All too soon our road trip through North Wales and the glorious Snowdonia was coming to an end and as we woke on our last morning in Harlech we prepared to head back. Our plan had always been to spend a couple of nights in the historic city of Chester at the end of the trip but we had to get there first didn’t we?
Harlech had been a wonderful stay, right on the coast with incredible views down across Cardigan Bay. Great little bed’n breakfast and amazing beaches (Portmeirion via the Llyn Peninsula).
After another fabulous breakfast at our bnb we headed north west towards Blaenau Ffestiniog on our way to that well known Welsh spelling mistake, Betws-y-coed. We weren’t taken with Blaenau Ffestiog at all as it’s a real old-fashioned industrial town so pushed on into the National Park up to Betws. It may seem a little sad to some of you but having a car for a week or so is like luxury to us. Just being able to throw coats, bags, and food in the back without constantly repacking our backpacks is just so easy. Leaving when we want and going exactly where we want is a real delight too so we’ve absolutely loved having the car for a few days.
Just before we left Jo got a little distracted in Harlechs main street by a business up-for-sale. A coffee shop and sweet shop right on the corner seemed to be calling her name. The Harlech Emporium and Caffi Bwtri Bach Cafe? Not sure if it was a great opportunity or one of those sugar-coated dream ideas but it looked great.
Everyone that visits Snowdonia comes to Betws-y-coed and as we parked up and wandered down the main street we could see that it was a real tourist hot-spot. So many coaches rumbling into town along the narrow stone-walled lanes and hoards of holiday makers perusing the many tourist shops buying anything and everything with a Welsh flag or dragon on it. We were doing the same so couldn’t really complain but it was the mirror-image of Beddgelert with it’s original old-world charm.
Cool coffee shops and cafes at every turn and outdoor pursuits clothing establishments completed the look which must generate different attitudes from locals and visitors alike. The town must bring so much business and create so many jobs and tourists obviously love coming, but there is a sense that it may have lost it’s soul a little. We enjoyed a walk back and forth but were almost relieved to be back on the quiet lanes leading up the Conwy Valley away from the hub-bub.
Llandudno West Shore
Making good time we headed straight for Llandudno West Shore for a spot of lunch before returning the car. Quiet and a little wild, just the way we like it. Hopefully our return train trip into England would be much easier than the one from Liverpool and so it proved. Only 45 minutes and we were in the centre of one of the most historic cities in the whole of Great Britain.
The two thousand year old walled medieval city of Chester is often ranked as one of the best places to live in England and was originally named Deva Victrix by the occupying Romans when established in AD 79. Everywhere you turn is evidence of the Roman occupation and the history is literally dripping in history. It’s reputed that it was supposed to be the capital city of Britannia instead of London and you can see why.
Our Travelodge was situated opposite the impressive Roman amphitheatre just outside the city walls, perfect for exploring and discovering what the town had to offer. So our first expedition just had to be JWalking those medieval walls didn’t it? Chester is one of the best preserved walled-cities in Europe and you can still walk around virtually the whole place.
Passing the museum, the famous racecourse, and the historic city gates we ended up in the imposing cathedral. Although the city streets were busy with tourists it didn’t seem too commercial and the place had a really friendly vibe. It felt like somewhere that you could just ‘hang out’ in so that’s what we did. We sat out for a coffee, watched the town crier entertaining the crowds, sat in Grosvenor Park, watched the boats on the River Dee, lunched in the cathedral gardens, and enjoyed the sunshine. Beautiful.
We even had time for a little bit of retail therapy as Chester is famous for ‘The Rows‘. Lines of tudor buildings that have double-decker shops running through them. Not sure if I’ve explained that very well but they have the normal shops on the street like any town but then another line of shops running above them with covered tudor walkways connecting everything. Very picturesque. We even pushed the boat out and went out for dinner to Firejacks just around the corner. A very cool american diner that hit the spot on our last night away.
Next stop – Return to an Old Helpx
Feeling refreshed and relaxed we boarded the Capital City Express to London (not it’s real name obviously, just throwing it out there) on our way to the tiny hamlet of Thelnetham in Norfolk where we would be returning to the scene of a previous Helpx stay. With the drama of a couple of cancelled trains at Liverpool Street station causing severe commuter-stress the journey wasn’t easy but we made it in the end.
Our road trip of the North West of England, North Wales, Anglesey and Snowdonia was finally over and had been an absolute revelation giving us exactly what we had hoped for. So many places we’d never seen and wanted to experience from National Parks to cities to beautiful beaches. An unbelievably successful and amazing trip that has actually caused us more problems than it solved as we are now desperate to return and explore even more. It never ends does it?
02/07 – 04/07/2019