The UK Wolf Conservation Trust is home to around 10 wolves living very happily in 4 packs on the conservation site. These include North American and Arctic wolves, as well as a European/North American cross.
They are situated just 10 minutes from the motorway, between Newbury and Reading on a large farm affording large enclosures, paddock areas, an education barn and main entrance with small shop.
The trust run talks and workshops to raise funds and educate the public on the misconception of wolves, the trust’s principles and the worldwide work they are involved in.
UK Wolf Conservation Trust aims to help raise awareness of wolves, raise money for worldwide wolf conservation projects, to provide ethical opportunities to research (and improve the lives of) both captive and wild wolves and provide wolf related conservation programs for adults and young people.
The site has been here for many years and I had previously sponsored one of the wolves (Torak) for a year or two.
Although only a small ‘attraction’ the site offered wolf walks as well as talks and events that could be attended.
Sadly, due to the age of the wolves, the owners have decided that they are going to close the site to visitors although they are going to continue to care for the wolves at the site with a small team of dedicated volunteers and staff.
I was lucky enough to attend one of their final wolf-howl nights and was a magical evening that I will never forget.
Arriving at the farm an hour before we were due because we were so excited, we had hoped to hear the wolves in the distance but it was very quiet. When allowed to enter, we checked in as this was a ticketed event. We were due to have a talk by an external charity on anti poaching dogs however they had broken down en route and the evenings talk was quickly changed to one on wolf communication.
Whilst we were waiting for people to arrive we were able to have a little look around at the first enclosure of wolves. In reception you could watch a video of media clips taken at the UKWCT. You could also purchase items from the shop including the obligatory key chains and T-shirts.
The staff guided us to a purpose built education barn down the hill a little way. It was here that a staff member delivered a facinating talk on wolf vocalisations and body language. Having worked with dogs for 13 years I was surprised and excited about how in some respects they were so similar, but also very different in how they communicated.
Whilst the talk was happening, the air was charged with excitement. It had been a hot day and the cool evening air mixed with the anticipation of what was to follow.
The wolves, however, felt they were being ignored and decided to get our attention. One wolf started to howl, then another replied and another, until all the wolves were singing to us.
Not one to be rude, our speaker allowed the wolves to continue, the visitors were all awestruck. The sound so encompassing and magical that we were all simply stunned into silence. Some of us were very emotional and shed a tear of joy.
We continued our talk with intermittent interruptions by the wolves and once finished we were lead by two other members of the team who escourted us around the enclosures.
As I introduce the wolves I will link to their official pages on the UKWCT website. All the pictures of the wolves on this page are from the official website and do not belong to me.
Torak and Mosi
First up, Torak and his companion Mosi. These two share a large enclosure at the front of the park and although Torak can be a little shy, Mosi loves a bum scratch by her human friends to get the fluff out of her coat! Mosi’s sister Mai is also here however when Mosi came of age, she decided she was the dominant female and pushed Mai out of the pack.
Mosi and Motomo
Mai now lives with Motomo, an under socialised wolf from Devon. These two lovebirds hit it off straight away and Mai subsequently give birth to Nuka, Tala and Tundra in May 2011.
The Beenham cubs.
These three rascals have grown up in Beenham and have been a delight for the handlers to watch grow up from day one. Now 7, they became the ambassador’s of the conservation centre.
The three have very different personalities and roles within the pack. Tundra likes to be the dominant female and will tell Tala off if she receives too much attention. Brothers are sometimes hard to live with too and Nuka will spoil the fun ensuring all squabbles are ended. He is the Peace keeper of the group. We saw this in action on the howl night when Nuka had to get in between his sisters and keep them apart.
Born during a storm in Canada, the cubs suffered from hypothermia before they could be dug out from the snow. The mother wolf had 5 cubs in total, sadly one died and the other remained with its mother after the three cubs were transported to the UK. They were the first Arctic wolves in the UK and caused quite a lot of excitement whilst in quarantine!
Sikko is the only female of the pack. Massak and Pukak, her brothers, are larger than her. She is a very smart wolf and can outwit her brothers quite easily. Massak is in charge of the trio but Pukak likes to have fun and rebel when he thinks his brother isn’t watching.
END OF AN ERA
We had an absolutely amazing time visiting the UK Wolf Conservation Trust and learnt so much about the wolves. The team were very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. They were constantly watching the wolves body language and seemed to be able to communicate well with them.
I feel so lucky that I got to experience this before they closed.
Do take a look at their website as they may still have the occasional talk or event running to help fund the wolves retirement. The staff were unsure how much they would be open for but thought it was possible that future events could be advertised.
You can still sponsor the wolves and donate to the Wolf Conservation Trust to enable this work to continue, not just in the UK but worldwide.
We are often asked lots of questions about why we travel and how we do it.
We were approached by CareerBreakKate, a blogger who runs a website dedicated to travel and career break inspiration. Taking a career break to travel the world transformed her life and she wants to inspire you to do the same.
We were honoured and over the moon that she reached out to us after hearing about our story. Kate’s website offers lots of helpful hints and tips about sabbaticals, career breaks, TEFL (teaching English abroad) and volunteering abroad as well as anything else you need to know. She also covers her travels and adds reviews of her experiences.
We decided to take part because a lot of people want to know why we do what we do. What drove us to both quitting jobs we loved and move into a van. Kate asked us questions that a lot of people ask us so it seemed only natural to do the interview with her.
We would love to share that interview with you now and if you are thinking about taking a career break or sabbatical, have a read through her site for some information.
If you have any questions for us please leave them in the comments and we will answer them! Don’t forget you can tweet us @vanlifediaryfacebook or email us email@example.com
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Have you taken the first steps to full time van life and now wondering what you need to do?
