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Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 2

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 2

Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 2

Dragons at Dinas Emrys

This story is the foundation of Wales’ identity, the one creature of legend that is omnipresent in the country – the red dragon. The tale is a story of King Vortigern who chose this place for a castle and instructed his men to begin building. As they piled the stones on top of each, time after time the walls and structures would fall to the ground, the earth underneath was unstable it seemed. Frustrated with this turn of events and eager to get his castle up. Vortigern consulted with the main man of mystical arts himself, Merlin. Merlin advised him that the reason the fortifications for the castle couldn’t stay still is because there were dragons fighting underneath the ground. So instead of building upward his men dug down into the ground and sure enough there was a pair of winged beasts scrapping, a white one and red one. Freeing the dragons while they fought, eventually the white dragon fled the scene and so the trouble was stopped, and the castle could be built.

Many believe that the red dragon still sleeps underneath the hill, and you can go see for yourself when you visit Dinas Emrys. The wonderful woodland, waterfalls and gorgeous views certainly make this place feel like a destination in a fantasy tale, but as you wander round you may see more. Elements of the dragon being celebrated lie all around from signposts to carved benches. You can eventually walk your way up to the area where square stonewalls mark a building of the past, or possibly the dig site where the dragons were released.

Angel at Llangernyw

Llangernyw is a small village in North Wales but it holds a local legend that is larger than life and one that is tied to a very real living legend. Amongst the graves of a quaint churchyard here lies a huge yew tree, which may not seem to impressive to those passing by, but this tree is the oldest living thing in Wales, experts say its over 3000 years old. The tree marks the place of a spirit that appears at the end of July and October every year. Angelystor, which means the recording angel allegedly comes forth from the tree on these nights of the year and in a foreboding manner tells of the fate that will inevitably arrive for parishioners. By reading out the names of local people, this angel of doom informs everyone in ear shot that these people will die on the same year.

One story tells of a man who didn’t believe in the Angelystor but his friends made him approach the tree on Halloween, unfortunately the first thing he heard was his own name spoken out and thus later that year he died. If you fancy visiting this spooky site the tree is easy to visit, it sits at the back of St Digain’s Church. The yew itself is worth visiting alone as its incredible life span is legendary anyway, but if you are brave you may wish to come on the days the angel may appear.

Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 1

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 1

Mythical Welsh Locations – Part 1

England on its own is miniscule compared to the many other countries on the globe, Wales attaches itself to this tiny speck of land and comes in even smaller. For such a minute place in the grand scheme of things, Wales is absolutely bountiful when it comes to folklore and Mythology. With a proud red dragon on the country’s flag, the welsh do not steer clear of the legends that have come to make up so much of the mystical fabric behind the place. With many feats of King Arthur wrapped into almost every tale, or a monster that wanders the area and disturbs the people there are few locations in Wales that don’t have a magical back story, though not all come with something to see. For modern day inquisitors, who in today’s society are no doubt hugely more skeptical than the people of the past, it can be tough to try and experience what the stories indicate without something to visit. The following are creatures of Welsh mythology with sites that can be visited today, bring an open mind and come at night if you want to really get the creeps.

What Lies Under The Twmp

Twmbarlwm sometimes called simply the Twmp (which means hump) refers to a hill in South Wales. This large hill is mistaken for a mountain often because of its large size, its visual appearance however makes it stand out above the surrounding hillside and no doubt helps the mythology surrounding the origin of this odd lump of terrain. Without a doubt the shape of the hill looks unnatural and this has led researchers to look into its origin, its likely the spot was a position for a hill fort in the iron age and was therefore used as a vantage point. If you make it to this “pimple” hill you will see that it does indeed give a fantastic view of the surrounding area, however this doesn’t entirely explain the strangeness of the hill.

