A Welsh lifestyle for the weekend
The Welsh live in a truly magical part of the UK - I was lucky enough to escape for a few days and I'm in love with the natural beauty of this part of the world. It was a last minute trip as myself and Micky realised our days off matched up so we found a place to stay on Groupon and were off to Northern Wales pretty much the next day! I had seen pictures of Wales and knew it was very pretty, and had been itching since it's so close to where we are based. As we have been here since December and only ventured to London and Manchester, so we were overdue for a trip! Here's what we got up to, and my thoughts on Wales as a destination!
Snowdonia National Park
We only live about an hours drive from the Wales/England border, and we chose a historic house in Porthmadog as our base (can't decide where to go or stay? Just head onto a deal site like Groupon and see what's on offer! That's what we did and it worked out perfectly). It took about two and a half hours to get there as it's on the coast in Northern Wales. The drive took us through the middle of Snowdonia National Park which just blew me away. It is massive, open and utterly magical. Tall shaggy sheep dot the hillsides, rocky outcrops cover the mountain tops and fill gullies, and moss covered stone walls criss cross the hills. The park has a very ancient presence to it, like you could step back in time simply by spending enough time here.
Porthmadog was lovely, but not ancient. It had been settled for hundreds of years, but the liveliness of the port and shops brings it very much to present day, especially when you watch the train chug along the Ffestiniog Railway through to neighbouring towns and see small children crab fishing on the wharves. Our house however, was another Welsh aspect firmly rooted in the past. Plas Tan Yrr Alt is a historic house that has recently been converted into a BnB, to much success. Set high on a tree covered hillside overlooking the port and marshy land below, it feels a world away from modernity. And that's its charm - tea in the drawing room or a soak in the bath lends your imagination the tools to take you back in time to the house's previous occupants - the locally famous Madocks, the eccentric Percy Shelley (an author and the husband of the author of Frankenstein) and many others. The house is grand and a testament to how the wealthy lived - I felt very posh whenever I walked around this gorgeous old home.
We were lucky enough to have some good spring weather too (Spring in the UK is known for being highly unpredictable) so we were able to climb Snowdon. The views are stunning, and you can say you have climbed the highest peak in Wales when you are done! The drive to the tracks start was as breathtaking as the walk itself - the roads here are very narrow, enclosed by rock walls and covered in moss. They follow the course of the rivers, pass by large blue lakes and climb smaller peaks that give stunning views of the surrounding area - I would highly recommend hiring a car if you are staying in this area and just heading off in whatever direction takes your fancy. You will find beauty, great pubs and castles on the horizon, I promise.
There are seaside villages filled with character and cheerful locals, and each town you visit will have something you have to stop and photograph - believe me, I drove my boyfriend mad asking him to pull over so I could capture the beauty of Wales!
The Welsh have their past surrounding them at all times - the roofless stone huts of past generations are not far from their newer counterparts, the castles overshadow the cities and many have walls that still wrap stony arms around the perimeter. Churches are green with moss and lichen and older symbols from local mythology are etched into or shaped from stone in the older parts of the villages and towns.
We drove to the World Heritage Site on one of our evenings, in search of a good dinner. We had the good luck of getting to watch the sunset over the city of Caernarfon, and most impressively, over it's imposing 13th century castle. It is reputedly one of the most famous castles in Wales, and it's easy to see why. The castle is right above the water and covers a huge area. It's towers are uniquely polygonal, and banded with different shades of stone. Its walls stretch along the water and there are hints of the old town mixed in with the newer sections, as well as the impressive castle square where markets are still held. It was a fascinating place, and one I would definitely like to go back to visit and explore more deeply.
A slightly more recent attraction (by more recent, I mean 19th century...) that I found utterly charming was Llandudno. It was built by the Victorians, and oozes character. The tall hotels that line the seafront are a pastel kaleidoscope of refined elegance. Ornate iron and plasterwork adorn the buildings, and the windows look over the long blue pier and its amusements as well as the truly 'Grand Hotel'. It doesn't take much to imagine the town being the grandest of all the seaside resorts, and the fun that has been had in past times!
It is still a popular seaside destination and the North Shore of Llandudno won the 2015 Seaside Award. The magical charm of the old city as well as the lure of older history means there's plenty to do here too - the Great and Little Orme flank the bay and offer lovely walks (or a drive) and stunning views, a church and graveyard filled with old family names and a Bronze Age Mine and more are all open for exploration.
I'm a little in love with the Welsh lifestyle - there are mountains to climb, beaches to visit, castles to admire and explore as well as the magic and beauty of being in an ancient country. I'm looking forward to doing it again!