eligible; and, equally of course, they were rejected. be it gently whispered, from Ireland that the ladies eloped together. They were overtaken and brought back, although, supposing the younger to have been no more than sixteen years old, the elder would have been thirty-two, and presumably her own mistress, the more “by token” that she possessed an ample fortune, which was entirely within her own control. Again they decamped, this time in masquerade; Lady Eleanor being dressed as a peasant girl, and Miss Ponsonby as a smart groom, with immaculate buckskins and top-boots-a disguise which, would in conjunction have fairly warranted the arrest of both these errant damsels, and their detention “pending further inquiries.” They escaped, however, the indignity of the lock-up, and the more serious hospitality of the lunatic asylum ; and they definitively settled in Llangollen, at the quaint little house of Plas Newydd, in the year 1778. For fifty years they lived, in curious guise, together. Having discarded the peasant dress and the saucy buckskins, they took to a costume less piquant, perhaps, but quite as extraordinary. Blue riding-habits, men's neckcloths, and high hats, with the hair short, uncurled, and powdered, were their only wear. They were attended, for a great part of this strange existence, by a faithful Irish woman-servant, named Mary Carrol, Both Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby had artistic and antiquarian
It was, THE “LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN.”
tastes, which would probably have led them, had they lived in these present times, to the reckless purchase of Chippendale chairs, and old blue china of the hawthorn pattern. As it was, old blue did not happen to be in fashion, and Chippendale, the furniture designer, was alive; so both were cheap, and unworthy the notice of connoisseurs. The particular direction or bent of these ladies' æsthetic desires was the accumulation of antique woodcarvings; and they had also a vigorous art-appetite for old stained glass. Their friends, willing to indulge these longings, supplied them to their heart's content with old, richly carved oak from all parts of the world ; so that their doors, windows, wainscotings, staircases, and all other constructive wood-work in the house was of a kind to make Horace Walpole's mouth water ; while the stained glass, if not quite on a par of curious antiquity and excellence with that of Fairford Church, is noticeable enough. The two attached spinsters lived on excellent terms with all their neighbours, paid and received visits, were beloved by the poor, and respected by the whole neighbourhood. Their old servant was the first of the little household to die; and when the friends followed, it was to the same grave in Llangollen Churchyard. Lady Eleanor's death occurred in 1829, at the age of ninety; Miss Ponsonby died in 1831, aged seventy-six,
The largest and most picturesque abbey ruin in North Wales is less than two miles from the “Hand,” or other of the hotels at which the sojourner in Llangollen may chance to be billeted. It is Valle Crucis. This name the abbey bore as far back as the year 1290, having, it would seem, taken it from an adjacent cross of stone called Eliseg's Pillar, which stands on a mound two fields off. But Valle Crucis Abbey was also sometimes called Llan Egwestl. The writings yet extant which certify the Latinised designation of this monastic house prove it to have been founded in the year 1200 by Madoc ap Gruffydd Maelor, lord of Dinas Brân, for monks of the Cistercian order. A tower which was standing in the days of Elizabeth was the centre of the church, a building of Norman foundation that consisted of a nave and aisles, north and south transept, chapels, and a choir. The only vestige of a roof is on the east side of the south transept. Portions of the edifice on the south side, having been the sacristy and chapter-house, with dormitories above, are now used as farm-buildings. The most elegant part of the ruined abbey is the western end, where the doors and windows are in good preservation of outline, a mutilated inscription above the west window being in memory of Abbot Adam, supposed to have ruled here in the reign of Edward III. These ruins, which are most secluded in their position, belong now to the owners of Trevor Hall.
Dinas is a name which has of late echoed with fatal frequency in the public hearing as that of the scene of a terrible colliery explosion ; but this is in altogether a different locality from that of Dinas Brân, near the town of Llangollen, where there are no collieries
The Dinas of mining celebrity is not in North but South Wales, on Newport Bay, in the county of Pembroke, a far cry from the Denbighshire valley. Now, Caer Dinas Brân, in this fertile oasis of a rugged, sterile, mountainous region, was a castle of such remote antiquity that the prudent archæologist gives up its origin as a hopeless riddle. In the year 1200, as we have seen, it was inhabited by Madoc ap Gruffydd Maelor, founder of the neighbouring abbey. Crow Castle is the English name commonly bestowed on Caer Dinas Brân. Some consider that by “Dinas Brân” was originally meant “Chieftain's Citadel.” There is a stream called the Brân which runs close by; but this is as likely to be so named after the castle as is the castle to have been called after the stream. British
or Roman, there stand the ruined stones, picturesquely placed to the joy of wandering landscape-painters, who see them from almost every surrounding spot, perched as they are on an isolated conical hill. Nearly two centuries after the castle owned Ap Gruffydd Maelor for its master—that is to say, in the year 1390 or thereabout—it was the dwelling, or legends err, of a beautiful young lady, Myfanwy Fechan, whose father, Edwynen Fechan, of the house of Tudor Trevor, held the castle under the Earl of Arundel, in the reign of Richard II. She was beloved by Hywel ap Einion Lyglin, a celebrated bard, who addressed her in an impassioned ode which is still extant. Caer Dinas Brân is old even as a ruin, for it was in that condition when Harry the Eighth was King. The castle must have been large and strong in its valid days. Now, when the tourist has climbed to the summit of the sugar-loaf on which the ruin stands, or has been carried up on donkeyback, he will probably feel some disappointment in finding the stones so scattered and so
SCENERY NEAR LLANGOLLEN.
destitute of architectural interest. Low rough walls, a well, and a bit of a moat, with some detached masses of masonry strewn hither and thither, and a small modern
Malpas house in the midst, where ginger-beer and
ALEHESTER other like refreshment may be had, are
Eaton Hall * Aldford all that he will see on the hill. But he will behold a great deal, looking from it.
