‘North and Mid Wales has a surprising amount of quirky visitor attractions to offer. Since moving to NW, I’ve been continually surprised by the more unusual things I’ve seen across the nation…’
Alice in Wonderland Trail, Llandudno
Llandudno is a seaside town on the North Wales coast and has a wonderful link to the author, Lewis Carroll.
The young author used to spend time on holiday in the town and is said to be here that he met a young girl called Alice. Alice became the inspiration for one of the world’s best-loved children’s books.
Scattered out around the town is a trail of little White Rabbit feet, which will guide you on a magical mystery tour of massive wooden carvings of the best characters from ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’.
These include The Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Alice, and the brilliantly mischievous Cheshire Cat.
You can buy a trail map from the visitor centre, but it’s not essential to find your way around. You can also download the app from iTunes or Google Play.
Portmeirion Village is famous for being the set for the UK TV programme from the 1960s, ‘The Prisoner’.
I haven’t seen the show myself, but I have heard about it through my Mum, who was thrilled to find out we were living a few miles from the village.
Despite being a *touch* too young to recall the TV show, I was aware of the village as it’s always included on lists like: Places You Won’t Believe Are in Britain!’ and similar.
Portmeirion is a pastel colourful Italian village in the middle of North Wales. It was designed by renowned architect, Clough Ellis-Williams.
As well as being able to wander around the village proper, Portmeirion also has a hotel, restaurant and café.
The grounds are always meticulously maintained and every season seems to look a little different than the last.
Portmeirion is also famous for its annual No. 6 Festival, which is a hugely popular cultural weekend. Previous musical headliners have included Rag n Bone Man and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Devil’s Bridge, Ceredigion
I first saw Devil’s Bridge and Devil’s Bridge Falls on the BBC’s crime drama, Hinterland, which is set in and around the Aberystwyth area of Mid Wales.
Given its name, I was instantly interested to see how it got it and if the bridge was, indeed, the property of the Devil.
As it happens, it’s not, but he did build it. No, seriously. The Devil visited Wales in the 11th century (it’s a popular destination for holidaymakers…) and had a chat with an old lady about getting across a gorge.
He made a pact with the woman, agreeing to build her a bridge if she let him keep the first living creature that crossed it once he was done.
She agreed to the deal and by the time she woke up the next day, the bridge was in place. The Devil called to her and tempted her to cross, but the woman threw a loaf of bread over the bridge and her dog ran after it. Obviously disappointed that his prize was not human, the Devil disappeared into thin air.
There’s no human or canine sacrifice necessary to cross the bridge today, although there is a small fee payable.
Known as Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG by locals, and anyone who’s not Welsh (i.e me), this town has the longest single name in Europe.
With 58 letters, it’s the second longest single place name on the planet, behind a town in New Zealand, which has 85. Let’s be honest here; 85 letters is just ridiculous. 58 is perfectly acceptable, however.
The town name translates to ‘Saint Mary’s Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave’. Obviously, the English translation is way easier to remember…
Having an amusingly massive name means there are lots of wonderful opportunities to have your photo taken (wide angle, of course) at the local cafe or the train station.
Imagine trying to request a stop here on the train after a few drinks on a Friday night. I, for one, would possibly take to calling it ‘The One With The Long Name’.
We had a recent weather report where our presenter gave the entire name of the village without skipping a beat. It’s quite an impressive feat.
Harlech Hill, Harlech
When we first moved to North Wales, we were invited out for dinner in Harlech. As we would be drinking, we decided to walk into town. After all, we were less than 3/4 mile from the restaurant and how hard could it be??
As it turns out, it was torture. The hill up towards the Harlech Castle (and therefore the rest of the town), has an 11% gradient.
I realise this doesn’t sound like much but, trust me; it’s steep. It’s steep enough to make you walk almost bent double in order to get to the top. Also: you might have to stop half way up to desperately try getting air into your lungs.
