Monday, 18 July 2016

North Wales (via the Lake District)

It seems ages now since I was away on our short holiday to Wales, via one night at the Lake District, especially since it’s more than a week since I came back from the RNA Conference! But the memories linger as always.

On the way down, we stopped over at an area of the Lake District new to us and were very happy to have found interesting accommodation for the night. The Whitewater Hotel, which is a converted mill, sits nestled at the edge of the river with great views from the bedroom window. Husband and I love steam trains so we made a point of taking the short trip along the nearby steam railway to Lakeside. Unfortunately, the rain lashed down on the one day we had in the Lakes so viewing was a bit restricted.
Whitewater Hotel 
View from window
Fortunately, the hotel has an excellent restaurant where all the diners were happy to watch the rain from our comfortable seats while enjoying scrumptious food. There is a very good leisure complex attached to the hotel by an enclosed walkway so swimming would have been on the menu had we stayed there longer. At least it gave us a good resting place between Scotland and Wales and we even managed a short visit to Ulverston in the morning.

We’ve been to North Wales many times over the years and have the perfect excuse to visit since my sister-in-law and her husband live there. They’ve now moved to a more coastal part near Colwyn Bay so we got the chance to explore a few different places. First, we revisited one of the picturesque little villages, Betws-y-Coed, and this time we all walked right round the beautiful river with its ups and downs over rocks and stones to the old miner’s bridge and the steps up to the town. Needless to say, lunch was our reward!


As well as other lovely walks and areas there are two particular visits that I really enjoyed for their fascinating stories. I’ll write a separate post for the second one next week. The first, Gwydir Castle, was a labour of love to the couple who now own this ancient building whose first owner died in the 14th century. After being rebuilt several times, it has seen illustrious visitors through its doors throughout the centuries including Charles I, and King George V and Queen Mary while still the Duke and Duchess of York in 1899.


Peter and Judy Welford acquired Gwydir in 1994 when it was more or less a ruin. Since then, they have made it their home, while gradually restoring the castle to some of its former glory – an incredible feat. The gardens, too, have undergone some renovation while maintaining the historic features and trees, some of which are hundreds of years old. Two of the original Cedars of Lebanon, brought back as saplings from Spain in the 17th century, still flourish along with oak trees from the late 19th century. Peacocks strut about all over the gardens and one even followed us to where we had our picnic lunch, hoping that its patience would be rewarded (it wasn’t as I don’t think feeding them would be encouraged!).

Although not allowed to take photos inside the house, visitors are allowed to wander around the interior for a small fee. This is no National Trust type venture - it is only open at certain times of the day and the caretaker lets visitors inside the huge wooden entrance at a ring of the bell. A handsome peacock came to welcome us on the stretch of road at the gate! It’s unbelievably atmospheric inside and so ancient that my imagination was working overtime. The few rooms open to us that had been renovated (some are private quarters) looked surprisingly welcoming and I could picture a warm fire burning in the enormous grate.

With a reputation for being one of the most haunted houses in Wales (not a modern phenomenon), I was keen to walk along the corridor between the Hall of Meredith and the Great Chamber. One 19th century room behind the panelling was called the ‘ghost Room’ and of course I peeked inside. Evidently at times people have reported a drop in temperature, a touch on the shoulder and a strange smell along there but I didn’t get to linger long enough to see, feel or smell anything untoward. I was probably the most imaginative amongst our small party of sceptic realists and the others talked their way along, whereas I would have stood and observed!

As part of their on-going restoration and a means of adding to the funds, two bedrooms at Gwydir are open for visitors requiring bed and breakfast. With names such as The King’s Room and the Duke of Beaufort’s Chamber, furnished with antiques but with modern en suite facilities and beautiful garden views, it’s a tempting idea. They also offer weddings and holiday lets in a cottage in the grounds.

Look out for another fascinating venue in North Wales next week!

*** If anyone is interested in my tween book, Summer of the Eagles, which is set on a Scottish island, it will be on Amazon countdown at 99p (99c) from Tuesday 19th to Sunday 24th July!***


Patsy said...

We love North Wales and visit quite often. Beautiful part of the world.

Joanna said...

This looks and sounds such a lovely holiday, Rosemary. I sympathise with the rain in the Lake District as every time I've visited, it has poured down. But somehow it seems to suit it.
It's been ages since I went to North Wales and must go again. My eldest daughter lives in Cardiff so we only ever go south. Your pictures are stunningly beautiful. So glad you enjoyed it. xxx

Wendy's Writing said...

I love both North Wales and the Lake District so loved seeing your fabulous photos. Makes me want to go back.

Teresa Ashby said...

Lovely photos, Rosemary. Gwydir Castle sounds a wonderful place to visit :-) xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It is indeed, Patsy!

Thanks, Joanna - we've never been to South Wales yet so I'll need to do that sometime!

Both have many similarities, I think, Wendy - and with Scotland which is why love the visiting them!

Thanks, Teresa - it was fascinating!

Carolb said...

Love the photos, Rosemary. Been a very long time since I've been in Wales, so thanks for sharing the experience.

Nicola said...

What stunning locations! We do live in a beautiful world - despite all the turmoil that seems to be going on. Sounds like you had a wonderful time - lots more ideas for stories, no doubt? :)Thank you for sharing with us. It's always a pleasure to visit.