Ladies of Llangollen

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My Ireland-based friend and blogger Dublinia urged me to go and visit Plas Newydd in Llangollen. She loves the story of two Irish ladies, named Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who in the late XVIII century escaped to Wales to live an unconventional life together against all odds, against their families will, despite having no money. They cared very little about what their relatives or anyone else thought of them, they also fiercely denied that their relationship was sexual. They bought a cottage and moved in together to live there for the next 50 years – longer, than most marriages even back then, not to mention nowadays…Burdened with no kids, they became locally known as two eccentric but likable individuals and over the years they received many esteemed guests, from Duke of Wellington to William Wordsworth. They even exchanged correspondence with Lord Byron himself…Their modest cottage was gradually transformed into a Gothic paradise surrounded by beautiful gardens, decorated with elaborate oak carvings and stained windows and filled with gifts and curiosities brought generously by the visitors. It struck me how low the ceilings were, and I am only 5’3”. The beds were tiny too, small double at best. In spite of this the house seemed comfortable and cosy and I can imagine Eleanor and Sarah had a very happy life there, doing exactly what they enjoyed: studying languages and literature, reading and of course entertaining Lords and poets. Not bad for two poor spinsters over 200 years ago.

Entry is only £6 and there is a very pleasant cafe serving soups, sandwiches and cakes. I did not stop for lunch but might do next time, since it is free to enter the grounds without visiting the house.

Last time I went to Llangollen I did not get to see the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct so I decided to walk there from the wharf, hoping it would take me under an hour. I was wrong, it took 1.5 hour and as much as I like walking, this was hardly enjoyable. Due to over 60% humidity, 27 degrees Celsius simply felt like a sauna ­čśë The walk itself is pleasant, especially after the first 20 min when it gets further away from the busy road. Traffic noise and sheer number of cars is something I can’t get over in Llangollen; if only there was a bypass road to take all the heavy traffic out of this small town.

The views on the way and the Aqueduct itself were well worth losing a few litres of sweat. I have no fear of heights but blimey, I was impressed and I could see some visitors were scared ­čśë The views were gorgeous. Wales is such a blessed country, its scenery straight out of Lord of The Rings… I stared at awe for a good few minutes at River Dee below and the green hills all around. No wonder that the Aqueduct, the astonishing feat of engineering, was granted a UNESCO Heritage status in 2009.

I had high hopes for a nice pint at Llangollen’s waterside pub but it was packed full at 6:30 pm. I can see why – the location is perfect. Llangollen is so picturesque and, I dare say, old fashioned but in a good way. No Costa or Starbucks in sight, no need for them either.

Next time I would like to venture a little out of town and explore the surrounding hills. It’s Eisteddfod next week, so it will be mad busy, but I might pop in on Saturday just out of curiosity. If it gets too much, the peaceful Plas Newydd awaits!

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