North Wales – Mountains & Castles

We have never been to Wales so we were quite excited for this leg of our trip.

On our way from Stow-on-the-Wold, we made a stop at Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the name implies, the main attraction is an iron bridge over a gorge. The River Severn runs through the gorge. The famous Iron Bridge was the first iron bridge of its kind in the world, and a monument to the industry that began there. This pioneering structure, built in 1779, marked a turning point in English design and engineering; after it was built, cast iron came to be widely used in the construction of bridges, aqueducts and buildings.

Our Airbnb in Wales was in Deganwy, a suburb of Conwy, located just across the River Conwy. It was a delightful loft, in the backyard of a lovely couple.

On our first morning, we set off for Llanberis, where we had booked passage on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. We travelled on the diesel carriage, pushed by a traditional diesel locomotive. For the 2022 season, the trains are not going to the summit of Snowdon (due to maintenance); the destination is Clogwyn Station, which is ¾ distance to the summit of Snowdon. The open mountainside offers spectacular views to the valleys below and the Snowdonia mountain range.

Snowdon Mountain Railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut, and February 1896. 150 men with picks, shovels and dynamite laid almost eight kilometres of track up the mountain – all in fourteen months.

This was a fun trip, with great scenery on the journey, including multitudes of sheep on the hills by the track and at times on the track, causing the train to stop and wait for them to move. The views from the. Clogwyn Station were quite spectacular.

From Llanberis, we drove to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales. With 58 characters, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the longest one-word place name in both the United Kingdom and in Europe as well as the world’s second longest place name.

The name apparently roughly translates as “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave” and was adopted in the 1860s as a publicity gimmick.

Our next stop was Caernarfon, home to Wales’ most famous castle and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mighty Caernarfon Castle commands the lion’s share of attention, but the town’s narrow streets and stylishly redeveloped waterfront also merit a visit.

The castle, built in the 13th century by Edward I as a royal palace and military fortress, was at the core of a medieval walled town. Edward and his military architect Master James of St George erected a castle, town walls and a quay all at the same time. This gigantic building project eventually took 47 years and cost a staggering £25,000.

The castle was born out of bitter war with Welsh princes. So of course its immense curtain walls and daunting King’s Gate were designed to withstand assault. But the polygonal towers, eagle statues and multi-coloured masonry sent a more subtle message. These echoed imperial Roman architecture, especially the walls of Constantinople.

For the last 700 years the title Prince of Wales has traditionally been taken by the eldest son of the reigning monarch. But it wasn’t until 1911 that Caernarfon again played a central role by hosting the investiture of Prince Edward. Most famously it was here in 1969 that Prince Charles was invested.

Our second day was spent exploring Conwy. We strolled across the Conwy Road Bridge, admiring the views of Conwy Castle looming at the edge of the town.

Conwy Castle, a World Heritage Site, is one of the most magnificent medieval fortresses in Europe. King Edward I and his architect Master James of St George built both castle and the town walls in four years between 1283 and 1287. This fortress is exceptionally well preserved. It contains the most intact set of medieval royal apartments in Wales. The high curtain wall and eight lofty towers rise almost as impressively as when they were built more than 700 years ago. Thanks to restored spiral staircases in its great towers you can walk a complete circuit around the battlements.

The town of Conwy has narrow cobbled streets, nooks and crannies chock-full of historic buildings. It is still protected by an unbroken 1,400-yard (1.3km) ring of town wall. You are able to walk on the walls, which offers great views of the medieval town.

Conwy quayside is the perfect place for a gentle stroll.

Crabbing appears to be a popular pastime. You will need a crabbing line, net, bucket and bait. Crabs like to hide among rocks, so fishing next to a wall can give you the advantage to help entice them out. We watched for a while and the ‘crabbers’ were having great success.
The smallest House in Great Britain is just 72 inches wide by 122 inches high. It was occupied right up until May 1900, and ever since it has been visited and marvelled at by thousands of people from around the world. The last person to live in the house was a local fisherman called Robert Jones (who also happened to be 6 foot 3). We didn’t enter but it seemed to be quite a popular destination.

Llandudno is a seaside resort town just outside of Conwy. A beach of sand, shingle and rock curves two miles between the headlands of the Great Orme and the Little Orme. For most of the length of Llandudno’s North Shore there is a wide curving Victorian promenade, lined by elegant hotels. The pier, built in 1878 and extended in 1884, is the longest pier in Wales at 2,295 feet (700 m).

From Conwy, we headed cross-country on our way to Liverpool. We passed over the Horseshoe Pass, reaching a maximum height of 417 metres (1,368 ft). The road travels in a horseshoe shape around the sides of a valley, giving the pass its English name

We stopped for a couple of hours in the town of Llangollen. This cute little town on the banks of the River Dee is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site along eleven miles of canal. We felt the town had a Bavarian feel to it.

Llangollen Railway is a Heritage Railway Line running between Llangollen, following the River Dee through the Dee Valley for 10 miles, to the town of Corwen. There are four, soon to be five, stations along the line. It would be a fun activity if one were to stay in the town for a day.
Another activity that would be fun to do is a canal ride in a horse-drawn canal boat.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in North Wales. It offers something for everyone – medieval castles and towns, beautiful scenery, outdoor pursuits, and a look into the Welsh lifestyle and history.


Bev & Harvey

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