My travels took me into wilder country, into North Wales, with stunning views along the coast road driving in.
The wide openness of Llandudno, the sun setting and its beaches is set right next to hills that almost drop into the sea. It has to be one of the most spectacular entrances to a country.
My first night in North Wales involved camping alongside llamas and pigs at Manorfan. I settled into my tent, just about got used to using my new camping stove and had dinner when the weather broke. It was my welcome into Wales – rain.
Luckily my tent survived a full night of heavy rain. By morning it stopped and I could pack up in ease which was a relief.
The sun emerged and I set off to a tiny place called St Asaph, which turned out to be the second smallest city in the UK. I popped into the cathedral and arrived just as a guided tour started, so I joined in. It is a brilliant way to learn about the history of a place. I discovered some of the Spanish Armadas ships were wrecked nearby, and descendants from the survivors still live in the area today.
I then set off to find The Oriel Hotel. Many years ago this was a school where my grandad went as a young boy. I arrived and chatted to the owner in the reception and explained why I was there. “A ha” she said, “you’re in luck” and she disappeared for a minute before returning and producing an ageing document and handing it to me. It turned out to be an original school prospectus from the 1930’s complete with photos and details of daily life. She was really kind and said I was welcome to take a look around the hotel and sit in the conservatory to read it, which I did with great delight.
It was really eye opening read of what school was like back in the 1920’s and 30’s. What struck me most was a photo of the dormitory. There was no privacy with about 7 beds in a room and really basic furniture.
I hit the road again and enjoyed an afternoon wandering around Bodnant Gardens which were stunningly beautiful, packed with roses and set against a backdrop of hills. Followed by a visit to the Welsh food centre where I stocked up on Welsh cakes, cheese and a new discovery – chorizo dip (very welsh, I’m sure). I cooked up a delicious meal with these ingredients overlooking the river flowing into Conway. Perfect!