Finding somewhere to park though was easier said than done - Llangollen is a very popular place and on a bank holiday Monday just about every parking space was occupied. I lost count of the number of times I drove round and round the two car parks in the town centre but spaces just weren't becoming available, and whenever one did it was in a tight corner which I'd no chance of manoeuvring my 15ft long van into; there are times - and this was one of them - when I wish I had a much smaller vehicle. After over an hour of constantly driving backwards and forwards and round and round I was rapidly losing the will to live and was almost on the point of giving up completely and going back to the camp site when I made a decision which I would soon regret - I would drive up the hill.
While chatting with the site owner's wife the previous day I'd mentioned where I wanted to go and she'd told me it was possible to drive most of the way up the hill via a back lane. That would take me about two thirds of the way up, where I would be able to park up and walk the rest, so abandoning the car park idea I drove out of town and found the lane at the far side of the canal. The first part of the drive was fine but as I got further away from the town the single-track lane really started to climb, getting steeper and narrower the further up I went and ending up not much wider than the van. It also gained several bends and hidden dips, and with a steep drop down the hill on my side and no fence for quite a distance I was almost scraping the van on the wall at the other side, trying to keep away from the edge - one wrong move and all three of us would hurtle down into oblivion. And I didn't even want to think about what would happen if I met something coming the other way.
Eventually though, the lane widened out a bit and ended in a cattle grid at the junction with another lane leading down to a farm on the left and heaven-knows-where-else on the right; half a dozen cars were parked on the grass verge and just beyond the nearby wall a path led up the steep grassy hillside to the castle at the top. Looking up at the summit of the hill, which was 1,050ft above sea level, I had no doubt that I could get some good shots from up there but that was the furthest thing from my mind just then. Having just endured what must have been the most scariest drive of my life I was in no mood for walking the rest of the way or taking any photos - I just wanted to get away from there and get back to street level, so turning the van round in what space was available I set off back down the lane.
The drive down was helped a bit by the steep unfenced drop no longer being on my side of the van but sooner or later something had to happen and it did - I met a 4 x 4 coming up. There was no way I could go back so I just had to keep going slowly forwards while the other driver reversed for quite a distance until the lane was just about wide enough for us to pass each other, then as I drew level with him I wound my window down, apologised and thanked him for backing up. The rest of the drive down was completed without further incident and I finally reached street level alive and unscathed, and immensely relieved to be back in civilisation.
After that never-to-be-repeated experience I needed to calm down and chill out for a while so I decided that, providing I could finally find somewhere to park, I would have a nice relaxing horse-drawn boat ride along the canal. I drove back to the big car park and this time I was in luck - the attendant had somehow got his brain into gear and opened up the empty coach parking area at the end and there was now plenty of room to park, so with a ticket duly stuck in the windscreen I released the dogs and made my way back to the canal wharf. The next boat trip was just on the point of leaving so I boarded quickly, found a seat at the back, and paid the young attendant when he came round to collect the money.
With no engine noise the boat glided silently through the water, passing the marina and several canalside cottages with pretty gardens, then at the turn-round point the tiller was taken off and put on the other end of the boat and the horse was unhitched, walked round, and hitched up again to pull the boat back the other way. Although the sky had clouded over somewhat by then I still got several photos, and by the time the boat moored back at the wharf the peaceful and relaxing ride had certainly eased the tension from my drive up and down that steep hillside lane.