May 12, 2015
|Monday: A day in Conwy. For the first time in a while we woke to a clear blue sunny sky but, oh my, what a gale! After breakfast we caught the bus to Conwy (much to Heather’s delight). Conwy has a well-preserved old castle built by Edward I and most of its original wall. As we entered the walled town, we started to climb up but the wind made it a bit dangerous. We found the Tourist Information and loaded up with maps and pamphlets. Next stop was Plas Mawr, a fine Elizabethan town house built in stages from 1576 by Robert Wynn, a wealthy merchant and member of the Welsh gentry. We were first in after opening and of the attendants gave us our personal guided tour. She pointed out so many things that we would not have picked up just with an audioguide and really made the house come to life with her knowledge and stories.
Around the corner was Aberconwy House, smaller but older that Plas Mawr. Built in the 14th century, it was once the home of an influential trader and has in part been restored by the National Trust. Most houses of its kind were demolished over the years and it is wonderful that a few are so well preserved.
We both enjoyed a salad for lunch before heading up to the castle. The wind by now was fierce and we were nearly blown off our feet getting into the castle. It was a formidable hulk and we poked around the various “rooms” for a while but did not attempt climbing up any of the turrets. Nonetheless, the castle and the whole town are impressive and well worth the day.
However, after being blown to smithereens all day, we called it quits and caught the bus back to Llanfairfechan (I’m learning how to pronounce it properly – nothing like I was saying before we arrived!). As we walked down from the bus stop, there was a lady unisex barber and, as my hair desperately needed a tidy up, I popped in. Five pounds well spent!
Back at our BnB Graham and Sarah gave us tea and fruitcake before Graham insisted on taking us for a drive to show us parts of the area we would not get to otherwise. He is not originally Welsh but has lived here for nearly 30 years and seems very proud of the district. We really enjoyed and appreciated the drive but, sadly, as we passed our car at the front we found that it was badly scratched on the front fender. We have no idea how this happened but it can only have been someone scraping us while the car was parked. It will have to be dealt with when we take the car back.
Tuesday: As Heather was not 100% this morning, Graham very kindly offered to take us firstly to Bodnant Gardens down the Conwy valley and then to Penrhyn Castle further west along the coast from Llanfairfechan. The day was a vast improvement on yesterday with blue skies and much less wind.
You would think that having seen stately home after stately home, garden after garden, cathedral after cathedral there would be no more Wow! factor left. Not so. Bodnant was a riot of colour mainly with rhododendrons of every description. A newly opened area led through a woodland of very old yew trees and then around flowing streams and lakes. I finally had the chance to walk through masses of bluebells. The formal gardens around the house (not opened to public) commanded wonderful views over the Welsh countryside towards Snowdonia.
Just up the road, Graham was very keen for us to see the Welsh Food Centre. We could have had a field day there except for the fact that we cannot carry much. We bought some pork pie for dinner and some crackers.
Penrhyn Castle is an enormous 19th century hulk built by the Pennant family who made their fortune form both the sugar and slate industries. The fortune must have been equally enormous as the rooms are unimaginably opulent with carved timber and stone everywhere as well as specially designed and made furniture. The Grand Hall, Grand Staircase and the Chapel were probably the highlights in that part of the castle. Then there was the whole wing of the Victorian kitchens, room after room each devoted to one particular aspect of food preparation. In the glittering dining room (where the Queen dined in her Jubilee year), we were shown the menu from that lunch and also a dinner for the Prince of Wales in 1894. Both were fascinating and the logistics of staging such affairs must have been extraordinary.
After several hours we dragged ourselves away and caught the bus home. More tea and cake with Graham and Leo who smootched all over Heather. With that our short stay in northern Wales