1. The castle truly is the jewel in Conwy’s crown, commanding the same sense of grandeur and respect as it did back in King Edward’s reign during the 13th century. Climb the towers for an amazing view that offers something completely different from every angle: lush bucolic scenery and the old town wall to the south-east and the most breathtaking coastal scenery to the west.
2. Just a short walk from the castle, Plas Mawr (above) is said to be the finest surviving Elizabethan town house in Britain. Owner Rober Wynn clearly had a predilection for entertaining, showing off and mythological Greek ladies clutching their naked bosoms. His sizable ego is also reflected in the numerous appearances of RW, his initials, on the plasterwork and wood work.
3. Located across the road from Plas Mawr, the bottleshop on High Street stocks a range of well-priced wines as well as an extensive collection of European beer. I like the hand-written tags describing each wine’s attributes.
4. Around the corner from Plas Mawr on Castle Street, Aberconwy House is supposed to be the oldest surviving residential home in Wales, dating back to the 14th century.
5. If you’re in Conwy during Spring, take a walk along the public footpath (in reality, the meadow behind the castle car park) and take in the lambs-a-leapin’ (this curious little fellow was quite happy to pose for us).
6. Next door to Aberconwy House on Castle Street, Penny Farthing Sweet Shop is stacked with old-fashioned sweeties and a rather splendid window display.
7. And the bakery next door to Penny Farthing Sweet Shop has the best Welsh cakes and disgustingly-good cream buns. Oh boy.
8. Stroll down to the quay for a look at Britain’s smallest house (complete with tourist-pleasing lady in traditional Welsh costume). Not sure if it was worth the £2 entry fee, but interesting nonetheless.
9. Its close proximity to some other lovely places in North Wales, including Bangor (yes, we did have “a loverly time”, and I highly recommend ordering the famous scones at the end of the pier), Snowdonia national park, miles of sandy beaches, and lots more castles (specifically Caenarfon and Beaumaris castles). It’s also a short drive to Anglesey, where you can stop by the train station at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, one of the longest place names in the world (it translates to "St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave").
10. Quay Hotel, natch. (If you’re interested in visiting between April and June 2009, they’ve got rooms from £52.50 per person per night. Contact the hotel for further details on 01492 564 100 or email@example.com.)
It’s been mini-breaks au-go-go here at the Wee Birdy nest. The past eight weeks has seen me travelling to Bulgaria, the New Forest, Paris and North Wales. Next weekend? I’m off to Copenhagen. All over the shop, eh?
One of the things I usually enjoy about travelling in the UK is staying at B&Bs (this is NOT a piece about B&Bs, but bear with me, OK?). Apart from the fact they’re usually cheaper than staying at a hotel, I really enjoy the personal and quirky nature of staying in the likes of a 400-year old country farmhouse, not to mention the usually-fabulous full-English breakfast in the morning. That was, until, I stayed at Voldemort’s very own B&B in the New Forest. I shan’t linger on the hideous facts, apart to say that I really don’t enjoy nasty proprietresses (aka Voldemort) bitching at me at 10 in the morning ON MY EASTER HOLIDAY for lingering in my room too long after breakfast, ESPECIALLY after they just served me bacon complete with cat hair and bread from a chopping board that until 10 minutes ago served as the cat’s litter tray. (Pregnant women toxoplasmosis alert!) Anyway…
Let’s just say that I was in an excellent frame of mind for a change of scenery, like say, a luxury-hotel-perched-on-the-Irish-Sea frame of mind. Ohhh yes. This is exactly what was served up at the Quay Hotel & Spa, located in the charming seaside town of Deganwy in North Wales. It was hotel luxury all the way, complete with in-house spa that would not look out of place in Mayfair, trillion-count Egyptian cotton sheets and super-sized towels (OK, a slight exaggeration but such a welcome departure from scratchy, mean little towels), and 24-hour room service (why, yes, we would love to sip Champagne and watch the sun set over the water from the comfort of our own balcony).
I took this pic on Saturday night from our balcony.
The excellent full Welsh breakfast in the morning was served in the hotel’s Vue restaurant, which indeed afforded an excellent view of the sparkling Conwy river and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Conwy Castle (one of the best-preserved 700-year-old castles in the UK). An extensive buffet breakfast was also included (but funnily enough, no cat hair).
Full Welsh + View = Best way to start the morning.
After tucking into homemade bircher muesli, local Welsh sausages and poached eggs, I ventured to the hotel’s Espa on Saturday morning for an Aromatherapy Associates full body massage. But first – the “chill-out room”, which was designed for lounging around in one’s robe, sipping herbal tea, reading the latest fashion mags and gazing out from time to time at the yachts moored in the tiny harbour beyond the window. Then I was led through a hushed labyrinth of sexy dark-panelled wood, scented candles and Buddha statues to my treatment room for a customised body massage. Customised, because I was asked about my state of mind (sleepy!), my plans for the day (plundering castles!) and how I wanted to feel at the end of the massage (relaxed but awake!). Which quite happily, is exactly what happened after an hour of blissful pummelling whilst inhaling a bespoke mix of essential oils.
Conwy Castle … just like a Lego castle, only better.
Back at the hotel for wine, chips and the papers.
More local produce was on display at dinner, where we dined on delicious Conwy mussels and Welsh lamb (Coes Cig Oen wedi’i Brwysio gyda Garlleg Rhost a Thatws Mâl â Basil, to be exact) whilst admiring another award-winning Conwy sunset. Hotel life in Wales just doesn’t get any better than this.
The Quay Hotel & Spa
Deganwy Quay, Deganwy, Conwy
North Wales LL31 9DQ
Tel: 01492 564 100
Wee Birdy was a guest of The Quay Hotel & Spa (and should point out that she rarely dips her toe into PR-sponsored activities unless they're genuinely bloody good).
em>Tomorrow: My top picks from Conwy, including the best cream buns in town.