Five of the best – your guide to what’s on this Spring Bank Holiday

beaumarisgeograph-4681620-by-Jeff-BuckWith the second Bank Holiday of the year just over and the next bearing down upon us we think this is the perfect time of year to plan your visit to North Wales. Perfect, why? Well, the days are longer, the weather’s warmer and it’s getting busier – but not too busy!

This year the Spring Bank Holiday falls on Monday the 30th of May and, whether you’re visiting for a short break or planning a longer stop over the half term holiday, you’ll find lots to do out and about across the region.

With so many events and activities to choose from we’ve made the decision process that little bit easier by selecting ‘5 of the best’ to keep you entertained throughout the weekend and into Monday too.

1. Bangers & Beer, Conwy Valley

This one is only on the Saturday and Sunday (28 & 29 May) but it’s a great way to kick off your long weekend!

Get yourself along to theBodnant Welsh Food Centre in Tal-y-Cafn but make sure you arrive with an appetite! Delicious grilled sausages and lip-smacking local ales combine for that most quintessential of bank holiday traditions – the barbecue! With free entry (although you can expect to pay for the food and drink) you will have a chance to try some of Bodnant’s famous bangers – try the lamb and mint sausages, our favourites – plus some excellent local brews from the likes of Purple Moose, Great Orme Brewery and Monty’s.

2. House of the Black Star, Beaumaris

Medieval reenactors, House of the Black Star, are once again laying siege and taking up residence at beautiful Beaumaris Castle from 28 – 30 May. You can visit and experience what castle life was like almost a century ago any time over the long weekend. This living exhibition brings Beaumaris the fortress back into action and visitors can learn all about daily life in the castle plus, join in the daily drill, and you’ll learn a thing or two about medieval warfare too!

Entry is free for members of Cadw while non-members cost £6 for adults and £4.20 for under-16s, senior citizens and students, with a family ticket priced at £16.20 for two adults and all of your children aged under 16.

3. Betws y Coed Antiques Fair, Conwy Valley

Betws y Coed is always a great choice for a day out. This prettiest of Welsh villages has a distinctly Alpine feel to it, with a good selection of shops, restaurants and things to see and do.

If the weather’s a bit iffy then Betws y Coed’s popular Betws y Coed antiques fair is a good option for Bank Holiday Monday. With a wide selection of antiques and collectibles – including glass, china, jewellery and precious metals, coins and books – on sale, there’s something to interest bargain hunters and pot-luckers alike.

The sale runs from 9:15am – 4pm, with tickets costing 50p for adults and senior citizens, and free entry for children.

4. Hand spinning at Trefriw Woollen Mills, Conwy Valley

Another indoor event in case of bad weather, this time with free entry, is at Trefriw Woollen Mills on the Main Road in Trefriw, Conwy. Demonstrations throughout the day will show how spinning wheels were used to make yarn before the Industrial Revolution mechanised the process. Afterwards, you can purchase some beautiful handmade textiles in the mill shop.

With a slightly later start than some of the other events, 10am to be precise, it also runs a bit later too, finishing at 5pm – a lovely way to while away an afternoon before a pleasant, sunny evening (hopefully).

5. The Wise Woman and the Surgeon, Conwy

Head to Plas Mawr in Conwy for this participatory event – one of many Cadw ‘Bank Holiday Fun’ events scheduled to take place across North Wales. Visitors will learn about Elizabethan medicine, which in those days was still part magic and part science.

The story focuses on Robert, the man of the house who needs surgery to remove a bullet from his leg, but who is also anxiously awaiting the arrival of his baby. Will it be the mystical wise woman or the sensible surgeon who help Robert and his child on this most important day?

Taking place on the 29 & 30 May, daily from 11am – 4pm, entry is free for Cadw members, with tickets priced at £6 for adults, £4.20 for children, students and OAPs, and £16.20 for family tickets (two adults and any number of under-16s).

Image: © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Wildflowers and wilderness – 4 scenic walks in North Wales

Aber_Falls_-_geograph.org.uk_-_354132From the springtime through until late summer, this most magical time of year sees new life come to the Welsh landscape as the winter chill is all but forgotten – at least for a few warm months.

North Wales has some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery, and its plant life is no different, as here you can see some of Britain’s best-loved native blooms putting on a colourful display in the wild.

1. Aber Falls, Abergwyngregyn

Aber Falls – which you might also see referred to as the Rhaeadr Fawr waterfall – is an attraction in its own right, but during the spring months the walk to it takes on new meaning, not least for the diverse flora growing within sight of the path.

Bluebells and wood anemone can be seen among the trees, while in May the hawthorn trees are resplendent in veils of delicately scented white blossom.

There are birds too – the great spotted woodpecker, the redstart and the West African pied flycatcher all make the journey to breed in the secluded Aber valley.

Join the path by the bridge at Bont Newydd and make the steady climb of about 100 metres on a wide path with a compacted gravel surface – there are no steps to negotiate, and plenty of places to rest, and the waterfall is well worth the effort.

2. Coed y Brenin, near Dolgellau

Coed Y Brenin is one of the best places in Britain to see bluebells in late spring and a trip to this vast nature reserve in the Snowdonia National Park guarantees a blaze of colour as you walk through the acres of woodlands.

It’s a really easy route to stroll along, with benches every 150 metres or so, and a wide path with a good quality surface. Back at the visitor centre there are also toilets and a café, so you’re not short of facilities.

You’ll have about a mile to cover on foot, with no stiles or steps to climb, and at the top of the Cefndeuddwr Trail there’s a spectacular viewpoint looking out over the hills, with picnic tables where you can stop for a snack or just to rest your legs.

3. Gwydyr Forest, Betws Y Coed

Gwydyr Forest Park is a woodland explorer’s adventure come to life, with over 7,000 hectares to ramble through.

You’ll find it east of Mount Snowdon, stretching from Penmachno to Llyn Crafnant in the Conwy Valley; in fact, the well-loved tourist town of Betws-y-Coed is entirely surrounded by the park.

Named after, Gwydyr Castle, a beautiful Tudor house which sits in the valley below the forest, it’s a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, with some of its tallest trees including Norway spruce and Douglas fir.

Look out for foxes and red squirrels, and if you see a pine marten, take a photo! Although droppings from the weasel-like creature have been found before, nobody has (as yet) photographed a pine marten in Gwydyr Forest.

4. Great Orme’s Head, Llandudno

The Great Orme in Llandudno has hardly changed in generations, and that means many of its natural habitats are still intact.

You’ll find extremely rare plants growing here, such as the cotoneaster cambricus, which isn’t found anywhere else and, even on the headland, is only usually seen in the remotest of places.

Look out too for the cottony puffs of white horehound, but be careful not to disturb the caterpillars of the horehound plume moth, as the plant is their only known habitat.

Throughout the spring and summer months, the vast grasslands of this ancient natural monument take on new colours as vibrant wild blooms burst forth. Fragrant wild thyme, the coast-loving pyramidal orchid and the tenacious, yellow common rockrose are among them – the latter of which sounds more like it should be clinging to a cliff face than sprawling on the ground as it does here in great swathes.

It’s true, we can’t guarantee the weather but we can promise you a memorable walk in our breathtaking Welsh countryside. Where else can you roam from coast to cliff face, from mountain to moorland – all in a day – and experience the vast array of flora and fauna Mother Nature has to offer?

Image: Tom Pennington via Wikimedia Commons