Monday, August 22, 2011

In Search of Roots - A Trip Through Great Britian and Ireland
Part 4 - Wales: On The Way To Ireland

Having decided to take our car with us on the ferry to Ireland, the next decision was where to stay the night before we boarded the ferry. The ferry route is shown on the map above from Holyhead in Wales to Dun Laoghaire (south of Dublin) in Ireland. We chose Dun Laoghaire to be able to avoid Dublin traffic and get right on our way to our first stop at Brittas Bay in County Wicklow. When we returned, Dun Laoghaire made a convenient locale to see the sights of Dublin, using the DART transit with a station across the street from our hotel.  We found that Conwy in Wales had a better selection of hotels, restaurants, etc. than Holyhead and is only about three-quarters of an hour drive via a high speed motorway. Our visit to Conwy opened our eyes to the uniqueness of Wales.

The Castlebank Hotel
Monday morning, after getting cash to pay our hotel bill at the one local ATM, we left for Conwy on a bright sunny day. The trip is nominally about three and a half hours as most of it is on the M6 and other motorways. In Britain, the standard speed on motorways (four+ lane divided limted access highways) is 70 mph and traffic mainly flows at that speed. Speed cameras, common in Great Britain and Ireland, kept my eye on the speedometer, particularly in the areas posted for cameras. We arrived in Conwy in good time. As our hotel, the Castlebank, was a little off the road that we were directed to by the GPS, we made one circle around the area before we settled in at about 3:30.   The Castlebank, as its name implies is just outside the city walls, near the Castle and only a short walk to town.

As Conwy was one of our three scheduled locations to do laundry, I spoke to the owner and he mentioned the Junction Laundry in LLandudno across the River Conwy. I plugged laundry into my CoPilot GPS app and it suggested the Junction and I was able to use the GPS to take me to the laundry, while Pat rested up from the drive. I reached the Junction about an hour and a half before the 5:30 closing and started the laundry in two machines. A wash and two dry cycles took me slightly past 5:30; the manager on duty was pleasant about letting me finish the second dry cycle, and I packed the clothes, still slightly damp, in a large plastic bag she provided for the purpose.  We were looking for Italian food for dinner and again consulted the GPS, which led us to Alfredo's in Lancaster Square, Conwy.  We each had Minestrone and Spaghetti Bolognese, which arrived hot and delicious. We returned to the hotel to look forward to a day of sightseeing in Conwy, as the laundry was completed.

Plas Mawr Exterior
The Great Room in Plas Mawr 

We started out in the morning to see Plas Mawr, an historic house, built between 1575 and 1586 for the Wynn (or Wynne) family. It has been restored and is managed by Cadw, the Welsh Heritage organization.  The inside has been restored to provide a good idea of the life of a Welsh merchant during the 16th and 17th centuries. While we were there, several groups of school children  came through to receive lessons in Welsh History and Welsh Language.

High Street, Conwy's "Main Street"
Rose Hill Street Goes One Way Through The Old City Wall
After visiting Plas Mawr we walked around Conwy and then returned to the hotel. Pat was setting up the clothes for the next phase of the trip and I went to town to tour Conwy Castle.

Conwy Castle
 Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1289 by King Edward I  of England.  More information about Conwy Castle can be found at

Conwy  Castle Tower and Keep
Conwy From Conwy Castle
Boats in the Conwy River Below the Castle

After visiting the Castle, I went for dinner as Pat was not hungry. A restaurant called Bistro Bach had high recommendations; However I found that Bistro Bach had been replaced by a new restaurant called Watson's Bistro. This was just a two block walk from the hotel, so I decided to give it a try. I had a crab soup and a sea bass plate that was on special that night and recommended by the waitress. They were both delicious. It had only been open as Watson's for nine weeks and as it was Tuesday night, it was not very busy. I wrote a favorable review for TripAdvisor, and checking back I see that the preponderance of reviews are very favorable. It's a good choice in Conwy.

Watson's Bistro
Watson's Sea Bass Plate
Days of the Week and Numbers in English and Welsh
The Welsh language is  a co-equal official language with English in Wales. See . All the official road and street signs have both languages on them. On my way home from the resturant, I saw a sign which gave English and Welsh equivalents of some common words. I took a picture with my iPhone and it's reproduced below.

Stena Explorer at the Dock in Holyhead
Just before we left Santa Barbara, we were informed that our ferry was leaving at 0855 instead of the 0955 that we had expected. Passengers are required to be at the dock in Holyhead an hour before the scheduled departure. With a forty-five minute drive to go and allowance for problems along the way, we decided to leave around 6:30. The hotel said we could have an early light breakfast, but we decided to eat at the ferry, so we were off at shortly after 6:30, and with one short detour along the way, made it to the ferry well before the appointed time. It's good that we were early as there were a large number of cars already in line. There was a small cafe on the dock, so I bought some coffee,while we waited. The loading was directed by an efficient crew and went smoothly. I had paid a little extra for seats in the Stena Plus Lounge, which was a good idea. Continental breakfast items were included and the seats were comfortable. A more elaborate breakfast could have been purchased from one of the hostesses. The ferries have free wi-fi, and there are desks in the StenaPlus for the commuting business people to take their laptops out a get some work accomplished during the two hour trip. It's a large vessel and the trip was comfortable. We arrived in Dun Laoghaire on time and guided by the efficient crew drove off to adventures in Ireland.
More pictures from Conwy are at

No comments:

Post a Comment