We left the Cotswolds on 26 July for a 4-hour drive to the seaside town of Harlech located in the region of Snowdonia, North Wales. As we drove along the topography of the area changed dramatically. The hills of the Cotswolds became the mountains of Wales. The roads narrowed to smaller lanes than in the Cotswolds - I felt as if we were driving on the walls. And if it wasn’t for the fact that road signs were in English and Welsh, we probably would still be trying to find our way around. The many shades of gray stone and slate roofed houses were a sharp contrast to the honey colored stone in Bath and the Cotswolds. I think of coal mines when it comes to Wales, but I found the southern end is coal mining country while the northern end is known for slate mining.
On this stop we stayed 4 nights in the lovely 1865 stone Pen Y Garth bed and breakfast with views looking out to Harlech Castle, grassy sand dunes leading out to Tremadog Bay, and views of Mt. Snowdon in the distance. At an elevation of 3, 560 feet, it is the highest point in England and Wales. On our first day, we spent 5 hours enjoying a self-guided tour of Harlech Castle (1283 by Edward I of England), a self-guided walking tour of Harlech, a stop for a spot of tea and Welsh cakes at Cemlyn Tea Shop, and a walk through the sand dunes out onto the beach. It was quite a work out that day as the streets were very steep so we were able to work off our Welsh cakes just fine, thank you. Those Welsh cakes are the very same Welsh cookies or fried cookies D's family makes every Christmas. Yes, D's a wee bit of a Welshman!
It seems anyone who has been to this area mentions seeing Portmeirion, a very small tourist village dating back to 1925 built in an Italian village style. Most building facades are part of the hotelier in the village, so there didn’t really seem much to wander about. Let’s just say, it wasn’t our cup of tea and called it a donation to the cause for upkeep, but we did enjoy seeing the salt water estuary with the tide moving in.
One of the local women working at Harlech Castle mentioned we should see her favorite of the King Edward I castles, Castell y Bere. Wow, while Harlech was imposing, and this one in ruins, the setting in a lush green valley full of sheep bleating was outstanding. It made for a lovely drive, walk around the ruins, and a lunch stop at Ty'n y Cornel Restaurant on Talyllynn Lake down the road from the castle. Fantastic day!
We thank our friend Julie for having mentioned a memorable visit in Harlech with her husband Ralph a number of years ago. We had planned on stopping in Conwy, just a few hours north of Harlech. So, we decided to divide the time between the two towns on each end of Snowdonia National Park. Thank you for your input Julie. We loved Harlech!
We left Harlech on 30 July and drove up into the mountains for a scenic drive to the seaside town of Conwy on the Irish Sea. We stopped in at Caernarfon, a medieval garrison town and another of Edward I castles dating back to 1283. It is the place where the last two Princes of Wales were given their title. While we toured the castle, we had our laundry done. Since we were staying at a B&B and an inn on this leg of our journey, it seemed to be the best use of our time. We researched laundry facilities and the only one that came up was Pete’s. Reviews said to ignore the look of the place and that he did a great job. So, we walked up to what looked like the back door of an old building, popped inside to walls of laundry bags stacked all higgledy-piggledy everywhere and met Pete – a rather large man with a generous smile that’s missing a front tooth. We left him our laundry and returned two hours later to freshly folded stacks loaded into our now cleaner laundry bags. At £10 we felt it was money well spent. Plus, he made points with D since Pete was watching a Formula 1 race while he worked.
We stayed at the Gladstone Inn for 3 nights above the motorway, but with lovely views of Anglesey Island and the Irish Sea. While there we enjoyed good food, checked out the town walls around Conwy (used as a medieval defensive structure, for yet another of King Edward’s fortified castles). I loved walking around on the old walls, but had tired of going up and down the very narrow stairs from all the previous castle towers (made more difficult by other people going up and down at the same time blocking any hope of light), so D checked out this one and I took in a good sit. While staying at the Gladstone we finally managed some much-needed planning time as we had no beds at this point beyond the next week!
We were not far from the town with the second longest place name in the world on Anglesey Island and knew we needed to snap a photo for our blog so we could share with you. We’ve been told the best way to read Welsh is to do it phonetically. Even so, my brain just does not register words with so many consonants. Our Aunt Ann Distefano was visiting Hawaii and she promised to send a few vowels our way! So, without further ado, the nickname of the town is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, but officially it is known as:
Thanks for joining our journey.