Our story continued as Rob headed for the mainland of Wales from Beaumaris on Angelsey via the lovely Menai Bridge to Conwy Castle and the city within its walls. Reaching Conwy, we were awed as we approached Conwy Castle, huge and brooding. It was constructed by the English monarch Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his 'iron ring' of castles to contain the Welsh. It is considered to be the most magnificent of Edward I’s Welsh fortresses. It has eight huge round towers and soaring curtain walls that give it an intimidating, looming presence. The castle is World Heritage inscribed site.
We walked the ramparts and explored the castle and then went to explore the town, which was charming. It is considered to be a classic walled town, with walls that extend over three quarters of a mile long and is guarded by no less than 22 towers. It is thought to be one of the finest in the world. Walking around town was fun. The streets are lined with restaurants and shops. We walked to the pier and saw the smallest house in Britain tucked between some other buildings. We found it a surprising place to be.
We drove on to Llandudno, the place that Rob had told us about before we started our exploration. He was anxious to show us the tram and the restaurant at the summit. We found it to be a wonderful, touristy city with many things to do. (www.visitllandudno.org.uk) If we had had more time and a nicer day, we might have visited the Great Orme Ancient Mine, or explored the Lluandudno Museum or taken the Llandudno Cable Car. Even on this cold and rainy day the 100-year old Great Orme Tramway was filled with enthusiastic passengers. We rode the tram to the summit of the Great Orme. Impressively, the tram runs every 20 minutes 7 days a week from late March to late October. It was an exciting ride, and when we reached the summit, we walked to the Summit Complex and enjoyed a lovely lunch in the restaurant, wandered through the complex where there were gift shops, a bar a statue of Randolph Turpin that you could not miss and more. It was warm and welcoming after the ride in biting rain.
Soon we took the tram back down the mountain and the views of the bay were spectacular. Rob took us through the town and pointed out Llandudno's North Shore, where there is a wide curving Victorian promenade separated from the roadway by a strip of garden. The road, collectively known as The Parade, has a different name for each block and it is on these parades and crescents that many of Llandudno's hotels are built. It is easy to see why this largest seaside resort in Wales has been dubbed the "Queen of the Welsh Resorts."
Just before we returned to Rhos-on-Sea we stopped to see the smallest church in Britain, St. Trillo’s (http://www.greatorme.org.uk/llandrillo.html). It was amazingly warm as we stepped inside. There were six chairs and a beautiful altar. Services take place here regularly. We were very near Northwood, and as Rob retuned us, we reflected on our spectacular day made even more interesting by listening to the music for the Queen's Jubilee.
The next day was beautiful. We had a lovely breakfast and a pleasant Northwood conversation with Sandy, David and Rob. We also saw a fascinating performance by two pet seagulls that have been at the property for nine years and have had babies each year. They “knocked” on the sliding glass door indicating they wanted food. It was time for us to continue our travels on our own and so with David’s instructions, we said “Goodbye”.
Everyone said we had to visit Caernarfon Castle and that is where we headed, feeling more comfortable driving after observing Rob’s skilled driving. We enjoyed the sea on one side, the mountains on the other and soon approached the Castle and, a traffic jam. We later learned that this was the tail end of a four-mile back up of cars that were going to a festival nearby.
When we finally found our way to the parking lot and looked up at the castle, we were transfixed viewing this castle that had to be that of King Arthur. After exploring the castle at length, we enjoyed the town and a pleasant lunch and noted the fair taking place.
The website for the castle states:
“Begun in 1283 as the definitive chapter in his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a seat of government and royal palace.
Mighty Caernarfon is possibly the most famous of Wales's castles. Its sheer scale and commanding presence easily set it apart from the rest, and to this day, still trumpet in no uncertain terms the intention of its builder Edward I.
The castle's majestic persona is no architectural accident: it was designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, the imperial power of Rome and the dream castle, 'the fairest that ever man saw', of Welsh myth and legend. After all these years Caernarfon's immense strength remains unchanged.
Standing at the mouth of the Seiont river, the fortress (with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour banded masonry) dominates the walled town also founded by Edward I. Caernarfon's symbolic status was emphasized when Edward made sure that his son, the first English Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. In 1969, the castle gained worldwide fame as the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
Caernarfon's position of pre-eminence in historic rankings is recognized in its status as a World Heritage inscribed site.”
We were hoping to go to Portmeirion on our way back to Cardiff, but the backup of cars on the road we wanted to take caused us to take an alternate route, a very small, slow road. However, it was a beautiful drive and took us past the foot of Mt. Snowdon and through forest and past lakes and rivers. When we finally reached the town near Portmeirion, it was too late to explore the complex. (www.portmeirion-village.com). Perhaps another time. As we were trying to decide the best way to continue toward Cardiff, we stopped at the Castell Deudraeth Hotel, enjoyed its elegance, relaxed, had a beer and thought if we had known this was here and had more time, it would be a wonderful place to stay. Our decision was to go the way we knew so we returned to A470 and were pleased to return to Cardiff before dark. Whew!
Photos: Leon. Keer