A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.
This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.
Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.
In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.
This week, Wales.
The near-perfect condition of the town centre and sea-front of Llandudno is owing to the patronage of a local aristocratic family, the Mostyn’s, who have owned the surrounding land for over 500 years. The estate is still owned by Mostyn’s today. They designed the original Victorian resort.
The Great Orme is a 400-foot-high rocky outcrop perched above Llandudno. A trip on the Great Orme Tramway will take you on the steep climb to the summit. Here you will find a small museum and bird sanctuary. Take the tram back downhill for the best views. The tramway opened in 1902, making it the oldest cable driven railway in the UK.
Nearby are the Great Orme Mines which can be visited. Over four miles of tunnels dating between 1900BC and 600BC have been surveyed, and it is estimated that up to 1,800 tons of copper metal were extracted from a single mine during this period. This would make the Great Orme mines the pre-eminent source of copper (90 per cent of bronze) in the Bronze Age.
Conwy Castle was built from scratch by single force of 1,500 labourers in just 4 years between 1283-87. It was commissioned by Edward I as one of the key fortresses in his ‘iron ring’ of castles to contain the Welsh. Some say it is the most magnificent Edwardian Welsh fortress. Its military strength springs from the rock on which it stands.
On the east approach to the castle are two wonders of engineering, Thomas Telford’s 1826 road bridge and Robert Stephenson’s 1848 tubular railway crossing, a 400ft double-barrelled tunnel that does not require supports. The Victorian ramparts are in a medieval style to bookend the castle.
Conwy is perhaps the finest example of a fortified borough in the UK. The classic walled town has a circuit of ¾ mile guarded by 22 towers. Within it are the most intact set of residential buildings from medieval times.
On the east bank of Conwy is the 11thcentury Norman castle at Degannwy. It became the base of Prince Llewellyn the Great and plays an integral part in Welsh medieval history.
Just south of Llandudno on the A470 you will come across Bodnant, a must for any garden lovers’ itinerary, especially those interested in unusual plants. It also contains a magnificent collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. Bodnant was established by Henry Pochin and his daughter Lady Aberconway in 1875. It was one of the first three gardens considered for preservation by the National Trust in 1949 with Hidcote and Nymans. Bodnant is one of the most pleasant gardens to visit in Wales and considered by some to be the finest in the UK.
Great places to eat include the Groes Inn, Tyn’-y-Groes, Conwy (LL32 8TN), the Queen’s Head, Glanwydden, Llandudno (LL31 9JP), or posh it at the 3-star Bodysgallen Hall near Llandudno (LL30 1RS).
Classic seaside resort, historic castle and pleasant gardens, what more could you want from a day-out?
Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.
For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com
*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:
- Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
- Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
- Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
- Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
- South coast (Hants/Dorset)
- Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
- South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
- Wales (north & south)
- Welsh Borders (Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
- Western Midlands (Brum/Worcs/Warks/Staffs)
- Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
- Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
- East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
- Yorks (all ridings)
- North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
- North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
- Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
- Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
- Ireland (Northern/Southern)