Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton (now Duke & Duchess of Cambidge) got married on April 29th 2011 and are setting-up home in Anglesey, North Wales. Everyone’s taking about it so we’ve put together a three day tour of some of the Royal sites in North Wales.
The first stop of the day is Conwy. The Castle, a World Heritage Site, is a great place to get lost. The town walls are almost fully intact, nearly a mile long. Twenty one towers and three gateways dot the walls. It’s best to head right up to the far corner of the town where the views back towards the castle are superb. Walk the medieval walls which run right around the town and give some great views back towards the castle and the estuary.
Take a look at Britain’s smallest house on the quay. It’s 6ft wide by 8ft high, and it used to be owned by a 6’3”ft fisherman.
Head to Anglesey, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with loads of sandy Blue Flag awarded beaches. Ynys Llanddwyn (Llanddwyn Island) has to be one of the most beautiful places in Wales. It can only be reached by foot about a mile along the beach from the car park. Ynys Llanddwyn has a particular association with Dwynwen a 6th Century Saint. The name Llanddwyn means "The church of St. Dwynwen". Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her Saint's day is the 25th January. The island has been the setting for quite a few films. In 2004, the Island was used as a filming location in Demi Moore's romantic thriller Half Light. Tŵr Mawr was used as a lighthouse which plays a key role in the film. In 2009, scenes for the Hollywood blockbuster Clash of the Titans were filmed at Llanddwyn and in the Snowdonia National Park (which forms the stunning backdrop to Anglesey)
Today take a tour of our second World Heritage site of Caernarfon Castle. Built between 1283 and 1301, this castle was Edward I's most impressive stronghold and the ultimate symbol of Anglo-Norman military might. The polygonal towers and colour-banded masonry were based on Constantinople's 5th-century walls, and set it apart from the other castles of North Wales.
The towers were decorated with ornate stained glass and elaborate stonework, the Eagle Tower is the finest remaining example although the eagles are looking a bit weathered after 728 years! In the Queen's Tower there is a museum celebrating Wales' oldest infantry regiment, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Other towers contain exhibits on Edward I's campaigns against the Welsh and the 1969 investiture of the latest Prince of Wales; Prince Charles.
From Caernarfon it’s a quick trip over the Menai Straights to Anglesey.
Crossing onto Anglesey via the Britannia Bridge, the first town you enter is the easiest to pronounce:
Or you can just say plain old Llanfair PG if is makes things easier!
The name of the town translates to: St Mary's Church (Llanfair) in the hollow (pwll) of the white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) and the church of St Tysilio (llantysilio) by the red cave (ogo goch). And is the longest place name in Europe.
Take a look at Oriel Ynys Mon, Anglesey's premier purpose built museum and art gallery to take in some modern art and most excitingly the Celtic Iron Age Stone Head. The Celts were famous for decapitating their enemies and displaying their heads, this head has a carved depression in the crown, who knows what sort of offerings were placed on it?
It’s worth a quick stop at Y Becws Mefus (The Strawberry Bakery) in Llangefni for a taste of Anglesey Shortbread biscuits hot out of the oven. The owner baked an engagement cake for Prince William and sent it to RAF Valley (the airbase where the Prince is based on the island.
If there’s time visit Anglesey Sea Salt and the National Trust property of Plas Newydd, the ancestral home of the Marques of Anglesey.
The village of Penmynydd was the home of one of the most powerful families on the island, which gave rise to the royal dynasty of the House of Tudor; which included King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. The church contains Tudor tombs which were moved to the Tudor Chapel after 1536 when a small stained glass window with the symbols of the Tudor family, including a Tudor rose, were also installed there. The pews were a gift from Queen Victoria and Prince Charles visited the church.
Travel right across the top of the island calling in at the church at Llanbadrig (St Patrick’s Church) one of the oldest ecclesiastical sites in Wales. It is said to have been founded in 440 by St Patrick himself (who as we all know was Welsh). Local legend states that Patrick was shipwrecked on the small nearby island of Ynys Badrig (Patrick's Isle, also known as Middle Mouse) which can be seen from the churchyard wall.
Cross from the Island of Anglesey onto the neighboring Holy Island. Take a two hour circular walk along the headland at Rhoscolyn. The walk is part of the The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path, a 125 miles / 200km long distance route that follows much of the island’s coastline. Details of the coastal path can be found on www.visitanglesey.co.uk
End your tour with a visit to Beaumaris Castle, where Edward I built the last of his ‘Iron Ring’ of castles around north Wales, and our third World Heritage site. Beaumaris, is set in a great location, facing across the Menai Straits with spectacular views towards the ominous peaks of the Snowdonia National Park that seem to plunge straight into the sea.
Some other royal connections in the area:
In 1625 Charles I stayed at Gwydir Castle during the Civil Wars and the incredible four poster bed (built in 1574) that was in the castle at the time is now in the Castle Hotel in Conwy. The bed is in the hotel’s 'Swit Wynne' (Wynne Suite). They can’t prove that he actually slept in the bed but it’s a nice story.
Tre-Ysgawen Hall in Anglesey are not short of Royal visits as the Queen of Lesotho was there recently (Wales was celebrating 25 years of a charity which sponsors links between the two countries, Prince Harry is the Patron).
Plas Dinas Country House near Caernarfon came into the possession of the Armstrong-Jones family in the 19th century. Anthony Armstrong-Jones became Lord Snowdon on his marriage to her Royal Highness Princess Margaret in 1960. Prince William had lunch here very recently (and they have the photos to prove it!) Reminders of the house’s historical royal connections are everywhere; most of the furniture still belongs to the Armstrong-Jones family and their portraits line the walls. You can even stay in Princess Margaret’s old bedroom.
We've also got a fact file on Royal Connections in Wales