Whether this transition is one you have been dreaming about for years or perhaps a sudden impulse to live in your vehicle, we are here to help you out and ensure you have covered all of your bases. Full time van life is often a cheaper option than living in a house but it isn’t for everyone.
By now, you likely have the van already and are almost finished with the conversation. (I say that but a van conversion is never really finished!). You have made the decision and thought about how wonderful your new life will be. A simpler, more minimalist life. You look around your home and all you can see is ‘STUFF!’
Fret not. Here is a list of what you need to do.
CANCEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN.
1 Cancel your council tax. This could take a month to arrange and new bills/refunds to calculate. You need every penny so make sure you do the boring council tax bit! Some councils allow you to do this notification online so you don’t even have to talk to anyone. A cheque may be sent to your address so it’s helpful to be there or have your post redirected! (More on that later).
2 Cancel TV licence. It can be tempting to just cancelled your direct debit however you can be paid up to 6 months ahead. You may be entitled to a refund. Whilst we are talking about the TV licence, by UK law even if you have no fixed abode but a TV in your motor-caravan (or tablet /phone where you can stream the TV) you should still have a TV licence – if you have a home with a TV licence and that TV is not being used at the same time you can technically use your home TV licence to cover you. There is a lot of talk about how anyone would know and whether you could get away without having a licence. Please do your own research and make your own decision, I’m just here to tell you the facts associated with full time van life transition!
3 TV/phone/internet cancel all of these again giving your last day at the address. Be prepared for some charges, depending on your contract.
4 Gas, electric and water. Make sure you get the meter readings and report these to the utility companies. Take a picture if you need proof but don’t end up paying for someone else’s use!
5 Extra bin collection. We pay extra at our address for a garden waste bin. This needs to be cancelled or again, someone else will benefit financially. These are often on auto renewal set ups so cancel that direct debit!
6 Home and contents insurance. So easy to overlook when packing but anything related to the house needs to be notified of your exit from the property.
7 Mail. Options include leaving a forwarding address, redirecting your mail, a company such as boatmail who will scan and email or forward your mail to a destination as required. You may wish to also change you address with as many places as possible as you may not want your Dr’s letters being opened by the next occupant.
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL MY STUFF?
1 Sort out what you NEED first. Space is an issue in a van. Make a list of the bare necessities, essential items and keepsakes. Once you have those items sorted you can start to look at what room you have left.
2 Sell some stuff! More money and less hoarding. You can use apps such as ebay, gumtree and shpock to sell things without leaving the house or hold a car boot sale. This will enable you to convert belongings to travel funds and boost your finances.
3 Recycle or upcycle. Upcycling is big at the moment and bulky furniture can be a blank canvas for a facelift. Why not try to find a local furniture upcycling group who may take that old chest of draws off your hands. We found a recycling waste company that delivered a skip and will recycle our items for us. This means less waste to landfill.
4 Storage is another option. Whether you have a friend with an empty garage or look at renting a unit, this option means your belongings should be safe in case you need them again.
WHAT YOU NEED TO ARRANGE
1 Photocopy documents. Take photos/ scans of important documents such as driving licence, bank cards and passports. This way you have all the details should they get lost or stolen.
2 Breakdown cover. If you haven’t already organised it you need to sort out cover. Don’t forget that you may need to confirm with the company that they can take the size of your vehicle. You don’t want to have a break down and then find out that the company you are paying wont help you due to size. Often this needs to be in place for 24-48 hours before it is active so give yourself time..
3 Emergency back up plans. Should something go wrong with the van you need to ensure that you have a back up plan, financially and with regards to accommodation.
4 Spare parts. Bulbs, fuses and fuel filters are a good idea to carry as well as using YouTube, Haynes manuals and ask on forums to see if you can fix a job yourself. Get recommendations from the van life community on trusted tradespeople.
5 Bright torch. either for dodging the frogs by the lake or being able to see under the vehicle, you need a really bright and reliable torch!
6 Always have a bag of change ready for car parking or public toilets!
THE FIRST 24 HOURS – WHAT TO EXPECT
Emotions will be high. you will be anxious and excited. You know that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park but you feel you have everything sorted out. Then you realise you still have possessions in the house that you haven’t decided what to do with. You have no choice but to throw them in the van. THIS ISNT PINTEREST. This is the reality of van life. It gets messy quickly. You are constantly battling for space and shifting things from one place to another.
It took us a full week of packing and unpacking, re-boxing, re-evaluating and ultimately getting rid of loads of stuff that we brought along with us.
1 It’s not uncommon to get ratty with each other when living in a confined space.
2 You will be busier than when you were at work and wonder where all of your time is going.
3 Plan ahead for water refills and toilet cassette emptying points.
4 If one of you is not feeling comfortable about sleeping in a certain location, you need to move. Listen to each other and respect their opinions. It is too small a space to argue!
5 Get comfortable with different smells, and quickly. Bodily functions happen, even if they are all glitter and sparkles! Respect when someone needs to use the toilet and go for a walk!
6 Top up your fuel tank when you pass somewhere with cheaper fuel. it may not be much that you add, but the money you could save will add up over the month! See how you could save money when travelling
7 Dry shampoo – buy it in bulk! Use it outside as it makes the van dusty however if you don’t have access to a daily shower it will be your best friend.
Anglesey is well known for its stunning beaches. After a day on the sand, why not go to the other extreme. Try a high speed boat trip down the Menai Strait! Rib Ride offer several different types of boat trip depending on your thrill seeking level. Their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water!
