Monday 26th July 2021
It’s not the longest bus route – extending only about five miles north and east of Llangollen at its furthest points – but it would be hard to find another route that packs in so many amazing scenic delights and heritage sites per mile.
The brand new Dee Valley Picturesque Bus began operation in May and runs every Saturday through to October offering four journeys through the day all based on Llangollen.
Route 199 is run by Denbighshire County Council employed drivers who drive school contracts and community bus routes during the week.
Operated by a smart brand new well equipped Mercedes Sprinter purchased especially for the service it comes under a Section 22 Permit arrangement rather than an ‘O’ licence.
Operating costs as well as the new bus are being funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund with, I assume, some ‘match funding’ from the Council as the bus is used during the week on other Council run routes.
The idea is to improve access to the incredible landscape in the Dee Valley around Llangollen including Horsehoe Falls and the Horseshoe Pass as well as to the nearby Pontcysylite Aqueduct, Canal World Heritage Site and Wenffrwd Nature Reserve.
“It is hoped that this new service will enable people to visit these key locations without the need of a car and reduce the need for parking spaces, making it easier for those without their own vehicle to access these places, and helping to reduce congestion at some of the busiest sites in the Dee Valley. The service will also provide both visitors and local residents the opportunity to explore the wider area.”
It’s a laudable objective as anyone familiar with Llangollen will know its beauty is too often spoilt by a long procession of cars passing through the congested High Street.
But as always with initiatives like this it’s ensuring the service is heavily and widely promoted that’s key to success.
I found out about it by spotting a ‘flyer’ attached to a bus stop in Corwen (pictured at the top of this blog) on my last jaunt to mid Wales when trying out the new T19 and Fflecsi services a few weeks ago.
That and a snippet in one of the trade magazines sparked my interest to find out more. Having done a search online I see it’s also been given coverage in local news outlets and there’s information on the Denbighshire County Council website as well as a local tourist information website here.
Sadly my experience when travelling on the route on Saturday indicated despite this not many others are yet aware of the service, as all four legs of the journey I travelled on ran devoid of other passengers.
But the upside for me was being able to dart across the seats in the minibus to admire the stupendous scenery from both the nearside and offside as we travelled along as well as enjoy the commentary and explanations about the sites and sights we were passing by the Council’s two experienced drivers on board – Dave and Tony.
The route isn’t normally double manned but Dave was showing Tony the ropes and also acting as a first class guide for me, pointing out everything of interest there is to see.
Ticket prices for adults on route 199 are £5.50, children £2.50 and for English concessionary passholders a special rate of £2.80 which suited me fine.
Each of the four journeys a day from Llangollen has four prongs, with the second and fourth journey having a fifth taking in the town’s museum on a ten minute there and back shuttle. There are decent connections with other bus routes serving Llangollen, including Arriva’s route 5 from Wrexham, Llew Jones route 64 from Chirk and TrawsCymru T3.
Journeys leave Llangollen at 08:35, 10:05, 12.35 and 14:05 with the driver having a break between 11:30 and 12:35. The bus comes into Llangollen from Corwen at 08:00 to begin its duties and returns at 15:30 by request.
The first prong on each journey is north west of Llangollen to the tiny hamlet of Rhewl (see map above). I understand this is served by an off peak shopping return journey operated by the Council’s Community Bus on two days during the week so these four extra journeys on a Saturday are a real bonus for the handful of people who live here.
The bus turns at the tiny Sun Inn which is currently closed and looking for a new tenant. Dave told me it used to specialise in craft beers.
The journey along the narrow road out to Rhewl and back follows the north bank of the River Dee and offers wonderful views across the valley including the chain bridge leading to the hotel that takes that feature’s name as well as Horseshoe Falls.
Once back on to the A542 the bus heads north on the next prong and soon passes the Valle Crucis Abbey with its popular camping site in the neighbouring field …
… before turning off on the right fork at a Y junction to serve Pentredwr which involves another narrow road and a reverse turn at the end.
It’s then back to the A542 and travelling a little further south before doing a U-turn at the Britannia Inn (still Covid closed) then back north for the spectacular climb up the famous Horseshoe Pass on the A542 ….
…. to Ponderosa with its stunning viewpoint across the valley.
The bus turns here again …
… and returns back into the centre of Llangollen from where on the second and fourth journeys there’s a quick five minute run to Plas Newydd Museum and back as already mentioned.
The views across the valley while descending the Horseshoe Pass really are truly spectacular, and as always it’s impossible to capture the true beauty in a photograph, but here are three taken through the bus window ….
Then the final prong is out to the east along the A539 to Trevor where the bus turns at Wenffrwdd Nature Reserve and calls close to the nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct before returning to Llangollen having completed a truly breathtaking 75 minute picturesque circuit.
I left the bus in Trevor to catch an Arriva route 5 which also takes the A539 towards Ruabon and Wrexham having thoroughly enjoyed my round trip helped enormously by the knowledge and enthusiasm of Dave and Tony.
I suspect (and hope) the Lottery funding will be for more than one year, especially as it’s involved the capital cost of a minibus so I do hope ways can be found to promote the service intensively and get more people using it and realise what a great way it is to see the sights, visit the sites and get to and from some lovely walks.
It might be a good idea to promote the service as part of the livery of the minibus especially as it passes through the busy town centre of Llangollen eleven times every Saturday as well as on its weekday duties which I’m sure would catch the eyes of passers-by. A colourful leaflet widely distributed would be helpful too.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed … because it really is a fantastic bus route and my congratulations to Denbighshire County Council for initiating it and well done to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting it.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.