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Castles in North Wales

We are traveling to England to cruise on a narrowboat for a week in early July. That portion of the trip is fixed. Now we've started to look at other destinations (if we're going to fly to England we're going to spend more than a week) and Wales has moved to the top. Quick but important info; we will not have a car

As we plan we've come up with some questions about castles and related things.

  1. One of the Ring of Iron castles is almost certainly on our list to get a view of later, more complete castles. If everything was equal I'd like Harlech but it might be a little too far off the rest of the trip to really work. Caernarfon seems great but I've also heard that it is more crowded. Is that true or is the difference too small to matter?

  2. I'd like to take a walk to more of a country castle. Ruins are fine although something that could be poked around in a little seems more interesting than just a foundation. Some of the pictures on various websites are terrific but figuring out location, access by rail or bus, and then reasonableness of walking access is being difficult. Is there any website that has collected day hikes in Wales?

Posted by
8 posts

Oh well, I had hoped to be visiting prior to the school vacation (at one point I had seen that it started around the 3rd week in July).

An example of would be Dolbadarn. Others might be Ewloe (even more ruined), Caergwrle perhaps. Criccieth perhaps although I haven't looked at it as much. Castles that are an excuse for a walk in what would hopefully be a more rural area. The castle fan in my would like ones that still have some feeling of the older smaller castles from the Welsh rulers but its as much able a destination for a portion of a day spent walking as a real exercise in comparing castles.

Posted by
8 posts

Last night was spent comparing data with my wife (we like to start planning separately to help keep us from overlooking something) so I didn't get back on to comment. We'll be cruising from Autherley Junction. Most likely up the Staff and Worcs canal to the Trent and Mersey and then northwest until we have to turn around. Autherely Junction is Wolverhampton and sort of splits the difference between North and South. This part is set in stone due to the needs of securing a narrowboat that could comfortably sleep 8 of us.

Right now things are roughly settling into a ring through north Wales with stops in Chester (ok, not really Wales but border), Conwy (Conwy Castle, Dolwyddelan via train/bus, Great Orme Mine and side bus trip to Llamberis for Dolbadarn castle and most likely the Slate Museum), then on via train to Harlech (the latest train maps seem to show a route Llandudno to Porthmadog that doesn't show on older train maps) and on to Shrewsbury to connect to the train into Wolverhampton. Of course it would also be possible to start in a different place or do the ring the other direction as it is a ring.

The 4 day train/8 day bus pass looks good combined with flying into Dublin and using SailRail to get to Chester. I'm not completely sold on Dublin and the ferry but it looks like its up to $300 per person cheaper in to get to Chester that way than flying to Manchester or Birmingham and using the train to Chester.

We are still unsure about what to do with South Wales. We might well spend a couple of days there after the narrowboat. Or maybe before (rail from Shrewsbury to Cardiff instead of into Wolverhampton). That part still needs research.

Posted by
8 posts

BTW thank you for the info on the other castles. Pictures of Ewloe in particular made it look like it was in the woods and might make a nice walk.

While I'd probably like to do more of NE Wales it looks like that is unlikely just due to time. Thus more minor castles such as Ewloe, Criccieth, Flint, Denbigh and so on are almost certainly going to be bypassed.

Posted by
8 posts

Nope, I've never been on a narrowboat. My parents decided they wanted to do it and it turned into a big family get together of my parents, my brother and his wife, and my family of four. We've been hanging out on narrowboating forums for well over a month now.

I'll keep both Ewloe and Mold in mind but I suspect we already have more than enough to do. I could plan 2 weeks just bumping around North Wales visiting castles and towns without any complaints but we will have to head home at some point.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for the tips. I hadn't thought about earplugs but it sounds like a good idea. We found a [url=http://www.napton-marina.co.uk/boats/explorer_fleet/explorer_8.php]boat[/url] that can sleep all 8 of us without converting the dinette. It will be crowded but we've traveled together before. You are absolutely correct, a floating pub crawl does sound like our plan!

We've all been having fun with the [url=http://canalplan.org.uk/]Canal Plan[/url] website as well as a few others. As with mapping out possible castle visits I find a lot of fun in thinking about possible routes.

Posted by
1838 posts

The rail maps that show a route from Llandudno to Porthmadog show - the standard (normal) gauge line from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog combined with the Ffestiniog narrow gauge steam railway that then goes to Porthmadog. Another narrow gauge steam line then goes from Porthmadog to Carnarvon. See > www.festrail.co.uk for both of these narrow gauge steam lines.

Arriva Trains Wales have a special day ticket for sale to enable you to do a circuit of north Wales including the Ffestiniog railway. >
http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/ExploreWales/FfestiniogRoundRobin/

Minffordd has 2 stations - one for the Ffestiniog steam line and another for the 'normal' Cambrian Coast line - served by trains running between Pwllheli > Porthmadog > Harlech > Machynlleth > Shrewsbury > Wolverhampton > Birmingham. About a mile from Minffordd (so walkable) - is the Italian style village of Portmeirion. http://www.portmeirion-village.com/gallery/photos/
http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/RouteMap/
http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/GroupTravel/

It may well be cost effective to hire a mini bus with driver being as you are a party of 8. Just Google for mini buses & name of place where based.
You mention going to Llanberis. This is the starting point of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. http://www.snowdonrailway.co.uk

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden/
http://www.visitllandudno.org.uk

Posted by
8 posts

If the Arriva Wales 8 day pass good on the Ffestiniog narrow gauge train? The Round Robin day pass won't work for us but the Explore Wales pass looks like we'd break even on the rail costs plus cover some buses and entrance fees (like 2 for 1 at Conwy Castle).

Posted by
1838 posts

No, the Explore Wales Pass is not valid on the Ffestiniog Railway. However, it does give you a 50% discount on their prices. See link & scroll to 'Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway'. Note that the similar named 'Welsh Highland HERITAGE Railway' is not worth bothering with. The Welsh Highland Railway runs through magnificent scenery in the Snowdonia National Park.

Most trains are run by Arriva Trains Wales. On the north Wales coast mainline, you will also find limited stop express services run by Virgin and on the south Wales mainline, similar fast services run by First. Your pass would include these trains.

http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/Discounts/

Posted by
8 posts

Arriva Trains really needs to remove the narrow gauge line from their map if its not part of the service. Still, 50% off is nice and the trip looks good.