North Wales Tours
Ty’n Rhos Country House
Is the perfect central base for exploring all of this region of Snowdonia & Anglesey
Conwy Castle and Town
Layers of ramparts, towers, dark passages and dungeons. Conwy Castle’s a great place to get lost. The town walls are almost fully intact, nearly a mile long. Twenty one towers and three gateways dot the walls. It’s best to head right up to the far corner of the town where the views back towards the castle are superb. You can even go toilet spotting, if that’s your thing - twelve medieval latrines stick out of the wall near the Mill Gate. If you’re a little castled out by now, go and see Britain’s smallest house on the quay. It’s 6ft wide by 8ft high, and it used to be owned by a 6’3”ft fisherman.
We stopped for lunch at the Castle Hotel. The bar always has different local beers on tap; this week’s special was the Rampart Ale from the Bragdy Brewery about a mile from the town.
The cockles are even closer and are walked up from the town’s quay 100 meters away. If you’re down on the quay, the Liverpool Arms pub is a great place to catch up on local gossip, and they let you take your pint out onto the beach, its likely to be a pint of Brains SA so you get to utter those immortal lines ‘a pint of Brains please’ or after a few you could try it in Welsh ‘Peint o Brains os gwelwch yn dda’
From the Castle we needed a good walk to burn off some of those calories, so we went to the top of the town to walk the medieval walls. The walls run right around the town and give some great views back towards the castle and the estuary.
The walk wasn’t quite long enough to burn the all the calories we ate, plus the weather looked good so we decided to drive over to Anglesey and take in a beach walk.
Angelsey’s entire rural coastline has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with loads of sandy Blue Flag awarded beaches, especially along its eastern coast between the towns of Beaumaris and Amlwch. We headed for Ynys Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn Island).
This has to be one of the most beautiful places in Wales; unfortunately or fortunately depending on your view point and fitness levels, the island can only be reached by foot about a mile along the beach from the car park.
Ynys Llanddwyn has a particular association with Dwynwen a 6th Century Saint. The name Llanddwyn means "The church of St. Dwynwen". Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her Saint's day is the 25th January.
We had a chat with some people out on the island and they couldn’t confirm or deny that Prince William and Kate live very close by, and who can blame them this place is romantic and stunning!
The island has been the setting for quite a few films. In 2004, the Island was used as a filming location in Demi Moore's romantic thriller Half Light. Tŵr Mawr was used as a lighthouse which plays a key role in the film. In 2009, scenes for the Hollywood blockbuster Clash of the Titans were filmed at Llanddwyn and in the Snowdonia National Park (which forms the stunning backdrop to Anglesey)
Plas Dinas came into the possession of the Armstrong-Jones family in the 19th century. Anthony Armstrong-Jones became Lord Snowdon on his marriage to her Royal Highness Princess Margaret in 1960. Prince William had lunch here very recently (and they have the photos to prove it!)
Built between 1283 and 1301, this castle was Edward I's most impressive stronghold and the ultimate symbol of Anglo-Norman military might. The polygonal towers and colour-banded masonry were based on Constantinople's 5th-century walls, and set it apart from the other castles of North Wales.
It has proved almost impregnable; in 1404, 28 bedraggled men withstood Owain Glyndŵr's siege, and during the 17th-century civil war it was unsuccessfully attacked three times.
The towers were decorated with ornate stained glass and elaborate stonework, the Eagle Tower is the finest remaining example although the eagles are looking a bit weathered after 728 years! In the Queen's Tower there is a museum celebrating Wales' oldest infantry regiment, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Other towers contain exhibits on Edward I's campaigns against the Welsh and the 1969 investiture of the latest Prince of Wales; Prince Charles.
Prince Charles’ Investiture Chair, the Eagle Tower and medals in the Royal Welsh Museum
From Caernarfon it’s a quick trip over the Menai Straights to Anglesey
Ty’n Rhos Country House www.tynrhos.co.uk is situated close to the Britannia Bridge & Thomas Telford bridge and is set in 50 acres of rolling countryside, with views of Snowdon and Anglesey. A perfect central base to stay and explore the area or book for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea in the conservatory or gardens. Plenty of parking space or why not arrive by helicopter?
Anglesey (Ynys Mon)
The island is a world apart from Wales, its flat for a start, which is a bit of shock compared to the rest of the country. It is known as “Mam Cymru” the mother of Wales, due to its ability to provide the rest of Wales with food when crops in other regions failed, (not these days, there’s a Tesco (where Kate gets her Salmon) and a Waitrose (where Kate and Wills do their general shopping) so we were told by the locals)
Linguistically and culturally, Anglesey is intensely Welsh. The island has the second highest percentage of native Welsh language speakers in Wales with 70% of the population speaking Welsh as their first language.
Anglesey was the last place in Wales to fall to the Romans who invaded the island in 61AD to try and rid Britain of the last bastion of the Celtic Druids.
