Our first stop in Wales was the village of Llangollen, pronounced “shlangoshlen” in the Welsh language. Here we viewed and learned about the Welsh Love Spoon tradition dating from the 17th century. A young man would carve an elaborate decorative wooden spoon for the woman he loved. Our 5th wedding anniversary Welsh Love Spoon now adorns our dining room wall.
From Llangollen we travelled through the rugged Snowdonia National Park to our hotel in the historic town of Caernafon. Here we enjoyed a home-hosted dinner which gave us an opportunity to learn about life in Wales.
The next morning we rode the bus from Caernafon to the Ffestiniog Railway. On the way we passed through the village of Tremadog, birthplace of Lawrence of Arabia.
The historic narrow-gauge railway is oldest in the world still operating trains. It was built in 1836 to transport slate from the mines to be loaded into ships. Our 13-mile ride took us from Porthmadog Harbour through the mountains to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a former slate-mining town. From here we reboarded our bus to travel to the National Slate Museum in Llanberis.
National Slate Museum
Slate mining was once a major industry in Wales, employing thousands of workers from Roman times until its decline in the 1970s. The Slate Museum, on the site of a former slate mine and processing plant, has much of the plant’s original equipment. We enjoyed a “miner’s lunch” of lobscouse (beef stew), bara brith (a traditional Welsh tea cake) and Welsh cheddar. In one of the workshops we watched a demonstration of the dying art of trimming and splitting slate and learned about the hazardous occupation of slate mining.
Formerly spelled Carnarvon in English, the Welsh spelling literally means “Fortress in Arfon.” The most prominent feature of this coastal town is Caernarfon Castle and its medieval walls. The castle was built by King Edward I after the English conquered Wales in 1284, and was the site of the investiture of Charles, Princes of Wales in 1969.
On our first evening in Caernrfon we split into small groups for hosted dinners provided by local people in their homes. It gave us all an opportunity to learn more about daily life in the UK and specifically in Wales.
Next: Chester & York