It’s a little known fact that I’m actually half Welsh. Thanks Dad!
Wales is somewhere I’ve grown up with, enjoying countless camping and caravaning holidays as a child. I have fond memories of castles, dragons, beaches and cable cars.
VisitWales.com got in touch recently and invited me to #FindYourEpic with 24 hours in Wales. As you know, I love a good challenge, especially when travel is involved.
I headed to Llangollen, which is in Denbighshire, North East Wales.
Having only ever been to Llangollen as a child, I was amazed to find driving time was just over an hour from my house! It’s strange to think it’s so close, yet almost worlds away.
It happened to be, “The Legendary Llangollen Faery Festival” on the same day. It’d have been rude not to investigate one of the largest Faery Festivals in the UK, and it was rather magical. Lots of people dressed up, music, holistic treatments on offer, craft and clothing stalls to buy your faery gear, makeup and hair and even wing and wand making workshops for the kids.
(The use and spelling of Faery is the more inclusive term; encompassing all magical beings, not just the archetypal Fairy’s like Tinkerbell)
Spending a fascinating few hours here, I was fed and watered in the Fae Cafe. I had a delicious vegan burger and unlimited salad. I was also the only adult (maybe) that queued up with the kids to sit on a dragon à la Daenerys Targaryen, “Mother of Dragons” in Game of Thrones. (Keep your eye on Instagram for that photo!)
Llangollen sits underneath Castell Dinas Brân/Crow Castle. These ruins have many myths and legends that surround them, including ones with Faeries and even King Arthur. Wherever you go in Wales you won’t be far from a castle, there’s 641 of them! Just think of all that history, all the stories that each one has witnessed.
Climbing up the hill is steep, but worth it for the incredible views you get at the top; you can see for miles. The sense of freedom and achievement I felt in reaching the summit was pretty good too. You can see the rain in the distance in some of the photos here. I got back down just as the shower started.
The Corn Mill in Llangollen is an iconic pub right on the banks of the River Dee. After the walk up to Dinas Bran I’d worked up an appetite (and a thirst). The mill has been around for 700 years, its foundations built by Cistercian monks.
Structurally, the building has obviously had a few renovations as time has gone by, but it was still a working mill right up until 1974. It opened as The Corn Mill pub in 2000 after being derelict and earmarked for demolition.
The restoration is hugely sympathetic to its former days, and it even has the water wheel behind the bar.
On my list of things I wanted to do was to try some Welsh gin. The Cornmill came up trumps with Brecon Dry, I loved it! The gin is very aromatic, with notes of coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg. I’m adding this to my wishlist for sure.
It was so relaxing sitting on the decks with my G&T. The River Dee fast flowing underneath and to the side of the deck. At times I was transfixed just by watching it, like the hypnotic qualities of watching an open fire.
Nature really helps me switch off and I felt like I’d been away from home for days, not hours.
Watching the sun go down across the river was certainly a special moment. It’s not surprising that this part of Wales is an official area of natural beauty.
Llangollen itself is a bustling town with some great little places. I must give a mention to Harley’s Vintage Boutique, choc full of great vintage clothes including loads of fringed jackets. I thought I was going to get lucky, but I didn’t find “the one“. Also worth a mention is a cute little cafe right on the platform of the steam engine train station called The Carriage Tea Rooms; yes it’s a vintage train carriage converted into a cafe! So cute!
Next up on my Welsh adventure is a World Heritage Site. Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is just a few miles away from Llangollen and it is truly mind-blowing to see this in real life. A genuine feat of world-class engineering by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, it is the highest aqueduct in the world at 126ft.
You can go on a narrow boat cruise along it which takes around 3-4 hours but walking across is free.
Making it halfway which was enough for me and my history with vertigo!!
Last but not least is a stop just outside of Wrexam, right on the borderlands area of where North East Wales meets England. A National Trust property called Errdig.
This a exceptional and awe inspiring place.
It’s got to be the best National Trust property I’ve visited (and they are all pretty good!). The sheer scale and scope of Errdig has to be seen to be believed. It is huge and the story of the restoration and renovations is captivating.
Bereft by financial issues the house was neglected for many years. Ownership of the property moved through generations of family, each one inheriting bigger problems. At one point these problems even included coal being mined from underneath the building!
It’s a engaging story and I’m obviously just skimming over it here but it truly is fascinating. The last family member to live there became a recluse and a hoarder, which allowed many things to stay intact.
The National Trust was acquired Errdig in 1973 and the story of how the house and gardens were renovated is one of the most evocative parts of this property. In some ways, it staggers belief when you realise how it was when the NT took it on.
I especially loved the gardens. Feeling like Alice in Wonderland wandering through, and half expecting to see some playing cards painting the roses red. This place is worthy of its own blog post. I certainly have enough photos!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my epic Welsh adventure, and I think it’s obvious that I found mine. Will you go and #FindYourEpic in Wales?
Have you been to any of the spots I’ve mentioned?
As part of this collaboration you have the chance to win an epic camera bundle with Visit Wales, so go and find your epic. Head over to the Visit Wales website to be in with a chance of winning the Fuji X-T20, a stylish, 4K, mirrorless, lightweight camera to up your photography game and capture your own adventures.