Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch its famous Laburnum Arch in bloom. Planted during Victorian times, the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is a golden tunnel of blossom and sunshine. Also part of the Bodnant Estate, a stroll around the gardens should be followed up by a visit to the Bodnant Welsh Food centre.

Bodnant Gardens North Wales

It’s readily apparent to even the most casual visitor why these gardens are considered the best in Wales. If you enjoyed visiting the Italianate village of Portmeirion, then you will love Bodnant Gardens Wales as well.

Have a seat and smell the wisteria at Bodnant Gardens Wales

Have a seat and smell the wisteria at Bodnant Gardens Wales

Covering 70 acres, Bodnant Gardens has plenty of space to explore and to find your own private idyll. There are paths that meander through wildflower meadows, lakes, and woodland. The Bodnant Gardens are framed with distant views of Snowdonia National Park.

Woodland, wildflower meadows, Italian gardens. Bodnant Gardens are a visual feast.

Woodland, wildflower meadows, Italian gardens. Bodnant Gardens are a visual feast.

Stark and rugged Snowdonia is the exact opposite of this carefully-tended garden but both are beautiful in their own way. Located near each other, it is easy to appreciate both natural and man-made beauty in this little corner of North Wales.

The Bodnant Garden Centre is huge and sells some of the varieties of plants available. Sorry no nearly 150-year old Laburnum arches for sale. Not even a snow-globe version!

Rows of alliums at Bodnant Gardens North Wales

Rows of alliums at Bodnant Gardens North Wales

There is a manor house on the Bodnant Estate which is not open to the public. You know the Bodnant Gardens have to be something special for a house this impressive to not be the main attraction of the Bodnant Estate.

Pretty Bodnant House but it’s not open to the public.

Pretty Bodnant House but it’s not open to the public.

Even if you miss the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch, there are plenty of other floral attractions during the year – daffodils start off the show in early spring and are followed by rhododendrons and azaleas. In summer, Bodnant Gardens is abloom with the best of British gardens – roses, clematis and hydrangeas. Then roll on the fabulous colors of autumn with the Acers.

In summer, the water lilies come into their own on the Bodnant Estate.

In summer, the water lilies come into their own on the Bodnant Estate.

Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

– Audrey Hepburn

Planted in 1880, the Bodnant Laburnum Arch has been a labor of love for many generations of gardeners. It reminds me of the Archignassio in Bologna where every scholar in that case (or gardener in this case) does their part to create something great that will outlast them all for the benefit of people far in the future.

The Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Gardens is a 55 meter golden walkway. The nickname for Laburnum is ‘golden rain’ because of the way it droops down. Laburnum foliage glows almost fluorescent yellow against the milquetoast blue of a British sky.

You can see why Laburnum is nicknamed Golden Rain.

You can see why Laburnum is nicknamed Golden Rain.

During the 2-3 weeks Bodnant Gardens’ Laburnum Arch is in bloom in late spring, approximately 50,000 visitors come to see the arched walkway. That’s almost a 1/4 of the 200,000 visitors the Bodnant Gardens Wales gets annually.

These Laburnum trees were planted in 1880!

These Laburnum trees were planted in 1880!

The Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is supposed to be the oldest and longest in Britain. It takes 2 gardeners 5 weeks in January to prune the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch to maximise its glory in spring. After the big show, 2 gardeners are needed to deadhead the flowers in July.

The vibrance of the Laburnum contrasts with the other colors of the garden.

The vibrance of the Laburnum contrasts with the other colors of the garden.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

After exploring Bodnant Gardens, the best way to cap off the experience is to visit the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre which is part of the Bodnant Estate. As we knew from our previous experiences in Wales, the Welsh countryside has really amped up its foodie credentials with great local restaurants and homegrown celebrity chefs.

The Welsh Food Centre is another foodie heaven devoted to locally sourced farm-to-table fare. It’s fairly comprehensive enterprise with the Bodnant Farm Shop, Furnace Tea Room, Hayloft Restaurant and Furnace Farmhouse.

The Furnace Tea Room is set in the old stables and perfect for a light lunch or afternoon tea.

The Furnace Tea Room with the Conwy valley stretching out behind it.

The Furnace Tea Room with the Conwy valley stretching out behind it.

The Hayloft Restaurant is a more formal experience for lunch and dinner. We went with our children for lunch and did not find it stuffy. The food was delicious!! And, my little fussy vegetarian child found a dish to make her happy.

A salad starter at the Welsh food centre.

