I’ve always had a romantic notion of Wales, even though I honestly didn’t know a lot about it. A lifelong Anglophile, I was a little embarrassed that I’d never before visited and was excited for my first adventure there in this small region of the UK. In a rare moment of expectations matching reality, what I found was a country replete not only with natural beauty, but urban beauty as well. Urban may be a stretch, but I don’t know the appropriate adjective for cute villages so I’m going to stick with it.
I only had the opportunity to explore a few of the villages in northern Wales, but what I discovered was enough to convince me that many more return visits wouldn’t just be nice, they’re compulsory.
Conwy – One of many towns in Wales with distinctive town walls and a castle, Conwy sits on the north coast of Wales. Walking around just after dawn one morning, I had the sleepy town all to myself. Doubtless that the features common to locals, were the ones I found most welcoming. Beautiful homes and shops that are undoubtedly impossibly old, and a handsome castle and walls surrounding it all. I walked up to the top of the walls, the sounds of a bus in the distance and looked out across the countryside. Sheep and cottages lined the hills and I knew that I had definitely arrived into Wales. On the other end of town is the port, with glass-like water and boats lining the water’s edge. Just beyond I noticed a small building, as it turns out the smallest house in Great Britain. With dimensions of just 9 feet by 3 feet, this tiny structure was in constant habitation for 400 years until it was turned into an attraction. Conwy may be just one of many other similar towns, but I found myself loving it almost right away.
Beaumarais – A decidedly more marine feeling was evident right away in this Welsh town, located at the eastern entrance of the Menai Strait. Originally a Viking settlement, the castle of Beaumarais and the ensuing town came about with many others at the same time, part of a defensive strategy by King Edward I who had recently conquered Wales. An important port town for centuries, boats are still important here and my own perfect moment came again at dawn, walking along the beach and watching the world come alive. It’s definitely smaller than Conwy and while different, has a certain beauty all of its own.
Have you been to Wales? What are some other tows worth visiting?