Another legend says that there is buried treasure underneath the hilltop, which is kept buried by the swarm of bees who protect it. This was definitely though to be the case when in more recent years collectives of bees have seen to be densely concentrated around the area. However, this isn’t the most prevalent legend tied to the upward land mass. Many believe that this is the place where the body of the legendary Bran was buried. This iconic character appears in much Welsh folklore as a literal giant and leader of defense towards invaders and is seen as a guardian of Wales. One tale tells that his body was wounded and so he instructed his people to cut off his head, which somehow managed to survive away from his body for a miraculously long time. Twmbarlwm is apparently the site where his enormous body rests. Many have said that druids mark the area as significant and flock here on occasion too. On top of this strange music can be heard on and round the hill, which leads people to think there could be more to uncover. Today you can walk up Twmbarlwm and see for yourself.

Eat Here in Cardiff

Posted by on Feb 18, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Eat Here in Cardiff

Eat Here in Cardiff

As you can expect the capital city of Wales has a lot going on. From big shows and events to jam packed shopping centers and tourists’ spots, you wont struggle for something to do here. But in the middle of all the activities, or at the end of a day running around from place to place, eventually you are going to get hungry. This is when you really need a guide, because Cardiff is saturated with eateries, some big chains you will know and other independent little numbers, which you wont. However if you put the following places in your itinerary you wont be left starved and confused, so here are some of Cardiff’s best places to eat at.

The Classroom

With so much class they had to put it in their name, this place immediately screams exquisite. Here they do everything right it seems, they have fantastic presentation with dishes that are in satisfying proportions served in shapes that you don’t expect and garnished well. They bake their own bread daily so even the sides that accompany your food are fresh, handmade and satisfying. They also have a separate Veggie and Vegan menu for the meatless members of your party which will save them the time and stress that comes from sifting through the keys of a normal one. On the other hand meat lovers will love the care they take with their dishes and can expect to see a much wider range available here that stretches from rabbit to venison. All of this and the price tag isn’t anywhere near bank breaking.

Milkwood

A newcomer to the scene, Milkwood is an independent and modern bistro. Clearly passionate about what they do, the combinations on your plate here are tried and tested flavours that are designed to delight your taste buds. With this in mind what you are provided does look quite minimal as they don’t want to confuse what’s going on in your mouth. Here you can expect to see very contemporary meals with quite a modern bill at the end of your meal.

Park House

This restaurant and wine bar offers an a la carte menu as well as several tasting menus for you to really get a feel of what they can do in the kitchen. Here they pay great attention to detail as both the star feature on your plate and the accompaniments all tend to sound just as good. Take their unmissable culinary combo the Foie Gras Brûlée for example, already a luxury dish variation you’ve probably never tried, but alongside it comes a sweet granny smith apple sorbet, and a thick salty peanut foam that add exciting flavours and unexpected textures to this already fantastic dish.

The Dough Thrower

Everywhere else sound too fancy or too expensive? This place has got your back, here they do one thing very well – pizza, and who doesn’t love a good pizza? The great thing here is their dough is actually part of what makes them so unique with top grade flour, premium olive oil and a little honey, the base creates a tasty foundation whatever you choose to throw on top of it.

Chasing the Afanc

Posted by on Feb 15, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Chasing the Afanc

Chasing the Afanc

Of the many creatures that occupy the myths of Wales one in particular seems to be hard to pin down but easily just as difficult to forget – The Afanc. Today the stories told contain hard to track elements that would make any type of investigation difficult, and yet the legend of the creature has persisted through time, which can only mean that there is something solid in its legacy. Amateur monster hunters, lovers of fantasy creatures or even just anyone with an interest in the odd may want to tread in the footsteps of this monster, here is a quick guide of where to track it many years later.

What Is an Afanc?

This is one of the most well known creatures of Welsh folklore, sometimes referred to as the Welsh Loch Ness Monster, the Afanc (sometimes called Addanc) was supposedly a lake monster. Unlike Nessie however who tends to generally be serpent-like in all retellings, the Afanc has been described by different people as quite drastically different forms. Once portrayed as a dwarf creature, short and stunted, another time it was supposed to have resembled a beaver, which although is a short animal, it doesn’t have dwarven proportions. Beaver fur is matted and oily however which would make sense for a creature that lives in water constantly, and maybe the mammals large teeth indicate the monster had a very obvious set of fangs. Contrary to these descriptions however are claims that the Afanc took a form that looked like a crocodile, which is certainly not something you want to stumble across at any point. This vague description makes the creature incredibly difficult to define, but no matter what it looked like the locals believed that it was responsible for both floods and the deaths of anyone who was foolish enough to pass near the lakes in inhabited.