A salad starter at the Welsh food centre.

In terms of Bodnant accomodation, you can stay at the Furnace Farmhouse. Dating the 18th century, there are 6 rooms available for rent. Like the rest of the Bodnant Food Center, the decor and amenities cater to modern sensibilities. Think  charming modern farmhouse style that’s discreetly luxurious.

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The Welsh Food Centre on the Bodnant Estate is a foodie’s delight | Bodnant gardens North Wales | #Wales #findyourepic #garden #foodie

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

For a small town, you can easily visit Conwy for a weekend because there is so much to do in the area. For starters, the must-do Conwy attractions are the medieval Conwy Castle in Wales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Conwy Town Walls.  Among the other things to do in Conwy itself include both well-preserved medieval and Elizabethan merchant houses and the smallest house Conwy which has the distinction of being the smallest house in Britain!! The Bodnant Gardens National Trust property is a short drive outside the city walls. In North Wales, Conwy is in a strategic position (for both invading armies and tourists). Nearby there are the attractions of Snowdonia National Park and the Italianate resort town of Portmeirion. You will have plenty of options for things to do in Conwy for great family holidays in North Wales.

Conwy Castle in Wales offers dramatic views over the countryside

Conwy Castle Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales is the best sort of castle as far as many kids are concerned. It’s a huge crumbling wreck that they can explore. There’s no old-fashioned furniture and paintings to walk quietly through and so kids can let their imagination run wild.

Conwy Castle History

Castle Conwy is HUGE even if it is in ruins. It’s difficult to imagine how such a massive structure was created in just a few years.

Edward had good reason to worry – he did get trapped in Castle Conwy during a Welsh rebellion. Of course, to Edward just meant he should add another North Wales castle (Beaumaris Castle) to keep those troublesome Welsh down.

Peering down into the dungeon at Castle Conway in Wales.

Over the intervening years, Conwy Castle was alternatively ignored and then back in favour. The Castle played a part in the War of the Roses as the place where Richard II surrendered so that Henry IV cold come to the throne.

The numerous Conwy Castle towers are a fun climb for kids but I was done after one.

Conwy Castle was held by Royalists forces during the Civil Ward which was unfortunate when they lost the war. The forces of Oliver Cromwell made sure that the castle couldn’t be used for rebellion again by tearing down fortifications. The final ignominy came in 1665 when the last of its wealth was stripped leaving it in a ruined state.

As a big hulking ruin in a picturesque setting, Castle Conwy was beloved of artists. It had a history as a sightseeing destination long before it’s historical importance was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

Conwy Castle Facts:

  • In the late 13th century Conwy Castle North Wales and the Conwy walls together cost about £15,000 (about £45 million) to build.
  •  To put that amount in perspective, £15,000 in the 13th century is about 25X  the annual income of a wealthy aristocrat of the time.
  • Castle Conwy was built over 4 years and during the peak construction period,, there were about 1500 craftsmen and labourers working on it.
  • Dominating the landscape, the Castle is a rectangular shape with 8 towers and 2 barbicans.
  • From Conwy Castle you can see three sets of bridges crossing the river – the modern 1958 road bridge, the 1826 Telford suspension bridge and the 1848 railway  bridge. These bridges are all an integral part of the history of Conwy.

We clambered up and down and all around the Castle Conwy North Wales.

10 Things To Do Conwy

For a little town in Wales visit Conwy and you’ll have a choice of local attractions from the historic, man-made ones to the natural.

Conwy Historic Houses

One of the best things to do in Conwy is to walk around the little town and admire historic architecture. When you visit Conwy, history is all around you. You might as well embrace it!

When you visit Conwy the historic part of town is must-see.

Before the English, there were the Cistercians who had a monastery in Conwy. Considering they were a religious order who liked to be away from it all, they were probably a bit miffed when Edward I showed up with his troops.

Edward I suggested the monks move somewhere more peaceful. They left behind the Abbey church (now the Church of St. Mary) which was used by the English. Conwy was created as an English town.

Aberconwy House, on the High Street, is a National Trust property and another thing to do in Conwy. It’s the town’s only surviving medieval merchant house and has some interesting exhibits.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to 1576 and Queen Elizabeth I who decided to move the reconfigure the Dublin to London postal route. Conwy was designated an official postal station.

Plas Mawr is an Elizabethan-era Merchant House that you can visit which is also located on the High Street. Honestly, the town of Conwy is THAT small. It was the home of the wealthy Wyn family in the 16th century.

