|Enroute views of Conwy, Wales|
Conwy has history, great hikes and no one else I spoke to had heard of it before. Those three reasons were enough for me to pack my bags and make my way from London to Wales. Google told us it would take us 4 and a half hours to get there. Google lied. It took us nearly six hours with the dreadful traffic on the M6 on a Friday.
Where to Stay?We picked the Quay Hotel to stay and from our bedroom, we had views of the hills and the estuary with its little boats bobbing up and down. I went to New Zealand a few months ago and as soon as I landed in Auckland, it was this view from my window in Wales that came to mind. The two places look so similar! Quay is a great hotel with a well-equipped gym, sauna, and a spa. The Spa does feel a bit like an afterthought but if you don’t make it the focus of your stay you’ll be just fine.
If you’re looking to go budget then there is this campsite nestled in the hills with picturesque countryside views of the valleys and the Conwy River.
|Estuary views from Quay Hotel. Photo Credit: Quay Hotel|
On Saturday morning we headed to the Conwy Castle. It’s relatively small when you compare it to other castles in the U.K but size doesn’t “always” matter does it? It’s easy to get around and is also extremely relevant historically, playing a vital role in several wars. UNESCO also considers it to be one of the finest examples of 13th and 14th-century military architectures in Europe.
|Conwy Castle and the surrounding historical and natural views|
We then strolled through the township with its impressive stone gates and high walls, just taking it all in. While there we stumbled upon St. Mary’s Churchyard and stopped to read some of the most elaborate tombstones and the stories they told. Soon enough, the sun set and it got too eerie for my liking; I can be a wuss sometimes. With the now dark valleys in the distance, the lifeless tombstones, the leafless trees and the restless crows, it looked too much like a Hitchcock fantasy for my liking.
|Historic, beautiful and eerie. St. Mary’s, Conwy. Photo Credit: Jacques LeSinge, Flikr|
|The Smallest House in Great Britain would be big enough for me|
Before heading back to Quay, we decided to check out one of Conwy’s many traditional tea rooms. We picked Pen Y Bryn, more for its quaint appearance and “Welshness” than anything else. Post some fruit tea and hot scone indulgence it was time for bed.
|Tea time at the Pen-y-Bryn Tea Rooms. Conwy, Wales|
Sunday came by soon enough and it was time for a hike around the Conwy Valley to burn all the calories from the previous day. We first explored Fairy Falls which I am positive is home to friendly little magic folk and then walked across the lush autumn coloured hills.
We went on the hike with Barry and Simon from a company called Active Terrain. Normally I’d pick to go solo but in this case it turned out to be a great choice because they took us through sights and views we would’ve definitely missed otherwise. We hiked for about 2 hours exploring the many hidden secrets of the valley including what is supposed to be the oldest church in Wales: Llanrhychwyn. I still have no clue how I should pronounce that. It sits amidst fields of green and yellow looking almost abandoned although they still have a service here one Sunday a month. We crossed collapsed old mines, lakes that reflected the colours of the valley like an artist’s pallete and peeked inside a now defunct mill. In my quest for a photo, I nearly fell into a bubbling stream while trying to cross a rickety bridge that led to the mill. Luckily I managed to scramble across or it would’ve been an expensive photograph.
|Hiking views in Conwy: The old church of Llanrhychwyn|
|More hiking views, this time around the magical Fairy Falls|
It’s always Pub-o-clock
Post hiking we decided to re-tox and stopped at a country pub called White Lion’s Inn, which again we would’ve never found if we didn’t have locals, Barry and Simon with us. It sat up hidden on a hill and had views of the entire valley with its bales of hay and skipping lamb. We took in the view and then ran inside to get warm and toasty by the fireplace.
A pint (or two) later we drove to the town of Llandudno which in the 1950s was the hub of seaside froclicking and where the real Alice from Alice in Wonderland spent her holidays. You’ll see lots of Alice related paraphernalia scattered all over the town. The town itself looks like it belongs in fairy-tales and the pastel coloured houses by the water are a perfect example of Victorian elegance. The local council insists that the houses along the sea face look that way. Apparently someone coloured their home bright pink and was promptly instructed to repaint. We had just enough time for a quick coffee with a view at Great Orme National Park which looks down on the expansive, misty and seemingly endless ocean. It was soon time to get back to the chaos and concrete jungle also known as London…and which I love regardless.
|Great Orme National Park. Photo Credit: Toni Rodrigo, Flikr|
Those who enjoy exploring the U.K’s layered history and countryside, will love Conwy. It extremely adorable, quaint and totally off the beaten path.