When we booked the ticket they did say that parking could be problematic. They recommended getting there about 30 mins before your trip. Having seen the parking situation I would recommend getting there much earlier – especially if you are in a larger vehicle. We had the VW at the time so not too bad however the Iveco would be much harder to park.
We met up with Matt, our captain for the Velocity boat trip. He took us through a very extensive health and safety briefing and ensured that we were all harnessed up correctly. There was plenty of room on the jetty for all of us to get into our harnesses. The captain ensured that the boat was balanced as we made our way onto the seating area.
The boats are incredible and resemble a roller-coaster and that’s exactly what the ride is, without the rails. You must hold on to the handles at all times through this ride as sudden turns or waves could hit you hard. It does require a certain level of physical fitness.
White Knuckle Rollercoaster
The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face. Try and remember to breathe! This ride gives you a thrill for sure but also give you a great view. Not only of the wild life but the tiny beach houses situated at the waters edge. You can’t see these from the road, they are well sheltered. A little bit of envy perhaps at these gorgeous properties and their views!
Our captain was lucky that there were not many boats on the strait that day so he could show us how the boat handled. With loops and quick turns he put her through her paces! It was a real treat to feel the wind on our faces and pass the small boats as if they were motionless.
Our Rib Ride captain was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. The team were great fun and tried to take footage of us on the trip. This is because you do need to have both hands on the handle bars and it would have been far too dangerous to use a camera. There would be a good chance that you would knock your captain out as the device would fly straight at his head. Unfortunately, on our trip the camera failed so we don’t have any pictures to share with you. I guess we will have to go and do it again…
Great value for money and other trips available
This boat trip is not very expensive for what it is, £35 each when we experienced it and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! 30 minutes sail time is all you get on the Velocity ride but there are other boat trips available at a slower speed.
Rib Ride also offer rides out to see the seals and puffins, as well as castles and islands. A 2nd office in Hollyhead also offers trips out to South Stack, Gogarth and the Skerries.
Tolkien Reading Day – Where better than Talybont on Usk reservoir!
Tolkien reading day is an annual event held on the 25th March to celebrate the work of the great author J.R.R Tolkien. Why the 25th March? The fall of Sauron from Lord of the rings of course! Tolkien was at one point good friends with C. S. Lewis – the famous author of the the Narnia chronicles! (Note – this post was originally posted on 25th march on the old website. We have added more information for you on this update!)
Talybont on Usk Reservoir is a beautiful place to visit. From it’s crystal water to it’s dramatic hills, you could not wish for a more scenic destination. Wales has inspiring landscapes, giving birth to myth and legends across the world. It’s stunning scenery has inspired many over the years and strangely enough it is understood that Tolkien himself spent time in the village of Talybont on Usk in the 1940s whilst working on parts of Lord of the Rings. It is easy to see similarities between the landscape and his books. He named the hobbit settlement Crickhollow after Crickhowell, just 9 miles away.
Visiting the reservoir
The village is just a few miles from the reservoir and Talybont has a bit of everything – from a canal, 2 rivers, a reservoir, hills, woods, waterfalls, wildlife, local arts and crafts, a village shop and wi-fi cafe, 3 pubs and a restaurant. It can even boast its own fascinating history from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution.
We visited Talybont On Usk and loved it so much we stayed for 2 days! We looked up the location on searchforsites and decided to head here. A small layby set off of the road held enough room for around 6 comfortably. The reservoir was just 100 yards away from us and was full of life. From the waters edge the hills climb steeply creating a very protected and sheltered area. Wildlife was abundant, from the birds of prey above to the frogs and fish in the water.
We met up with a gentleman on the first night who was camping in his tent. He told of us a walk up the hill behind us that was worth a visit. The next morning we woke early to find others had joined us in the night. The car park was busy – possibly because it was Saturday. A walking group who had arranged a hike up to the ridge of the hill behind us and all around the reservoir in a circular walk. They said it would take them around 7 hours to complete with the first mile almost vertical! We let them go first as we didn’t want to embarrass them 🙂
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
A long walk up a steep hill!
They were right, the first mile was quite good going as we followed the forestry trail up the hillside. We stopped after a couple of hours, with the sun peeking through the cloud and the reservoir looking so small beneath us. High up on the side of the hills we sat in awe of this place. We could hear a small bird of prey eeping for its mother, and food of course! We continued our walk and came across so many different plants and trees, small waterfalls where the rain was running off of the hills. Oh it was just so beautiful!
We were walking for a good 2 hours before re realised how far we had gone and then had to decided whether we turned around or carried on walking! a quick look at google maps showed we could continue and would join up at a road a mile or 2 away. Once we met the road it was a flat straight walk back to the van but our feet were very unhappy. About 2 or 3 miles on the road after walking on the gravel felt very hard to our feel and it was so much harder! We must have walked a good 7 or 8 miles.
Our walk was very different to the professional walkers, however it still took us 5 hours. We didn’t rush, and stopped to look at the many waterfalls and natural rock formations.
After that, back at the van we has a little rest and cooked some dinner on the gas hob. Some quality time to read was in order for Tolkien reading day. Where better to get lost in myth and legend? Amongst the landscape that inspired so many authors and poets of course!
To read about other areas we have travelled to, click here!
We have been on the road for a month now and wanted to share our personal journey with you. You will have read posts (hopefully!) of places we have been, but we haven’t really spoken about our personal experiences. Here is our post on the first month of full time van life.
The #Vanlife movement is really popular right now. We have been very open about our reasons when people ask us. (Vanlifediary will be doing a post on the questions people ask us soon!) We had planned extensively for our change to van life however nothing can really prepare you until you are living it. No matter how many times you read that you don’t need to pack too much for full time van life, you still will. This is because as far as you are concerned you have already downsized considerably. The truth is we still brought far more than we needed.
