NORTH COAST

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llandudno tram

 

 

 

 

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Points of Interest:  1. Llandudno  2. Great Orme Peninsula  3. Conwy  4. Conwy Castle  5. Aberconwy House  6. Plas Mawr  7. Bangor  8. Penrhyn Castle  9. Segontium Roman Fort  10. Caernarfon Castle

 

llandudno   Great OrmeWales' answer to the traditional English seaside resort, Llandudno [pop.14,872] actually has an almost European air – like a cross between Switzerland and the south of France. The town is characterised by its genteel Victorian and Edwardian architecture but don't be fooled into thinking that Llandudno is the epitome of twee: there's also a youthful vibrancy to the town with plenty of new and interesting projects breathing life into the local culture.

Layout
Llandudno is situated between the Great Orme and Little Orme headlands. The Promenade, in front of the town centre, stetches between these and it's here that you will find busy North Shore Beach with all its amusements. On the southwest side of Great Orme is West Shore Beach, a sand duned area that is much quieter. Many buses stop along Mostyn Street, two blocks south of The Promenade and just three blocks north of the train station at Vaughan Street.

Sights
llandudno copper mineThe limestone headland of Great Orme has a wealth of unique flora and fauna and there are some interesting historical sites: the abandoned copper mines [adults £6.50] here date back to the Bronze Age but were periodically reopened and reused until the end of the 1800s; the eroded ruins of the 13th century palace of the Bishop of Bangor; an Iron Age hill fort at Pen y Dinas; a Victorian cemetary; and the 12th century St. Tudno's church. However, you might find your attention wandering to the breathtaking views of Snowdonia and Anglesey and, on very clear days, to those of the Lake District and the Isle of Man. 

Travel to the summit of Great Orme via the Great Orme Tramway [Victoria Station, Church Walks, +44 1492 879306, Adults return ticket £5.80] or the cable car [+44 1492 877205, Adults return ticket £6.50], Britain's longest, that leaves from near the open air theatre in Happy Valley, a former quarry that was landscaped in the 19th century to create a    pleasant mix of gardens, golf courses, and lawns for public use.

Llandudno's Victorian pier, built in 1878, is Wales' longest. In the past, its fine ironwork and gazebos led to a platform where steamboats to and from the Isle of Man docked.

Oriel Mostyn [12 Vaughan Street, +44 1492 879201, free entry] is North Wales' premier contemporary art gallery. There is no permanent collection but instead a wide range of exhibitions featuring Welsh artists as well as international artists, paticularly from Africa and Latin America.

Venue Cymru [The Promenade, +44 1492 872000, check their website for programme and booking details] is a cultural stalwart which began in Victorian times and was only recently reopened in 2007. There's a big variety of shows: drama, ballet, opera, musical comedy, as well as the odd brass band. You can also catch an exhibition or dine in the Y Review Restaurant.  

Just itching to wear a corset? Time your visit to Llandudno to coincide with the Victorian Extravaganza [free entry], held each year around May 's Bank Holiday. Llandudno's historic town cente and panoramic beach front are shown off to their best advantages during the festival and there's lots going on to keep eveyone in the family entertained, with parades, a visit from 'Queen Victoria', exhibitions, a fairground with good old fashioned rides, and traditional Victorian entertainments such as an escapologist, magic shows, and bands. 

Head to Llandudno Museum [Chardon House, 17-19 Gloddaeth Street, +44 1492 876517, free entry] for a good overview of the town's history – including the copper mines, the town's development as a seaside resort, and Llandudno's experience of wartime.

   

    

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Conwy CastleThe walled town of Conwy [pop.3,850] is a popular spot to soak in medieval history on the coast of North Wales. The town possesses a fine collection of buildings dating from the 1200's onwards, the greatest of which is Conwy Castle, built by Edward I as a visible and powerful symbol of the English conquest of Wales.

Layout
Conwy is small and compact and lies on the River Conwy. Conwy Rail Station is situated at Rose Hill Street. Everything you need is within easy walking distance.

Sights
Conwy Castle [Rose Hill Street, +44 1492 592358, Adults ₤4.60] was built between 1283 and 1289 by Edward I as one of his ‘Iron Ring’ of defensive castles. The moss covered structure seems to grow out of the rocky promontory that is its base. Eight towers form the links of the outer wall or the outer ward, while the inner ward rises still higher with four towers. From within his heated apartments, Edward I would have had a commanding view of the Conwy Estuary. Today, the castle overlooks three impressive bridges, the suspension bridge built by Thomas Teflord in 1826, the steel railway tubular bridge by Robert Stevenson in 1848, and the modern Conwy Road bridge.

The town's celebrated walls were built at the same time as the castle and they remain virtually intact today.  

Aberconwy AbbeyAberconwy Abbey was once a Cistercian monastery: the order first founded their abbey Rhedynog Felen near Caernarfon in 1186 but transferred to Conwy five years later. When Edward I began his conquest of Wales in 1282, he ordered the monks to move to Maenan to make room for his castle, financing the construction a new abbey there. The Aberconwy Abbey remains but it is now a parish church and, after many rouns of renovation, only a few sections are original.  

Step into the life of a medieval merchant at Aberconwy House [Castle Street, +44 1492 592246, Adults £3.40].  Dating from around the 14th century, the house is the only one of its kind in Conwy and now houses exhibitions about life in Conwy from the time of the Romans to the present.

