Trying to pronounce the impossible Welsh names like Llangollen (klhan-gghlan) or Betws-Y-Coed or Llandrillo (klhan-dri-lo) is part of the fun and challenge of traveling in North Wales. But when the language is spoken in true lyric Welsh, actually “Cymru” (CUM-Raig) it sounds like water flowing over rough rocks, and hints at the deep, rich Celtic culture beneath this un-touristed, beautiful land.
The region is all verdant green hills and rolling valleys, dotted with flocks of white gamboling lambs and gently moving sheep. The rich folkloric character of its people is reflected in the winding, narrow roads lined with flowering bushes and patiently built stonewalls. But its soul lies in its many sleepy villages.
|From From Kaleel|
In Llandrillo, a postage-size hamlet of old stone homes, the handwritten sign said “Tea and Biscuits,” so we dropped in, and sat with the locals.
We listened to their childhood stories about World War II, drank the strong tea and ate the teacakes, served with a healthy dose of village gossip.
But don’t let the rustic, authentic quality of North Wales deceive. Along with its thirteenth century castles and sweeping, solitary coasts, there are classy boutique hotels with exceptionally sophisticated cuisine. Castle Cottage, built by Britain’s Edward I to keep the Welsh in their place, is a romantic, gabled seven-room stone building with views of the sea and dramatic Mount Snowdon. The owners serve a terrific grilled brochette of monkfish and prawn on leek risotto or a roasted porchetta with sage mashed potatoes, red cabbage and calvados jus. Cleverly designed rooms combine minimalist touches with the artful.
|From From Kaleel|
And Tyddyn Llan ( tThin-klan) in tiny Llandrillo is an elegant Georgian country house, rich with warm colors, quality appointments and outdoor gardens of daffodils and bluebells and country walkways. Bryan and Susan Webb, transported London restaurateurs, offer a very good roast wild bass, laverbread butter sauce or Gressingham duck. The stone arches, porches, and period furniture work are masterfully designed.
The pride of North Wales is likely Mt. Snowdon, the highest mountain south of Scotland, and the gem of dramatic Snowdonia National Park. North Wales is not a bargain vacation, but it is an authentic one, and that’s what travel’s all about.
Images: Wendie Hansen
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