Fast forward more to 1800 and after the unification of England and Ireland, London decided they really did need better mail service to Dublin. Unfortunately the River Conwy was known to be dangerous during bad weather. For example, on Christmas Day 1806, the Irish Ferry capsized and killed 13 of the 15 passengers on board. Thomas Telford built the first suspension bridge in 1826.

In the 19th century, Conwy thrived as a port town, part of the shipping lanes among Ireland, Scotland, Liverpool and even as far away as the Baltics.

Castle Hotel Conwy

Since 1770 there’s been an inn at the site where the Castle Hotel Conwy stands today.. Somewhere in the 19th century, the Harp Inn became the Conwy Castle Hotel. The grander Castle Conwy hotel doubed in size to take over a couple of nearby buildings, including a pub. The Castle Hotel Conwy changed designations from a mere Inn to the slightly grander-sounding hotel. Adding to its glory, the Castle Conwy Hotel also got the distinction of being an official stop on the Royal Mail coach service.

Although it looks older, the neo-Jacobean grand facade of the Conway Castle Hotel was created only in the 1890’s. The history of the Castle Hotel Conwy is intertwined with that of the town of Conwy. This hotel in Conwy has hosted Royal visitors and the architects of Conwy’s bridges as well as been the place for major town celebrations.

Smallest House Conwy

Located in Conwy harbour, the smallest house in Conwy is seriously charming and absolutely tiny. The four of us in our family couldn’t fit in there standing as my son found out when he hit his head on the staircase in the jostle.

Smallest House Conwy is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest house in Great Britain. It is only 6 feet wide and just over 10 feet high. And, in that height they managed to get in a sleeping loft! No vaulted ceilings here though.

Why would anyone build a house this small? Probably because they didn’t have a choice. The town is wedged in-between the sea and the city walls and space is at a premium.

There was actually a fisherman living in the smallest house Conwy until 1900. And he was 6’3” tall! He had a roof over his head, an outhouse in the rear and an easy commute into work.

Smallest House Conwy – one of the most popular things to do Conwy

The town authorities decided that the house was uninhabitable in 1900. A local newspaper took up the cause to save it when they undertook a search to see if it was indeed the smallest house in Britain. Today smallest house Conwy  is one of the biggest Conwy attractions in complete disproportion to its actual size..

Conwy Mussel Museum

One of the quirkier Conwy attractions is the Conwy Mussel Musem. This small museum  is also on Conway Quay and free to visit. Conwy has been a site of pearl fishing since the Romans stumbled into Wales.

One of the largest pearls found in the area was sent to Charles II’s wife, Catherine of Braganza (she who had the flower beds from Green Park in London removed to stop her husband picking flowers for his mistress). This Conwy pearl is still supposed to be in the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.

Fun Fact! In the 19th century, Conwy would send over 4 kilos of pearls a week to London jewellers. Pearls didn’t start being more freely available until Mikimoto started cultured pearls in 1893. 

Conwy Suspension Bridge and Toll House

If you are looking for what to do in Conway with your National Trust membership, go check out the Conwy Suspension Bridge and Toll House. It was one of the first suspension bridges built in the world.

From Conwy Castle, you can see all 3 bridges that span the River Conwy lined up side by side.

Conwy Quay

Conwy Quay is a great place to just sit and absorb the town life around you. There are great views over the boats and the harbour and plenty of people-watching opportunities, too. The smallest house Conwy and the Mussel Museum are both located on the Quay.

Conwy Town Walls

Among the best things to do in Conwy is walk the medieval Conwy town walls which encircle the town. You can even walk most the way.

Little houses tucked inside Conwy town walls.

King Edward I also had the Conwy town walls built at the time he had his castle built. Conwy town walls are some of the best preserved medieval walls in Europe. These walls haven’t had the heavy restoration seen at Carcassone. They are great for kids similar to the city walls in Tossa Del Mar in the Costa Brava Spain.

In Edward’s day, the town walls were meant to protect Conwy, an English town. The Welsh were allowed inside the walls once a week to bring their goods to market.

Conwy Nature Reserve

Conwy Nature Reserve is a wetland run by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Created out of the landfill from a nearby road tunnel, the Conwy Nature Reserve is a great family walk where children can get muddy looking for wildlife, such as birds and frogs. There are three separate trails  at the Conwy Nature Reserve you can take (that range from a short 1/3 of a mile t o the longest which is 2 miles long).

