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Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Today was going to be castle day. After an 8 a.m. Full English Breakfast we were on the road with the intent to visit all 5 of the King Edward Castles (to which our Heritage Pass granted entry). Our first stop would be Conwy Castle. We soon found ourselves on a dual carrigeway (freeway) and were in Conwy by 10 that morning. On the way down the coast we passed a large beautiful castle that obviously is still someone's residence.

Conwy is a small town that retains its original city walls. We parked outside of town at the foot of the hill. It was only a few hundred yards to the city walls. Entering through a gate we climbed to the top of the wall and walked along it to approach the castle. We did not realize it but there is a parking lot inside the city walls directly in front of the castle.

The castle is huge. There are 8 round towers and many passages to explore. From the tops of the towers are excellent views of the city, the bay filled with boats, and the mountains of Wales. After a very thorough exploration of the castle we went to take a walk along one of the walls only to find that it was blocked off. So instead we spent sometime walking through the town.

The town is filled with small shops and small gray-haired people that pile out of huge busses. We stopped in a Woolworth's and purchased some colas. I also stopped in a fruit store to see if they had any figs but it was too early in the season.

At one time the major road down the coast went through the town of Conwy. This was an obvious bottleneck to smooth traffic flow. So a tunnel was built that actually goes beneath the town. Back on the main road we passed through this as well as several other tunnels where the mountains came down to the sea. After a few miles we stopped for gas at an Esso in Banger (82.9 litre/33).

I got lost getting back onto the main road, and we took a twenty minute detour driving through the town of Bangor. But who knows when I will ever get to see Bangor again? I even saw an Aldi's grocery store. We soon found ourselves back on the correct road with our next planned stop to be Beaumaris Castle.

Beaumaris is the first castle that I have seen with a real water filled moat. There were large swans swimming in the moat. Originally, the moat was connected to the bay and ships could sail up and dock at the castle walls. We didn't explore this castle as thoroughly as the previous one. Alan and I did climb several of the towers and went through some of the passages. The castle is large enough that we got lost at one point and it took awhile to figure out where we had left Pat.

Before leaving Beaumaris we stopped at a convenience store and purchased some sandwiches and fruit to have for lunch. We ate this as we drove to our next stop, the castle of Caernarfon. Caernarfon is the castle in which the investiture of the Prince of Wales takes place. We paid 2 each for a guided tour of the castle that was well worth taking. The towers of Carneferon are square instead of round. There are also interesting arrow slits in the walls. There are three slits that allow three people to shoot at once but the arrows all come out a single hole on the outside wall. This is the only castle that has this feature.

By now we were castled out. There were several exhibits at Carneferon that we didn't take the time to view. Instead of continuing to the two remaining castles we decided to take a scenic drive. Whereas yesterday had been rainy, today had been beautiful. In fact, all during the trip we normally had wonderful weather on the days we were outside.

We drove through the mountains enjoying the scenery. At one spot was a beautiful view of Snowdon. We also drove through the gray town of Blaenau Ffestinog with its mountain high piles of slate from the mines. This seemed to be an interesting place, and I would like to visit here again. We also took a detour off of our route to drive through Betws-y-Coed. This town is listed in all of the guidebooks as being a popular destination. The only thing that we could see were lots and lots of souvenir shops - we didn't even get out of the car.

We were back in Ruthin by 5:30 that night and rested until about 7:15. The B&B was only a few blocks from Ruthin Castle where we were attending a "Medieval Banquet" that night. Ruthin Castle is also a Best Western Hotel (and extremely expensive). The grounds of the hotel are lovely with peacocks wandering about.

We arrived about 15 minutes before the banquet was to start. A wedding party was leaving as we entered the hotel. I stole a glance in several rooms all of which are very elegant. A few minutes after us, the couple we had met in Bath arrived. There were also several large tourist groups of different nationalities.

We were led into a small backroom where we were given a welcome speech. The seating had been pre-arranged and they begin to call out group names. All of the large tour groups were led in first and seated. This caused several people to comment that they were getting the best seats, and we would be stuck in the back. I was thinking the same thing. We were all surprised when we were finally seated to find we were in the middle of the room and right next to where the "stage" was located.

For dinner we were served soup, bread, lamb, chicken, beans, carrots, salad, lemon pudding, mead, and lemonade. You could also have wine but no one at our table ordered any. All of the food had to be eaten with your hands. The only utensil you were allowed was a knife. The food was delicious. My only complaint was I wish they had provided more bread with the meal. Even so, we were all stuffed by the time we were done.

After the meal came the entertainment. This consisted of singing and a lady playing the harp. There was a group of lady singers. There were also two male singers. One older man had won an All Welsh singing contest twice, the only person to have ever done so. He was a small man with a huge, deep voice. It was all very fun, and we had a great time being complete tourists. After the banquet we walked back to the B&B and went to bed.

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