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Book to Llwyndu Farmhouse

Apart from its magnificent scenery, Wales is perhaps best known for its ancient Celtic history and the very individual flavour of its culture and, of course its language. We are located in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales. It seems to be a surprise for visitors to hear this ancient tongue, one of the oldest in Europe, used as a first language, but it gives a distinct sense of being in another country, which you will find it is.

It will be the visible signs of this heritage that will be of most interest to visitors and these are plentiful, from the huge number of prehistoric sites (not all of the accessible), Roman stations such as Segontium at Caernarfon and many small churches in this region have their origins in the centuries leading up to the Norman Conquest. The mediaeval period is typified by castles. Small castles built by the Welsh such as Cricieth, Castell y Bere, Dolbadarn and Dolwyddelan and all beautifully located while the castles that followed the iron-fisted conquest of Edward I form a imposing ring around the Welsh coast in the north, starting at nearby Harlech, then onto Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Conwy. At Cymer near Dolgellau is a small Cistercian Abbey set in an idyllic position. All are open most of the year.

These castles brought relative peace to the region and no fortified houses of any note were built after this period. Small estate-building was the feature of the 16th century onwards and some fine houses were erected over the next couple of centuries. Good examples of these can be seen at Gwydir (Llanrwst, private), Plas Mawr (Conwy, Cadw), Plas Newydd (Anglesey, Cadw), Plas yn Rhiw (Aberdaron, NT) while a little further, near Wrexham, Erddig is a wonderful National Trust gem.

On a smaller scale Ty Mawr (NT) near Bettws y Coed, is a lesser gentry house, once owned by William Morgan who first translated the bible into Welsh in the 16th century. The Victorian farmhouse next to Ty Mawr is, in fact, new and was built to house the former occupants of the old house! In Conwy, Aberconwy House (NT) is one of the few timber-framed houses in the north west of Wales. Las Ynys, near Harlech is a house restored to a date around 1700 and once owned by the locally renowned poet Ellis Wynne.

The industrial heritage of this area is really all about slate and the main centres, at Bethesda, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Corris, still operate to varying extents. You can visit the quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog (Llechwedd) and a smaller example at Llanfair near Harlech. Llwechwedd has several rides into the bowels of the mountain and gives a good insight into the importance of this industry. The Welsh Slate Museum, at Llanberis, is in the centre of another, former quarrying centre and the somehow beautiful spoil tips provide a rugged backdrop to the lake. A row of cottages from Blaenau Ffestiniog have been re-erected hear to various periods during the heyday of the industry.
Copper was also mined, and at Sygun near Beddgelert, the mine has been re-opened. A good few hours can be spent here before going into Beddgelert (the town of the dead dog) for a nice cream tea?

If you come to North Wales and fail to notice that the numerous narrow-gauge railways had something more important to do at one time than to ferry holidaymakers around the mountains and valleys, then you are not reading the landscape. Invariably used to transport slate to the ports and latterly to the main line trains that followed, most of these have found a new lease as part of the tourist industry. It will soon be possible to travel from Abergernolwyn, near Tywyn, all the way to Caernarfon by connecting these small trains with a couple of 'big train' rides. Some take you around lakes, such as Bala, while another, the Snowdon Railway, will take you to the top of Wales' highest peak. The smallest, The Fairbourne Railway, on the south shore of the Mawddach at Barmouth is more of a toy but manages to join in the fun.

The maritime history is important also to understand how Wales became what she is. At one time easier to move through these parts by sea small harbours are common. Some, like Bar mouth, had local
products to ship. From Aberdyfi and to a greater extent, Barmouth, boats took fish (herrings) oak bark and wool products from Dolgellau and nearby valley 'industries'. A small museum gives some information. Porthmadog also has a small museum but this was a much busier port shipping vast quantities of slate and other products to Liverpool and other parts of the world in the 19th century. Similarly, Caernarfon's Victoria Dock, recently restored also sports an interesting display about the maritime history of that town.

Ultimately, though, we come back to the landscape of Wales for this has been fashioned by generations of toil by the landowners, farmers, labourers and others that have lived on these mountains, in the valleys, towns and villages for centuries, mostly to wrest a fairly meagre living from the soil. It has escaped the obliterating effect of extensive urbanisation and it an environment that is under threat in these times. When you come to these parts please enjoy the peace, tranquillity and scenery and appreciate that you are in somewhere special. Hwyl!

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