Bodnant Gardens National Trust

We were lucky enough to visit Bodnant Gardens. a National Trust Garden when their spectacular Laburnum Arch was in bloom. And, it really was stunning. The Bodnant Gardens National Trust is good for walks on a nice day.

The Laburnum arch at the Bodnant Gardens National Trust property

Nearby, there is the Bodnant Welsh Food centre has excellent tea rooms and restaurant. It also provides accommodation at the Furnace Farmhouse.

Llandudno

Llandudno is the Victorian resort town across the estuary from the town of Conwy. There’s the ruins of Degannwy Castle which was a stronghold of the Welsh princes. Edward II was having none of that and stripped Degannwy to build Conwy Castle.

A sculpture; in Conwy Castle pays homage to Lllewylln the Great, one of the hero Princes of Wales.

Visit Conwy: The Practicalities

Conwy attractions range from very large to very small! In North Wales, Conwy is definitely a must-visit if only for the Castle Conwy. Yet, I feel if you miss out on some of the other things to do in Conwy, such as the smallest house Conwy and the Conwy town walls, you’ will miss out on some cool Conwy attractions. For a longer visit, here are some suggestions for accommodation in Conwy and/or restaurants in Conwy.

Check out the TripAdvisor Conwy reviews.

Accommodation Conwy

Accommodation in Conwy is limited as you can expect from a town this size.  There are places to stay in Conwy though that are outside the town walls.

In North Wales, Conwy has its historic town wedged between the Castle Conwy and the Conwy estuary.

Castle Hotel Conwy

Located where the old Cistercian Abbey used to be, you can’t get a more central location to stay in Conwy than the Castle Hotel Conwy. This four star hotel in Conwy has both single and double rooms and a whole lot of history.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for Castle Hotel Conwy

For the latest rates at Castle Hotel Conwy, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  

The Groes Inn

Located outside the Conwy town walls, The Groes Inn has been around since the 15th century. This historic coaching inn is the oldest licensed pub in Wales. The hotel is dog-friendly.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for The Groes Inn

For the latest rates at The Groes Inn, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  

Furnace Farmhouse

The Furnace Farmhouse is a four-star foodie’s delight. The accommodation is part of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. It’s located past Bodnant Gardens and so further from historic Conwy. It’s an 18th century farmhouse with 5 bedrooms. Wake up at the Furnace Farmhouse to a breakfast served from the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. which is seriously good.

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for the Furnace Farmhouse

For the latest rates at the Furnace Farmhouse, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  

Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast

Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast is a super-cute B&B in Conwy. Located outside the historic centre of Conwy, it is still a short walk into town. There are 6 bedrooms including two that can be joined to create a family room for four people

Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for Glan Heulog Bed and Breakfast.

For the latest rates at Glan Heulog B&B, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: expedia  

Pubs and Restaurants Conwy

Here are some great places to eat in Conwy. The pubs are dog-friendly and kid-friendly so that’s good for a sit-down when you need a break.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre

The Bondnant Welsh Food Centre has both tea rooms as well as the Hayloft Restaurant and Bar. The Furnace Tea Rooms are set in the old stables and overlook Conwy estuary. It’s open for tea, snacks and light lunches. There’s a cookery school with both day and residential courses similar to River Cottage in England. Hayloft Restaurant is the fine-dining gourmet restaurant.

Fish at the Hayloft Restaurant – a great place to eat in Conwy

Castle Hotel Conwy restaurant

The Castle Hotel Conwy restaurant also serves local Welsh food. You can also have afternoon tea at this hotel in Conwy.

Fun Fact!   The Conwy Castle Hotel restaurant served lunch to a young teenage Princess Victoria in 1832 during a visit to North Wales.

Liverpool Arms

The Liverpool Arms is located on Conwy Quay. It’s got great views over the estuary and gets crowded thanks to that feature.

The Liverpool Arms pub is located in a prime position for observing life on Conwy Quay

The Albion Ale House

The Albion Ale House is a 1920’s pub that serves local beer. It serves no food (just nibbles). Why is on this list? It’s won a bunch of awards for being the best pub in North Wales. And, it’s now really rare to find a pub that just serves beer. You can find the Albion Ale House on Uppergate Street inside the walled town of Conwy.

