Manchester Stories and Tips

North Wales Where the Sun Shines

Conwy Castle Photo, Wales, United Kingdom

We headed out of Manchester under grey skies and as it looked like rain, we decided to skip Chester Zoo and go to north Wales instead, not far from there. We drove out of the bad weather into Wales and by the time we got to the old town of Conwy, the sun was out and breeze was blowing. We had brought a picnic of sandwiches and fruit to eat at the zoo so we ate them on benches by the walls of Conwy Castle and then went inside to explore. The Castle was built in the 13th century by Edward I and is an astounding structure that still has a lot to view. Most of the towers are still intact and you can go up a stone spiral staircase in some of them to access the battlements along with spectacular views over the old town and the estuary to the Conwy River, filled with both fishing and pleasure boats. Very picturesque. We wandered around the castle for awhile, taking lots of pictures. We weren't too keen on the stair cases as they looked a bit treacherous to us and stayed on solid ground. There is a little exhibit in the Chapel tower where the royal chapel was and you can still see a hearth in the area where the King's Apartments were. There was also an 80 foot well in a courtyard and of course there's a visitor center and shop.

The town of Conwy is still surrounded by medieval walls that you can walk around. Good views from up there too, I expect. We walked around the narrow streets, gawping at all the old buildings. We discovered one gift shop that had very Goth type items and gifts in a lower level and we took great delight in perusing the crystals, dragons and other fantasy type items. It's on Castle Street but I can't remember the name of it. Another shop we passed had amazing Celtic type jewellry and i think it was called The Pearl of Conwy on the High Street. There is one large old house that's a little worse for wear on the outside, Aberconwy House, thought to be the oldest town house dating from the 14th century which is a museum. There is also Plas Mawr, which means "Great Hall" and is an Elizabethan mansion in very good shape. This is also a museum. We really weren't planning to go to all the museums though, content to wander, window shop and take photos. The main town square has a statue of Llewellyn Ap Iowerth or Llewellyn the Great who founded the Aberconwy Abbey which was located in Conwy until Edward I moved it to another location when he built the castle. There are so many old buildings in Conwy and if you enjoy architecture as I do, it's well worth a stop!

We went outside the city walls onto the waterfront. Conwy was once a thriving fishing port but it's mostly home to pleasure and leisure boats now. There was a bit of construction or something going on so it was a little noisy but we wanted to and did find the oldest house in Great Britain. It's a little cottage painted red and built into the wall of the town. It measures 72 inches wide and 122 inches high, consisting of one room down and one up and costing 75p to go inside and have a look. A very pleasant lady in traditional Welsh dress was out front to tell us about the history of the house that was occupied up until about 100 years ago. The last owner, a fisherman, was 6'4"! The little room downstairs had a small table and a chair, a hearth and some shelves on the walls. Upstairs, the bedroom was reached via a narrow ladder through a trap door. There was a bed and a dresser and a few pictures on the wall there. Hard to imagine someone living in a place that small!

We walked along the beach a bit, admiring the boats and the views and then decided we would still have time to stop in Llandudno on the way back home. Llandudno is a lot more Victorian than Conwy and was and still is a popular holiday stop. There are a lot of hotels here, many of which are found in the elegant Georgian and Victorian terrace houses that stretch along the wide bay. There's a pier with a few souvenir shops and arcades. Llandudno is cradled between some high hills, one more popular is the Great Orme. It's a good place for hiking and there is a Victorian era tram line that will take you up to the summit though you can also drive there as well. That's no fun, is it!

We paid for the tram. You go half way up and change trains to go to the summit. It only takes about 10 minutes and the rails follow some little streets past some very pretty old houses on the way up to the half way stop. It was cold and windy up at the top and the café and visitor center was closed! Nearly 5 o'clock though so I guess that's why. We really enjoyed the views, however. Nearby on a hill you could see where hikers had written words and names and symbols using rocks.

We headed for the pier when we descended and walked to the end and discovered the bar and coffee shop there were both closed as well! Sheesh! Friday night and they rolled up the boards! Not very encouraging to tourists on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend in May! I think a return trip to Llandudno is in order, to see a bit more of the town and walk the Promenade. Unsuccessful yet again in a quest for a cup of tea, we gave it up for a lost cause and headed back to Manchester.

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