Visit the copper mine, see the slateworks, go into the Electric Mountain, ride the lakeside railway, climb the hills, walk on the trails, swim in the sea. These are some of the things we didn't do this year on our holiday to North Wales. That's part of the reason we want to go back again next year. And we didn't miss out because it was raining or anything, there was just too much to do in a week.
This was our first holiday with a baby in tow, so we knew it would be different from the usual relaxing affair. We wanted a bit of freedom to come down to breakfast at odd hours and a place we could live in rather than just a place to sleep between excursions, so we went searching the internet for cottages in Wales. We found this one, called Tywyn which is near Bedgellert in Snowdonia, and came up trumps.
The cottage is 5-star, which meant it has absolutely everything you could think you might need during a week's stay in Wales. I'll let the cottage's web page speak for itself, but we were very happy with it, and the location it's set in. It even has a heated indoor swimming pool, and we took Cate for her first swimming lesson during the week.
On our first day we basically just went for a drive, but discovered that Portmeirion was fairly close by. For the uninitiated, Portmeirion is a little village designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, with lots of detailed and peculiar architecture. It gained interest by being featured in The Prisoner television series in the sixties. The Prisoner also featured a Lotus 7 car, and there were a load of Lotus/Caterham 7 cars in the car park.
I hadn't expected too much of Portmeirion, thinking it would be a bit of a tourist trap and not too much to see, but was pleasantly surprised. The village is nice to wander round, and has a few shops and cafes, but there is also an extensive area of woodland to explore, with viewing areas, a pond and a play area. We managed to fill a good few hours wandering around.
We'd seen some signs for the Sea Zoo when we arrived in Wales, and thought that would be a good place to take Cate. It's on Anglesey, so we drove over the Britannia Bridge and headed for it. I missed a turn and added half an hour to our journey, but we got there eventually. The Sea Zoo was pretty good. I especially liked the big tank with the concave side, which made you feel you were sitting in the middle of the ocean with the fish swimming round you.
Claire fancied a sleep, so I took Cate out for a wee walk. There's a National Parks car park just up the road from the cottage, and some good walks from there. We didn't travel too far, but managed to get a few nice pictures of the river.
Another nice day, so a drive to the south this time, through the excellently named Penrhyndeudraeth, and down the A470 to Coed y Brenin, a forest area with a nice cafe and some walks / cycle paths. We didn't walk too far as the pram doesn't go so well on the forest floor, but it's a nice relaxing place to visit, and the cafe does a good home-made biscuit cake.
On the way back we took a detour towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is where the Ffestiniog railway terminates. The views along this road were spectacular, but it's not for those who get car-sick easily.
There's a railway that's been built all the way up Mount Snowdon. It only goes 2/3 of the way outside of mid-summer, but we thought it sounded like a good idea. We had to get round to Llanberis first, and then bought our tickets for the train. It was a bit more cramped than expected, and took about 45 minutes each way, with a half hour at the 2/3 way stop. It was cold of course, so Claire and Cate went back into the cabin before long, but the views were very good from up there. There was a layer of cloud just above us, but the sun was shining on the hills round about.
There's a beach near Portmadog called Black Rock Sands, and we took a wee visit. It's a huge area of sand, and you actually drive onto the beach to park. It was very windy when we were there so it wasn't a sandcastles and ice cream type of visit, but we'd have had to walk about half a mile to get to the sea anyway.
From Black Rock Sands we went onwards to Harlech. There's a little private road that cuts across the bay, alongside the Ffestiniog railway. It's a toll road, but it's worth it for the time you save. The long way round is about 8 miles. We got to Harlech and visited the castle. The road up to it is an amazing 25% incline. The castle's derelict, but interesting to walk about, and the entry fee wasn't too steep.
The pool at the cottage was just the thing to relax after a hard day's driving.
Conwy is on the north coast, about an hour's drive from where we were, and is a little walled town, with a nice castle. It features the 'smallest house in Britain' down by the harbour, painted red so you don't miss it, and with a traditionally dressed woman outside. I thought the smallest house in Britain was in Millport!
Not far from Conwy is Llandudno Farm Park. They have a good selection of birds of prey, lots of farmyard animals and a few llamas. I liked the Cookaburra best.
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