Where Was the Afanc?

Another thing that makes the Afanc so elusive is that it couldn’t be pinned down to one spot. Possibly migrating from lake to lake, (or more likely the frightening story moved around the country and scared anyone close to a body of water) the watery beast was said to occupy Llyn Llion, Llyn Syfaddon, a spot near Brynberian Bridge or of course Llyn yr Afanc which was named after the creature. All of these places can be visited today and you can swim in their waters if you so please (or dare). However of all the different lakes the one most closely related is Llyn Barfog, the bearded lake.

Lyn Barfog is somewhere you need to go if you are chasing the legend of the monster, here the lake itself was surrounded in mystery with all manner of tales including spooky women and bizarre cows in its vicinity. No stranger to weird happenings it makes sense that the Afanc would appear here, but one story says that King Arthur himself came here to rid the people of the creature. Arriving with a magical chain, Arthur is said to have bound and dragged the creature out with help from his horse. This claim is related to the hoof print that remains embedded into a nearby rock. This is the one tactile piece of evidence you will find in the hunt for the Afanc.

Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 2

Posted by on Feb 11, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 2

Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 2

Welsh Rarebit

This is the one that most people think about when asked to name a dish from Wales, mainly because the country is fond and proud of it. Though often confused by the name and miscommunication that of course implies rabbit, this doesn’t actually require any rabbit or hare at all. Many people look down on the dish which is often shunned as ‘glorified cheese on toast’, but there are actually many things added that separate it from just that. The cheese is often mixed with all manner of ingredients from mustard, to ale, to Worchester sauce, which dramatically change its flavour. This one is a must for travelers.

Crempog

Though this may sound like the name of a mythical troll it is actually a type of Welsh pancake. One of Wales’ oldest recipes these perfect breakfast numbers have been given many different names since their inception. Getting their texture from butter melted into buttermilk and then left to soak, these dairy filled crepe-like discs are devoured in stacks and served with even more butter.

Welsh Cake

This one says it all, where else in the world could you chow down on an authentic Welsh cake? Since the 19th century these little sweet discs have been keeping peoples appetites satiated and their sweet tooth satisfied. Sometimes known as pics or griddle cakes, these simple but effective treats are made with eggs, butter, milk, flour, and a selection of  sweeter spices that often include nutmeg or cinnamon. To add some more sugar to the mix sultanas, raisins and other dried fruit are typically mixed into the batter which is traditionally cooked on a bakestone which is essentially a flat stone surface that acts like a baking tray. You will find these get served dusted with sugar and not much else as they are pretty moreish all on their own. Depending on where you are you may stumble across some variations to the Welsh Cake, which has spread as far as New Zealand.

Bara Brith

This speckled bread is another sweet treat that includes dried fruit, showing even more that despite limited resources the Welsh were constantly innovative when it came to constructing dishes. With a similar mix of ingredients to welsh cakes, this concoction is intended to rise making it look significantly different. This dense and sticky fruit loaf comes with a deeper flavour you may not expect thanks to the black tea that is added giving it a darker punch and fuller taste. Though a part of Welsh heritage it seems this tea time great is decreasing in popularity, so if you get a chance to try it make sure you do.

Welsh Cawl

A classic winter warmer for the teeth clatteringly cold months that sweep the valleys, this one will be welcoming if you happen to catch some bad weather. Cawl is better translated into soup or broth and this version again carries through a very Wales-centric base of ingredients. Though not all cawls are the same what you can expect here is Swedes, potatoes and of course leeks sat in a hearty vegetable stock. With this comes bitesize chunks of lamb for protein and its likely you will be provided with bread to mop up. One bowl of this and you will see why nobody went to bed hungry after its invention.

Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 1

Posted by on Feb 2, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 1

Must Try Welsh Foods – Part 1

Wales is famous for many things, its intense rainy season, the wondrous green scenery, the head turning local accent, and even the handful of talented artists that have come from within its borders. But of all the things that make it famous or infamous (Dirty Sanchez anyone?) food doesn’t often reach the top of the list. Despite this and thanks to it being a separate community of people from the rest of the mainland for many years, the country to England’s west has many of its own unique dishes. Often based on the fact that traditionally the people lived off the land, many of these local delicacies are what many would consider simplistic, but that doesn’t mean that they are inferior by any standard. Here are some dishes you should order if you see them on the menu during your time in Wales.

Conwy Mussels

Okay so this isn’t exactly a local recipe, but it is a local delicacy. Conwy has a rising Japanese community who not only adores its natural beauty but also is eager to chow down on the regional seafood. The mussels here are seasonal, big and delicious thanks to the mix of salty seawater and clear freshwater provided by the estuary.

Laverbread

Another dish served up by the sea, this isn’t actual bread but instead is a pile made primarily from seaweed. The specific breed of green sea stuff is cultivated and then boiled, often mixed with oats and served with cockles or bacon at breakfast. With a healthy dose of iron and of course the benefits that come with dark leafy greens, if this one lights up your taste buds your body is going to love the result.

Salt Marsh Lamb

In season around June and July, this very Welsh spin on a traditional lamb dish is all thanks to the landscape of the country. Once weaned onto grass after milk, the lambs in the valleys of Wales graze upon the marshes and sea drenched grasses that inhabit the area. Consequently, they absorb much of the salt though their diet which makes the meat that comes from them particularly tender. The soft and slightly floral flavour that comes from them doesn’t actually make them salty however, expect this mouth watering meat to be served with some mint sauce.

Glamorgan sausage

For saying that many Welsh dishes incorporate fish or pastured animals as their farming lifestyle would dictate, you may be surprised to find that this classic Welsh sausage is actually meat free. This vegetarian cylinder is actually made primarily from the tasty, white Caerphilly cheese. If you are expecting the gooey inside of mozzarella sticks you would be wrong, because the cheese is hard and is mixed commonly with leeks (another widely used local ingredient) and breadcrumbs, the result is a fairly solid and stable strip of goodness, even when cut. These tasty and easy to make snacks inhabit a great deal of lunch menus and are ideal to eat alongside a host of sauces and chutneys.

Fantasy Village – Part 3

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Fantasy Village – Part 3

Fantasy Village – Part 3

Once you arrive at this enchanted place its natural that you are going to want to unwind. The incredible gardens and waterside views hypnotically invite you to drop all of your worries and just relax, benches, patches of grass and the hotel pools will make for your first port of call when you first get here. As the days go on however you will be more open to wandering around the village and seeing what it has to offer, embarking on a mini quest to uncover what the locals have in store.

Eat, Play, Love

Cafes are unquestionably ideal places to disconnect and Portmeirion has a handful that caters to several different tastes as well as some very interesting eateries. Caffi No 6 and Caffi’r Sgwâr both operate as fairly regular coffee houses, with their marine blue paneling and outdoor seating they have a very British seaside feel about them, whereas Caffi Glas effortlessly brings the sensations and tastes of Italy to all of its guests. Here you can watch your pizza get freshly baked or enjoy some filling pasta or a light salad, with cakes and sweeter options available too. And if you are a fan of sugary Italian treats you will be spending all your time at Caffi’r Angel. Here their in-house gelato delights all the guests in the village, with a platter of intense flavours to choose from alongside the classics in their retro café that will chill you out even more. The town hall also provides great food and atmosphere for those stopping by. Open from 10 to 5 everyday the sandwiches, baguettes and hot meals here will keep you going throughout your stay as will the novelty of its 1950’s style diner interior. This is yet another place in Portmeirion which once again pleasantly distorts time for those who stop by.