During the run up to us leaving I was still working a full time job where I lived on site. I would get home in the evening and be too tired to think about packing. Even though I was excited to change my life I just couldn’t find the motivation to pack for it. I know now that I was too emotionally attached to my ‘stuff’. The act of holding it in my hand and having flashbacks of the memories connected to it and deciding if I throw it, keep it or sell it were too hard. What I wanted was someone to do that for me.
Too Much Stuff for full time van life!
The day we left to start full time van life Louise greeted me in the car park. We had a very emotional send of from our work colleagues. The van packed to bursting point with (and not limited too):
2 Bikes (inside the van as no bike rack at that time). 3 Duvets, 8 pillows, 6 Blankets. 4 Bottles of shampoo (when we don’t have a shower), 6 Toothbrushes, 2 Full size and 4 mini toothpastes, 5 Bottles of sun cream. 4 Massive Tupperware’s full of rice. 15 Pairs of shoes, of which every day so far we have worn walking boots… AND all of our wardrobe – because you never know!
We thinned out more of our stuff over the next week as it was just too cluttered. Why did we bring 5 tool boxes, 4 wash-bags, 3 woolly hats (each), 2 extension leads and a partridge in a pear tree? No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you will still have too much!
Road less travelled
With the van down to a reasonable amount of crap, we could concentrate on our adventures. The first week was living with the STUFF so we didn’t get far. From Evesham, to Illmington Village, to Malvern and Hereford, our first week was so exciting. It was all new and felt like a holiday. We used a few websites such as searchforsites and pitchup.com for free locations where possible but cheep sites when we needed. Reasons like to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. We try to free camp whenever possible but sometimes you just need a good shower and top up the electric.
Speaking of electric… When we set off we didn’t have an inverter in the van. We realised quite quickly that we had overlooked this in our rush to get going. TJ auto electrics in Evesham booked us in for the following week and we doubled back to ‘home’. We knew Tim and trusted him to fit the gear for us. We made all the mechanics jealous as we sat in the sun and they worked on the van! After all, it’s ‘home’ so couldn’t leave it to collect later! Inverter fitted we set off again and headed to Wales.
“Ones destination is never a place, just a new way of seeing things”
We stopped in Hay-on-Wye on the way. Totally blown away by it’s architecture and little roads filled with antique shops and independent businesses. The castle hid itself to us until we were nearly ready to go. It was covered in tarpaulin having some refurbishment work done. Saying that we did find a small hole in the castle wall and found a beautiful honesty bookshop, 2 massive bookcases piled high along the walls with a wooden shack roof fitted to protect them. Plants were growing on the floor and wound the books.
We have stayed in some amazing places but our next stop, Tallybont-on-Usk, is so far my favourite location. Just being able to fully relax and unwind, an impromptu 5 hour hike and frog mating frenzy made this an incredible location. We finally started to relax and realise that we were not on holiday. This is our life for the foreseeable future.
Dare to live the life you have always wanted!
The best part about being on the road is being able to decided if you want to move, or stay put. I could quite easily have grown roots in Talybont. It’s connection to Tolkein just added so much more and really inspired the imagination.
So far all was going well. As we were near to Louise’s brother we decided to stop with them for a couple of nights. To take advantage of a free hot shower and spend some time with them. We were not sure how long it would be until we were back in that area. Having mentioned to Louise’s brother that the van seemed a little sluggish, he recommended a mechanic near where he worked. We made an appointment and told Lous’s brother we may need to stay a few more days!
Miss Chewy spent the day being tickled by the mechanic. He thought it would be a good idea to change the oil, the fuel filter and the air filter as we were unsure when they had been done last. There wasn’t an air filter in place so all the muck from the road had been sucked into the engine. We poured Redex into her and we thought a good swill around the tank should clear some gunk out and get her healthy again. She hadn’t been used very much in the 3 months we had her. She had been between mechanics and electricians!
We also took advantage of a recommended welder to do a few bits that came up as an advisory on the last mot and got them sorted out. Chewy was being loved! In return we believed that she would look after us! Since then we had further issues with her turbo going and needing repair. This took about a week to fix and some angry tweets to Iveco. #sorrynotsorry. Luckily we could stay with family again but we did camp outside of Iveco in Avonmouth on one occasion! Touch wood she seems to have settled down except for a warning light telling us the warning light isn’t working. £150+ vat diagnostic fee for that one was averted! Oh and the sliding door got jammed so we had to climb over the seats to get in or out.
Somerset Sunsets, sat navs and crabs!
We have travelled through Somerset and met a fantastic bunch of people at Tuckers Grave Inn, many of whom were also on their own personal journey to heal and reconnect with themselves. We have ventured as far as the Norfolk Coast had had Cromer Crab, slept on marsh land with lapwings and marsh harriers surrounding us and now camping in a secluded woods not far from the coast.
The sat nav has been a help and a hindrance. It tried to take us down a rather narrow one way road in Malvern which caused chaos to the traffic behind us. It narrowed quickly and didn’t have much in the way of a pavement, just a tall, probably listed building. In the kerb was a ditch/gutter which changed the tilt on the van to where the top of the van was almost touching the building. Having cars up your rear end wanting you to go faster really isn’t helpful at that moment. Occasionally we have had to take a detour due to her size or the sat nav having a nap at the most inconsiderate moment but largely we are unscathed!
