My Welsh wonder
On a trip to North Wales, Lisa Gray stayed in Llandudno and visited a childhood haunt – stunning Conwy Castle
NORTH Wales has been a favourite holiday destination of Manchester families for generations. Ever since seaside holidays became the fashion during Victoria’s reign, we have been flocking to the Conwy area with our buckets and spades to tuck into ice cream and breathe in that inimitable sea air.
But the Conwy borough of 2016 – Wales’ official Year of Adventure – is more than just somewhere to unwind by the sea.
With outdoor pursuits to enjoy, historical attractions to visit and a vibrant foodie scene, the area offers plenty to tourists of all ages.
Llandudno is surely the archetypal seaside resort, complete with landmark pier, lengthy promenade and more fish ‘n’ chip shops than you can shake a cod at. And where better to stay than the best hotel in Wales?
This accolade was officially bestowed upon the stunning St George’s Hotel by the AA last year, and it is well-deserved.
Occupying prime position on the seafront, the grand, white building boasts expansive views of the Great Orme and pier and is just a stone’s throw from Llandudno’s busy shopping centre.
The interior is suitably elegant and combines old-word grandeur with modern amenities, while a lucky few rooms boast balconies with sea views – perfect for peoplewatching after a long day in the great outdoors.
One must-visit destination is the picturesque town of Conwy, an easy 15-minute drive from the hotel or pleasant 90-minute walk if you’re feeling more energetic.
Having visited the area as a child, I was happy to find it was largely unchanged 25 years on, the historic walls continuing to protect the delights within.
Conwy Castle must be one of the best-preserved examples of historic British architecture, proudly dominating the skyline for more than 700 years. For a reasonable charge of £7.95 (adults), it is possible to explore the Edwardian fortress in depth, chapel, towers and all, with breathtaking views from the highest turrets on a clear day.
A short stroll away, on the town’s quay, is the Smallest House in Great Britain, one of the most quaint and charming of our nation’s attractions.
Occupied by a fisherman until 1900, when it was declared unfit for habitation, it has a floor area of just 10ft by 5.9ft. For just £1, you can go inside and imagine how the previous occupants survived – especially entertaining for younger visitors.
While on the quay, you can sample freshly caught fish delicacies, including crab or try to catch some yourself with the cheaplypriced buckets and equipment on sale.
Speaking of food, the hotel’s on-site Terrace Restaurant provides a well-judged balance of traditional and modern dishes, served with those lovely sea views as a bonus.
Dishes such as Cajun spiced beef fillet with cucumber salsa, lime and chilli jelly and coriander aioli and plaice fillet with spinach, smoked salmon, crushed potatoes, baby fennel and lobster, mussel and prawn chowder are happily washed down with one of the hotel’s good selection of wines.
Further foodie attractions include Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, a short drive away, with its own tea room, farm shop, dairy, winery and cookery school.
Thrill seekers are well-served by attractions such as the tubing and toboggan centre at the Llandudno Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre, a must for families, as well as Zip World, a short drive away at Bethesda, which houses the fastest zip line in the world – a fun and exhilarating day out.
But surely the biggest attraction of Conwy is its beautiful scenery.
The hotel staff are more than happy to advise on the many hiking, walking and cycling opportunities nearby.
This stunning landscape of coast, hills and valleys is surely the reason we have been returning to the area for so long – and a feature that makes this a destination like no other.
●● Conwy Castle and, inset, the Smallest House In Great Britain
●● The exterior of the St George’s Hotel, Llandudno