Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a large village and community on the island of Anglesey in Wales across the strait from Bangor. With 58 characters it has the longest place name in Europe and one of the longest place names in the world.
The name means: [St.] Mary’s Church (Llanfair) [in] the hollow (pwll) of the white hazel (gwyn gyll) near (go ger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrn drobwll) [and] the church of [St.]Tysilio (llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]g ogo[f] goch).
For my last medieval adventure in Wales we walked one of the finest and most complete sets of town walls in Europe. Conwy’s 1.2 km of town walls are a medieval defensive structure around the town of Conwy in North Wales. The walls were constructed between 1283 and 1287 after the foundation of Conwy by Edward I, and were designed to form an integrated system of defence alongside Conwy Castle.
For mid autumn and beginning November we were quite lucky that it turned out to be a mild and sunny day, perfect conditions for such a scenic hike.
The combination of castle and town wall make Conwy one of Europe’s finest surviving medieval towns, period. Although most of Edward’s great castles in north Wales were accompanied by a defensive town wall, protection for his newly-planted English colonies, only at Conwy and Denbigh is it possible to still get a sense of what these fortifications were actually like.
We ascended onto the walls at the east side of the walls next to Conwy Castle and walked clockwise around. This ended up being uphill as the walls sloped upwards but offered such beautiful views.
We were forced to leave the walls behind for a short period whilst walking around Conwy’s train station rejoined the walls towards the west and the highest point of Conwy’s walls.
The walls are mostly built from the same local sand- and limestone used at the castle, but with additional rhyolite stone used along the upper parts of the eastern walls. The town walls include 21 towers and three gatehouses that are beautifully preserved.
The ascent to the highest point of the walls is quite steep but offers spectacular views across the whole town towards ConwyCastle.
After slowly making our way up this steep slope we reached the first of the 21 surviving towers that are”gap-backed”, lacking walls on the inside. These towers originally included removable wooden bridges to allow sections of the walls to be sealed off from attackers.
While standing at the top of one of these 15m high towers I had a quick look around and then with wobbly knees, while clinging to the guardrail made my way back to the wall surface.
The good news was that on this route it was pretty much downhill from this point onwards so I could appreciate the scenery more..
The tops of the walls feature an unusual design that uses a sequence of corbels to provide a flat, relatively wide wall-walk. But definitely not wide enough to my liking as I was clinging to the side of the walkway and trying not to look down.
As we descend towards Conwy’s quayside we found some of the best preserved sections of the walls.
On this last section of the wall I had plenty of opportunities to look across Conwy’s chimney covered rooftops along the way.
The walls of Conwy are not only completely intact, but largely unencumbered by later building, and still give the impression of enclosing and protecting the town.
The final section of the wall took us down towards Conwy Quay. There were some great views to be had at this point of Conwy Estuary towards Deganwy and Llandudno and also in the opposite direction towards Conwy Castle.
We were definitely not in the mood to walk back around the walls the opposite way, which would have been mostly uphill, so we walked along the quayside and back through the town.
We found the Smallest House in Great Britain nestled amongst a terrace of houses on Conway’s Quayside in Wales. We couldn’t really miss the smallest house as it is painted a bright red and looks so cute situated next to the high city walls of Conway.
The house, which has a floor area of 3.05 metre by 1.8 metre and a height of 10 feet 2 inches, was actually used as a residence from the 16th century until 1900. It is sai that the owner was a 1.9 metres tall fisherman named Robert Jones. The upstairs is so minute that there is room only for one bed and a bedside cabinet. The rooms were too small for him to stand up in fully and he was eventually forced to move out when the council declared the house unfit for human habitation. The house is still owned by his descendants.
A Welsh lady in traditional clothing stands outside this small house telling tourists a bit about the history of this cute place.
Standing in front of this small house you look out over the beautiful river and harbour of Conway. I can definitely understand why you would live in such cramped quarters with such a fabulous view.
Chester, is a city in Cheshire, England, close to the border with Wales and one of the places I explored with my friend Yvonne while visiting her in Anglesey, Wales.
Autumn mornings are quite chilly and we were quite glad that we remembered to take gloves and warm scarves with us although the wall walk did warm us up. Chester city walls form an almost complete circuit of the city as it was in the medieval era, and measure almost 3.2 km in circumference. The walls comprise the most complete Roman and medieval defensive town wall system in Britain.
