First Published on my previous blog – October 2013
Thursday last week was a beautiful, still autumn day, with a blue sky and gentle breeze, so I decided to make my way through pretty country lanes to Llangollen, North Wales. Here are two very different heritage attractions I had last visited years ago and this seemed a great opportunity to photograph them again in the beautiful October light.
Valle Crucis Abbey
This pictureque abbey is located on the A542, just a few miles from Llangollen. Nearby is the Pillar of Eliseg, a ninth century stone cross partly destroyed during the civil war. This ancient monument gives the abbey its name, which translated is ‘the valley of the cross’.
Ruined following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Valle Crucis was a Cistercian abbey and was founded in 1201. Today the atmosphere within its ruined walls is serene, a peace made all the more profound by the building’s rural surroundings, away from busy roads and buried deep in the lush greenness of a fold in the Welsh hills.
A view that best captures the essence of the building can be found at its east end, from across the only surviving example of a monastic fishpond in Wales.
Just a short drive away is Llangollen – set on the River Dee, the town has many attractions and is popular with visitors. It also hosts an annual International Eisteddfod, a festival with musical and dancing competitions.
Yesterday, though, I drove through the town centre on my way to Plas Newydd (‘new hall’ in English). This striking property was home to the Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby. The pair, who were from aristocratic families, lived at the property from 1780 – 1829, having escaped unwanted marriages in their native Ireland.
The house is a very photogenic, with a black and white half-timbered façade. It is decorated inside and out with ornate carvings and it’s well worth using the free audio guide to discover more about the property, the famous residents and the incredible collection of objects it holds.
Roses were in full bloom in the garden when I visited, which also features topiary and standing stones – and I spent quite a while capturing images of the house from many angles, often using the gardens as foreground interest. I was also able to photograph the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran in the background, a ruined medieval castle, looming broodingly on a distant hill.
Plas Newydd is managed by Denbighshire County Council and Valle Crucis Abbey, by CADW.