Gwrych Castle stands proudly in the hills above the seaside market town of Abergele, North Wales. To motorists on the busy A55 main expressway below, this dramatic landmark may conjure up romantic images of medieval knights and fair maidens, the truth is that the castle was built in the 19th century as a private residence.Read More
Wales boasts the world’s first continuous walking and cycling route along an entire national coastline. The North Wales coastal path stretches from Bangor to Prestatyn, around 60 miles in all. We have been exploring the section between Pensarn, close to where we live, and Rhos-on-Sea to the west. This section of the path is about 7 miles long and passes through Llanddulas and Colwyn Bay before entering the charming seaside resort of Rhos-on-Sea or Llandrillo as it is also known.
Our walk begins at Pensarn's small promenade where there is ample parking. The path runs next to the railway line at this point and is traffic-free except for cyclists (beware!); several parts of the Wales Coast Path are designated sections of the National Cycle Network. There are good views of Gwrych Castle high in the wooded hills at Abergele as we leave the car park. Passing the Castle Cove Caravan Park we are reminded of just how densely populated the area is with caravans. The cafe on the park serves freshly cooked food at reasonable prices.
There are great sea views all along this walk with an abundance of wildlife and fauna. Information boards are regularly positioned to explain the different species and history of the area. At around 2 miles we reach Llandullas. Close to where the River Dulas flows into the sea is Tides Cafe Bistro, located at The Beach Caravan Park, no shortage of refreshment stops on this route! Llanddulas Beach, similar to Pensarn, is mostly rocks and pebbles with the remains of wooden groynes, at low tide there is a beach. After following the route of the Dulas for a short distance, we pass a private house that until 1932 served as the Llanddulas life-boat station.
The path now rises and presents a sharp incline as it traverses the Penmaen (meaning stone head) headland. As the pathway winds and lowers back to sea-level, the landscape is dominated by concrete sea defences known as 'dolos'. Each block weighing approximately 5 tons, some 22,000 structures were used in a major coastal protection project in the 1980s to protect the area and especially the adjacent A55 expressway road.
There is a reminder of the intense quarrying of this area as we approach Raynes Jetty, constructed to transport limestone rock onto freighters via a conveyor belt system. In 2011 five lives were lost when the freighter MV Swanland sank in stormy weather after collecting 3,000 tons of cargo. Shortly after in 2012, the MV Carrier hit rocks adjacent to the jetty and was eventually dismantled on the spot. Another short incline brings us to a disused stone structure that was an ammunition store for the quarries.
Our view from this elevated position is of Colwyn Bay's coastal sweep through to Rhos-On-Sea, a wide expanse of beach and the Little Orme headland in the distance. The path joins the promenade at Old Colwyn and leads us past Porth Eirias, part of The Colwyn Bay Waterfront Project. Opened in May 2013, this facility for water sports enthusiasts offers kayak and canoe hire in addition to lessons in sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and power boating. It is home also to a bistro designed and developed by Welsh Celebrity Chef Bryn Williams. The initiative to redevelop and upgrade the sea defences here have provided an attractive waterfront; a key attraction for visitors and an important asset to the local community.
Sadly, standing out as a sore thumb in this otherwise modern and impressive environment is the now abandoned Colwyn Bay Pier. The Grade II-listed Victoria Pier closed in 2008 and its future was cast in doubt amid acrimonious ownership battles, failed restoration attempts and ultimate abandonment. A partial collapse of the pier in 2017 gave the local council the opportunity to receive permission for a full demolition which is scheduled for 2018.
The beautiful new promenade stretches into the small village and seaside resort of Rhos-on-Sea. A small harbour, created by the formation of a rock breakwater that protects the village from flooding during high tides, presents a serene scene of moored boats and harbour jetty with the coastline stretching beyond. A wide variety of seabirds including oystercatchers, dunlins, red shanks, cormorants and many more can easily be spotted here. Our walk ends at Britain's smallest church, Saint Trillo's Chapel sits on the harbour path and is named after a 6th-century saint. Services are still held here and has seating for six.
All photographs were captured on an iPhone 7 Plus. All images © Adrian McGarry 2017.
Tu Hwnt I'r Bont ('Beyond The Bridge'), a 400-year-old former courthouse and now a traditional North Wales tearoom, is a world famous tourist attraction that reaches its height of photographic charm in early autumn.
The grade II listed cottage nestles beside the 15th century Pont Fawr stone bridge on the banks of the River Conwy in the market town of Llanwrst on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. The building is covered in Virginia Creeper, a five-leaved ivy, which each autumn envelopes the stone cottage from roof to ground in a blanket of blazing colour. The leaves' rich colours are due to the minerals found in soil from the Conwy river bed.
My main photograph above was taken on Apple's iPhone 7 Plus, the slow shutter capture was achieved using the excellent ProCam app and a tripod.
The autumnal foliage is both beautiful and short lived, the leaves begin to turn red in mid-September and have completely changed colour by early October before they eventually fall soon after. You need to hurry if you want to capture this classic North Wales autumn scene this year.
If you do visit Tu Hwnt I'r Bont then make sure you sample the scones, always a delight, they are freshly baked to a secret recipe!
It's just over a month since Katrina and I started an exciting new chapter in our lives and moved home to North Wales. Our choice of location is Abergele, situated on the north coast between the seaside holiday resorts of Colwyn Bay and Rhyl. Our beloved Manchester will remain in our hearts forever and regular return visits are planned via the area's convenient road and rail networks.
Although the last few weeks have been physically draining, as we unboxed our belongings and added them into new surroundings, we haven't felt the stress or anxiety usually associated with the upheaval of a house move. Honeymoon period maybe, although we put our relaxed state down to the transition to a location that rejuvenates the mind and body.
This is a life style change that we have dreamt about and planned for a long time. We are looking forward to living our dream in a land of coastal beauty, magnificent mountain landscapes, glorious countryside, monumental castles, legendary tales, ancient heritage and a language all of its own. North Wales has beckoned our further exploration for a long time and we can't wait to get started.
Within these posts we hope to introduce you to the places we visit and share our experience through words and photographs. There will be practical and useful information regarding anything and everything about our life in North Wales including exploring, traditions, folklore, food, drink and events as we invent our own pace of life living the dream. My art and photography will still feature including regular tips, tricks and news of my events.
Surrounded by beautiful countryside and within a half mile of the Blue Flag beach at Pensarn, Abergele is a former traditional market town with a history that dates back to 8th century. The town's name is constructed by the words 'Aber'; Welsh for mouth of a river, and 'Gele', originally Gelau; the name of the river which flows through the town. Gelau, in old Welsh, describes a sword blade or the tip of a spear, describing the action of the river cutting swiftly through the land.
The town's centre and commerce is defined by a single stretch of road flanked by local traders. Typical of most British towns, a number of traditional shops have disappeared but fortunately these have been steadily replaced by new businesses that are slowly heightening the profile of this once bustling marketplace.
It is thought that parts of the parish church of St Michael's dates back to the 14th Century. The site is believed to have been home to an important Celtic monastery. Possibly the most famous landmark is Gwrych Castle, easily seen from the nearby A55, nestled in the forested hillside overlooking the town. You would be forgiven for thinking that on first sight this was one of the medieval fortifications that North Wales can proudly boast of, yet this is a 19th Century, Grade I listed, country residence built between 1812 and 1822 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesket.
I hope that you join us on a regular basis as we explore North Wales' scenery and rich heritage of magical and mystical tales.