|May 18, 2000: Manchester airport to North Wales
We landed in Manchester at 8:00 am and were through immigration by 8:30
– very nice mid-sized airport. Our Europcar four door, 6 cylinder,
automatic shift Rover 720 was ready (truly a fun car with lots of ZIP!)
and we easily navigated our way to M56 westward to link with A55 at Chester
on our way to the “castle city” of Conwy. While I had estimated that
the trip might take 2 hours, we were at Conwy shortly after 10 am and decided
to go ahead and drop some of our luggage at the delightful Groes Inn 2
miles south of the city. Of all the small inns we visited, Groes
Inn was our hands-down favorite (and our 30 something kids thought so too).
Conwy is a “must see” in the north part of Wales – the Castle, built in the 1200’s was a massive fortress with ¾ mile of walls and 22 towers encompassing the town – and still does today. The four of us spent over an hour exploring the Castle – one tower holding the Chapel has been somewhat restored – and walking the walls to experience panoramic views of the city, nearby mountains, and seacoast. Since we planned to see several of the CADW historic sites and castles, we purchased a 3 day “Heritage in Wales” pass which would allow us free entry to member sites.
The town has many places to eat – the Coach House had a nice lunch menu, as did the Georg and Dragon. Lots of shops with outdoor wear, antiques, pastries, and sweets lined the tiny streets and made for a pleasant afternoon in this historic town.
The Groes Inn is located on a quiet country road in a gorgeous
countryside setting and features a historic pub and restaurant which traces
its beginnings back to being the First Licensed House in Wales in 1573.
It oozes 400 years of charm and the gracious staff is happy to make your stay a memorable one. We enjoyed a pub dinner of fresh poached Salmon accompanied with boiled potatoes and garden vegetables.
Fourteen accommodations are in a separate house and feature comfortable bedrooms each with a fully equipped, modern bathroom. We had a superior room that overlooked peaceful fields of sheep and gently rolling hills.
A full Welsh breakfast was included in the fares which started with a huge assortment of cereals and yogurts, juices, and fresh pasteurized milk. Our cost for one nights lodging including breakfast, plus dinner and drinks was 115 pounds. I highly recommend it as a comfortable and historic place to stay in North Wales.
The next day, we left Conwy and the Groes Inn at 9:30 on our way
to Betws-y-coed via route B5106 – a charming winding “B” road following
a river surrounded by emerald green pastures and rolling hills. As
with many back country roads in Wales, rock walls edge both sides of the
road and takes some getting used to for staying on your side of the lane,
yet not scraping the entire side of your car – somewhat precarious for
divers not used to being “fenced in” while meeting a wide vehicle coming
Katherine reported that "It was very interesting to walk through a working mill. They showed the "raw wool" before it was dyed and then took us up three floors through the entire process from dying to weaving on huge looms. It was a real treat to walk through it. The power is supplied by water turbines - a whole river was diverted just to provide the power necessary to run the mill. They also had a very nice store where they sold sweaters and blankets and such that had been woven in their mills. I bought a very warm cardigan sweater that I wore the rest of the trip. I am pretty sure that the town we visited was a company town. Everyone either worked in the mill or had a member of the family that worked there - it is a big operation."
Koko and Max were both biology majors, so they probably liked the sheep
pictures more than the process! <grin>
Just west of Llanrwst and before reaching Betws-y-coed, we stopped at
Gwydir Castle – a historical and furnished Tudor mansion with 10 acres
of walks and gardens. The cost was 3 pounds each and well worth it.
Caernarfon is well known for its 13th century castle, one of the largest and most impressive in North Wales. One can spend several hours climbing the tiny circular stone stairways to reach the highest towers, walking along protected interior hallways lined with bow holes where warriors of the 13th century defended the fortress from intruders, and visiting several reconstructed rooms which tell the history of the Welsh people, the castles, and wars fought during the 8 centuries to the present. We had lunch at Macsen on Castle Square which offered a wide array of lunches from soup du jour (vegetable that day), salads, sandwiches, and huge hamburgers. Plus desserts to die for! Great little place for a light lunch.
[On our last trip to Wales, we visited Beaumaris Castle, well
worth a visit if you have time. It was the last of the castles built
by Edward I in North Wales, but was never finished.
It differs from the other Wales castles in that it has concentric design and both inner and outer walls, and it truly sits in a moat. The Ole Bull Inn has a historic pub highly recommended for lunch and is a popular place to stay too.
We left Caernarfon and drove along the coast on our way to Pwllheli and the Plas Bodegroes Inn – known as a “restaurant with rooms” – highly recommended by my friend John in London who loves to spend long weekends with his wife at quaint country inns with outstanding cuisine.
It was a wonderful choice, being just outside of Pwllheli in a remote country setting surrounded with lovely gardens. Small pathways around the estate led to flower lined walks, a water lily pond, and one trail lead through a pretty little forest of huge, towering trees. My husband couldn't resist snapping a photo on one of his walks.
Plas Bodegroes has a variety of rooms from cozy ones in the attic to
spacious 2nd floor rooms with adjoining or small sitting areas. Our
corner room overlooked the grounds and we were delighted to find that our
bathroom featured both a long soaking tub and a separate shower.
