Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 2062: Wales & Ireland
By D Tapp from Florida USA, Summer 2012
Trip Description: Highlights of a trip to Wales and Ireland in the summer of 2012, with emphasis on Edwardian castles and ring forts.
Destinations: Countries - United Kingdom, Ireland; Regions/Cities - Wales
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; House Trade; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 4: A Few days in Northern Wales
My husband and I were lucky enough to have friends in London (met through home exchange) who invited us to stay with them and see some of the Olympics in London. After five wonderful and busy days in London, we picked up a rental car and drove through the Cotswolds, enjoying the scenery and stopping in several villages. We found the Cotswolds picturesque but a bit too crowded with tourists for our taste, although we were there in August and if we had had the time to get off the beaten path I'm sure we would have enjoyed it more. We stayed overnight near Alcester.
The next day we drove into Wales, stopping at Dongeliau to look around and have lunch, and again at Harlech Castle, one of the castles built by King Edward I in the late 13th century. We toured several of Edward's castles and each was a bit different, but all were in stunning locations. If you want to see castles, I would definitely recommend northern Wales!
Our home for the next three nights was the Victoria House Hotel, a B&B in Caernarfon. We found Caernarfon to be a perfectly sized town for us. It was easily walkable inside the old walls, but had several restaurants to choose from. It was well located for the day trips we wanted to do, plus had one of King Edward's castles, Caernarfon Castle, right there. Caernarfon Castle is where the Prince of Wales is traditionally crowned.
Our first day in Wales we drove to Mount Snowdon. When we got there about 9:30, the next available tickets were for the 11:00 train up the mountain. (You can also hike round trip or take the train one way up or down). Unfortunately there was not much to do within walking distance of the mountain train station, and we had already paid to park in a nearby lot for the day (one price for all day). Fortunately it was perfect weather so we killed time strolling the neighborhood, catching up on our travel notes and shopping in the tourist stores near the base train station.
The one hour train ride to the top was spectacular. We had perfect weather which allowed for amazing views. While we were at the top, the clouds started rolling in over the top of the mountain. After the ride back down and a quick lunch at the bottom of the mountain, we continued to the Blaenau Ffestiniog slate mine tour, which was very interesting.
The best dinner we had in Wales was that night at Castel Restaurant back in Caernarfon. The appetizer of perfectly cooked scallops stacked on rounds of black sausage over a cauliflower puree went on my husband's all time best list.
The following day we drove to Anglesey Island, stopping first at Beaumaris Castle, another of King Edward's 13th century castles. From there it was a beautiful drive around the north end of the island to Holyhead where we stopped to look around and have soup and sandwich lunches. We continued on to Southstack where we hiked around the dramatic heather covered cliffs looking out over the Atlantic.
On our last day in Wales, we left the B&B to head toward Manchester, where we would fly out of the following morning. On the way we stopped at the lovely town of Conwy, with its stone walls almost completely encircling the old town. We toured the Conwy Castle, one of Edward's smallest, but in which he actually lived.
Then on to Chester, England, where we parked in the parking garage under a shopping mall and walked out of the second story mall onto the town's old walls. As we were walking the walls and discussing where to eat lunch, a man walking by suggested the Refectory Café in the Cathedral. It turned out to be a self serve cafeteria with a good selection of soup, salad and sandwiches in the perfect setting within a stained glass refectory hall.
After lunch we toured the Cathedral then strolled the pedestrian area of Chester. You can imagine yourself in Edwardian England with the cobblestone streets and old buildings (which now house high-end modern shops). We stayed that night at a very basic airport hotel in Manchester since we had an early flight to Ireland.
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