“On the beach stood the adverse array, a serried mass of arms and men, with women flitting between the ranks. In the style of Furies, in robes of deathly black and with disheveled hair, they brandished their torches; while a circle of Druids, lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations, struck the troops with such an awe at the extraordinary spectacle that, as though their limbs were paralysed, they exposed their bodies to wounds without an attempt at movement. Then, reassured by their general, and inciting each other never to flinch before a band of females and fanatics, they charged behind the standards, cut down all who met them, and enveloped the enemy in his own flames” The invasion as described by the Roman Historian Tacitus.
It is slightly easier to get over to Anglesey these days! Several bridges have been built including the first permanent link built in 1826 when Thomas Telford built the world’s first iron suspension bridge.
you can walk right under the bridge along a coastal route called the ‘Belgium Walk’ (built by Belgian’s apparently). This takes you to Church Island where St Tysilio first built a chapel in the year 630. From the island you get a great view of the two bridges that cross the Straights; the Menai and Britannia Bridges.
Crossing onto Anglesey via the Britannia Bridge, the first town you enter is not the easiest to pronounce:
Or you can just say plain old Llanfair PG if is makes things easier!
The name of the towns translates to: St Mary's Church (Llanfair) in the hollow (pwll) of the white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) and the church of St Tysilio (llantysilio) by the red cave (ogo goch). And is the longest place name in Europe.
A bit of trivia for you: The name was also used in the movie Barbarella as the password for the headquarters of Dildano, the comical revolutionary and by Peter Sellers in the film The Road to Hong Kong where he plays a quack doctor who asks Bob Hope to say it instead of the more usual 'Ahh' when examining his teeth.
Anglesey Sea Salt
Halen Môn (Anglesey Salt) began in a saucepan on an Aga in a family kitchen. Today this Welsh sea salt sensation has caught the attention of chefs and food lovers across the world. Ten years ago they started by supplying Halen Môn sea salt to Swain’s, the local butchers in Menai Bridge. Today they supply the world's best chefs and most renowned restaurants. The smoked version of the salt also forms a topping for President Obama’s salt smoked caramels.
The ancestral home of the Marques of Anglesey bears witness to a turbulent history: noble beginnings during Henry VIII's reign, triumphant success and a loss of a limb at Waterloo, bankruptcy at the turn of the 20th century and the revival of the family fortunes in the 1930s.
Nearby is the Marques of Anglesey Column which gives me chance to quote one of my favourite stories:
The Marques declares to the Duke of Wellington, on having his leg blown off at the Battle of Waterloo. “begod sir, there goes my leg,” to which Wellington sarcastically replied, “begod, so it do”. There hadn’t been much love lost between the two since the Marques ran off with Wellingtons sister-in-law.
Stop and Pay a Visit to Oriel Mon, Anglesey's premier purpose built museum and art gallery to take in some modern art and most excitingly the Celtic Iron Age Stone Head. The Celts we famous for decapitating their enemies and displaying their heads, this head has a carved depression in the crown, who knows what sort of offerings were placed on it?
There are Royal Connections here too. The nearby village of Penmynydd was the home of one of the most powerful families on the island, which gave rise to the royal dynasty of the House of Tudor; which included King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.
We drove right across the top of the island calling in at the church at Llanbadrig (St Patrick’s Church) one of the oldest ecclesiastical sites in Wales. It is said to have been founded in 440 by St Patrick himself (who as we all know was Welsh). Local legend states that Patrick was shipwrecked on the small nearby island of Ynys Badrig (Patrick's Isle, also known as Middle Mouse) which can be seen from the churchyard wall.
We crossed from the Island of Anglesey onto the neighboring Holy Island and went on a fantastic two hour circular walk along the headland at Rhoscolyn. The walk is part of the The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path, a 125 miles / 200km long distance route that follows much of the island’s coastline. Unfortunately we didn’t have the estimated 12 days to complete the whole thing so we stuck to a few miles.
Rhoscolyn Burial Chamber, Borthwen Bay,
We stared the walk at Borthwen beach, the path starts near the Rhoscolyn Burial Chamber. The path hugs the coast and passes St Gwenfaen’s holy well said to cure troubled minds and heal wounds.
Our walk ended where all good walks should, at the pub! And what a great one this is, the White Eagle Pub – said to be a favourite of Prince William.
“staff say Wills and Kate have been ‘very regular’ visitors in the past four months.”
Heading further south along the cost we had another quick stop (the light was fading into another great Anglesey sunset) at Barclodiad y Gawres which translates into the “apron of the giantess” which is a fantastically sited Neolithic burial chamber, which dates back about 5000 years.
Archaeological excavations here revealed an early Welsh recipe; the remains of a fire on which had been poured a stew including wrasse, eel, frog, toad, grass-snake, mouse, shrew, and hare, then covered with limpet shells and pebbles. Fortunately things have moved on quite a bit on the culinary front since then!
Not quite what King Edward I intended. Beaumaris, with its ducks and swans in the moat, is very quiet and picturesque. Don’t be fooled. This is castle technology at its most deadly. If you’re heading off to an Anglesey beach for a spot of sandcastle building, you need to take notes