The Inn has a wide verandah overlooking a pretty lawn full of flowering plants and trees - a wonderful spot to sit and soak up nature. Dinner was a three course affair plus starting with Hors D'Oeuvres served in the living room or verandah (where your order is taken) - and after being seated, we were served a chef's special treat, appetizer, main course, and dessert. All were excellent and fine examples why Plas Bodegroes holds a 3 rosette rating. Pwllheli was only a couple miles away and our group walked to town several times during our two night stay.
We spent the next day driving around the Llyn Peninsula which has hills,
windswept pastures, long white sand beaches, and quaint villages dotting
its countryside. Aberdaron has a sailing club and two beaches plus
some charming shops. We drove up to Morfa Nefyn and had lunch at
The Cliffs Inn – cute pub with wonderful bar lunches and a sun room
overlooking the bay and nearby beaches. We drove back to Pwllheli
and toured the marina and town. Then back to the Inn for late afternoon
cocktail hour before enjoying another lovely dinner.
North Wales to Ludlow
We left Pwllheli at 9:30 on Sunday on our way to Ludlow via Welshpool.
Following the coastline, through Portmadog, Kenny turned on the scenic
A496 to Harlech for a castle stop – the location of this castle is one
of the most dramatic settings of all.
This rather small (in comparison to others) compact, concentric castle was built high on a sheer cliff to make it almost impregnable – views of the bays and country side are outstanding. It was Bill and Chris Ann's favorite castle.
Note: On our last visit to Wales, we stayed at the Maes-y-Neuadd hotel located in Talsarnau just a few miles north of Harlech. It is a 14 century Manor House set in the woods at the top of a steep hill.
Maes-y-Neuadd has 16 rooms, all different including small cozy ones
in the oldest section to large suites ones in the Coach House. The
restaurant has a 3 Rosette rating and serves elegant 5 course dinners made
from local seafoods, meats, and vegetables. I highly recommend this
as a historic place to stay in North Wales.
We almost stayed at this inn, but it didn't work well with our driving
route - we had to move onward to Ludlow from North Wales. However,
it DID work for our kids motor trip as an overnight stop between Bath and
It is one of the Welsh Rarebits and seemed to be the perfect village inn complete with pub/dining room, comfortable accommodations, and next to a historic little church. Our kids really liked it, and found lots of pretty walks in the area. Jeff and Katherine discovered an ancient aquaduct which ran for miles and crossed a rushing river. As you will read, our foursome decided it would be a good lunch stop.
We followed A496 to Dolgellau on our way across Wales to Welshpool. Powis Castle, a “modern” castle still being lived in and fully furnished opens at 1 pm, so we stopped to each lunch at The Lion Inn in Berriew and had perfect salmon and roast beef with a huge assortment of fresh vegetables – new potatoes, cottage fries, parsnip, peas, and cabbage. Our kids stayed here one night and gave it a “thumbs up” rating – great food, nice rooms, and lots of country walks nearby. So, eight of us, aged 28 to 58 highly recommend it as a place to stay or dine.
Upon arriving at the Powis Castle, part of the National Trust,
we joined a special annual membership which allows up to 7 family members
access to any of the properties which are part of the Trust for only 57
pounds. This historic castle manor has heirloom furnishings and outstanding
17th century gardens in a vast estate. We spent almost three
hours touring the manor and wandering through the spectacular grounds.
We arrived in Ludlow at 5 p.m. and found everything closed!
Highlights would be the St. Laurence Parish Church and the 12th century
Ludlow castle, plus markets and shopping. Lots to do in Ludlow (but
not on a Sunday).
She made a booking for us at Mr. Underhill’s restaurant located on the river (it also has rooms for rent). We arrived before it opened, but the owner served us cocktails outside by the babbling stream. By the way, the restaurant is named for the gray resident cat; Chris Bradley, the owner was a delight and his cuisine was excellent!
The next day we drove south toward Bath on A49 and A466 which turns into the wonderful curvy riverside road through the breathtaking Wye Valley. We stopped to tour the Tintern Abby ruins.
Note: On our 1997 trip, we were driving north from Bath and missed the route to A466 and the Wye Valley - the trick is to take the M48 (this splits off the M4) when you pass Bristol and are preparing to cross the River Severn.
Before we leave my Wales travelogue (and move on to the next part in this series), I'd like to include additional information from our 1997 trip.
We drove from London to Bath and THEN north through Wales. The
very first castle we saw was Ragland which is a perfect introduction to
the subject and is not like any other we saw . It isn't the largest
nor the most strategic, but has everything you'd expect in medieval design
- towers, a moat, gatehouse, and an unique hexagonal shape for the Great
Tower. It remains our most favorite Welsh castle of all and our kids
After spending a couple hours at Ragland, we drove on to Crickhowell and had a wonderful lunch at the Bear Hotel pub & restaurant.
Three miles further up the road is Tretower Court and Castle
- another good introduction to the Medieval age. The 13th century
castle remained a fortress for the ruling family, but they built a 15th
century manor house nearby as a more "modern" abode. A visit to Tretower
takes you through several hundred years of historic lifestyles of yesteryear.
Don't miss stopping here!