Plas Mawr [Crown Lane, +44 1492 580167, Adults £4.95] is one of the finest examples of a prosperous Elizabethan house in the country. The building's exterior is plastered in gleaming lime. Indoors,  the wealth and prestige of the Wynn family abound in delicate, colourful plasterwork. The house's furniture, much of which belonged there originally, has been painstakingly brought together acccording to an inventory from the mid 1600s.

Castle HotelEven if you're not staying at the The Castle Hotel [5B High Street, +44 1492 582800], wander over and take a look around one of Conwy's most attractive historic buildings. An old coaching inn that was once two separate establishments, The Castle Hotel and the King's Head, a pub dating back to the 15th century, the hotel also stands on the site of  the Cistercian Abbey.


The Smallest House in BritainThe Smallest House in Britain [The Quay, +44 1492 593484, Adults £1] measures a paltry 3.05 metres by 1.8 metres. The glossy red house is still owned by the descendants of the last inhabitant, a fisherman called Robert Jones, whose 6ft + frame could not endure the tiny dimensions of the building.

 

   

    

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Bangor UniversityBangor is a university city with a stable population of 15,280. This does not include the 10,000 students who descend upon the city come term time. The city lies in the shade of Bangor Mountain and straddles two rivers, the Rivers Adda and Cegin, resulting in a peaceful and quaintly picturesque atmosphere. Bangor was founded in the 6th century A.D. when Saint Deiniol established his monastery here, making it one of the oldest bishoprics in the country. However, a lot of Bangor Cathedral that can be seen today is the result of work carried out during the mid 19th century. Aside from the cathedral, there is Penrhyn Castle, a Victorian pier called Garth pier, which is the second longest in Wales, or you might wander around Bangor University, an attractive mix of Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

If you are looking for a convenient but attractive base from which to explore Snowdonia National Park or the Isle of Anglesey, Bangor would be a good choice. There are plenty of options for accommodation and entertainment and the city can easily be reached by train, car, or bus. The train station is in the south west of the city on Station Road, where you can find buses into the centre of town. The main bus station is at Upper Garth Road (Ffordd Garth Uchaf in Welsh).

 
UK NORTH Wales Penrhyn CastlePenrhyn Castle
It might look like Norman castle but Penrhyn Castle [Bangor, +44 1248 363219, Adults ₤10] was actually built between 1820 and 1840 for George Hay Dawkins-Pennant, a member of the Pennant family, who accumulated their wealth through slate quarries and Jamaican sugar. Thomas Hopper designed the castle, creating an imposing imitation of the restrained lines of Norman defensive architecture. Inside you can find mock-Norman furniture, a huge slate bed that was made for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1859, a doll museum, an industrial railway museum, and a wonderful collection of paintings that includes work by Rembrandt, Palma Vecchio, Gainsborough, and Canalletto. The castle is surrounded by some lovely gardens.


   

    

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Caernarfon CastleThe Royal Town of Caernarfon [pop.9,730] is an ancient settlement, most famous for its splendid castle that was the backdrop for the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Situated on the picturesque Menai Straits and with the beauty of Snowdonia National Park behind it, the town has some lovely Georgian and Victorian architecture, particularly in Palace Street. However, it can't be denied that much of the town is run down: despite its grand, royal past, there is little to keep the modern traveller amused for more than a weekend.

Arrival
Caernarfon is a compact little town that looks across the Menai Straight to the Isle of Anglesey. Everything you'll need, apart from a golf course, is on the north eastern bank of the River Seiont. There is no train station – for that you have to go east around 14km to Bognor – but there are plenty of bus connections to other towns in Wales, plus a few to cities in the UK more generally.

Sights
SegontiumThe Roman fort Segontium [Beddgelert Road, +44 1286 675625, free entry], overlooking both the River Seiont and the Menai Straight, was in use from 77 AD to 395 AD. It underwent a few removations along the way, in particular with its original timber structure making way for stone after a devastating fire. Interestingly, nearby the fort was a temple for the Persian god Mithras, a popular diety amongst Roman soldiers. There are only four other known such temples in Britain.  There's not a lot to see at Segontium now in the way of buildings but there is a small museum to help bring to life Caernarfon's Roman period.

Caernarfon Castle windowCapitalising not only upon the Roman's strategic choice of location, King Edward I looked back to the Roman Empire for his inspiration for the design of Caernarfon Castle too [+44 1286 677617, Adults £4.95]. Constructed from the late 13th century to the early 14th century and part of the 'Iron Ring' of defences, the castle was intended to be a visible symbol of English power over the Welsh countryside. It was never completed but it it remains today a fascinating place to explore. Within Caernarfon Castle, you can find the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum. Founded in 1689, the Royal Welch Fusiliers were the oldest infantry regiment in Wales.

Welsh Highland Railway

 

Take a trip on the Rheilffordd Eyrii or the Welsh Highland Railway [+44 1766 516000, Caernarfon to Porthmadog return ticket £32] which takes you from beneath Caernarfon Castle through the foothills of Snowdon to Beddgelert, then through the Aberglasyn Pass to Porthmadog. A return trip takes a leisurely 4 hours.

Something for the kids: enjoy the rides and excitement at Greenwood Forest Park [+44 1248 671493,  for adults prices range from £7.60 in low season to £10.85 in peak season] where there are a range of forest and jungle themed amusements.

 

   

    

To compare Caernarfon hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left. 

 

The world's major hotel booking services will compete to give you the best price.



 

   

    

To compare Caernarfon hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left. 

 

The world's major hotel booking services will compete to give you the best price.