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Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal named the most captivating UNESCO site in the world

A recent study has unveiled the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal as the world’s most captivating UNESCO site. This remarkable aqueduct, which gracefully carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen, stands as a testament to the visionary work of engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop.

The construction of this engineering marvel spanned a decade, finally opening for traffic in late November 1805. To determine the most compelling UNESCO site on a global scale, Explore Worldwide’s travel experts employed cutting-edge eye-tracking technology. Participants were presented with a collection of 52 images showcasing renowned landmarks from around the world. Subsequently, the eye-tracking software discerned which images attracted the human gaze the quickest and held their attention the longest.

In this comprehensive evaluation, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal emerged as the undisputed frontrunner, capturing the title of the world’s most visually captivating UNESCO destination. It was closely followed by the breathtaking Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks and the captivating Carioca landscapes nestled between the mountains and the sea in Rio de Janeiro.

Constructed at a cost of £47,000, equivalent to over £4 million in today’s currency, with the original intention of spanning the coalfields of northeast Wales, grander plans to link this waterway with a feeder reservoir in Wrexham were abandoned once it became evident that the necessary revenues to complete the project would not materialize upon the aqueduct’s completion.

Renowned as the world’s loftiest and longest aqueduct capable of accommodating boats, this Grade 1 listed structure boasts 18 arches constructed from stone and cast iron. It gracefully extends over the River Dee and is celebrated as a true engineering masterpiece.

Measuring 307 meters in length, 3.7 meters in width, and 1.60 meters in depth, the cast iron trough soars 38 meters above the River Dee. This trough was meticulously fashioned from iron castings manufactured in the nearby town of Cefn Mawr and set upon a foundation of Welsh flannel.

In October 2008, UNESCO dispatched assessors to scrutinise and authenticate the site management and integrity of the entire canal stretch from Rhoswiel, Shropshire, to the Horseshoe Falls, encompassing both the primary Pontcysyllte Aqueduct structure and the earlier Chirk Aqueduct. Subsequently, on 27 June 2009, UNESCO bestowed World Heritage status upon the aqueduct, cementing its place on the prestigious World Heritage List.

Managing Director at Explore Worldwide, Michael Edwards, 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.”