Sunday, 8 May 2011

North Wales


Right after Easter weekend we had another 4-day weekend for the Royal Wedding and May Day (1st Monday in May).  So, we were off to North Wales where we stayed 3 nights in Criccieth (this was the view from our B&B).  It was another wonderful holiday.

North Wales is 3 - 3.5 hours away and offers the coast, Snowdonia National Park and of course lots of history!  Recall that William the Conqueror and the Normans were having their way with England in the late 1000's.  However, they never quite got all the way through the mountains of Wales.  At that time, Wales was not a united country but rather a bunch of mini-kingdoms that often fought with each other.  However, Llywelyn the Great started the consolidation process in the early 1200's.  This was eventually passed to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (sometimes called Llywelyn II and then Llywelyn the Last!) who was in control when King Edward I became King of England.

Edward "called" Llywelyn to pay homage to him and Llywelyn refused.  Eddie got mad and sacked Wales.  In the process, he decided to build many castles along the Welsh coast and re-fortify some existing ones which all form a collective "Iron ring" and a World Heritage site. (map)

Interesting note:  this is the same King Edward who battled extensively with Scotland (William Wallace and Braveheart).  The castle progress was occasionally halted because the resources (people and funds) were needed up north.

Interesting note 2:  Edward II was born in Caernarfon in North Wales and is why the heir to the throne is called the Prince of Wales.  The castle was used for the investiture in 1911 and 1969 (Prince Charles).

Okay, enough history (I find it fascinating) and on to the pictures!

Day 1 -- Caernarfon

In addition to being an important military fort, Caernarfon was also designed with the thought of being the political center for England in Wales.  Edward's many travels (Crusades, etc.) led to a much more European flavor to it (polygon towers and banded colored stone).

 A view inside Caernarfon Castle.

Caernarfon up-river.  Edward wanted to make sure that the castle could be refortified without going through the mountains.

Inside Caernarfon Castle.  Slate became the primary industry in the 1900's and a slate platform was used for the Investiture services.

Princess Nicole?


 A view from across the river.  You can also see some of the walled town.

 Back in Criccieth (30 minutes farther away).


Day 2 -- Hiking Mt. Snowdon & National Slate Museum
Although it was an adventure getting to the Pen Y Pass trailhead (near car sickness on the winding, narrow roads, parking issues, etc.) we had a wonderful day hiking in Snowdonia.  Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales (3560 ft).  We didn't start out early enough to climb to the peak, but we picked a nice trail to get some good views of the scenery.  We had just enough time to stop into the National Slate Museum at the end of the day.  This was our favorite day.

 Hiking with sheep never gets old.

Along the Miner's Track to Snowdon.

 Miner's barracks ruins.

 Miner's Crushing Mill

A view of Mt. Snowdon (that we did not fully ascend)

 A view of a partial slate quarry from the National Slate Museum.

 A very cool slate splitting demonstration.


Day 3 -- Harlech Castle & Portmerion
Harlech Castle is another of Edward I.  It's farther around the coast.  It's not in quite the shape of Caernarfon but was still climbable.

Portmerion was a quirky village that was planned from the beginning to be a tourist spot with some conservation thrown in.  It's a cross between Disney and an Italian village.  Not a big hit.
 in front of Harlech Castle

 From Harlech Castle (the sea used to be much closer in the old days)

on the walls of Harlech Castle

 Off to the prison tower for you! (he wasn't really this miserable -- just playing the part)


 A view of Harlech from our lunch restaurant (cool)

inside Portmerion

a tree stump with coins (Alex's favorite part)

 Hanging on a tree branch

 Back at Criccieth skipping stones at the beach (it's the simple things most of the time . .)

Day 4 -- Criccieth Castle
Criccieth Castle is an older Welsh castle that was apparently refurbished by King Edward I.  It's has deteriorated more than the others.

 Close up with my wonderful kids!

 Criccieth view #1 from top.

Criccieth View #2 from top.

A very windy day!

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