Bangor might not be top of your must-see list on a trip to North Wales but, being only an half an hour’s drive from the hotel, it has heaps to offer for an interesting day out. This small – yet lively – Welsh university town sits on the mainland edge of the Menai Strait and boasts a busy town centre. However, venture beyond the high street and discover a side to the city many people rarely get to see.
In the second of our ‘Secret’ series (you can read our Secret Caernarfon blog here), join us for an alternative tour of Bangor and uncover some new and exciting things to see and do during Wales’ Year of Legends.
1. Storiel Gallery & Museum
Housed in the historic Bishop’s Palace, Bangor’s resident art gallery has recently undergone a huge £2.4 million revamp. The name was chosen to represent the narrative theme of the space, with stories told by the historical artefacts and exhibits of the gallery. Although small, it has an excellent selection of contemporary and historical art on show. Here you can soak up the history of Wales, and better understand its identity and heritage.
You may find it useful to check the website to find out what exhibitions are on during your visit but there’s always lots to see here, including the famous brass model of Telford’s Menai Bridge, the infamous Welsh Not and several medieval sarcophagi.
2. The Mostyn Christ
St Deiniol’s Cathedral is the oldest cathedral foundation in Britain. Dating back to 530AD, it was founded and dedicated to Deiniol, a nobleman who became the first bishop of Bangor. Having lost his lands in England, Deiniol was given land by Maelgwn, King of Gwynedd. He set out the boundaries of his new religious house by erecting a simple fence made of sticks and branches, in Welsh called a ‘bangor‘.
Inside the cathedral, you will find one of the most iconic religious artefacts of 15th century Wales. The Mostyn Christ (so-called because it came into the possession of the aristocratic Mostyn family in the 19th century) is a wooden sculpture whose origins are shrouded in mystery.
It is a simple wooden depiction of Christ, seated and bound in the last moments before his crucifixion. Where it came from no one knows but its origins have been the subject of fierce debate over the years, with places including Gwydir Castle, Maenan Abbey and Rhuddlan Friary put forward as possible contenders.
You can visit the cathedral between 10:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Thursday, and until 1pm on Friday and Saturday.
3. Menai Suspension Bridge
Travelling from Anglesey to the mainland was, for many years, a hazardous journey. Navigating the Menai Strait was difficult for even the most seasoned seafarers and boats often sunk in the strong, unpredictable currents. When Ireland joined the United Kingdom in 1800, the number of people crossing the Strait increased rapidly and often included important Irish politicians heading to London.
When Thomas Telford began his ambitious project to improve the journey in 1819, the result was that unrivalled feat of Georgian engineering, the Menai Suspension Bridge. Completed in 1826, it was at the time the largest suspension bridge in the world. The risk of travelling between the mainland and Anglesey was reduced dramatically and it cut the journey time by 9 hours!
To learn more about the history of the bridge, plus view artefacts and informative documents relating to it, visit the Thomas Telford Centre in Menai Bridge.
4. Bangor Mountain
Bangor Mountain isn’t technically a mountain in the true sense; rearing dramatically up behind Bangor, its mountainous appearance belies its actual size!
It’s a must-see purely because it provides panoramic views of the city, as well as the Menai Strait and the east of Anglesey, including Beaumaris. From here, you’ll spot the buildings of Bangor University and St Deiniol’s Cathedral too. You can find a public footpath onto Bangor Mountain at the top of Ger Y Mynydd road, which is just off the high street.
5. Bangor Pier
Less well-known than its neighbour in Llandudno, the Grade-II listed Bangor Pier is no less impressive. Step back in time and experience how a typical pier looked in the Victorian era.
Designed by London-based engineer J J Webster for less than the price of a family car today (£15,000), the pier is so long (460m) it almost reaches Anglesey!
The best way to experience it is to promenade like the Victorians; take a leisurely walk and enjoy panoramic views in all directions. You’ll feel transported back in time with its traditional styled lights and wooden walkway. After you’ve taken the air, enjoy a cup of tea and a homemade cake at the Pavillion Tea Room at the end of the pier – trust us, they’re tasty!
In a Year of Legends, historic structures like Bangor Cathedral and Telford’s Suspension Bridge are more important than ever in understanding the Welsh national identity. We hope we’ve inspired you to visit these, and other, secret places in Bangor.
Images courtesy of: Storiel, Deri Tomos, via Wikimedia, 2017. Bangor Pier, © Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence. Bangor Cathedral by Llewelyn2000 via Wikimedia. Menai Bridge, by Ton1959 via Flickr 2013.