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Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal named world’s most captivating UNESCO site

25 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Wales

A new study has revealed the most captivating UNESCO site in the world is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal.

The aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen Canal across the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen, was designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop.

It took ten years to complete and was opened to traffic in late November 1805.

The Welsh landmark came out on top after travel experts at Explore Worldwide used eye-tracking technology to reveal which of the world’s UNESCO sites draw the human eye most.

Participants were asked to look at a series of images of 52 of the global landmarks, and the eye-tracking software was then used to reveal which images drew the human eye the quickest, and held their gaze the longest.

The aqueduct and canal grabbed the top spot as the world’s most eye-catching UNESCO location, followed by the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks and the Carioca landscapes between the mountain and the sea in Rio de Janeiro.

Michael Edwards, Managing Director at Explore Worldwide, said: “Our research into the world’s most captivating UNESCO sites highlights the undeniable charm these destinations hold. From architectural feats to breathtaking landscapes, each site is a testament to humanity’s rich history and natural beauty.

“At Explore, we are committed to curating unforgettable travel experiences. We hope our study serves as a reminder for everyone that these sites are not just points on a map; they’re chapters in the story of our world’s cultural and natural heritage.”


Built at a cost of £47,000 – over £4m in today’s money – to cross the coalfields of northeast Wales, the larger plans to connect the waterway to a feeder reservoir in Wrexham were abandoned after the aqueduct’s completion, when the revenues needed to complete the project were not generated.

Famous for being the world’s highest and longest aqueduct that can accommodate boats, the Grade 1 listed, 18-arched stone and cast-iron structure stretches over the River Dee and is considered a masterpiece of engineering.

At 307 metres long, 3.7 metres wide and 1.60 metres deep, its cast iron trough stands 38 metres above the river Dee. The trough, made from iron castings produced in nearby Cefn Mawr, were bedded with Welsh flannel.

The length of canal from Rhoswiel, Shropshire, to the Horseshoe Falls, including the main Pontcysyllte Aqueduct structure as well as the older Chirk Aqueduct, were visited by assessors from UNESCO in October 2008, to analyse and confirm the site management and authenticity.

The aqueduct was subsequently inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List on 27 June 2009.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago

In years to come what will Unesco have to say about HS2 ?

No beginning and no end, a massive ‘Rope Trick’…

Last edited 7 months ago by Mab Meirion

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