A friend of mine recently asked how I’d spend a long weekend in Wrexham if I was a visitor. Three things sprang to mind.
Sugar and ox blood. A hand on top of a gate. And an ancient king. I should explain.
I’ve lived in Wrexham County Borough for five years and I genuinely love it.
It’s partly because I’m spoilt for things to see and do. And because I live here, I don’t have to pick and choose – I can do them all.
But if I were a visitor, with just a few days to spare, these are the things that would top my to-do list…
1. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site
The aqueduct is the centre-piece of our World Heritage Site and was completed in 1805.
The steel trough that sits on top of the stone pillars, and carries 1.5 million litres of water across the Dee Valley, was sealed with a substance that included ox blood and sugar. I kid you not (it was built over 200 years ago).
You can cross the aqueduct on foot, or by boat. Or even kayak if you feel adventurous. Either way, it’s a must see.
2. Erddig and Chirk Castle
You expect a great experience at any National Trust property, but these two really are brilliant. Erddig is a proper upstairs-downstairs historic house where the lives of the servants were as interesting as the owners’ (a bit like Downton Abbey).
Chirk Castle is a Marcher fortress dating from 1310. There’s an interesting tale about the red hand that sits near the top of the iron gates at the exit to the estate – involving a race between two youths that ends with one of them cutting a limb off. Oh dear.
I think (!) it’s just a story.
3. Offa’s Dyke
There are so many great places to walk in Wrexham – including a section of the famous Offa’s Dyke.
Based on earthworks built by King Offa of Mercia in the eighth century, this trail follows the English/Welsh border for 177 miles. The section that passes through Wrexham includes Pontcysyllte.
Get your boots on and give it a go.
Other things on my list – time permitting – would include some 4×4 off-roading with Motor Safari. A visit to Wrexham County Borough Museum. A look around the lovely St Giles Church.
And a walk across Chirk Aqueduct (also part of our World Heritage Site, and just as breath-taking as Pontcysyllte).
And if I was spending more than a long weekend here, Wrexham is a great base to explore further afield.
I’d visit the historic city of Chester – just 10 miles down the road.
And the riverside town of Llangollen – with its steam railway, horse-drawn boat trips and heritage sites.
You can even reach a beach in less than 30 minutes by car (at Talacre). So some sandcastles would be in order too.
These are just the things I would do.
But we’re all different, and exploring Wrexham offers something for everyone. Adventure for all, in other words.
return on investment
Of course, a great tourism offer needs nurturing.
Since 2013, our tourism team – part of the Destination Wrexham partnership – has spearheaded lots of new initiatives.
Local produce features on menus across the county, thanks to a series of fun (and headline-grabbing) food challenges – giving rise to dishes like the ‘leek cupcake’ and the ‘ultimate Wrexham lamb burger.’
Maybe you’ve heard about the Wrexham sheep? Twenty three colourful sculptures – designed by local schools – installed across the county as part of a new art trail.
Or cornerstone events like Underneath the Arches at Pontcysyllte – a massively popular music and fireworks concert.
The fact is, we get a good return on investment.
Tourism is playing a big part in our economy, contributing over £100m a year and supporting 1,600 full-time jobs.
A lot of this is down to local tourism businesses, and our annual tourism awards celebrate the commitment and quality offered by everyone taking part in our tourism ambassador scheme.
Glyndwr University has also worked with us to launch its first ever Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management Degree.
It offers students a unique opportunity to build careers with local businesses and work alongside our tourism team to develop their skills.
There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to make Wrexham a brilliant visitor experience.
Have I convinced you to take the tour? I hope so. But if you need a little more persuasion, take a look at this video…