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Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales (+ 10 Other Things To Do in Conwy) For Family Holidays in North Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Stepping into Portmeirion in Wales was like crossing the border into a fantasyland. Impossibly pretty and somewhat unreal. I knew I was still in Britain (cloudy skies, chill in the air) but the colors and architecture of Portmeiron village were the pastel-candy hues I associated with the Mediterranean (and gelato!). Of course, Portmeirion Wales had to be the creation of a rich English architect. I can imagine Portmeirion Italian village is exactly Prince Charles’ cup of tea – pretty and traditional. Despite our misgivings, we were charmed by the idyllic location of the Portmeirion Hotel located on the edge of the water, the Portmeirion cottages sprinkled throughout the village and the little green Portmeirion train chugging through the woodland. You’d have to be a real grump not to be enveloped in this Italian coastal fantasy.

Portemeirion History

The grand vision of architect Clough Wiliam-Ellis, Portmerion village was built as an homage to his love of another coastal village, Portofino in Italy.  He wanted to show how to develop an area while still keeping it beautiful. Built over 50 years (1925-1975), the entirety of Portmeiion village is Grade II listed.

The Portmeirion entry free goes towards the upkeep of Portmeirion Village.

Lonely Planet listed Portmeirion in Wales as a top destination on its Ultimate Travelist for the entire world. It gets over 200,000 visitors every year!

Portmeirion Italian village in style, but the British crest lets you know where you are.

Frank Lloyd Wright (of Welsh ancestry) came to visit Portmeirion Wales in 1956. Needless to say, it is a very popular place for weddings and other celebrations in North Wales.

Somehow the pastel colors of sun-drenched Italy still works in somewhat grey North Wales.

Things To Do In Portmeirion Wales

You won’t run out of things to do in Portmeirion Wales. With its  its close proximity to Snowdonia National Park, even the most hard-core outdoors person will find themselves happily occupied. With so many things to do in Portmerion Wales both in the village complex as well as outside, Portmeirion in Wales is a great destination for a multi-generational holiday.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion on TripAdvisor.

The Portmeirion map shows how convenient the whole site is.

Walks

Portmeiron in Wales is set amongst 70 acres of forests set with 20 miles of walking paths for communing with nature. In addition to the general walks, there are specific coastal walks and woodland walks, each of which would take you about 30-40 minutes.

Woodland walks in Portmeirion, North Wales

During the summer months a little Portmeirion train goes on a tour of the woodland.

The sweet little Portmeirion train.

Explore Portmeirion in Wales on your own and there are charming little treasures hidden for you to find in its woodland, like a Dog Cemetery and a Chinese Lake with its little blue pagoda.

Doesn’t this red bridge just pop amidst the woodland setting?

Fun Fact!  There are 70 varieties of Rhodoendron planted at Portmeirion North Wales!
Set on a peninsula near Snowdonia National Park, Portmeirion in Wales is blessed with a good micro-climate. The Portmeirion Italianate village, however, still does not get as good weather as the Italian Riviera!

The Chinese Lake at Portmeirion because Italian in Wales isn’t multicultural enough.

Food and Drink

There is a good array of options for eating and drinking at Portmeiron Italian village for both casual meals and fine dining. The Portmeirion Hotel restaurant is especially known for elegant meals. Kid-friendly options at Portmeirion restaurants include a pizzeria and gelateria.

In Portmeirion North Wales, it’s gelato not the usual British Mr. Whippy soft serve ice cream.

The Beach

There’s a gorgeous white sandy beach that is created when the tide goes out at Dwyryd Estuary at Portmeirion Wales. It’s great for kids to have a play. High tide times are clearly marked so you do need to be careful. Down by the shore as well is the Amis Reunis a stone boat that children can clamber around.

Portmeirion Pottery History

Portmeirion is famous for its pottery which was founded by Clough William-Ellis’ daughter, Susan. She set up Portmeirion Pottery in 1960 so that visitors to Portmeirion Italian village could purchase souvenirs of their visit. Pottery is a very English souvenir!

Charming botanicgarden teacups available at the Portmeirion outlet store.

Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of Portmeirion Pottery’s iconic ranges and based on 19th century English prints. Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of the ranges available at the Seconds Shop, a Portmierion outlet store near the entrance. This Portmierion outlet also sells some of the newer ranges by British designers like Ted Baker and Sophie Conran.

Fun Fact!  Portmeirion Pottery is now based in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British pottery. It now owns other big-name English potteries, such as Spode and Royal Worcester.

Shopping

There are several small shops to visit including a small well-curated bookshop, a boutique, an art gallery, and a Welsh products store. You know Portmeirion Italian village is geared towards multi-generational visitors because there are lots of things a doting grandparent/aunt/uncle etc would buy for children.