For those truly wanting to commit to leaving their troubles elsewhere, the Mermaid Spa here is going to be your top priority. In a peaceful soft-lit environment you will be pampered by expert therapists who only use the best completely natural, and cruelty free products so that every part of your experience is calming and mindful. There are full body massages, seaweed and mud wraps as well as salt scrubs and hot stone treatments all available here. Ideal for special occasions here makeup and hair styling are available as are day packages for several hours of decompression and downtime.

If retail therapy is more your thing, you aren’t at a loss here either, Portmeirion has a great selection of shops where you can purchase everything from handmade crafted items like mugs and jewelry to brand name clothes, gifts and gadgets from some of the biggest name stores on the high street. Browse products from Laura Ashley, Wild and Wolf, Ted Baker and more. This once virtually unknown village has grown into a delightful one of a kind getaway in Wales, boasting both natural beauty and a magical time warping sense all around it that makes it impossible to ignore and just as hard to leave.

Fantasy Village – Part 2

Posted by on Jan 22, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Fantasy Village – Part 2

Fantasy Village – Part 2

Not So Secret

Despite it being a quiet and preserved place to visit, the ‘secret’ of Portmeirion is one that hasn’t exactly been kept well over the years. In fact this sleepy little village has been the destination for several TV series as far back as the 1960’s when it was the destination in the spy fiction show The Prisoner. This show may have been the beginning of the areas rise in popularity as more and more television crews have chosen this charming area as their backdrop including popular British show Doctor Who and Children’s TV series Wigglebiz.

Many musicians have also come here to escape, the colourful look and calm feel of the area are clearly both relaxing and inspiring. Beatles members Paul McCartney and George Harrison have both stayed here early in their career. TV host and musician Jools Holland enjoyed his time here so much that he had buildings at his home designed to emulate the style of Portmeirion. In recent years musicians have flocked here to perform on mass thanks to the annual Festival N°6 which began in 2012. This mix of live music and culture has since featured acts such as New Order, Welshman Gruff Rhys, The Pet Shop Boys, Beck and hundreds more. Meaning that the hideaway town that once was, is no longer so off the radar.

Where to Stay

By now you no doubt are incapable of not making a journey here, so you will need to know where to lay your head when you break through the veil and find yourself in this world of its own. Beginning with the aforementioned castle, Castell Deudraeth is now a four star hotel. Here you can sleep in luxury surrounded by the protective stonewalls of this gothic keep. With only 11 rooms its sure to fully book if you don’t plan ahead, its sizable beds, oak floors and real fires will have you feeling regal in no time.

Another iconic stop is the Hotel Portmeirion, the villages flagship hotel has been operating since 1926 and has just gone from strength to strength. Opened by the man himself Clough Williams-Ellis, this place has the hallmarks of Portmeirion all the way through thanks to its mix of historic and geographical elements such as the Victorian interiors, Italian fireplaces, and the Art Deco dining area. The award-winning restaurant here serves tasteful and exquisite foods all through the day and happily caters to Vegans. From the rooms here you can view the entrancing waters of the adjacent estuary or stare at the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance.

You may just wish to stay amongst the wonders of the village instead which booking one of the many village rooms can easily accomplish. Here rooms or suites are unique and with their own individual charm depending on which quaint abode you pick. Finally if you want to feel even more at home here there are 13 different self catering cottages available for visitors. Stay here if you have a larger group, are independent or are testing the waters for moving to Portmeirion in the near future.

Fantasy Village – Part 1

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Fantasy Village – Part 1

Fantasy Village – Part 1

There are many very visually pleasing destinations in Wales, some love the great and all-encompassing views from the mountaintops making themselves and their problems feel insignificant, others prefer the vast open expanse of the beaches as they look at the infinite horizon. Some people love the idea of the small villages and towns that are dotted around the country, many people enjoy the comfort and community of a quiet collective of people all nestled into the same area. Despite this the wet weather can put some people off, which is why so many British folk venture closer to the equator every year.  But many people may not be aware that tucked away in Wales is a place that emulates the look, feel and tranquility of the Mediterranean bringing its own very green blend of pleasure to all who visit.

