See one of Edward I's best 'iron ring' castles and Thomas Telford's magnificent aqueduct.
Distance 3 miles (4.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 558ft (170m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Well-defined woodland paths and tracks
Landscape Limestone hillside and mixed woodland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 256 Wrexham & Llangollen with tiny section on Explorer 240 Oswestry
Start/finish SJ 291371 (on Explorer 255)
Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads, except by canal
Parking Small car park by canal at Chirk Bank
Public toilets None on route
Notes Route through grounds of Chirk Estate only open between mid-March and end of September. At other times take detour on quiet lanes rounding New Hall and its reservoir
1 The walk starts at Chirk Bank, just over the border with England, following the tow path of the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Cross the aqueduct, and after this the footpath climbs to the B4500 on the outskirts of Chirk. Turn left for a few paces, then right along Castle Road. Turn left at the railway station, following a road to some magnificent wrought-iron gates, built for the Chirk Estate in 1721 by the Davies Brothers of Bersham.
2 A short way along the road turn left through a gate on to the National Trust's Chirk Estate (if the Estate is closed continue on the road) and trace a fence on the left to another gate. Here you angle a right, across the fields in the direction of the first of many white-topped waymarking posts. The estate's grounds are very spacious, and there's over a mile (1.6km) of walking across lawn-like fields, scattered with fine mature oak trees. Once through another kissing gate, trace a fence on the left westwards to join the drive to the car park. Ignore the drive on the left that heads for the castle itself.
3 Pass between the car park and Home Farm cottages before continuing along the rough track across fields to the road corner at Tyn y Groes. Here, turn left over a step stile and along a path signposted with the Offa's Dyke acorn. The vague track descends between woods to meet a walled cart track, where you should turn left to descend past two farms. A narrow tarred lane descends into the Ceiriog Valley. It's lined with hawthorn, bramble and wild roses, and verged with campion and primrose. It will take you down to the B4500 and the river bank at Castle Mill.
4 Cross the B4500 to follow the lane going over the bridge across the Ceiriog to Brnygarth. Turn left along the road at the other side, passing the old schoolhouse before turning left down a lane that descends past several cottages towards the river. Beyond the last of these, go through three gates on to a grassy path that descends further through woodland. The path then accompanies the river's south banks before continuing along a lane leading to Pont Faen. Don't cross the bridge, but climb right along a lane before taking a left fork.
5 Just before a sharp right bend, take a path on the left through woods. Beyond, follow the field edge, parallel to the canal. After passing through a ginnel between house, the path comes out on to the road at Chirk Bank. Here you turn left back to the car park.
Chirk is a former coal mining community, sited high on a hillside that separates the River Dee from the Ceiriog. It's in Wales, just, though if you wander any distance at all, you'll be stepping in and out of Shropshire too.
Chocolate-box cottages with rose gardens and hollyhocks line the tow path before you arrive at the deep chasm of the Ceiriog Valley. Engineer Thomas Telford's solution was the ten-arched aqueduct, of 1801, to convey the canal more than 70ft (21m) above the valley bottom. To your left is Henry Robertson's even taller viaduct, built in 1840 to carry the railway. Both canal and railway were built to convey the coal from these once thriving Flintshire coalfields.
Chirk castle was built in 1310 by Edward I's Justice of Wales, Roger Mortimer, and replaced the 11th-century wooden motte and bailey castle south of the town. The walls have now been decorated by scores of mullioned windows, hiding the stark repressive face those powerful circular towers once issued.
The castle has been continuously inhabited ever since, and by the Myddleton Family from 1595. The Myddleton's heraldic icon 'the bloody red hand' can be seen on their coat of arms and on the signs of many a local pub.
You must see the castle when you're out of your boots. Besides having attractive gardens, the castle interior includes exquisite state rooms with Adams-style furniture, tapestries and fine portraits. Maintained by the National Trust, it is open to the public between Easter and October, closed Monday and Tuesday except Bank Holidays.
The Hand Hotel at Chirk is a large 19th-century coaching house, which does rather tasty Sunday roasts. It is child friendly and reasonably priced.
Just by the Home Farm entrance you'll notice a line of raised ground. This is the remains of Offa's Dyke, a coast-to-coast earthwork built for the Anglo-Saxon King Offa, in the 8th century, to keep the troublesome Welsh warlords from making forays into England.