We started our circular city wall walk at Kaleyards Gate. In the 13th century the monks of St Werburgh’s Abbey had developed a vegetable garden (known as the kaleyard) outside the city walls. Access to it was by a devious walk through Eastgate and they wanted to have an easier route. They petitioned Edward I in 1275 to allow them to cut a gate through the wall to provide direct access to the garden. This he allowed under certain conditions, one of which was that it must be locked at nightfall.
The only other city where I have ever been able to walk around the centre all along the walls was York, which was alsoe an amazing place to explore. I think the walls of Chester are beautifully preserved and a lovely way to see the city.
Standing on newgate an arch bridge carrying the walkway of the city walls over Pepper Street. The bridge was built in 1938 to relieve traffic congestion in the city, especially at Chester Cross.
The bridge is constructed in red sandstone. On each side of the bridge is a tower containing mock loops (unglazed slit windows) and surmounted by hipped roofs. Flights of steps on each side lead up to the towers and to the walkway across the top of the bridge.
Between 1120 AD and 1350 AD the circuit of walls was completed. Chester’s Norman earls repaired and restored the existing walls and built the southern and eastern sides facing the river. In the Middle Ages, tall projecting towers and impressive gateways were added.
In the 18th century the walls became a fashionable promenade. Once the walls had outlived their military usefulness, they were converted to a walkway around the city. The gateways were replaced by elegant arches. Sadly many of the towers were pulled down or altered.
We left the wall to explore the Roman gardens situated next to it. These RomanGardens date from the 1950’s when a public park was created to display a collection of finely carved building fragments from the Roman legionary fortress of Deva. They include pieces from some of the most important military buildings, including the main baths and the legionary headquarters.
The City Wall next to the garden is a medieval extension to the Roman defences. Most of the Roman building fragments now housed in the Gardens were found at the end of the nineteenth century during excavations in Chester.
At the top of a narrow winding lane which leads up from the River Dee, along what is probably the steepest cobble lane ever is St Mary’s Church.
It is said that in 1656 ‘Three witches were hanged at Michaelmas Assizes, and buried in the corner by the Castle Ditch in the churchyard St. Mary’s Church on the Hill. I had a close look at all the graves found in the small cemetery but unfortunately could find any belonging to the three witches.
One of my favourite things to do while travelling is to visit the beautiful cathedrals of that country. England has so many spectacular Cathedrals but high on my list of favourites is definitely the beautiful Medieval Cathedral of Chester. Chester is close to the border of Wales and I spent the day exploring this beautiful old town with my friend Yvonne.
Chester Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral and the mother church of the Diocese of Chester. The cathedral is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and located right in the city centre. Unlike a lot of the Cathedrals of England you don’t have to pay to explore this beautiful piece of art. Instead you can make a donation if you wish or buy something at the little Cathedral shop.
Chester Cathedral is built of New Red Sandstone, in this case Keuper Sandstone from the Cheshire Basin. The stone lends itself to detailed carving, but is also friable, easily eroded by rain and wind, and is badly affected by pollution. This Cathedral has quite an array of different gargoyles protecting it but a lot of them are so eroded that you cant even make out what they used to be.
The cathedral, typical of English cathedrals in having been modified many times, dates from between 1093 and the early 16th century. All the major styles of English medieval architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular, are represented in the present building and creates an eerie harmony inside the Cathedral.
The Cloister Garth and Refectory was definitely the most striking and peaceful part of this beautiful Cathedral. I loved the fountain in the middle with the Cathedral as its striking background.
The Cathedral has some very detailed and beautiful lead glass windows depicting different nativity scenes.
The Nativity Window in the Chapel of St Werburgh, by Michael O’Connor (1853)
The buildings are a major tourist attraction in Chester, but it was quite empty on this weekday which was fabulous for taking photos. In addition to holding services for Christian worship, the cathedral is used as a venue for concerts and exhibitions, evidence of this can be seen in the speakers that are fixed to a lot of the beautiful pillars.
Wales is filled with so many beautiful and old towns and cities that are best explored on foot to experience the place. While visiting Yvonne in Wales we spent a morning walking through Bangor, a city in Gwynedd, North West Wales. It is actually one of the smallest cities in Britain and one of only six places classed as a city in Wales, although it is only the 36th largest urban area by population. I love that a place in Britain with a Cathedral gets classified as a city, no matter its size.
I loved walking through this tiny city with its narrow cobbled streets and old leaning houses and buildings down the main pedestrian street. The first lace we stopped for a better look was the beautiful Bangor Cathedral. The Cathedral as seen today is the result of extensive work carried out under the supervision of Sir George Gilbert Scott begun in 1868. Scott’s design originally called for a high central tower and spire, but this was never completed as cracks appeared which were thought to indicate subsidence of the foundations.
