Saturday morning we headed off for more adventures in North Wales. Here’s a little preview of the ground we covered.
We started our day in Conwy, where there is a wonderful castle built by our buddy King Edward I. (Now you might think that we’ve been to enough castles. Truth be told, Julie might think you’re right. But we’re doing a scientific study. We’re nothing if not rigorous. Y’know. For science and stuff.)
The Chicklets attacked the castle with their usual fervor, starting with a direct assault on some of the exterior walls.
The girls soon discovered that gates are an easier way to get in side than scaling rock walls. Once inside, the girls were nice enough to slow down for a few minutes with the grandparents.
Thirty years ago, my brother Josh and I ran around these same castles, and my parents enjoyed watching their granddaughters scramble around some of the same places. The girls headed out, intent on exploring ever nook and cranny. As usual, I chased after them ostensibly to make sure that they stayed out of trouble, but the truth is I enjoy running around with them in these castles more than I perhaps should. I rounded one corner and found the girls using the medieval garderobe. Cassie was particularly unhappy that I disturbed their privacy.
We went up and down the spiral staircases, ultimately reaching the top of the tallest tower. When we looked below, we saw Julie. When we looked even further below, we saw Juda and Giga, too!
We also passed through the old chapel in one of the towers. Lydie was pretty sure that in the Middle Ages, people worshiped by climbing through windows upside down.
After investigating all the towers, walkways, passages, chambers, and chapels, the pink-cheeked chickpeas and their sore-kneed father rendezvoused in the main courtyard with the rest of the team.
I told the girls that we couldn’t go to any more castles unless they could tell me the name of someone who lived Conwy Castle. Lydie’s answer was “Edward I,” who was the English king who built the castle at the end of the Thirteenth Century, and Cassie’s answer was “Owain Glyndwr,” who was a Welsh prince who captured the castle at the beginning of the Fifteenth Century. As we walked toward the main castle gates to leave, the girls raced ahead to climb yet another crumbling wall.
After the castle, we grabbed some sandwiches and headed off to our second castle of the day — Beaumaris.
I had been looking forward to visiting Beaumaris since we decided to come to the United Kingdom. When I was a there with my brother 30 years ago, it was our favorite castle. It was an enormous castle with intricate passageways to explore, dangerous wall walks, and a moat filled with eels. Yep. Eels. You could see them swimming in slippery packs through the water surrounding the stone walls. I’m only halfway joking when I say that we’ve been doing a study of Welsh castles to determine which is the best castle. I was excited to visit Beaumaris to see if was still the A+ that I remember from my childhood.
By now (as you may have surmised), Team Hubbard has a basic game plan when visiting castles. We stick together for the first few minutes, before the girls and I set off to explore more thoroughly. This time, we made it as far as the draw bridge with Juda, Giga, and Julie.
The girls and I raced off, starting with a walkway on the outer castle wall. Almost immediately, I could tell something was wrong. There were simply too many metal railings. Halfway around the wall, the walkway ended, though you could clearly see that the walkway continued further along the wall. The girls and I decided to head inside the walls of the central fortress to see what we could see.
The passageways were fantastic, and I really got my hopes up that we would still be able to get to all the nooks and crannies I remembered. But there were a few areas that were blocked off — stairways closed and barriers installed. And our troubles only continued! We went out outside only to find more of the same.
Safety. As my grandmother Mama Cile would say, pshaw. But I don’t want to overstate matters. It was still a great castle.
The girls and I headed out to the walls to look for the eels. We looked and looked, but couldn’t see any.
On our way out of the castle, we asked whether there were still eels in the moat, only to learn that the moat had been drained a few years ago, releasing all of the eels into the ocean. For reasons that I cannot fathom, the eels were never restocked. So, there you have it. Beaumaris is still a great castle, but it’s gone from an A+ to a B+ or A-. I’d still recommend it highly, but I think Carreg Cennen is the clear winner for our trip. On the basis of our highly scientific study, it’s the best castle in the UK.
Drying my tears, we set off to our next destinations, Capel Lligwy and Din Lligwy. Beaumaris was a little disappointing, but these two spots more than made up for it. After driving for about 40 minutes, we parked on a small country lane and walked through a field to reach Capel Lligwy, a small Twelfth Century chapel in the Welsh countryside.
Inside we found the remains of a tiny crypt. Or maybe storage cellar. Whatever. It was underground so the girls raced inside. Going underground was the point for them.
In the distance, we could see the ocean and rolling Welsh hills. It was a beautiful spot, and the cows in the field with us seemed to be enjoying it.
The cows that you can’t see in the picture, that is. Those aren’t cows. That’s Juda and Giga. We next took a short hike on our way to Din Lligwy, the remains of a Welsh village from the Fourth Century.
Along the way, the path passed through a sheltered grove filled with blooming wildflowers. (We later found out that the flowers were wild garlic.)
Din Lligwy was fantastic. The village sprawled over a large hilltop, and we could see the foundations of circular huts and some other square outbuildings. The foundations were massive, with huge stones, and the site had something for everyone.
Naturally, the girls had fun climbing on the rocks.
I have been particularly intrigued by the Romans in the UK this trip, and I was excited to see the remains of a Welsh village from that time period.
Giga seriously loves rocks.
For Julie, the village resonated with her love of standing stones. And I think Juda had a ball watching the girls flit about like fairies.
We left Din Lligwy and started our way back towards home. Along our way we stopped at a Welsh town famous only for the length of its name.
Roughly translated it means “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave oh and Donald Trump Is a Wanker.” After a quick bite to eat at an Italian restaurant in Caernarfon, we headed home to our little castle cottage on the estuary, happy with our day of exploring.