Mar 3, 2020

Visiting Northern Wales

Looking for a destination in the United Kingdom that is often overlooked?  Check out Northern Wales. Northern Wales is truly enchanting from the rolling green hills dotted with sheep to romantic castles and from the seaside to the mountains. Driving is easy with little traffic and gorgeous scenery.  Northern Wales is truly enchanting. 

Beaumaris Castle, begun in 1295, was the last and largest of the castles 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. The "murder holes" above the huge wooden gates could rain a heavy crossfire of arrows on the attackers followed dousing them with boiling oil. Today swans and ducks serenely glide along the waters of the moat.

Penrhyn Castle is a neo-Norman castle built in the early 1800s
covering earlier structures except 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. 

Not too far away was the impressive walled city of Conwy 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.  Nearby Plas Mawr is an Elizabethan Town House built between 1576 and 1585. It is one of the best-preserved town houses of the era in Great Britain with bold red and white decor in the main rooms. The wealthy always live well regardless of the time period.

Not to miss is Portmeirion, a fantasy village that was designed and
built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis to resemble an Italian village. Today there are shops, a spa, a beach, a pool, excellent dining and delightful accommodations. Surrounding the village are 70 acres of exotic woodlands with easy to follow trails and coastal walks. During the day the village is bustling with activity but a special hush descends over the village when the day-trippers leave making the place seem magical.  

Nearby are Bodnant Gardens, considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK, and Trefriw Woolen Mills that has been in operation since 1859 making traditional Welsh bedspreads, tweeds and tapestry.   In Llanuwchllyn take a ride along the lake to the town and back on the narrow gauge steam train.

Ruthin Castle Hotel started out as a Welsh wooden fort in 1277 and over the years was altered to become the large red fort-like castle of today. According to legend, King Arthur disguised himself for a romantic liaison with his mistress at Ruthin. Unfortunately he was recognized and by an old adversary. Arthur had him executed on a stone block now displayed in the Town Square. Peacocks put on their proud display in the gardens.

In Llangollen take a two-hour motorized canal boat trip crosses the awe-inspiring Pontcysyllte Aqueduct 126 feet above the Dee River. Only one canal boat can cross the aqueduct at a time. It is an amazing 1007 feet long supported by 18 stone pillars. It was built between 1795 and 1805 and is a World Heritage site.