Sep 25, 2011

Exploring the beautiful Isle of Anglesey, Wales


John and I are often impressed with the ease of getting around outside the United States be it within a country or between countries. From Dublin we to took the fast, modern ferry to Holyhead, Wales. The two-hour trip was lovely and relaxing. We stayed at Trearddur Bay Hotel located on the beautiful bay with the same name. It was a brilliant day making it perfect for wandering along the coast and the blue flag beach next to the hotel. When we asked where Prince William and Kate lived they pointed inland and said, “Over there.” Since I was sure we would not be invited to tea I left it at that. It would have been easy to stay at Trearddur Bay Hotel for days but our rental car was waiting at the hotel so in the morning we set out to explore Northern Wales. Northern Wales is a vista of rolling hills dotted with sheep – lots of sheep.

Beaumaris Castle, begun in 1295, was the last and largest of the castles to be built in Wales by King Edward I. King Edward is not the most popular person as his takeover of Wales was the end of their independence. Even though the castle was never finished it is considered to be one of the most technologically perfect castles with an inner ring of defenses surrounded by an outer ring making it nearly impregnable but it was never put to the test. Today swans and ducks serenely glide along the waters of the moat. However, entering the huge wooden gate we hardly noticed the "murder holes" above the door. If attackers ever made it through the rain of heavy crossfire of arrows they would be welcomed at the gate by being doused with boiling oil from the “murder holes.” War never has a pretty face.

We made a quick stop at Llanfair PG, which is the shortened way to refer to the town that has the longest place name in Europe and continued on to Penrhyn Castle. The neo-Norman castle was built in the early 1800s covering earlier structures save for the spiral staircase. The owners made their money, in part, from mining slate from the nearby mountain. One of the interesting items is a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria. The view and grounds are lovely. It reminded me a bit of Singer and Boldt Castles in the 1000 Island area where the American wealthy wanted to have their very own castles.

Not too far away was the walled city of Conwy. I am always impressed by medieval cities that have retained much of their original structures. Conwy Castle was also built by Edward I. He brought in English settlers and instituted English laws showing no respect for Welsh culture. In fact, the local Welsh people were forbidden to enter the castle walls except at the bidding of the English inhabitants to deliver goods or to work. Our hotel, Castle Hotel, was on a cobbled street within the walls. Just a few steps from our hotel was Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan Town House built between 1576 and 1585. It is one of the best-preserved town houses of the era in Great Britain. I was surprised at the bold red and white d├ęcor of the main rooms. The wealthy always live well regardless of the time period.