Wales in a week: 5 highlights

untitled-3We spent 5 days in Wales in August of this year. It wasn’t planned as a big holiday but grew out of an idea to spend some time with the Bradburys (my daughter and her family) whilst they were camping in Anglesey.

I remember visiting Anglesey ways back in the 50s and 60s and often this would involve a visit to Beaumaris. And although I don’t recall ever staying or eating there I had this memory of the Bulkeley Hotel being the place to stay. That’s why I booked two nights there giving us a day on the beach with Alex and Clare and their children.

That gave us a first destination but we had to get there and since we would be heading up the A5 through Llangollen that gave us our first stop and highlight number 1 on day 1.

untitledThe Pontcysyllte aqueduct: Juni saw this on the Antique’s Roadtrip and given that I’d never been there it seemed a good place to start. It was built some 200 years ago, it’s 300m long and carries the Llangollen Canel some 40m above the River Dee below. It’s a reminder of the wonderful engineering that drove the UK forwards during the industrial revolution. It was a day of sunshine and showers but the latter held off long enough to allow us to walk across the aqueduct. Given a stiff breeze on the day it was quite an experience.

We woke on day 2 to better weather which promised to give us a fine day so we set off to meet the Bradburys and that gave us highlight number 2.

untitled-2A day on the beach with the Bradbury’s: They were staying with their battle bus (camper van) at the Tyddyn Isaf site just back from Lligwy Beach. We walked down to the beach and found it full of similar parties and it reminded me of beaches I visited when I was a child. The beach is within a sandy cove with no commercialisation to speak of except for a cafe with limited ambition at the south end. Otherwise it was just families, some with dogs, wind breaks, ball games and a safe place to bathe. Beach equipment hasn’t changed much but I was grateful for the folding chairs which you now carry with you. There a lot more comfortable than deckchairs.

Anglesey of course is in the northwest corner of Wales and our trip was to take us to the south so on day 3 with the weather less settled we drove into Snowdonia and highlight number 3

untitled-4Beddgelert: You learn about Beddgelert in school in Wales. It means Gelert’s grave and is said to refer to the favorite hunting dog of 13th century Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd.

Legend has it that he returned one day from a hunting trip to find his baby son’s nursery in chaos with blood everywhere. He presumed that Gelert had savaged the child and killed him only to find the child unharmed with a dead wolf close by. Far from being a villain Gelert was a hero in protecting the Prince’s son.

Less romantically it’s now thought that the name derives from that of a 5th century Irish cleric, Celert, and that the story of Gelert the dog was made up by an 18th century local hotelier to stimulate business. Whatever the truth Beddgelert is a quintessential Snowdonian village on the River Colwyn. We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch at Hebog on the terrace overlooking the river.

We’d done the northwest corner so it seemed a pleasant symmetry to do the southwest one as well especially since it was a part of Wales to which I’d never been. So day 4 took us south from Aberystwyth through Cardiganshire to highlight number 4

untitled-5St David’s Cathedral: For me this must be one of Wales’ best kept secrets. I guess we all know about St Davids in Pembrokeshire which, because it’s home to the cathedral, is a city and, I guess, the smallest in the UK. But beyond being the answer to a trivial pursuit question few of us know much more about it and its cathedral.

The cathedral sits in a hollow and is hidden by high walls but you get a first look at it across a typical cow pasture as you walk from the car park at the foot of the city. It’s in good shape with its full share of cathedral features plus a sloping floor. Compared with its contemporaries in Italy etc and maybe also the UK it’s pleasantly austere.

We anchored the end of our Welsh odyssey with a last night in Laugharne which we’d seen on the TV series Keeping Faith and which I later found out was the home of Dylan Thomas in his later years. Although we arrived there for night 4 we didn’t leave until day 5 and that gave us highlight number 5.

untitled-6Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne: Laugharne is blessed with several pubs. some are down by the Taf estuary, which features prominently in Keeping Faith, but Brown’s is a little way up King’s Street past the Three Mariners which is owned by the same people. It dates from 1752 and is most famous for being a favorite watering hole of Dylan Thomas who spent the last four years of his life in the town. It’s a short walk to Seaview where Thomas lived.

Brown’s is an excellent hotel and there’s also a super restaurant, the Penderyn where we enjoyed an excellent meal including possibly the most expensive scallops I’ve ever eaten. They were good though.

That’s it. 5 days and 5 highlights but really we should have spent more time and not necessarily done more but enjoyed a little more free time. Nonetheless it was a great trip and reminded me why I always insist that I’m Welsh and not English.

There’s an album from our trip at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGDcsAU

 

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