Some have asked if we are over our wonderlust yet – are you kidding? We haven’t even seen the start of it yet! Apart from van repairs most of our money has been in fuel as we have done a fair amount of back and forth to see family. We are hoping now that we can limit the amount of miles we do each day and just casually travel. There is still so much to see! Full time van life is an amazing experience.
We are trying to cook as cheaply as possible but not compromise on healthy fresh food. Today for lunch Louise cooked us a water chestnut and potato curry with a red thai curry mix we brought from Aldi. The whole meal cost approx £2.20 for 2 people, including the 80g of rice each. We are measuring our portions as we don’t want left overs (because we don’t have any spare tupperware – I am a horrible person and made Louise leave it all behind).
For us, choosing the first day of spring to leave for full time van life was a good choice. As we are waking up to our new lives, nature is waking up too. The sky, the buds on the trees, the fragrances and textures, the colours and sounds of nature… all things that we would have taken for granted when we didn’t have the time to look closer.
Not having a TV means we can ditch the soaps, news and propaganda, we listen to the animals and watch our barometer for the weather. This means we don’t fall into a nasty trap of talking politics with people! We did wonder if we would become lonely and not speak to people but actually we have had proper conversations with more people than I can count! Not mundane conversations, but conversations about healing, nature, environments and positivity.
This has been the best month of my life. A freedom to explore not only the land, but ourselves
What will next bring? All we know so far is a touch of cat sitting and a family holiday where we have to be still for a week… eek… that will be strange!
We were heading to a camper van meetup in Somerset in early April. If we know we have to be somewhere by a set date we can look at our route and plan stops on the way. On this occasion we stopped in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset. Home of cheese and Cider! I have been to Cheddar before and couldn’t wait to take Louise.
Driving to Cheddar is beautiful from every angle and is a great place to use as a base due to the amount of campsites in the area. I have stayed at 2 different campsites in Cheddar now.
What is it?
Cheddar is a limestone gorge on the south side of the Mendip Hills. It is where Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton was found during cave excavations in 1903. He has been named Cheddar Man and tests on his DNA show that 9,000 years since his death, there is a direct descendant of his living in the Cheddar area to this day!
Cheddar Gorge is a site of special scientific interest due to rare plants, caves and Vertebrate palaeontology. The gorge is 3 miles long and 400 meters deep! 2 of the caves are now open along with several other attractions such as the museum of pre-history. The museum displays many artefacts of great historical importance, that shed invaluable light on our ancestors and how they lived, have been found in Cheddar Gorge and it’s caves.
Jacobs Ladder is another attraction in Cheddar that’s included in the ticket price. At the exit of the Dreamhunters cave you can ascend the 247 steps straight up to the top of Jacobs ladder. Once there the panoramic views are breath taking. If your legs are still up for the challenge, there is the look out tower where you can go up even more steps (48) and take in the sights.
The climb is well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Mendips and beyond. To the south you’ll see the flat, lush water meadows of the Somerset Levels. To the north you’ll see the windswept plateau that runs for over 22 miles east to west! If you don’t fancy walking 247 steps back down you can always do some or all of the cliff top walks through a nature reserve.
At over 500,000 years old and excavated in the late 19th century, this is the most magnificent cave in Cheddar. I recall that the walk is around a quarter of a mile into the cave. In severe weather it has been known to flood to the entrance. You will also see where the famous Cheddar Cheese is put to mature at a consistent temperature of 11 degrees.
This cave system takes you through formations where the River Yeo carved its way hundreds of thousands of years ago. You can spot where whirlpools put pressure on the rocks and hollowed them out, as well as stalagmites and stalactites that have formed slowly over that time. St Paul’s Cathedral and Solomon’s Temple will have you in awe as you gaze up at rocks above you.
After your exploration of the caves, there are plenty of shops to wonder around. These include ice cream parlours – we found one with over 100 flavours! There are gift shops and cafes in the gorge as well as the obligatory Cheddar Cheese shop and the cider shops too.
If you don’t manage to visit all of the attractions in one day, don’t worry! you have a whole year from your purchase date to visit again and use the rest of the ticket.
You can walk into Cheddar Village where you will find supermarkets and other shops. Parking in Cheddar can be tricky especially if you have a larger vehicle so I would recommend staying on a site for a couple of nights and walking in!
I have stayed at 2 of the nearby campsites. Both easy to walk into the gorge and local shops.
Petruth Paddocks – Run by Jules and his family, Petruth Paddocks marks itself as a ‘free range’ campsite. With a lovely laid back feel and really clean facilities you will feel welcome here. Jules loved to drive around on his tractor and loan you a fire pit and sell you some wood. Its a great site for families, groups or just a quite get away. There is plenty of land and you can pitch where ever you like if you are happy on a field or they do have some electric hard standings available. If you want to splash out you could always hire a shepherds hut!
Cheddar Bridge – This is an adult only site, just a few hundred yards from Petruth. This quite site has the River Yeo running alongside it with many pitches able to take enjoyment from pitching close to the bank. It has plenty or hard standing pitches and a few camping pods on a field as well as 5 static caravans for hire. Facilities were clean and well kept.
We loved Cheddar and its such a beautiful place to visit. It is a popular attraction so in peak times it can be very busy. There are some lovely places to visit in the area too so we think you should make the most of it and stay longer!
Cheddar Gorge is linked with Longleat Safari Park and you can buy a duel ticket from the gorge ticket office.
A campervan meetup is an event organised by someone usually from a group. It is where like minded campervan loving people get together and have fun. We had not been to a meet up before last night. Not because we didn’t want to but because we were usually working and couldn’t get the time off. Now we are free to travel we finally managed to get to one and what an experience!!!