All the fresh air and exercise means you deserve a cup of tea (in Portmeirion Botanic Garden cups naturally) and a scone.

Mermaid Spa

The Mermaid Spa has a full-range of wellness facilities and vegan, all-natural treatment options. It’s location gives a divine view over the estauary below.

A view of the estuary through the trees at Portmeirion in Wales.

Portmeirion Festival

Every June, the Portmeirion Festival turns the Portmeirion Italianate village turns into a festival fantasy land with Festival No. 6. The name for the Portmeirion festival comes from the British cult TV show, The Prisoner, which was filmed in Portmeirion.

Human chess is played at the Portmeirion Festival in a nod to a scene from The Prisoner.

The Portmeirion festival has musical gigs, arts and cultural events, family-friendly activities, and even a street food village. Everything at the Portmierion festival isn’t all clean-cut health and well-being though – there’s a rave in the wood for your hard-core partiers.

Portmeirion Accommodation

Portmeiron is a perfect place to stay since pretty much the entire village is either self-catering cottages or hotel rooms. Plenty of people visit Portmeirion for a day trip. If you stay in Portmeirion accommodation though you will have the run of the place long after the tourists are gone.

The hotels all offer parking. You definitely need a car to appreciate this part of Wales.

Accommodation in Portmeirion

You have two choices for accommodation in Portmeirion. Both four-star hotels in Portmerion Wales have family-friendly accommodation available.

Portmeirion Hotel Wales

The Portmeirion Hotel, is an adaptation of an old manor house. Portmeirion Hotel has a charming outdoor heated pool open in the summer months and a seaside location with a sandy beach by the main building. Hotel Portmeirion Wales is the brainchild of Clough William-Ellis himself.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion Hotel on TripAdvisor

The rooms are spread out amongst the Portmeirion Hotel main building, rooms in Portmeirion village itself and Portmeirion cottages to rent on the grounds. The Portmeirion Hotel Wales can accommodate families in some of its accommodation. For example, the Portmeirion holiday cottages can accommodate groupss that range from 3-9 guests.

Portmeiron cottages are available to rent through the Portmeiron Hotel

The Portmeirion hotel restaurant is the acknowledged fine dining establishment for the village with its Art Deco interior.

For the latest rates at Portmeiron Hotel Wales, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia.com  Hotels.com  

 

Portmeirion Castle

The Portmeirion Castle, Castell Deudraeth, is the modern version of historical Portmeirion accommodation (if that makes sense!). Castell Deudraeth Hotel is a Victorian folly that’s been converted to a contemporary-style hotel. The restaurant at Castle Deudraeth feels more like a gastro-pub and overlooks a beautiful little walled garden.

Check out the reviews for the Portmeirion Castle Deudraeth Hotel on TripAdvisor

There’s a mini-bus that runs from the Portmeirion Castle and Hotel Portmeirion because the Portmeirion Castle is accommodation near Portmeirion but not in the village itself.

For the latest rates at the Portmeiron Castle, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Accommodation Near Portmeirion

Thanks to the compact nature of Portmeirion Wales, you may need to find accommodation near Portmeirion if the Portmeirion hotel options are booked.

Royal Sportsman Hotel is located nearby in Porthmadog which is 2 miles away from Portmeirion Wales. Rated a 3 star hotel, this accommodation near Portmeirion has 28 guest rooms.

Check out the reviews for the Royal Sportsman Hotel on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Royal Sportsman Hotel, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.co  

Tudor Lodge is a family run guesthouse in Porthmadog as well. They have a range of rooms from singles to doubles as well as a separate cottage.

Check out the reviews for Tudor Lodge on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Tudor Lodge, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Portmeirion Camping

Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park is an option for you Portmeirion Festival goers who go the traditional festival camping route.

Check out the reviews for Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at Dina’s Camping, here are a selection of accommodation booking sites:  booking.com  Hotels.com  

You can find Portmeirion camping sites courtesy of this map from the Camping and Caravanning club.

Please note that there is no wild camping in Snowdonia National Park so stick to Portmeirion camping in legit places!

Visting Portmeirion Village

Owned by a charity, the Portmeirion entry fee charged at the entrance goes towards its upkeep. Portmeirion Village is open daily for visitors.

Exactly the architecture you’d expect from Portmeirion Italianate village.

You can buy day tickets (currently the Portmeirion entry fee comes to £11 for adults with a concession for children). Children under 5 go free. There are also family tickets (including a very progressive single adult family ticket option).

