Travel: North Wales is every bit as rewarding as those headline-grabbing hotspots
Steffan Rhys finds out what he’s been missing in his own home country
I AM ashamed to say I’ve been to more states of America, more regions of Italy, more German Lander and more English shires than I have to counties of North Wales.
Until this trip, of course, when I made that rarest of ventures north of Brecon on the A470 and crouched in Wales’ smallest house, climbed its highest mountain, sank a pint in its oldest pub, slept in its hotel of the year and descended its steepest mining cable railway (okay, a little bit niche that last one).
North Wales can be under-appreciated by those of us south of Aberystwyth. I think much of this has to do with the fact that it’s a bit tortuous getting there.
But that’s the wrong way to look at it. The journey to and around North Wales is one of its many joys.
My week-long trip started with the windy A470. Make the most of this great road. Don’t rush it. If you can, once you hit Rhayader take a detour around the narrow roads which circle glorious lakes and reservoirs like Llyn Clywedog.
As part of a six-day tour heading anti-clockwise from, roughly, Cardiff to Llandudno to Snowdonia and back, my first night was at Tyddyn Llan, one of Wales’ four Michelin-starred restaurants and its second highest entry in The Good Food Guide 2013.
Whether you go in summer and enjoy the Georgian mansion’s sunny terrace or in winter and enjoy its fireside lounge, its location deep into the Welsh countryside in the village of Llandrillo means staying overnight is a very good option.
Besides, after its magnificent tasting menu of eight generous courses – the star of which on my visit was a sea bass with laverbread sauce – I was incapable of doing anything other than crawling up the stairs to one of its cosy rooms – and that was after building up an appetite earlier that afternoon by kayaking on the grey and windy Llyn Tegid nearby.
You may get a glimpse of Bodysgallen Hall and Spa’s stone chimneys as you approach from the south but there is little else to hint at its grandeur until it looms large after a short drive through acres of surrounding wooded parkland.
The oldest part of the house is a five-storey tower, believed to date from the late 13th century and possibly built as a watch tower for Conwy Castle.
But it was during the 16th and 17th centuries the house came to look as it does today, when it came into the hands of the Mostyn and Wynn families. The initials of Robert Wynn and his wife, Katherine, appear on its datestone with the year 1620 on the south gable.