If you make it to the top of the hill, there’s another gradient sign for an alternative route back down. This time, however, it’s at 40%. This particular hill is so steep that the only way up or down is on foot. The hill is so steep that it’s too dangerous for traffic and it’s officially the steepest hill in the UK.
It might be a nightmare to get up but, after a few glasses of wine, getting back down is markedly different. If you don’t have the energy for walking, you could always just roll back home. Literally.
The Smallest House in Great Britain, Conwy
Sitting on the quay in Cowny, this teeny wee house measures in with a minute total floor space of 5.9ft by 10ft. It was once lived in by a 6ft 3inch local fisherman who, let’s face it, must’ve been almost doubled over trying to get through his own door.
Although the house has been deemed unfit for human habitation (I assume it’s perfectly acceptable for the people from Gulliver’s Travels, though), it’s still owned by the same family. The fisherman lives in a more appropriately sized house these days and the house is available for visitors to roam.
The Guinness Book of Records listed house is open on a seasonal basis. It’s only big enough to admit one visitor at a time, so there’s often a queue at the door during the summer months.
Pet Cemetery, Holywell
OK, so pet cemeteries don’t conjure up such an enticing vision that you immediately want to jump in your car and go visit but bear with me here.
This particular pet cemetery is pretty much not at all what you expect it will be. It’s a beautifully colourful and cheerful space with award-winning ornamental gardens (no, seriously) and believe it or not, it’s also got an onsite tea room.
Before you even articulate what’s going through your head; no it doesn’t serve pets. Well, obviously it serves pets as it’s a pet cemetery, and you can take your doggo for lunch, but it doesn’t serve serve them as in within the cafe. Glad we cleared that up.
The cafe is really pretty and the views are wonderful. I love telling people on a Monday morning that I popped into the pet cemetery for lunch. It always gets a good reaction…
Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden
Hawarden, in lovely North East Wales, is the hometown of four times British PM, William Gladstone.
The library pays tribute to the Welsh former Prime Minister and, after opening, Gladstone actually wheeled some 32,000 titles from his home across the road and personally put them in the library.
Gladstone’s Library is the best example of a residential library in the UK and the ONLY Prime Ministerial one in the whole of the UK. It is now home to more than 250,000 books from Gladstone’s personal collection.
As well as the library itself, the building, which is Grade 1 Listed, also contains accommodation and a lovely café/restaurant. There’s a fine statue of the man himself standing in the front of the grounds and, out the back, the gardens are simply beautiful, with seating for the café, plenty of space to wander, some lovely sculptures and, the piece de resistance, the family graveyard.
Just outside Mold sits the pretty town of Loggerheads. The first time I ever drove through, I was gutted not to have known about it sooner. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to have my photo taken next to the sign.
This would obviously have led to many amusing photos on social media with the cliched caption ‘Suz and Les Are At Loggerheads…’ or something similar. Anyway, it didn’t happen and my friends and family can be thankful for small mercies.
It’s suggested that the town name came from a dispute about its boundaries by two neighbouring towns. And this would make perfect sense if it’s true. Regardless of how the name came about, a visit is well worth your time.
Local attractions include Devil’s Gorge, which is just as creepy as it sounds.
The Smallest Bar in Wales, Caernarfon
Bar Bach, which translates to English as ‘small bar’ is located on Greengate Street in Caernarfon town centre.
Not only is it the smallest in Wales, but it’s possibly also the Welshest (I’m sure that’s a word…) The bar’s signs are all in Welsh, the ales are Welsh and the staff will great you in Welsh.
You don’t have to be fluent in Welsh, however, to visit. It’d certainly be appreciated if you could say ‘Helo’ (hello, obviously…) and ‘diolch’ (thank you) when you’re being served, but the staff is bi-lingual and will understand you regardless. It never hurts to try out a bit of Welsh in Wales, though.
The bar itself is fairly traditional on the inside, with a few small tables and stools surrounding the wooden bar. On the day Les and I popped in, there was another couple with their dog, us two, and a barman all quite comfortably drinking cider without compromising our personal space.
What quirky sites have you visited in Wales?