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Portmeirion Village: An Italian coastal resort recreated in Portmeirion in Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

 

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Soft Adventure in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

Soft Adventure in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

I heard this traditional Welsh song on the tour bus before we stepped out onto the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

We’ll keep a welcome in the hillside

We’ll keep a welcome in the Vales

This land you know will still be singing 

When you come home again to Wales.

Mai Jones (1940)

As far as I was concerned though, you couldn’t hear the land singing so much as the wind whistling.  Even though I was bundled up from the cold, within a few minutes, my eyes were tearing, my nose running and my ears ringing.  As we hiked up the hill, I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape despite the discomfort.  Just about.

visiting the Brecon Beacons national park

The Brecon Beacons National Park

The Brecon Beacons national park stretches out over 332,100 acres with the valleys undulated between the Brecon mountains.  The stone formations ripple from the icy farewell kiss of glaciers retreating after the last Ice Age.  No one view the same as the other. Wild and remote, I can see the dramatic landscape bringing out the poet in anyone so inclined.  It’s no surprise to me that some of the best fantasy writers in English – C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and Roald Dahl are Welsh.

The highest mountain in Southern Britain, Pen y Fan, is located in the Brecon-Beacons National Park.  George Everest, the geographer for whom Mt. Everest is named, was a local boy who grew up clambering up and down the local mountains. Paul, our guide from See Wales Tours, is on a personal mission to make sure that everyone knows that Everest is correctly pronounced Eve (as in the wife of Adam)-rest.  So now you know.  Feel free to throw that tidbit about at your next cocktail party if you want to sound like a pretentious plonker.

The Brecon Beacons national park in Wales has outdoorsy fun for everyone

Who Lives There

Even though most of the population of Wales opts to live in the valleys nowadays (sensibly in my opinion), the Celts choose to live in hill forts above the valleys.  From their high vantage point, they could see unfriendly people or animals approaching.  I guess when confronted with the risk of death, being somewhat cold was a minor inconvenience.  Wales has evidence of over 600 of these Celtic hill forts with 24 of them being in the Brecon Beacons.  I would’ve have taken a photo of the fort we were shown if my fingers weren’t so numb from the cold.

These forts though were no match for the Romans who invaded in 43 AD.  They eventually managed to subdue the Celtic tribes and set up their main base near the town of Beacon.  Although you think of sheep as being a dominant part of the Welsh landscape, they are actually imports. The sheep were brought to Wales by the Romans from the areas of their empire we now know as Iran and Iraq.

Did you know that during the spring and summer, there are 3 million people in Wales and 15 million sheep? The sheep become fat and happy until they are culled in the fall. Pretty much everywhere I looked there were sheep.

After the Romans, it was the turn of the Normans to invade Wales.  As they did in England, the Normans were big on building castles to keep their stranglehold on the local population. There are 641 castles in Wales and 6 of them are in the Brecon Beacons.

The Brecon-Beacons is also home to about 2000 wild ponies.  No  longer needed to work in the coal mines, the ponies are left to graze in the moorlands and keep the grass under control.

wild ponies grazing on moorland in the Brecon Beacons

As an American, I find it surprising that there are homes and towns in British national parks.  Unlike the USA where the government was able to designate national parks before they got settled, these lands have been settled for hundreds of years.  The Brecon Beacons was only designated a national park in 1957 – a mere blink of an eye relative to the amount of time people have lived there.

The main town in the Brecon-Beacons National Park is Brecon with a population of about 20,000.  There has been a settlement in the Beacon area for over 2000 years.

What to See and Do

The Brecon Beacons send out a homing signal for local outdoorsy types (of which there seemed to be many).  We saw many hardy souls hiking the mountains despite the blustery wind.  There is plenty of good hiking and biking trails.  The rivers provide water activities and fishing.  A portion of the Brecon Beacons has achieved Dark Skies status which means that the star gazing will be excellent.

For city folk like me, who prefer ‘soft adventure’ after a bracing (if short) walk, there are great country pubs and restaurants in the Brecon Beacons.  While I was on my tour, my husband and children enjoyed a long leisurely Sunday lunch at The Three Horseshoes Inn in Brecon which they told me was excellent.

Sunday Lunch at the Three Horseshoes Inn in Brecon Wales

While they were testing out the culinary options, I went to the UNESCO world heritage site, the Big Pit National Coal Museum, which tells the story of coal mining in Wales. Divide and conquer and all that.

The Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In terms of towns, Brecon has a small but charming cathedral.  The Norman castle is a wreck and not worth visiting.  In addition, Hay-on-Wye is a small town just at the edge of the national park which holds a world-renowned literature festival every year.

Getting There

Wales is blessed to have 20% of its land mass designated as national parks.  There are three national parks – the Pembrokeshire Coast in West Wales, Snowdonia in North Wales and the Brecon Beacons in the South.  The most easily accessible for visitors is the Brecon Beacons.  You can easily reach the Brecon Beacons from Cardiff in about an hour.  There are regular express train connections from London to Cardiff.

Our day trip from Cardiff only covered a small portion of the Brecon Beacons.  I had a great overview of how beautiful the park is thanks to our day with See Wales Tours which was organised by the Welsh Tourist Board.  My family choose and paid for their own itinerary.  As ever, all opinions are my own.

It’s More than All Right at Wright’s Food Emporium

It’s More than All Right at Wright’s Food Emporium

You have to be a dedicated foodie to chase around the Welsh countryside in search of a specific restaurant as dusk gathers and the children are grumbling that they are hungry.  Sure, we could have stopped at any number of pubs that were in the area but we were in search of something special.  Wright’s Food Emporium was purported to be delightful by both The Guardian in its roundup of the top 40 UK restaurants and a blurb I had read in Conde Nast Traveller.  So we were people on a mission.  We had wasted time putting in the wrong postcode into the car’s GPS but a little hiccup like that only made us more determined to find Wright’s Food Emporium.

Wrights Food Emporium is a restaurant and food store in South West Wales serving locally-sourced organic fare

Wright’s Food Emporium

The drive through idyllic countryside in search of The One was worth it. Wright’s Food Emporium is both a restaurant and a food store located in a converted country pub in Carmarthen, Wales.  From what I could tell, Carmarthen is a handful of houses on the side of the road.  Even in a little village, there has to be an obligatory local pub which in this case has become Wright’s Food Emporium.

We piled into one of the side rooms and settled in for some good eats. Thanks to our having taken the scenic route, we avoided the Sunday lunch crush at the restaurant.

wright's food emporium

A reminder that you are in a different country!

The Cafe

The food in the cafe is simple yet delicious. I personally think it is more of a restaurant even though they like to call it a cafe. Made from locally sourced ingredients, the quality of the food is apparent with every bite. There is a fairly extensive and creative menu written on a chalkboard.  The Welsh rarebit was the best I have ever had. My friend pronounced his roast beef sandwich excellent as well.

The service at the cafe is exceptional.  Everyone was friendly and happy to explain the menu.  The wonderful staff made a plate of pasta for my fussy-eater daughter even though it wasn’t on the menu.  For my dog who was looking hopefully at the waitress from under the table, they gave him some left-over sausage.  How incredibly kind is that?  I love when good restaurants are not hoity-toity.

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit is just another form of grilled cheese sandwich.

wright's food emporium

A roast beef sandwich

We couldn’t pass up on the desserts for which there was a great selection.  Our table went with an assortment of British favourites – pear tart, cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding.

wright's food emporium

The dessert table

wright's food emporium

These cake bars were too healthy for me!

The Store

The grocery section was small but charming and well-stocked. They had chicken and leek pie as well as potatoes dauphinoise for taking away.  I took these dishes back to London so that we could relive the gourmet experience back home. Yeah, they were delicious!  Even my daughter loved the chicken and leek pie.

wright's food emporium

fruit for sale

wright's food emporium

The grocery section of Wright’s

wright's food emporium

Refillable wine bottles – what a great idea!

wright's food emporium

Wright’s own craft beer

I did wonder what a fabulous place like Wright’s Food Emporium was doing out in the middle of nowhere in Wales.  That sentiment, however, is the Londoner in me talking.  Wright’s are clearly doing booming business so there are plenty of appreciative gourmands in Wales.  Of course, it helps too that the owner, Simon Wright, is a Welsh writer, food critic and restaurateur.  He knows exactly what he likes and he’s brought that knowledge to his food emporium.

Visiting Wright’s Food Emporium

Wrights Food Emporium is located in the Golden Grove Arms in Carmarthenshire in South West Wales. It is actually conveniently located near the A40 and the Brecon Beacons National Park. They suggest you make reservations for the cafe if you are larger than a party of 6.  It’s quite popular so I suggest you go during an off-peak time.

This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust and Pierced Wonderings.

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