Between Louise and I we are members of a several campervan groups on facebook. One of which (Women with Campervans) is a group for women and we find it very helpful. It is full of people of different ages, interests and reasons for loving to travel in a campervan. They posted that they were arranging a meet up at a pub (Tuckers Grave Inn, Radstock), in Somerset. Unsure if we were going to make it due to technical difficulties we decided to wait until the last minute.
Will we make it?
After a lovely day in Cheddar Gorge we drove 20 miles to meet this group of women and listen to their stories. We pulled up at around 6 ish and found a field with lots of camper vans in it. Its our first time parking Chewy on grass. Opting to stay at the top end of the field rather than get stuck in mud at the other end! (you can park on the gravel car park if you don’t want to risk the field). Happy smiling faces greeted us as we exited the vehicle and went to introduce ourselves. There were lots of different groups here for the meet up and the pub hosts events regularly. £5 for the pitch – no facilities apart from a portaloo.
we drove 20 miles to meet this group of women and listen to their stories. We pulled up at around 6 ish and found a field with lots of camper vans in it. Its our first time parking Chewy on grass. Opting to stay at the top end of the field rather than get stuck in mud at the other end! (you can park on the gravel car park if you don’t want to risk the field). Happy smiling faces greeted us as we exited the vehicle and went to introduce ourselves. There were lots of different groups here for the meet up and the pub hosts events regularly. £5 for the pitch – no facilities apart from a portaloo.
The Gathering begun!
We were not the largest van on the site – beaten by an old bus who did risk it to the end of the field. What a beauty! Wood burner stove, fixed bed and plenty of kitchen space she really did look homely. I would expect that that one doesn’t bend going around corners either! There were motorhomes, van conversions and tents. All were welcome here at the campervan meetup and it was quite evident that people would want to come and look around each others van.
We quickly retired to have a tidy up and open the cider, made the bed and shoved things in boxes. Once we were settled we hosted a few people who wanted to have a look inside our van. We then got invited to see theirs. Van lovers are very proud of their vans and at a meet like this rather than looking at pictures of their kids, you will find them swapping pictures of their vans and where they have been. It is so beautiful to see how many of them have customised their vans to suit their own needs. From storage space to kitchens, everyone is unique.
A friendly atmosphere in a calm setting
Everyone was so friendly, sharing drinks and stories. People just pulling their chairs up to tables and forming a group together, not shying away on their own. Even the way they were parked, almost in a terrace house formation – there was no 6 meter rule if you didn’t want it! Some pulled right up close to each other. I instantly felt like I had found a family. A gathering of people who just get it, you know? These people love to do what we are doing, whether its for a weekend, a week or full time.
We have met so many wonderful people, men and women, young and old, some with a travelling cat, some with dogs. Some single and some couples. It really doesn’t matter – they just want to hear about your travels and swap tips!
At 8pm the pub had arranged for live entertainment and a BBQ for us. They had a massive barn at the back of the pub and this housed a stage on a trailer, hay bales for seats, picnic benches outside and a massive fire pit to keep us warm. There were loads of people, I assume some of them locals as well as the campers.
2 bands played last night and this went on until around midnight. Everyone was drinking, dancing and talking, swapping stories about van life. Our favourite was a story about a lady who had a toilet on one side of the van and her kitchen on the other. She used to lean back on the toilet door as she was cooking and prepping food. Having recently revamped the van she had swapped the door for a curtain. Safe to say she had a slight mishap when prepping food and ended up stumbling backwards into the toilet cubical, landing on the washing up pile! How she didn’t end up with a spoon up her ass remains a mystery!
Tuckers Grave Inn
Tuckers Grave is thought to be Somersets smallest pub. With a Skittle ally and a beer garden its local charm shines through. Being in somerset it was no surprise that the main drinks were Cider! A great range of Cider to try so I tried 3 last night. The BBQ was lovely with burgers, sausages and pheasant pitta pockets on the menu.
The staff are so friendly and the cozy pub with its log fires and eggs for sale makes it an experience you won’t forget. It’s not uncommon here for you leave with a whole bunch of new friends and I hope that is the case for us. This bunch of individual souls, each on their own journey but with such care and compassion for others really gives me hope that maybe we can turn this world around. There is no ego here, no pretence. just people coming together.
Louise was worried that after we left ‘society’ to live as nomads, we would find it hard to reconnect with the world if we dipped back in to the ‘matrix’. If we can meet up with others in this environment I think we will be just fine!
The gathering continues
As I write this some of the group have left, the rest of us are planning on staying another night. Louise made a lentil soup and fresh bread which we shared with some of the women. We have been invited to join them tonight in the skittle ally for an open fire and games night. I am already thinking about how much I will miss this group and want to see these people again.
Meeting new people makes me anxious and I don’t mind telling you that I was really nervous to come here. If this weekend has taught me anything it’s to stop worrying what others think of you and just be yourself. If you are genuine and true to yourself, this bunch will love you. It’s been a fantastic 24 hours and I cant wait to see what this evening brings.
If you haven’t already been to a campervan meetup I would thoroughly recommend it. It was so much fun.
Although we only have last nights experience to go on I have been told that it was quite typical for a campervan meetup so get on those groups and join up – check events and see whats near you.
To all of the people we have met this weekend, and to all others we may meet in the future, Cheers!
North Wales is a hotbed of activities. From Castles and Caves to Mountains and Lakes. There is no end to the adventure here. North Wales has something to suit every taste and fitness level. Check individual websites for access information if you have particular needs or requirements. Here are our list of places to check out when you visit North Wales but there are so many more! Pop yours in the comments if you have experienced North Wales.