For lunch we walked down Garth Pier, the second longest pier in Wales, and had tasty fresh sconnes with strawberry jam and cream in the small cafe at the end of the pier. This pier is the ninth longest in the British Isles, at 460 m in length. Almost demolished in 1974 due to the poor condition, local support ensured that it survived and gained a Grade II listed status, as it was considered one of the three finest surviving piers at the time. I must admit that it is definitely a beautiful pier and offers such fabulous views of the surrounding area.
We were pushing our luck going for a hike in Snowdonia on such an overcast day. Chances were that we would not make it around the lake before getting soaked but the rain clouds did make for a very dramatic scenery. I had my own “personal guide” in the form of my friend Yvonne for this wonderful hike.
This walk offered some of the most dramatic mountainous scenery that I have ever seen on a hike. It took us through the beautiful ice-sculpted Cwm Idwal – a bowl-shaped hollow filled with the crystal clear waters of Llyn Idwal.
Cwm Idwal is a hanging valley in the Glyderau range of mountains in northern Snowdonia, the national park in the mountainous region of North Wales. In a 2005 poll conducted by Radio Times, Cwm Idwal was ranked the 7th greatest natural wonder in Britain.
Through Yvonne I learned that Cwm Idwal comprises volcanic and sedimentary rock which was laid down in a shallow Ordovician sea, and later folded to give rise to the distinctive trough-shaped arrangement of strata known today as the Idwal Syncline. This fold in the rock is visible today, thanks to the layering of the sedimentary rocks. The area was then eroded by glacial action to form the classic semicircular valley.
The spectacular hanging valley of Cwm Idwal, surrounded by the high peaks of Y Garn and Glyder Fawr is a classic example of a landscape which was dramatically sculptured by ice thousands of years ago.
At Llyn Idwal (lake) we chose a clockwise route around this nature reserve. As we started this circular walk the rain clouds came rolling in thicker and faster with the arrival of some very strong gusts. I would like to say gale force winds but have to admit that it was just very strong gusts, although I was nearly blown over while posing for a photo.
As we started along the footpath we were greeted by a collection of large fractured rocks known as Darwin Idwal Boulders.
Llyn Idwal (lake), is named after Idwal, the son of one of the ancient Princes of Wales, Owain, Prince of Gwyneddd, legend relates Idwal was murdered by being drowned in the lake by his uncle. Tradition further states that no bird flies over the lake, as a result of Idwal’s terrible fate. It was too windy that day for any birds to be flying about so I couldn’t test this myth.
Look up to our left were the sheer cliffs which form the headwall of Cwm Idwal, known as ‘The Devil’s Kitchen’.
Walking along the pebbled lake shore around to the east the weather did start to turn a little and we felt the first warning drops. As we arrived at the slate bridge that crosses Afon Idwal as it drains out of the lake it started dripping and we started hurrying towards the car. Our luck for the day held and we made it to the car without getting soaked and before the heavens opened up releasing a cold hard torrent of rain.
I can now officially say that I have fallen in love with the beautiful Welsh countryside!! I love the green rolling hills and valleys that cover this lush green countryside. Little inquisitive sheep dotted across the fields and the pebble covered coastline.
I spent a week visiting my friends in Wales and ended up feeling like I had my own local tour guides for this spectacular countryside of Wales. My friend Amy took me out to Aberffraw a small village and community on the South West coast of the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, by the west bank of the River Ffraw for an afternoon stroll.
In the early Middle Ages Aberffraw was the capital of the Kingdom of Gwynedd from c.860 AD until c.1170. Under the eponymous Aberffraw Dynasty it came to be the most important political centre in medieval Wales.
I would definitely recommend this beautiful circular coastal walk around the headland of Aberffraw to any nature loving person. We started our leisurely walk with the dogs at the Mouth of the Afon Ffraw. It was low tide so some of the small local boats were stranded just above the water line in the mud, waiting to be released at high-tide.
This gentle walk along an easy clear path took us along the river, through bramble pathways and eventually reveal a rocky coastline that is low and rugged when the tide is out.
The sky was big and blue, the Sun shining bright and warm with a gentle refreshing breeze cooling us down as we walked along this beautiful coastline.
In the distance the mountains of Snowdonia roll gently, one after the other, such a magnificent sight. Here I got to see and capture some of the “famous” sheep filled fields of Wales. It looked like the sheep were actually posing for my photos as they turned towards me as soon as I pointed my camera their way.
