Conwy has the best castle and Medieval walls!
We parked the car, did a quick reconnaissance loop around the town of Conwy, then stopped into what used to be the Bank of Conwy for a pint. Lovely building - nice atmosphere. Afterwards, we had a pizza dinner with Malbec wine in the restaurant at the Bridge Inn and went promptly to bed. Alex was getting a cold and I was exhausted. We had a long ambitious day coming up.
|Edward I fountain|
And off we were...first stop, tourism office. The nice gentleman gave us a map and told us to do five things:
1) Walk to the highest part of the wall for the best views
2) Visit Plas Mawr – Elizabethan Mansion House
3) Visit Conwy Castle on a two-fer ticket with Plas Mawr
4) Visit Aberconwy, the 14th Century Merchant's house
5) Visit the church which predates the castle
5) See the smallest house in Great Britain
We added a visit to Drew Pritchard's shop, and we were about to become tourists with a vengeance.
We started with Plas Mawr which I loved and Alex thought was okay. It's a very well restored Elizabethan period home - that's Elizabeth I, the one that Grace O'Malley visited and who reigned from 1558 to 1603. This was the oldest house I've ever been to and I loved it. Stunning plasterwork and very well preserved. The attic was way cool, with massive timber beams. Imagining all the people that passed through here was great fun. It was highly decorated and a very rich home for the time. Check!
|Plasterwork in the reception room in Plas Mawr.|
Next was Drew Pritchard's shop across the street. It was underwhelming. Small and few things of interest. A young woman sat at a desk working away while we perused the goods, some of which I recognised from the show. As I got towards the back, a door opened in front of me, Drew stepped out, scowled, and stepped back in. He slammed closed the door after shouting to the young woman, who shouted back. Yep, exactly the curmudgeon we had surmised he was. Check!
|Drew Pritchard's shop of Salvage Hunters on TV|
We crossed an alley and realized we were at the old church. When the English came to Wales and started building their fortified castles to establish control, they evicted the Welsh from prime land and built castles on their sites. This church was originally the Cistercian Aberconwy Abbey founded in 1172, but in 1283 King Edward I of England moved the Abbey to Maenan. Today the Church of St Mary & All Saints is the Anglican parish church of Conwy. The parish registers date back to 1541. The church was lovely and plain, with heavy beams reminiscent of maritime construction. The stained glass windows date mostly from the 1800s. Check!
|Church of St. Mary & All Saints|
Next was the wall. Nothing is really far in Conwy. We found a stairway to the top not far from our hotel. The highest part of the wall was dizzying and indeed well worth a visit. You can walk the entire length of the wall and it is well preserved. The round towers are only partially complete but the wall itself is a great pedestrian thoroughfare with periodic stairs by which to enter or exit. Check!
|View over Conwy from the city wall|
We walked down to the waterfront in search of lunch. We'd seen a fisherman's fish and chips joint, but it smelled of stale oil and was unpleasant in atmosphere, mainly just take out. We did see the smallest house in GB on the waterfront but it was closed at the time. Check! We ended up in a lovely little cafe called Amelie's and were delighted with a light lunch and a cheerful place to rest our weary limbs. Check!
|The smallest house in Great Britain.|
After lunch, we braved Conwy Castle, which looked huge and overwhelming at that stage. It was a challenge to even find the entrance (across the street from the castle - go figure). There's a short video which tells the history and is worth seeing, and there are four towers, all scalable. It was built between 1283 and 1289 - amazing! Classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Conwy is considered to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe". Sections of the castle have been restored and house artifacts and exhibits. This castle was the only one in Wales that Edward I managed to complete. He lived in it for only a short period at great expense, but there must have been a massive entourage living there full time. I imagined it like a four-story giant self-contained mall with living quarters, restaurants, churches, the works enclosed within its structure. It could withstand a long siege and it did.
|Conwy Castle from the wall.|
The chapel tower was the most impressive. It had a small chapel and a room across from it high above with a window from which Edward could observe the services without attending. Curious. Was he afraid to be amongst his subjects? Was he antisocial? Was he phobic? But it was a very interesting wing, and the views from above over the three bridges and the harbour and town were fantastic. Check!
|Conwy Castle from the Chapel Tower|
Last on the list was Aberconwy House but alas it had already closed for the day. Oh well. We bought a couple of gifts in their shop and went home to contemplate dinner.
After a brief rest, we came to and decided to go to the Erskine Arms Hotel down the street for dinner. The owner of the Bridge Inn had recommended it and it looked nice and was very close by. Ticked all the boxes. We had a lovely dinner in their pleasant dining room and sauntered back to the inn for a sleep. We had done Conwy. Check!
We'd be heading home by ferry from Holyhead to Dublin mid-day. It had been a delightful trip and Wales had surprised us. I'm actually wondering why Wales doesn't advertise holidays to the Irish. If I'd known about it, I'd have wanted to visit sooner. Now I am glad I did.
Lots of photos follow...sorry.