I have compiled a list of things to do and experience. I have done 10 of them myself, 2 are on my bucket list so feel free to ask me any questions!
Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) is a 6km long lake on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. It is paradise. Surrounded by hills and mountains the lake provides a sanctuary to its visitors. There is a watersports hire shop where you can rent various vessels for an hour or two or up to half and full day rentals. A cash deposit is required to hire the equipment.
With such a large body of water you never feel enclosed. It is a much better way to see the wildlife than by car! You can even pull your kayak up onto the shore, and investigate places you can’t get to by foot! If you are looking for more of a thrill seeking adventure, the white water rafting centre is a short drive away! (Or just grab an ice cream, relax on the shore and maybe dip a toe in every now and then!)
Bala town houses a few pubs, takeaways and gift shops. Lovely for a stroll around!
RAF aircraft can often be seen doing their exercises here. They call it the MACH loop. CLICK HERE for flight information!
If you are looking for a nice gentle walk and a bit of shopping, head to Corris Craft Centre. On the A487 between Dogellau and Machynlleth, you will find a series of honeycombed buildings housing all sorts of crafted items. Candles, soaps, chocolates, pottery, glassware, forest furniture and wooden toys to name a few! Many of the craft studios also encourage you to have a go. Why not indulge your creative side and design your own pottery, dip your own candles or make your own chocolate.
Set in beautiful surroundings with a café that serves spectacular food (their Welsh Rarebit still hasn’t been beaten!) you will be able to watch the world go by in luxury! Dogs are welcome in most of the craft shops and surrounding areas.
There are caving adventures here too, depending on your thrill seeking limitiations!
A cave tour where you will find out about the local legends of King Arthur! Crowned Best Visitor Attraction in Mid Wales 2018 in the National Tourism Awards for Wales. Equipped with a hard hat you’re greeted by a mysterious hooded boatman. He takes you by underground boat and through a magical waterfall; your gateway to the Dark Ages and to the life and times of King Arthur. Continue on foot for a guided tour around the caverns and learn about Dragons and Giants that lived here a very long time ago! Perfect for hot days as the caves stay a cool 8 degrees so take suitable clothing and footwear. The cave system is full of passage ways and large chambers. Not one to be missed! The kids will love this one! (Dogs not allowed in the caves, sorry!)
Offers a unique opportunity to explore the virtually untouched, abandoned workings of an old Welsh Slate Mine with one of Wales’ top Mine Explorers. The mine closed back in the 1970’s but was hand dug in the Victorian era. As you travel, with your hard hats and dim lights, you are taken back in time through stories of the people who lived and worked here. This one is a little more physical but worth the trip to explore the old mines! There are three trips you can take here, a taster session of just an hour, a 2 hour trip or a half day excursion. See the tools and machinery left behind as well as personal items and discover what it felt like to be a miner!
There are other mines and caves in North Wales including one where you can zipline and trampoline – however I have not tried this one out yet! do let me know if you have been and what it was like!
Situated on the Dwyryd Estuary, this village had been constructed in the theme of a Mediterranean Piazza. A punchbowl landscape filled with pastel coloured buildings, water features and architecture like no other. You will easily forget that you are in North Wales!
Recieving over 200,000 visitors per year, this tourist attraction has something to suit all family members. Marvel at the exotic plants that grow in the areas micro-climate, investigate the 70 acres of woodland, play in the water fountain or upgrade your kitchenware in the Portmeirion Pottery shop.
Guided tours are available at selected times during the season and these point out all the features you may otherwise miss. Perhaps best known for being the backdrop to The Prisoner TV show, starring Patrick McGoohan, this village has also had a multitude of media filmed here, including a 4 part Dr Who series in 1976, some shots for the 2002 final episode of Cold Feet and Siouxie and the Banshees ‘The Passenger’.
All the family will fall in love with Portmeirion and its beauty!
The zoo is a fantastic way to enjoy a day out with the family. The location is a little hilly so please bear this in mind, but nice paths and well signposted to different areas. The zoo houses animals from snow leopards, tigers and bears, to owls, meerkats and snakes. Although the zoo itself looks a little run down in places I found that the keepers had put a lot of effort into ensuring the areas were enriched for its inhabitants. The bear enclosure for me showed the most amount of effort on my visit with so much for them to investigate.
It is only through us visiting such zoos that they will have the funds to keep improving the facilities and participate in zoological programmes to keep these animals alive and breeding. Your entrance fee will help towards this but you can also get involved in other fundraising programmes or become a keeper for a day and have an amazing experience that you will not forget.
The Zoo also has interactive shows where you can watch flying displays from their birds, Chimp encounters, Sealion playtime and Penguin playtime, do try and catch some of these if you can!
The Safari restaurant overlooks the Tiger enclosure and serves hot and cold food and the Penguin Café overlooks the Penguin enclosure, so you have a couple of choices for food (although you can take a packed lunch). There is also a gift shop and an adventure land for the children to burn off some energy.
Featuring Alice in Wonderland, The Great Orme, A Tram and a Long Pier!
Llandudno is a beautiful seaside town. Georgian houses line the front, many now hotels and b+b’s offering spectacular views of the curved bay. This really is what every seaside town should be striving for. There is a large promenade, suitable for heavy volumes of foot traffic and push chairs, and a shingle beach leading out into the Irish Sea. Llandudno is home to the longest pier in Wales, which houses amusement arcades including one with a ZOLTAR machine. (If you have ever watched the film “BIG” you will either be enthralled or scared of it). You will also find a variety of shops, food stalls (including seafood and cheese as well as donuts and burgers) and kids games to keep all the family happy. The pier is also dog friendly.