I have often read about the lush green fields and hills of Wales and seen pictures of this lush countryside filled with grazing sheep and green forests. Getting to walk through one of the beautiful Nature Reserves found across Wales was definitely a highlight of my Wales Adventure.
My very good friend Yvonne who lives in Anglesey, Wales took me for a walk through the Newborough forest and to the Western coast of Anglesey.
Anglesey or Ynys Môn is an island off the north west coast of Wales. Anglesey is the largest Welsh island, the fifth largest surrounding Great Britain and the largest in the Irish Sea.
The Newborough Warren (Ynys Llanddwyn), National Nature Reserve is one of the largest dune lands in Europe. This reserve comprises a large expanse of dunes, a tidal island, salt marsh, mudflats and a huge freshwater lake.
Part of this dune system is forested and it is here that we started our walk. There is a good network of footpaths and tracks to follow which made this a very enjoyable hike.
The growth and spread of Marram Grass was the main stabilising element in the dunes. We walked through the Marram Grass fields having loads of fun capturing some of the many colourful butterflies and caterpillars on film. I had a butterfly actually land on my hand and Yvonne quickly snapped a photo but it flew away before we could get a close-up of it.
The reserve is home to many birds as well as butterflies and other insects in spring and early summer, when walks at Newborough Warren are accompanied by the lovely song of the Skylarks that nest there in considerable numbers. I was also quite excited about finding tiny little frogs jumping around in the lush green grass. I am very fond of frogs and had a great time catching some of these tiny creatures to have a closer look at them.
Our hike through the lush green forest lead us all the way to the Anglesey coast and the beach of Newborough. It was a lovely clear day but there was a chill in the air with occasional showers so the beach was quite deserted for this time of the year.
We ended our Welsh countryside walk in the village of Newborough from where we got a bus back to Anglesey.
On my first visit to Wales and as an introduction to Welsh history my friend Yvonne took me to visit CaernarfonCastle. Getting to visit this magnificent medieval building in Gwynedd, north-west Wales was the perfect introduction to the rich Welsh history and culture.
I loved walking through the narrow streets and over the cobbled roads of the Edwardian town of Caernarfon. This town and castle acted as the administrative centre of North Wales for King Edward I of England in 1283 and as a result the defences were built on a grand scale.
While the castle was under construction, town walls were built around Caernarfon and they are still visible in parts of the town. These walls were quite narrow when compared to other fortified towns and we could not walk around the town along these old walls.
I love castles and the stories that always accompany them. I love exploring the different castles dotted around England and was so excited at actually getting to walk through a Welsh castle! Walking through the huge stone entranceway I was actually expecting a completely restored castle on the inside. Bur despite CaernarfonCastle’s external appearance of being mostly complete, the interior buildings are mostly in ruins and many of the building plans were never finished to start with. The rears of the King’s Gate (the entrance from the town) and the Queen’s Gate (the entrance from the south-east) were left unfinished, and foundations in the castle’s interior mark where buildings would have stood had work continued. This was quite a surprise but I had so much fun walking along the parts of the castle that were still standing and open to the public.
Seeing as I am a bit afraid of hights I did cling to the rope while climbing this very steep spiral staircase up the Queens Tower. The castle of Caernarfon was one of the most impressive of its time in Wales, and its construction – along with other Edwardian castles in the country – helped establish English rule. According to the Flores Historiarum, during the construction of the castle and planned town, the body of the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus was discovered at Caernarfon and Edward I ordered his reburial in a local church.
While walking along the castle walls I used my camera to look over the edge at the world below ad I didnt want to get to close to the edge. I did look like a scared crab up there sliding along the wall, trying to look brave and not scared while doing this.
The town and castle were sacked in 1294 when Madog ap Llywelyn led a rebellion against the English. Caernarfon was recaptured the following year. During the Glyndŵr Rising of 1400–1415, the castle was besieged. When the Tudor dynasty ascended to the English throne in 1485, tensions between the Welsh and English began to diminish and castles were considered less important. As a result, CaernarfonCastle was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.
Yes, Im actually clinging to the handrails and not spreading my arms as usual as I did not feel to secure up on these walls. It has nothing to do with their stability but all to do with my fear of hights.
CaernarfonCastle was neglected until the 19th century when the state funded repairs. From the 1870s onwards, the government funded repairs to CaernarfonCastle. Steps, battlements, and roofs were repaired, and the moat to the north of the castle was cleared of post-medieval buildings that were considered to spoil the view, despite the protest of locals. In 1911, Caernarfon was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales for the first time. He later became Edward VIII. In 1969 the precedent was repeated with the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales.
It is now part of the World Heritage Site “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd“.