How Did It Get Here?

Portmeirion almost seems like it isn’t real. The lush greenery that surrounds it mixed with the buildings and structures that are clearly not from Britain, all arranged in an unconventional manner that doesn’t replicate anywhere else nearby makes you feel like you have stepped through the looking glass without realising. In fact many people who visit agree that the place has a fantasy feel about it, the colourful exterior walls of the buildings no doubt help with this as they add a vibrancy to the area that the plain brick buildings of Wales just don’t have.

Much of this was intentional as the village’s designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was inspired by a fishing village in Italy when he set out to make something different in north Wales. A mix of these foreign elements and some postmodernism made for the palette in which he pulled from, many also believe he deliberately aimed for something more elaborate and something which reminded him of a jovial past. To make this place authentic he made sure that buildings, relics and other overlooked pieces of architecture were transported here. Therefore, instead of starting from scratch the builders had many genuine articles to begin construction on, restoring any dilapidated pieces along the way. Another reason this is so fantastic is that Portmeirion now remains a historic place for all of this old design, many of these walls and designs would have been deconstructed if they were left back in their home town, but now remain loved and admired here. Maybe this is one of the reasons that the area feels so timeless.

As the place has grown in popularity slowly but surely, the area has had to expand to accommodate the growing number of tourists that head here annually. Luckily however this doesn’t mean that huge hotels and chain stores have overshadowed the essence of the place, in fact the exterior of the village remains the same and the buildings have instead changed their function. Iconic buildings like the castle here have been made into hotels and the old shops have simply become modernised, another reason that the entire area seems like a theme park – in the best way.

Anglesey – Wales’ Most Exciting Island – Part 3

Posted by on Jan 13, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Anglesey – Wales’ Most Exciting Island – Part 3

Anglesey – Wales’ Most Exciting Island – Part 3

History and Nature

There are many different activities available for you to explore while in Anglesey, whether you want to delve into some ancient history or if you prefer the rural natural outdoors there is plenty to keep visitors happy. First of all, the castles here are popular tourist attraction, bringing thousands of curious guests inside there walls every year. Castell Aberlleiniog was very recently opened up to the public, originally built in 1080 this Norman structure was constructed with wood. Placed in the spot here strategically so that they could visually communicate with another castle, the timber structure that once stood here has long since disappeared and by the 17th Century the stonework that now stands here was built over it. This place has been painstakingly restored steadily since 2008 and now can be seen from the inside by those who choose to visit.

Beaumaris Castle is the real big hitter here though. An unfinished feat of great design this expansive and intricate castle is named as one of the finest of its era. Today you can visit the grounds, walk over the moat and see the walls and battlements still intact, then enter the huge courtyard space at the centre to really get a feel for the scale of the building. As the guides will explain to you when you visit the structure here is iconic in that it is not only concentric (meaning there are walls within walls) but it is also symmetrical. Any fan of castles or indeed buildings from earlier times should make sure they check this place of their list.

If you prefer the sights and sounds of the great outdoors instead, you will have to choose how you want to get around and what you wan to interact with. Walking or cycling are both very viable options with terrific countryside riding routes that take you through fields, over hills with expansive sea views and across the sandy flats for a steady change of pace. Of course, a much more exciting way to take in the greenery is
to ride horseback. At the Anglesey Riding Centre you can learn how to mount and ride a horse or pony and take it for a trot around their five miles of property.

You are in luck if you want to sample the untouched beauty of the island or want to see some animals in their habitats because Anglesey is officially sanctioned as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Not only does this mean that there are certainly many areas where you will be awestruck by the sights but also the powers that be are doing what they can to keep it that way. Scientific study, plant and animal conservation and protection all occur here so you can be happy in knowing these wonders aren’t going anywhere fast. Take a visit to the Dingle Local Nature Reserve yourself and be awestruck by the thriving life their both big and small. Anglesey has all of this available and more, which makes it a wonderful place to getaway, and one that should not be overlooked.