Broughton The town below is a pleasing object in
Gresford the wide-spread scene, and behind it rises
Hone the high ground of the Glyn hills. To
r Wrexham the east, the Dee is seen winding beneath wooded banks down the vale, which, in the distance, is crossed by the arched
Wynnstay viaduct. The Eglwyseg rocks are picturesque objects near at hand on the north; and there are pretty little vales
Llanarmonilta and hills to the west, around Llantysilio.
Llangolleji In the background stretches the picturesque
Leili lisilio range of Moel-y-Gamelin ; and on a clear day the summit of Snowdon, rising grandly
Linnelidan above the shoulders of the mountains that surround it, is distantly visible.
lansantrfrid One of the sweetest spots throughout
Corwen the district is occupied by the little church of Llantysilio and its churchyard, solemnly beautified by great antique yews. The calm and lovely scene, delightfully shut in
Llandrillo by wooded hills, abuts closely on the Dee
Cerrigy side, just where the river flows over its
Llandderfeld stoniest bed, and is most prettily broken into little fits of waywardness. Nature, in this respect, has been assisted for once by
Bala engineering skill; the horse-shoe weir, a short distance further up the stream, where it forms a beautiful cascade, having been constructed by the famous engineer Telford
Arenig for the purpose of feeding the Ellesmere Canal. At Berwyn, the next station to Llangollen, a chain-bridge crosses the river, and on the high ground above stands the house of Bryntysilio, which is the summer residence of an estimable man of letters, Mr. Theodore Martin, husband of the gifted and accomplished lady whose maiden name, Helen Faucit, is memorably familiar to many English ears.
On the north-east side of the vale of Llangollen, is the bold escarpment of limestone rocks already named. It extends from behind Caer Dinas Brân, in a picturesque front of four miles, curving north-west, to a sequestered nook known as the World's End. At the base of this noble line of rocks runs a carriage-road; and on the summit, covered with grass as with a carpet, the pedestrian, full of health, as a vacation-rambler in North Wales soon finds himself to be, may draw fresh invigoration from the mountain-breeze, while his sense of natural beauty is gratified by the ever-varying prospects of hill and dale. Perhaps this walk over the Eglwyseg rocks is the most enjoyable excursion in the whole of the Llangollen valley.
At the head of the vale of Llantysilio, five miles from the town of Llangollen, and visible thence, are the round heights of Moel-y-Gamelin, one or all of which must be ascended by the tourist who would avoid the reproach of having neglected his opportunities. The mountain which gives its name to the range, and which is of superior height to its brethren, commands from its summit a grand panorama of finely-varied scenery. Northward the vale of Clwyd is spread out in its entire length, like a vast garden, with a high, sloping table-land on its west side, and the Moel Fammau range prominent on the east. Llandegla and Bryn Eglwys are close below, and Snowdon, Moel Siabod, Arenig Fawr, Arran Fowddwy, and Arran Benllyn are in the distance. Turning to the south, we behold the river Dee winding through the sylvan vales of Llantysilio and Llangollen, from which rise the Eglwyseg rocks, Caer Dinas Brân, and the hills of Glyn and Berwyn; the far distance of the beautiful picture being supplied by the great plains of Cheshire and Shropshire, the Wrekin, and the Montgomeryshire hills. After a descent to the gap where the road crosses the hills from Llantysilio to Bryn Eglwys, the pedestrian will have fresh exercise of lungs and legs in the steep ascent, among heather, to the top of Moel-y-Gaer, where are traces of an entrenched camp—British, it may be, or Roman, for there is no point more mooted in the discussions of antiquaries than this question of the island's early encampments. Few of them are more centrally or advantageously placed than this fortress of Moel-y-Gaer. By signal it would be in communication with most of the hill camps in North Wales, and from it soldiers could march in almost any direction. Close by, on one side, is Moel-y-Gamelin, and on the other Moel Morfydd.
Another pause for gazing round on another prospect, and for drawing breath ; then another descent, a few more ups and downs, and another long, steep pull, which brings the climber to the top of Moel Morfydd. The change of stand-point shows him many of the same objects, differently presented. Still, there are the windings of the Dee through the wooded hills and vales; Llantysilio is now close below; Llangollen town is hid; but the Dinas Brân Castle, the limestone crags, and the Glyn and Berwyn hills are fully displayed. To the west are the Arrans, Arenig Fawr, and Snowdon ; on the south are Bryn Eglwys, Llandegla, and the vale of Clwyd, with the Moel Fammau vale of mountains; the view on the east alone being shut out by the interposition of Moel-y-Gamelin. A descent may be made on the north to Bryn Eglwys, or on the south to the Llantysilio vale; or, by keeping a westward track over heath and hill, the traveller can proceed to Glyndyfrydwy or to Corwen.
In the midst of a large and richly-wooded park, on the north bank of the Dee is Wynnstay. There are few readers of these pages who need to be told that this is the residence of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Formerly, and until about the year 1640, the