The castle is one of the best in my experience in Wales, with a lot of it remaining intact. The size of it is relatively large (larger than Conwy). Well-kept gardens and great location on waterfront.
The town is nice, as it has a lot of historic buildings and friendly people. Good location for day visit and then explore nearby Bangor or Snowdonia.
The train journey to Harlech from Dyfi Junction is beautiful as is the car journey, either along the coast past Barmouth or inland and then over to the coast.
The castle is beautiful to look at from the beach or sea level but is not that spectacular from the inside. On a nice day the area between Barmouth and Porthmadog is lovely to experience.
The re-invention of England's great Victorian cities as laid-back, 'continental' style urban spaces has been a bit of a hit and miss affair: a couple of trams and a branch of Pret A Manger do not a cafe culture make. But there have been some notable successes in the re-branding of these former industrial titans that has been gathering pace from the 1980s and 90s onward. And nowhere is this exemplified better than in Birmingham's superb Symphony Hall.
It is unprepossessing from the outside (the bog standard 'post-modern' architecture, all atriums and shopping-mall sheen, betraying the fact that it shares its premises with the 'International Convention Centre') but the perception is transformed on entering the auditorium itself: a vast, arresting horse-shoe of red, silver and gold.
The acoustic in the hall is truly astonishing and is probably best experienced at an orchestral concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) who, post-Simon Rattle, are continuing to make great music under the less frizzy-haired but still highly dynamic directorship of Sakari Oramo.
The orchestra has adopted the highly civilised practice of giving midweek matinee repeats of their evening concerts. These are ideal for layabouts (like me), anyone at a loose end in Birmingham (difficult concept to grasp, I know); and, especially and splendidly, pensioners.
From my balcony seat eyrie the rows of white perms in the stalls below looked like the little knots on a candlewick dressing gown; and a slight but clearly discernible aroma of Murray Mints hung limpidly in the air.
A slight gripe is that, for these matinees, the blokes in the orchestra dress in ordinary business suits - as if they had just strolled in from the Heating and Ventilating Contractors (Midlands Branch) Annual Conference across the way. Obviously the full penguin suit is not really on for an afternoon gig so I'm not quite sure what the answer to this sartorial conundrum is. Something like a Seinfeldian 'puffy shirt' would get my vote.
Slate-top tabled, concrete-walled, shabby-chic gem of a bar, always filled with Londoners after a day's slog at work. Hard to find (probably why there's never any tourists), it's underground below a sailing shop on Shaftesbury avenue just past Neil St. Great for a post-shopping bevvie, or just to people-watch and soak up the chilled but funky atmosphere. A London must.
Nearest tube - Covent Garden, walk to the top of Neil St then turn right onto Shaftsbury Ave. It's downstairs about five doors down.
No trip to North Wales can be complete without ascending a peak. As walking up Snowdon in summer feels more like driving on the M25, try one of the Carneddau. On clear days you'll be rewarded with stunning views across the Menai Straits.
YHA, toilets and limited parking at the head of Llyn Ogwen, or take the green option with a Sherpa bus from Bangor.
Stunningly located between the Eifl and the sea, this deserted quarry village was inaccessible by car until the 1980s, when it was regenerated to provide residential Welsh courses.
Welsh Language and Heritage Centre, Nant Gwrtheyrn, Llithfaen, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, LL53 6PA
Tel: 01758 750334
Self-catering Cotswold cottage. Beautifully renovated old silk-workers cottage in the charming Cotswold village of Blockley. Great for walking and wonderful pubs for meals. Amazing views from the cottage and very peaceful. Highly recommended.
Fantastic website with all different kinds of walks in this wonderful part of Wales. We recently did the eight-mile walk around the lakes in Trefriw - the Conwy Lake District.
Great little cafe on one side of Llyn Crafnant where they make delicious home-made cakes and serve a well deserved cuppa.
A wonderful French 'country-style' (their words) restaurant, serving fabulous local fish, lamb, beef etc., but done in the best French way, i.e. cooked well and served simply. Anniversary dinner (snails in garlic butter and chilli, local lamb, sea bass in yet more delicous garlic butter, plum & almond tart) was faultless. So many provincial (and urban come to that) restaurants overcook fish but not so here - and it's good to be offered local sea trout and brill hauled in from the harbour opposite in Conwy. Staff are young yet very friendly and helpful. Not innovative cuisine but delicous nonetheless. We've been coming to Conwy for years but only tried this place this weekend - we'll definitely be heading back.
Paysanne, Station Road, Deganwy
Conwy, LL31 9EJ
Tel: 0871 223 9396
A ruined medieval castle, on a cliff, in the hills of the Brecon Beacons, with (on a good day) views out to the sea. Wild and windswept, a fantastic location, which will set anyone's adventurous imagination going. Great exploring for all ages (don't miss the cave), with footpaths around the castle for longer walks. Pop to the farm next door to a fab cafe in a barn, also the source of Brecon Carreg mineral water.
In the village of Trap, 4 miles from Llandeilo in SW Wales. The castle is signposted on brown "Tourist Attraction" signs.
Tir y Castell Farm, Trap, Llandeilo SA19 6TS Camarthenshire
Pete's Eats on Llanberis High Street has long been the eating and meeting point of climbers (the cafe keeps the climbers new route book for the area) and other outdoor enthusiasts in northern snowdonia. They're famous for their pints of tea and serve these with big portions of climber-walker-cyclist-paddler-traveller friendly food at low prices.
The menu ranges from chip butties to smarter healthier options, with loads of vegetarian choice, and specials that change often. Whatever you choose it is sure to be filling and satisfying.
As well as great food and a good crack, there's always a pile of papers and magazines, a book swap, internet access and a map/guide library. They also now do accommodation. My favorite place in the world for sheltering from the weather, recovering from the rigors of the great outdoors, kicking back and telling tall tales.
The primary coloured building stands out amongst the surrounding slate grey! Look out too for the eponymous Pete with his funky chef's trousers and long silver pony tail.
Pete's Eats, 40 High Street, Llanberis, Gwynedd, LL55 4EU
T: 01286 870 117
Nearest railway station Bangor, then bus.
Probably the most enjoyable way to spend a rainy weekday evening in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The choir rehearses once a week at 7.30pm in a secondary school and visitors are welcome to come and listen, especially if they ring first. Entirely in Welsh.
Cwmorthin is an abandoned slate mining village just above the village of Tanygrisiau, and close to Blaenau Ffestiniog - both have railway stations, the latter on the mainline. The piles of slate and empty cottages create a calm but slightly eerie effect. In the sunshine, especially just after rain, it's hard to take a bad photograph there. Follow the path along the left hand side of the lake at Cwmorthin and you'll find a roofless stone chapel.
Charming steam train that chuffs from Blaenau to Porthmadog and back on most days during the spring and summer. The hike between Tanygrisiau, Dduallt and Tan-y-Bwlch stations is particularly beautiful. The train traces a loop around a lake to reach Dduallt, and waiting at the halt feels a bit like standing in the middle of a giant train set.
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