Confession time, we’re a little bit spoilt and we know it, not shy in bragging about it actually, in fact, we talk quite a lot about it, wherever we are in the world and whoever we’re talking to. So you’re wondering what it is, thinking we’re a bit cocky or full of ourselves and your probably right!! Only we’re not talking about being full of self-righteous importance or waving placards of materialistic wealth in front of every stranger we meet, far from it.
This indulgence into the realms of expressions of our fortunate selves resinates from a different place, a spirtual place, a place full of dramatic beauty with a deep rich natural past and strong passionate traditions that still thrive through it’s core today. This place that we hold so close to our hearts is the place we call our own, it’s the window to a wonderful, wild, welcoming homeland which is Wales, affectionately known to those Welsh folk across the world as ‘the land of our fathers’.
Born and bred in the North of Wales, in a little piece of paradise, nestled on the edge of the mountains and the sea, minutes from one of Edward I’s impressive 13th Century fortresses, the mighty and incredibly intact Conwy Castle, still commanding the landscape for all to admire, looking out onto the serene river estuary below and reminding us why this year, 2018, Wales celebrates The Year of The Sea.
Although our vanlife travels bring such enormous thrills and experiences, often beyond the realms of our imagination, seeing the amazing sights in new surroundings and breathing in the air from distant shores, it’s still always a joy to return to our region, somewhere that we love to explore when we arrive back at base, a magical myriad of ancient history combined with the rich culture and dramatic landscapes as well as spectacular coastline that can only be found here in North Wales.
It’s no wonder that last year, North Wales made it to the Lonely Planet list of “Top 10 Regions to Visit in 2017″, if you haven’t visited yet, then as we so often tell our fellow travellers, you must put it on your to go to list! Wales is a after all a friendly place, a warm welcome will await you, Welcome to Wales, Croeso i Gymru! Let the journey to our favourite little place of Britain begin.
Marvel at our spectacular coastline, home to the Wales Coastal Path, boasting 870 miles of walkways to discover this beautiful and largely unspoilt region in the way nature intended. Passing some of our best scenery and historic monuments dating back to Roman and Celtic times, whilst looking out for dolphins, seals and an array of sea birds.
When the walking is over for the day, pop in to one of our traditional pubs and sample one of the local ales that are brewed in the area, taking in the atmosphere amongst the local characters sharing their tales in the finest Welsh lingo!
North Wales has a wealth of inland hiking trails and is home, of course, to Snowdon, the dominent peak rising to 1085M, making it the 2nd highest mountain in the United Kingdom but just one of many challenging mountain climbs in Snowdonia National Park, no surprise then that the early Everest expeditions would practice in these mountains. Don’t be put off by the more difficult trails, there are plenty of less strenuous walking to be found all over Snowdonia from coast to lakes, forests to valleys, enough to rival the biggest Alpine regions.
A drive across the spectacular Thomas Telford designed Menai Suspension bridge to Anglesey brings one of our favourite views in the World, over the incredibly beautiful, rugged and serene Menai Straits where the Snowdonia Mountain Ranges majestically grace the background of the swirling waters below you, to bring one of those Wow moments!! Anglesey also has some fab beaches along with some pretty towns and villages not forgetting the longest name in Britain, now here’s a tongue twister for you to get to grips with…..
Saint Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St.Tysilio of the red cave!!
Some of the best North Wales beaches are found on the LLeyn Peninsula, upmarket Abersoch with long stretches of sand, colourful beach huts and bustling Summer atmosphere sits just up the coast from low key Criccieth which is recognised by it’s 13th Century castle perched on the hill above the sea. Porthmadog, a little further along the coast has miles of golden sands at Blackrock Beach, and was home of T.E Lawrence, of Arabia fame!
Home to so many fantastic adventure opportunities, it’s hard to say where to begin! Try swinging in the forests above Betws-y-Coed at High Ropes tree top adventure, if this doesn’t quite do the trick, how about flying through the air at Zip World in Bethesda, the longest zip line in Europe and fastest in the world, racing up to speeds of 100mph!
Fancy something indoor, take a trip over to Blaenau Ffestiniog to Bounce Below, it’s not your usual indoor venue, it’s actually a disused slate cavern, enter by train into the dark caverns where giant nets await for you to happily bounce around before trying the 60ft slide for a slightly different thrill seeking experience!
If water is more your thing, then try white water rafting at the National White Water Rafting centre in Bala, with water controlled by the upstream dam, there shouldn’t be a shortage to keep you afloat along the River Tryweryn.
Canoeing, Sea Kayaking, Coastal Orienteering, windsurfing, they are all on offer or if you prefer to stick to dry land then take your pick from one of the 100KM mountain bike trails at Gwydir Forest in Betws-Y-Coed or even Rock Climbing or Abseiling.
