Wales is an intriguing place which I have come to know very well over recent years, quickly becoming a home away from home. However, inarguably I haven’t explored North Wales nearly as much as the South. At present, I’m looking forward to a getaway with friends in Anglesey in just a few weeks-time, an area I’ve long been wanting to visit, if only it didn’t involve an epic drive. Some time ago, I almost managed to reach it, having endured an epic few days exploring the Welsh-speaking region for educational purposes. In the lead up to St David’s Day, I’ve decided to share a few of my highlights.
Mountain Scenery: Snowdonia National Park
Driving up through midlands, past Pembrokeshire and on through Cardigan Bay, we began to wind through the majestic landscapes of Snowdonia National Park, an enchanting outdoor playground and home to one of Britain’s highest peaks. Mount Snowdon stands at 1,085m above sea-level and attracts expert climbers and causal walkers in search of a refreshing challenge. This particular hike sits high up on my bucket list, whilst the neighbouring town of Betws-y-Coed offers a charming place to pause for those well-earned refreshments.
Coastal Towns: Aberystwyth to Llandudno
Aberystwyth may not roll off the lounge for everyone, but it does make for a lovely stop-over. Located in the middle of the Ceredigion coastline, the town sits between the cathedral city of St David’s in Pembrokeshire and a surfer’s paradise off the Llŷn Peninsula and boasts a mile-long Victorian promenade, with the oldest pier in Wales. There are some lovely vantage points from which to view the coastal town, with the world’s largest Camera Obscura atop of Constitution Hill, accessible via the Britain’s longest cliff railway.
Meanwhile, the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno has two sandy beaches framed by the central promenade. You can hop aboard Britain’s only cable-hauled tramline, which takes visitors on a swift journey to the top of the Great Orme headland, offering stretching views over the Irish Sea. Those who prefer to stay firmly on the ground may choose from one of the scenic trails instead. Remnants of the late-Victorian era remain prominent throughout the town, with the main shopping thoroughfare evoking old-world charm, resembling Western Australia as opposed to North Wales. Meanwhile the pier proves a popular with anglers and those savouring the essential fish n’chips.
Historic Castles: Conwy and Caernarfon Castle
Conwy Castle offers a remarkable feat of medieval architecture dating back to 1290, where Edward I was besieged behind its eight towers by the Welsh. The fortress is considered to be one of Wales’ most picturesque, and best preserved of its kind across Europe. This quaint town also presents striking walls with panoramic views superb views and Plas Mawr, reputedly considered to be the Smallest House in Britain.
Down the road is perhaps the more prominent Caernarfon Castle, which stands proudly on the water’s edge as the seat to the eldest son of Edward I, the original Prince of Wales. With 13 towers and two gates, this ancient site is quite impressively preserved and occupies the site of an earlier Norman castle by the waters of the Menai Strait. The castle has had a chequered history, but is fondly remembered as the scene of Prince Charles’s enthronement as Prince of Wales, back in 1969.
Overall, North Wales proved a real adventure and often did feel as if you were stepping put into another realm, whether it be cultural, historical or geographical. Abundant with charming towns, historic gems and striking valleys, you’re spoilt no matter which direction you turn. It is easy to understand why this rather untouched region is so popular with those seeking adventure, with castles captured between mountains and sea. Fond memories pocketed, I look forward to the onward journey, the greeting over the border, as ‘Croeso i Gymru’ ‘Welcome to Wales’ again comes into sight.