The town of Wrexham lies in Welsh Border Country, nestled in the lower Dee Valley between the lush Cheshire plains of England and the rolling hills of North Wales. The area has many attractions and places to visit including St Giles Church and the two National Trust properties of Erddig Hall and Chirk Castle.
Wrexham has an astonishing range of historical attractions. Including an aqueduct that is officially one of the most remarkable places on the planet. Yes, the nearby Pontcysyllt Aqueduct is officially a World Heritage Site. Wrexham Football Club is one of the oldest football clubs in Britain. There is a wide range of good walking country around Wrexham including Wales' best-known long distance footpath - the Offa's Dyke Trail passes within 6 miles of the town.
St Giles Church: St Giles Church dates back to the 13th century and its impressive tower is renowned as one of the seven wonders of Wales. The Church and graveyard stand close to the High Street, behind a magnificent set of early 18th century wrought iron gates, made at nearby Bersham. Buried in the churchyard is Elihu Yale, whose bequest to an American College led to the foundation of Yale University in the USA.
The inscription on the tomb of Elihu Yale states:
Born in America, in Europe bred,
In Africa travell'd, and in Asia wed.
Where long he liv'd and thriv'd;
In London dead.
However, St Giles has more to offer the visitor to Wrexham than the tomb of Elihu Yale. The external stonework displays a rich and varied collection of medieval stone carvings. Gargoyles and grotesques stare down at passers-by with wide grins and ghoulish grimaces. Not surprisingly after 500 years many of the carvings are looking the worse for wear. Let us hope the cleaner atmosphere (Wrexham was a coal-mining town in days gone by) will slow down the rate of deterioration. Within the church itself, the stone corbels, decorated with armorial shields and a strange mixture of bishops and devils, are as clear-cut as when they were carved in the 16th Century.
Castles and Forts
Chirk Castle: Sitting in 500 acres of 18th century parkland, close to Offa's Dyke and the English Border, Chirk Castle is a magnificent example of a Marcher Fortress. Completed in 1310, the historic castle, once owned by Roger Mortimer, is now a grand stately home with elegant staterooms, superb Adam style furniture, tapestries and portraits. As with St Giles Church one of the glories of Chirk Castle is the wrought iron gates, a baroque masterpiece from the ironworks at nearby Bersham. The castle has a long and interesting history, at least six of its owners were executed for treason, and others perished on the battlefield.
Border Brewery Chimney: To the rear of the Nags Head Public House, and just a few hundred yards from St Giles, is the Border Brewery Chimney dating from 1894. It is a marvellous structure and in its own way can be compared with St Giles' tower. The red brick stack may lack the medieval artistic content of the old church tower but as the chimney reaches to the heavens, the Brewery Barons of bygone days almost outranked the Bishops of the Border Lands.
The chimney was built as part of Soames Brewery, which became Border Brewery in 1932. F W Soames had acquired the site in 1879, when it was occupied by a smaller brewery associated with the Nag's Head Inn. For centuries Wrexham was renowned for its breweries, but sadly the industry fell into decline and brewing stopped in the late 20th Century. The Border Brewery Chimney however appears to be in excellent condition and long may it "lord it" over the town, albeit that it now accepts its place as playing second fiddle to St Giles' Church Tower. I suppose the Old Church has had the last laugh. I still remember the smell of the hops wafting across the Mold Road in the cold morning air while I wended my way to the Art School in the Technical College all those years ago. Gone but not forgotten! And Wrexham Lager - ooh well - that's another story.
Erddig Hall: The late 17th century house, Erddig Hall, is one of the best examples of 'life below stairs' in Britain. It offers a fascinating insight into the daily life of provincial gentry, and the entire population of servants, skivvies, and estate workers. A range of outbuildings includes a kitchen, laundry, bake house, stables, sawmill, smithy and joiners shop, while staterooms display most of the original 18th and 19th century furniture. The large walled garden has been restored to its 18th century formal design and the surrounding Country Park offers much of historic interest including a Saxon earthwork known as Wat's Dyke and the remains of a Norman castle mound.
Llangollen Canal and the World Heritage Site of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: Slightly further afield you find the famous Llangollen Canal, and the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Llangollen Railway, and opportunities for many activities including rafting, canoeing, kayaking, climbing, abseiling, and gorge walking.
Bangor-on-Dee: Visit the picture-postcard village of Bangor-on-Dee home to an excellent National Hunt Racecourse with stunning views of the Welsh hills and the valley of the river Dee.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Walking: There is a wide range of good walking country around Wrexham including Wales' best-known long distance footpath - the Offa's Dyke Trail that stretches 177miles / 285 kilometres from Prestatyn in the north to Chepstow in the south. Indeed, as of November 2009 the path has been made easier to walk in the Wrexham area with the installation of 16 kissing gates and the removal of 18 stiles.
Another walk begins at the Sun Inn, Rhosllanerchrugog and takes a gentle climb up to Esclusham Mountain passing Ty-Mawr and Cae-llwyd reservoirs and includes a short section of moorland. Morer walks include: Offa's Dyke and Pentre-Bychan; Rhosllanerchrugog - Mountain Reservoirs; Coedpoeth - Gwenfro and Clywedog Valleys - including walks that start from Nant Mill and go up onto the heather moorland.
Watersports: Watersports enthusiasts will have to make a short trip to Llangollen to experience river canoeing and kayaking. White water sports as they call it. Adventure companies also offer climbing, abseiling, and gorge walking.
Accommodation and Services
Wrexham has accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, from camping and caravanning to luxury hotels, and self-catering properties set in wonderful locations. Wrexham with is vibrant nightlife and excellent shopping, is an ideal centre from which to explore the fascinating Border Lands with their rich history of the English - Welsh conflicts, the beautiful Vale of Clwyd, and the delights of the Ceiriog Valley.
At www.walesdirectory.co.uk you are able to find the top attractions in Wales and then make an instant online room reservation close to the attraction.
Strange but True
A friend, Ray Rodgers, tells me that excavations that took place in the late 1970's, during building works on the corner of Hope Street and High Street, uncovered remains of a tunnel that ran for a few hundred yards. It was thought that the tunnel may have been a secret escape route for priests from St Giles' Church, but this was not confirmed.