If you really want to get wet, Surf Snowdonia will get you surfing the waves at Britain’s only inland surfing lagoon, not exactly what you’d expect to find in the picturesque and green Conwy Valley!
Discover rich, historic culture dating back to Roman times with Roman finds across the region and even the remains of Segontium, an Auxiliary Fort dating back to AD77, at Caernarfon, also home to one of the best preserved castles from Edward I reign and more famous for the investiture on 1st July 1969 of Prince Charles to become The Prince of Wales, it was also birthplace to the first English Prince of Wales back in 1284.
Declared World Heritage Site status, the castles of King Edward I at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech along with the walled fortifications around the towns of Conwy and Caernarfon are still remarkable in their appearance, dominating the towns bearing the same names and taking you back 800 years. These magnificent structures leave a lasting impression on our minds and the landscapes they so proudly reside over.
Fascinating Fact time……..Wales is home to an incredible 600 castles, more than any other country in Europe!!
W’ve also got some pretty amazing bridges, thanks to Thomas Telford and his formidable Menai Suspension Bridge crossing the Menai straits, the smaller almost cute Conwy Suspension Bridge and the huge engineering feat of the World Heritage site Pontcysllte Aqueduct near Llangollen. Here, you can walk along the canal path 38.4 meters above the River Dee or take a leisurely horse drawn barge along the 200 year old waterway. It’s close neighbour, Chirk Aqueduct is equally incredible and you can actually walk from one to the other if you’re energetic enough!
Wales, is the land of Music, you’ll never be far from musical influences and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod every Summer is a fine example of our Welsh Tradition, attracting world wide audiences and some big name classical artists.
Then there’s the language, a country proud to have its own native tongue, the oldest language in Britain with roots dating back 4000 years and with more than a fifth of the population speaking or using the language today. You’ll see lots of it too, from road signs to information boards, a TV channel or newspapers, so get practicing!
Here’s a few to get you started!
Bore Da – Good Morning
Diolch – Thanks
Da iawn – Very Good
Afon – River
Mynydd – Mountain
Tafarn – Pub
Llyn – Lake
Heulog – Sunny
Starting at the harbour in Porthmadog, the Ffestiniog Railway, climbs 700ft from the sea through the Snowdonia Mountains to the slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, it’s such a pretty route and a thoroughly relaxing journey from coast to country.
The Welsh Highland offers a trip from Caernarfon to Porthmadog with 40 miles of track with various journey lengths passing the peaks of Snowdonia through some stunning scenery.
Fancy a train trip to the Summit of Snowdon? Yes it really can be done on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, either steam or diesel taking you from Llanberis to the top of the mountain where you’ll mingle with those more energetic who’ve taken the on foot route to the 3,560ft Peak!
Llanberis Lake Railway in the heart of Snowdon country, travels alongside the Llanberis Lake on the old slate route, beautiful views of Snowdon await.
Bala Lake Railway offers a 9 mile trip through Snowdonia National Park alongside Bala Lake, stunning views and a Victorian signal box, delightful!
If you want more tram than train, then the seaside town of Llandudno has it’s famous tram journey up the steep tramlines to the summit of the Great Orme Headland, look out for the goats and take a while at the top to soak up the amazing views, there’s also a cafe and lots of walking if you don’t want to get the tram back down.
Bodnant Garden in the Conwy Valley is renowned for it’s superb gardens set around impressive ponds along with intricate corners, streams, neatly mowed lawns and famous Laburnum Arch, fabulous when in bloom, there’s also incredible views across the hills and mountains.
North Wales has some magnificent National Trust properties. Penrhyn Castle near Bangor is a huge 19th century structure with elaborate plasterwork, carvings and model railway museum, it also houses a slate bed made for Queen Victoria.
Across the Menai Straits from Penrhyn Castle is Plas Newydd, an imposing, elegant manor house set on the banks of the Menai Straits with beautiful views, woodland walk and superb Rex Whistler mural, the largest of his work along with various museum pieces from the Battle of Waterloo.
Erddig near Wrexham is a fascinating early 18th century stately home, with excellent displays of life below stairs, it’s acclaimed to be one of Britain’s finest historic houses and also has a 1200 acre country park and walled garden.
Aberconwy House in Conwy is thought to be the oldest house in Wales, surely not to be missed and combines Jacobean, Victorian and Georgian interiors!
Coming next time:
Towns and Special Places of North Wales – The must see locations for a campervan tour and places to park that van!
All written work and images are created and owned by vanlife4x4 no copying of material is permitted