With our passports surrendered to the Home Office, our summer trip to Croatia was sadly not possible this year. However, it forced us to explore the places a little bit closer to home. We’ve been told a few times that we should take the kids to Snowdonia, climb the mountain, enjoy the beautiful countryside. Obviously these recommendations came from people who don’t know our kids. While we might not be mountain climbing types, we are tea and scones people and so north Wales did, in the end, have much to offer.
One of the first stops on our itinerary was morning tea at Ty Hyll, The Ugly House. A mythical building wedged on the hillside, this house has a history with the locals, which you’ll have to find out yourself! Nestled in the woodland, it now functions as a tea room serving up some very nice cakes and more substantial lunch food including the ubiquitous Welsh Rarebit. We were a hungry bunch after spending the morning bouncing around in the nets in the underground caverns and caves of Bounce Below at the nearby Zip World.
The food in Wales is consistently good. It’s not fancy or sophisticated but the quality is excellent and the kitchens are all spotless. Whether it was a modest Ploughman’s Lunch in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch or pub grub in Trefriw, we all enjoyed eating in Wales. Llanfair etc… is a real place. It was given the super long name back in the 1860s for novelty and is the longest place name in Britain and perhaps Europe. My son spent the week leading up to our trip learning to pronounce it, so of course we had to stop by.
We stayed in a village called Betws y Coed and explored the local area mostly, aside from a brief to trip to Conwy to see the castle and see the smallest house in Britain, which was the highlight of the trip for me! The drive through Wales and around Snowdonia is breathtakingly beautiful. No point trying to describe it really. We saw Swallow Falls, the Fairy Glen, Gwydir Castle and Wool Mill in Trefriw. Gwydir Castle was so creepy, it’s known as the most haunted house in Wales and has become one of my favourite castles in Britain. We found our way out of the world’s largest garden maze at the Conwy Valley Maze, where we could hear hikers calling out in the gorges behind the property. We ran through the St. Digain’s Church cemetery in the rain to find the Llangernyw Yew, a 4000-5000 year old yew Tree in the village of Llangeryw, celebrated as one of the Fifty Great British Trees. We ate out every night, with the exception of the night we got take-away pizza. Hangin’ Pizzeria in Betws y Coed churns out some seriously excellent pizzas and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone going that way. Next to the Stables pub at The Royal Oak, it’s one of the only inviting places in the village.
It’s true that Betws y Coed feels a bit like a fake town with all the B&Bs and hiking and souvenir shops, but it’s always been a ‘summer’ town that used to be home to many artists. There are lots of fancy resort-style hotels with rosetted restaurants, but with our boys it wasn’t an option and we hadn’t really bought the right clothes for fine dining. The place we stayed, Coed-y-Celyn Hall run by the super friendly Michael and Tracy sits just outside the village and was in fact the old holiday mansion that used to belong to one family who owned much of the area. If you want to see a village where people live and work and eat out, then take a ten minute drive to Trefriw and have dinner at The Old Ship. We enjoyed a superb meal there in a traditional pub setting and were blown away by the freshness and quality of the food.
We’re yet to try the lavabread that my son insisted on buying, and I just finished off my last slice of barabrith (Welsh fruit loaf) this morning for breakfast. All the welsh cakes and caerphilly are gone and we’re left with only our memories of our trip to Wales. I can’t wait to visit again when I can actually get out into the woods and do some hiking in amongst all the scone-eating.