North Wales: Feisty and Poetic
From towering Mount Snowdon and evocative medieval castles to grand Victorian promenades, North Wales is a poem written in landscape. We'll climb a mountain aboard a steam train, learn some Welsh, follow a miner deep into a slate mine, herd sheep with a very clever dog, and work in a pop pilgrimage to the Beatles' Liverpool.
- Read the script from the show.
Dramatically situated on a rock overlooking the sea with eight linebacker towers, this castle was built in just four years, with a water gate that allowed safe entry for English boats in a land of hostile Welsh. Guides wait inside to take you on a 60-minute tour; if the booth is empty, look for the group and join it (tel. 01492/592-358). Guides wait inside to take you on a 60-minute, £1 tour; if the booth is empty, look for the group and join it.
A rare Elizabethan house from 1580, this was built after the reign of Henry VIII. Billed as the oldest house in Wales, Plas Mawr offers a delightful look at 16th-century domestic life to anyone patient enough to spend an hour following the excellent included audioguide. Docents in each room are happy to point out what's original and chat about how the restoration was done (tel. 01492/580-167).
Despite the goofy name, this really is a fun and fascinating peek into the world of sheep farmers and their frantically loyal, well-trained dogs. First, you'll see the dogs rounding up the sheep (who seem to roll their eyes at this polished demonstration); then you'll head into the barn to see a sheep show and shearing (just off A5 midway between Betws-y-Coed and Llangollen in Llamgwm, tel. 01490/460-369).
Slate mining played a blockbuster role in Welsh heritage, and this mine on the northern edge of Blaenau Ffestiniog does a fine job of explaining the mining culture of Victorian Wales. The exhibit has three parts: a tiny Victorian mining town (with a miners' pub and a view from "The Top of the Tip") and two tours, one focusing on working life and traditional mining techniques, and the other including a descent into the "deep mine" (tel. 01766/830-306).
This sumptuous 80-acre display of floral color six miles south of Conwy is one of Britain's best gardens. It's famous for its magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias, and floral arch made of bright-yellow laburnum, which blooms mid-May through early June (best in spring, phone message tells what's blooming, tel. 01492/650-460).