A5/Chirk - Betws-y-Coed
|Meets:||A5, A483, A543, A494, A543, A470, A5|
|Route outline (key)|
We finally cross the Welsh border on a bridge over the Dee Valley on the Chirk bypass, and turn left to regain the original route. The area of road signs increases once we're in Wales because the signs have to be bilingual. Here begins the section where Telford really left his mark when improving the road, and because most of it hasn't really been improved since, many of the original features are still evident. For example, the majority of Telford's milestones are still standing by the roadside, quietly doing their job. The Welsh Office have recently erected brown tourist signs along the road to mark its status as an "Historic Route".
The A5 and the Shropshire Union Canal run side by side until the village of Froncysyllte, whereupon the canal boldly turns north and crosses the River Dee on the most audacious piece of canal engineering in the country: the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, designed by Telford, which is not for the vertiginous! We continue along the south side of the valley and descend into Llangollen.
West of Llangollen, we continue to follow the Dee upstream. It's much more obvious we're in a river valley, as the road hugs the steep southern side, squashed up by the railway (formerly an important east-west link, now a tourist line). Passing through the tiny village of Berwyn, which gives its name to an extensive range of hills to the south, we look down on the railway and the B5103 turns off, threading its way under the railway and over the river. Meanwhile, we climb as the railway goes into a tunnel and the river goes around the long way.
We pass through two small villages: Glyndyfrdwy (which simply means "Dee Valley"), with a 30 mph limit, and Llidiart-y-Parc (national limit - but take care!), soon arriving at the larger settlement of Corwen. Here's where we part company with the Dee at last - the valley turns to the south, but we're continuing west. Shortly after we cross the river on a fine stone bridge, there's a signal-controlled junction with the A494 to Ruthin and Queensferry. The A5 and A494 multiplex for a mile and a half, crossing Afon Alwen (a major tributary of the Dee - we haven't left it completely!) on a recently realigned section.
The A494 leaves us again at Druid, another signal-controlled junction. We continue, tight against the river for another 7 miles, the old twisting line interrupted by a brief stretch that was widened in the 1990s near Ty-nant. The new road cuts through a bend and gives a climbing lane - one of the few overtaking opportunities in this area.
At Cerrigydrudion, the straight line of the road appears to head straight into the village, but we bear left, using a short 1920s[?] bypass to pick up an equally straight road on the other side. It's straight on the map, but in the vertical dimension, it's anything but!
For a while, the road is a sequence of straights and modern sweeping bends, with a few "traditional" corners thrown in for good measure. A mile or two after the village of Pentrefoelas this changes again, as we duck into the woods to follow the River Conwy downwards. We hug the river tightly (there's no alternative in this narrow gorge), winding down, and crossing at a bridge about halfway down the gorge. The road in this section is supported by walls that keep it perched above the river. After a while, we emerge from the woods and the valley widens a bit. Make the most of the bright sky while you can, for a mile or two later we're back in the woods, again closely following the Conwy as it twists down to Betws y Coed.