Living overseas I have a bit of a habit of surprising family on special occasions by popping up at parties; you just can’t beat the look on their faces! However, on this occasion for my sisters 40th birthday I did alert family and friends to that fact that I was coming home as I wanted to make plans to sightsee with my them. I grew up in North Wales but it had suddenly dawned on me just how much of it I hadn’t seen and most of it literally on my doorstep. I would like to put it down to my adolescent years, being ungrateful of my surroundings and being more focused on what I would wear on a Saturday night! …… Shameful I know!
Being away from my hometown for so long has given me a whole new appreciation for the beautiful county that is Conwy, and I had a week planned to get re-acquainted with it.
6am and loud squawks of seagulls rudely wake me, who needs an alarm clock anyway!….now this is the part of wales I would be happy to leave behind, seriously they are not shy to dive bomb you for your lunch, umbrellas are not only for the wet weather but to also protect you from the perils of seagull attacks! …… I digress; I was eager and ready to get my first day of fresh country air so despite the slight hangover, which was a combination of jetlag from an overnight flight and a slightly excited family gathering that involved too much champagne (hang on, ok, so I know that there can never be an instance of too much champagne!). I got myself out of bed and ready for the first day of my Welsh adventure.
In true British style the weather was mostly grey and drizzly (although its like the sun came out for my photos!), “Don’t worry the weather is always nice for my birthday” quote, my sister when I checked how the weather had been so that I could bring the appropriate attire……..well straight off the bat she had got that wrong. I was the only plonker in the rain in bloody sandles!
First stop was a short drive over the bridge to Conwy to check in on my lovely little home away from home, which is a Grade II listed 2 bedroom property that I fell in love with and purchased last year and now run as a successful holiday let. On this occasion we had guests booked in so the only way I could see it was to clean it….oh joy! (Check the video page to have a little glimpse of the property from my mini makeover)
We stopped for a spot of lunch at The Erskine Arms; which is believed to have been built around the 1830s/1840s and is one of the many interesting Georgian buildings in the town. It has a great menu with locally sourced homemade food and I recommend to sit in the cosy library room at the front of the building, it is great for small groups and has gorgeous leather wingback armchairs and you can spend hours just looking at all the old photos on the wall and all the trinkets in the cabinets. If you fancy it you can grab a book and a good local beer and get lost for the afternoon.
We spent the rest of the day walking around Conwy, it is only a small town but has many interesting boutique shops to explore. You can buy local crafts and products and being a World Heritage site it has a bucket load of history to take in, from the castle itself to the vast town walls. The surrounding area of Snowdonia has so much to offer for those who enjoying the outdoors so finding a base in Conwy is a great idea, oh and I just so happen to know the perfect place!
You can find my holiday let on the Sykes website property reference 971546
The family had now all arrived for my sister’s birthday, which meant that my mum could finally relax and stop checking the clock to see how much longer it would be until we had all reunited! Party mode was now in full swing and it seemed like every hour of every day was beer o’clock, and my family know how to celebrate! We enjoyed a big party and then a family BBQ albeit in the rain, but that didn’t stop us, the gazebo went up and dad put on his rain coat to be the grill master!
The alcohol had just about left our system and so it was back to the schedule of exploring Wales. The weather finally improved and we had a gorgeous warm sunny day. Next place on the agenda was Llanwrst, for so long I had seen pictures of this gorgeous cottage just over a stone bridge on the west bank of the flowing River Conwy. What makes it unique is that it is almost entirely covered in wild planting, so much so that it almost disappears in the green backdrop of its surroundings; this is even more spectacular in the Autumn when the leaves start to turn red and the house takes on a whole new visual form, which is simple stunning. I would definitely go back to see it then. Built as a residential dwelling in 1480, Tu Hwnt i’r Bont which means Beyond the Bridge now operates as a traditional Welsh tea rooms, so of course we popped in for a spot of afternoon tea. The tearooms did not disappoint, even though the weather was not great, again! it was bustling with tourists even willing to sit outside and I can tell you it definitely wasn’t warm enough for that! The space inside was dark and cosy with traditional wooden beams and low ceilings, so low infact that despite several signs to watch your head, my dad still managed to nearly knock himself unconscious!
Full from all the hot brews we headed to our next destination; Bodnant Gardens, a world famous garden and this time of year I was lucky enough to see the Laburnam Arch. This marvel (no, not the comic!) only comes to life for 3 weeks of the year and is quite the spectacle, drawing hordes of crowds every year to see its sunning yellow arch bloom at the end of May and beginning of June.
The 55 metre-long flowering feature was created by the garden’s Victorian founder Henry Pochin in 1880, and it is believed to be the longest and oldest in Britain. More than 140 years later, the display of golden Laburnum flowers is the most visited, photographed and anticipated event of Bodnant Garden’s year, and it is no surprise, it was beautiful. How have I lived literally 10 minutes down the road from this and never been to see it! The flowers are just starting to wilt so if you want to see it you best be quick or get it in your diaries for next year.
Besides the Laburnam arch, the gardens have so much to offer, you can spend an afternoon enjoying a long walk exploring and even bring along a picnic. It’s a great idea for a family day out as the grounds are huge with plenty of space for little ones to run around.
…….to be continued Part 2 coming soon.
Most of the places mentioned in this blog are under the National Trust so if you are planning a visit and live in the UK then I would highly recommend becoming a member to be able to visit over 500 National Trust attractions.