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Wales, United Kingdom 72-Hour Vacation

Wowed by Wales
Land of Myths and Legends

Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle


An early start and a hearty breakfast, then it's on south through Conwy and west along the Conwy Bay shoreline for glorious views over to Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey. Just outside Bangor, Penrhyn Castle is an extraordinary extravaganza, a neo-Norman castle built between 1820 and 1845 for the rich Pennant family who made their considerable wealth from slaves, Jamaican sugar and Welsh slate. Below stairs rooms show the reverse side of country house life, the kitchens, scullery and servants' rooms restored as they were on the eve of a banquet for the Prince of Wales' 1894 visit. It was a safe and secure life, but light years away from the opulence of the owners' side of the house.


From here, turn southeast on the A5, then the small B4366 which will take you up into the mountains of Snowdonia. This is glorious country; a spectacular range of valleys, woods, lakes and mountains. It's also mysterious country, where the writer George Borrow wrote of 'crocodiles' in 1862. The subsequent discovery of 'leys,' or ancient alignments has added another layer of myth. Pastures grazed by sheep give way to more barren landscape as you wind your way along the snaking roads. The small town of Llanberis is a center for walkers and mountaineers tackling Snowdon. Luckily the less adventurous have the Mountain Railway to take them to the top of the 3650-ft. summit. Also worth seeing is the National Slate Museum, which reveals the importance of the industry in the 19th century to Wales.

Take the Pass of Llanberis road, the A4086 and stop at Pen-y-pass for a not too taxing walk to Lake Llydaw. Lunch can be found at the eccentric Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel a little further down the road. In the same family since 1947, it's a quirky place, famous for providing the accommodation for the 1953 Everest team who stayed practiced for their successful Himalayan climb on Snowdon from here. Alternatively, continue on the A5 to Capel Curig and lunch in the garden or inside the old Bryn Tyrch inn. The nearby, romantic Swallow Falls, seen at their best when the rivers are running full in spring and autumn, put the little town of Betwys-y-Coed on the tourist map.

Penrhyn Castle

From here the road meanders south. Continue on the A5 to Rhydlydan, where you turn off and make your way along a deserted road with nothing but quietly grazing sheep for company. At Nant-y-Cyrtiau, join the B4501 to Bala and a 9-mile return ride on the Bala Lake Railway for steam and narrow-gauge train enthusiasts. Make your way north on A494, then turn off on the road marked to Landrillo and through the valley where the delightful River Dee does just what a river should: murmuring and burbling, twisting and turning beside the road. Just before Llandrillo, you'll find your second stop. Tyddyn Llan is a charming stone built house where owners Bryan and Susan Webb settled after selling their successful Hilaire restaurant in London. It's relaxed and casual with a well-deserved reputation for good food which comes both from the tip-top local ingredients they use (try the Welsh lamb in season) and the superb cooking.

Continue to Day 3


* All images© Crown copyright (2009) Visit Wales
(Updated: 04/29/09 SG)

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