A year and a half ago, I made my fourth trip to Wales (by way of Dublin). One of my sisters had planned to accompany me, but due to a family emergency, she couldn’t go so I made the trip alone. Traveling by myself, I was able to focus on exactly what I wanted to see and do.
After taking in the Irish pubs and street life of Dublin, I took the ferry to Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey. Besides exploring the picturesque city centre, the Roman ruins and the Church of St. Cybi, founded by a 6th century monk, I drove to the coast to visit the 19th century Elen’s Tower (now a bird preserve center) and the prehistoric hut circles that overlook the stunning coast.
Leaving the island of Anglesey, I stopped at Llandudno and then crossed the bay to visit Conwy Castle. It’s an impressive structure. I try to forget that Edward I (who, sadly, I am descended from), built the castle to oppress the Welsh.
It looks even more impressive from a distance. This is Conwy Castle viewed from Deganwy Hill across the bay. Deganwy was the site of the main fortress of Maelgwn the Great, the hero of my first book.
I then traveled south along the coast to Penmaenmawr to find a trail leading up to the steep hillsides to the Druid’s Circle.
This prehistoric circle of over thirty stones dates from around 4000 B.C. Set high on the hills above the sea, I shared the sacred spot with only a herd of small ragged wild horses and huge fluffy sheep.
My next stop was across the mountains to a village called Llangellon on the River Dee. Not far from the town center is a huge hill topped by the remains of an ancient fortress called Castell Dinas Bran. The stone arches are the remains of a Welsh castle from the 1200’s, but the hill was an important defensive site since the Iron Age. Dinas Bran means “fort of crows”. This is true King Arthur country, and steeped in a mystical aura.
I then headed back to the coast, stopping along the way at Dolwydden Castle, the consummate Welsh fortress. It was built by Llewelyn the Great, the 13th century prince who came the closest to uniting all of Wales and having the country’s sovereignty recognized by the English.
Wales is truly the land of castles, and over the last few days of my trip I was able to visit two more: Harlech Castle on the northwest coast.
And Beaumaris Castle, on the island on Anglesey.
You’d think by now I’d have my fill of castles and historic sites, but I hope to take another trip this next year to southern England.