Cardiff & Caerleon

My final day in Wales began with an exploration of Cardiff.  From the  Millennium Arts Centre (the national home for performing arts) to Cardiff Castle (and the animals adorning its gate), it was a splendid morning.

From here we moved on to Caerleon, our last stop in Wales, and the site of a roman amphitheatre and fortress.

And unfortunately that was it! We made our way back to London.  I found on this tour, I was a bit tired, which made me more interested in chatting with my fellow travellers and less interested in taking pictures.  But rest assured, even though there aren’t very many pictures from these 5 days, the tour was brilliant, Wales was brilliant, and I’m counting down until I can go back.

Counties

South Glamorgan
Cardiff

Gwent
Caerleon

Beddgelert, Dolgellau & Devil’s Bridge

Day 4 started with a visit to Beddgelert, to see the grave of Gellert.

The story goes as such: Gellert (the dog) belonged to Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, a gift from King John of England. One day Llywelyn returns from hunting to find his baby missing, the cradle overturned, and the dog with a blood-smeared mouth. Believing the dog savaged the child, Llywelyn draws his sword and kills it. After the dog’s dying yelp Llywelyn hears the cries of the baby, unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attacked the child and been killed by Gellert. Llywelyn is then overcome with remorse and he buries the dog with great ceremony. However he can still hear the dog’s dying yelp. After that day Llywelyn never smiled again.

Next up was a lunch break in Dolgellau, a cute market town.

Our next stop was the Devil’s Bridge in Ceredigion. This legend goes that around the 11th Century, the Devil visited Wales as he had never been there before and he had heard that the scenery was breathtaking. He soon came across an old lady who seemed upset.

“What’s the matter?” he asked out of curiosity.

“Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do! My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back.”

“Ah!” said the Devil. “What you need my dear, is a bridge, and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge!”

“Okay then” she said. “It’s a bargain. I’ll see you in the morning. Nos da, Goodnight”

That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. “What a strange request! Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer.”

The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. “Well well” she couldn’t believe her eyes. In front of her was the best bridge that she had ever seen! “I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil, appearing from nowhere.

“Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain.”

“I know, you get to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge” and she started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got to the entrance, she stopped, took a loaf of bread from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge. As quick as a flash, and before the Devil could stop it, the dog chased after it. “Aaaaaaagh!!!!!” screeched the Devil. “You stupid old woman, I don’t believe it! Your smelly, hairy farm dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then he vanished.

Well, the Devil was never seen in Wales again as he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady. High in the mountains near Aberystwyth, there is a village where a very old bridge crosses a deep gorge. Above it are two other bridges built at later dates. But the lowest one….Well, they say that the Devil himself built it!

I would also like to point out that I bought a sheep shaped tea pot for my mom, and managed to fit it in my bag (along with my bowls from Turkey) and not break it for another 3 weeks!

Our final stop of the day was in Cardiff, the capital city.  I spend a lovely early evening wandering through Bute Park.

Counties

Gwynedd
Beddgelert
Dolgellau

Dyfed
Devil’s Bridge

South Glamorgan
Cardiff

 

 

Conwy & Snowdonia National Park

Day 3 started with a trip to what is affectionally known as ‘The Ugly House’.  According to its website, some legends say it was built by robbers and thieves, taking advantage of travellers on the road as they journeyed through Snowdonia – ugly people that gave the house a fearsome reputation. Others say the name is a corruption of the name of the river burbling away on the other side of the road, the Llugwy which flows from near Ogwen to join the river Conwy. Who knows, really.

Next up we went to the town of Conwy, which also happened to have my favourite castle in all of the UK, Conwy Castle.  It was built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales between 1283 – 1289.

Next was a fun stop in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, one of the longest place names in the world.

Wales 3 (69)

Wales 3 (72)

Where we also had a view of the Menai Bridge and Strait. It’s said that Lewis Carroll spent time here , for it appears in Through the Looking Glass.

“I heard him then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep the Menai bridge from rust
By boiling it in wine.

Wales 3 (73)

Our next stop sure was a beautiful one.  We took a little break in Snowdonia National Park to do a little hike.  We took the miner’s path (opened in 1832) down to Llyn Glaslyn, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  There are tons of other hikes to take, ranging in difficulty, but absolutely worth a visit.

And we got a great group shot too:

Wales 3 (108)

Our final destination of the day was Caernarfon, which is a beautiful port town on the Menai Strait, which my new friends and I were happy to explore.

Counties

Clawyd
Ugly House
Conwy

Gwynedd
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
Snowdonia
Caernarfon

 

Brecon Beacons, Hay-on-Wye & Dinas Bran

Day 2 was unforgettable. We drove through the Brecon Beacons mountain range, named after the (ancient) practice of lighting signal fires (beacons) on mountains to warn of attacks by invaders, and ended up in Hay-on-Wye, the world famous second hand book capital of Britain.  Literally there were second hand bookstores everywhere, and everyone had a sale! I didn’t have room to carry around books, but I did bond with a few of my fellow passengers.

On top of having books, it also had a beautiful river that I stopped at, in order to continue practicing my stone throwing skills.

Our next stop was the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct, which is the world’s largest cast iron aquaduct. It had the most amazing views, and was wide enough for us to walk across.

Wales 2 (22)

Next up was Castell Dinas Bran, a medieval castle standing high on a hill above the town of Llangollen.  And when they say on a hill they mean it.  About half way up I got discouraged, and our guide motivated me the rest of the way.  I’m not sure I would have made it without her, and it was definitely worth it.  She also encouraged me to climb the ruins, like the rest of the group.

For mythology fans out there, it’s said that this is where fairy king Gwyn ap Nudd holds his court.

Our final stop of the day was at a rural Welsh farmhouse in Corwen, where we all pitched in to get dinner ready, whether it was chopping the wood for the barbecue or preparing food.  It was delicious, and I especially loved roasting the marshmallows over the fire pit at the end of the evening.

Most of this trip was spent driving across the country, which is bigger than it may appear.  But all the scenery is beautiful so I didn’t mind.  But I had learned not to take pictures through glass windows, so there are generally less photos to see.

Counties

Powys
Brecon Beacons
Hay-on-Wye

Clwyd
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Castell Dinas Bran
Corwen

Chepstow, Tintern Abbey & the Big Pit

One of the great things about travelling alone is that you can go anywhere you want to.  I’ve always wanted to go to Wales so I found a tour that would take me around!  I ended up doing a 5 day trip through Haggis Adventures (the same tour group I used for Scotland) and had a grand time!

We got on the bus in London, and I was thrilled to discover there were only 19 of us – meaning I’d get a whole bus row to myself.  Having no seatmates is always nice.

Our guide was really fantastic.  More on that later, but she really made sure we got as much information as we wanted. Did you know the Battersea Power Statoin is the largest brick building in Europe and was designed by the same person who designed the red telephone box? I certainly didn’t.

Wales 1 (1)

Anyways back to Wales.  Our first stop was to Chepstow, which borders England and Wales.  Literally there is a bridge, and the halfway point marks which country you are in.  There’s also a lovely castle, aptly named Chepstow Castle.

Next up we explored the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey.

The day ended with a visit down (yes DOWN) the Big Pit National Coal Museum, a real Welsh mine.  I didn’t realize I was a claustrophobic person until I found myself in a dark mine with only 1 exit.  Not a fan.  But it was an interesting experience. It’s a World Heritage Site, and worth a visit.  Just be aware you could learn a little something about yourself while you’re down there.

From here we drove to Abergavenny where we spent the night.

Counties

Gwent
Chepstow
Wye Valley
Tintern Abbey
Big Pit