Punch and Judy have some fame here as the longest running show. 150 years ago the Codman family started the show here and it is still going today! This is located on the seafront just before the pier. Regular shows in peak season will have the kids yelling “that’s the way to do it” for days to come!
Alice In Wonderland
As you travel through Llandudno you may notice some carved statues that look like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and a Cheshire cat to name a few! It turns out that the real Alice, inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carol, had a holiday home here in Llandudno. In homage to her the town has created a guided walk, great to do with a dog, with wonderland themed statues in locations around town! You can buy the maps from the tourist information centre.
A massive limestone headland on the coast, is well worth the effort of reaching the top. Fear not – you don’t have to walk! You can either take a cable pulled tram or a cable car up to the summit. There is a nature reserve up here where you can walk around the Orme in peace. Dogs are welcome here and there are lots of sniffs to wear them out. The Captains Table café/restaurant serves food and drinks for when you want to rest or take it easy. For the kids there is a playground and there is also a gift shop by the tram station.
Llandudno is a great base to visit North Wales from and is a super seaside location! You can read a more in depth review of Llandudno here!
6) Visit the Lakes
With so many Lakes to see when you visit North Wales, I would be here all day just naming them. From Bala you can take the road to Portmeirion and explore two other stunning lakes en route. The one displayed above does have a car park across the road where you could park up for the night. Whether you are looking for active water sports, bird watching or a place of quiet meditation, you will find a lake close by to achieve that.
We have seen amazing sunrises and sunsets by Welsh Lakes. The colours all reflect in the still, clean waters. The great thing about sunbathing by a lake rather than a beach is that you do not have to move every half hour because of the tide! Pop your picnic hamper down and know that you can sit here and watch the sun move slowly across the sky! Maybe even wait for the starts to come out.
7) Castles! Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon…
Visit North Wales and its castles. Wales has such a rich history and its castles are a great reflection of both its Wealth and military strategy as well as being used as Places for royalty. Each castle is stunning in its own right and taking some time to learn about its specific qualities and place in history will open up a world of wonder. With so many castles and heritage sites to visit you will be in awe.
Conwy Castle is a spectacular site to visit. We had driven through the area on a previous North Wales adventure but been unable to find parking later in the day. Driving in to the walled town you are instantly blown away by the sheer magnitude of the Castle. She is amongst the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain and was a heavily fortified castle. The curtain walls surround the town and protect her inhabitants.
Most of these walls are still walkable today and you can find yourself climbing the old stairs to walk along the top of them like the soldiers did, and protect the castle from any incoming threats! With its 8 massive towers and inner chambers, this site was of great importance in Welsh history. The castle also had control of the port just below the Kings chambers and was a perfect location to defend itself from land and sea.
Another stunning castle built by the same master builder (James of St George) who built Conwy. Harlech has seen its fair share of battles and sieges. The song ‘Men of Harlech’ is said to describe a battle that took place here. A handful of men held out from a besieging army of thousands. They clearly did not think about visitor parking when designing the castle all those hundreds of years ago! However there are a few parking spots by the castle and a larger car park just around the corner in the village.
The new floating bridge, seen in the picture, gives you a real sense of what it would have been like to walk on a drawbridge. You are free to explore the grounds and climb the towers. The views from the top on a good day extend to Mount Snowdon and beyond! Great to get yours and the kids imaginations flowing as you learn about the castles history and imagine what it would have looked like when it was in its prime.
You cant really see her from your approach but when you do, she appears like a queen stood on the estuary, prideful and majestic. Caernarfon is a fortified town with magnificant walls around the perimeter. Cobbled streets and wonky buildings galore! We ‘wild camped’ the other side of the estuary and the castle was stunning from our back doors!
There is currently an extensive exhibition about the Welsh Fusiliers, including their part in the first and second world wars. You can see uniforms, medals, weapons and other artefacts used by the soldiers. For the children, they can fly their own dragon on a holographic screen! This castle has very high walls that overlook the town and again you are able to walk around up here. The railings are very so be cautious if you are unsteady on your feet.
Local to the castle there are great spots on the estuary to go crab fishing! You could take a boat ride along the Menai Strait, sit in the Anglesea pub listening to live music, or walk to the harbour and see the yachts. You can see Anglesey from here and explore the walled town including automated water jet fountains in the main square.
All of these Castles, as well as many others all across Wales, are part of Cadw – Welsh Government’s historic environment service. We purchased the CADW passes. This gives us free entry into Welsh CADW sites and half price entry to English and Scottish this year. On renewal we should then get free access into all 3!
With so many castles in North Wales to visit, you will have plenty of exploring to do. There are also plenty of castles in mid and south Wales to visit too!
8) Anglesey Beaches
Lligwy Beach, near Molefire, is a sandy beach backed by dunes. Anglesey is knows for having super beaches full with wildlife. The sand dunes are fun for the little ones to play in and there was a café when we went. I found it a but tricky getting to in the camper as the roads were narrow.
There were lots of children here playing in the water and it seemed quite safe but they do not have a lifeguard station here. Always be sensible near water and look out for anyone in trouble. The car park we found said there were parking charges and to pay in the café. If you are looking for a day to be lazy and relax on the beach then I would suggest Anglesey.
After a day on the beach, why not go to the other extreme and try a high speed boat ride down the Menai Strait! Rib ride offer several different speed boats and trip but their newest boats are capable of doing 73 miles an hour on the water! The adrenaline is flowing as you power through the water past all the little sail boats! Zoom under the two bridges from the mainland and back again and feeling the G force on your face as you try and remember to breathe!
This trip is not very expensive for what it is, and a really fun mini adventure. Only negative comment is that it doesn’t last long enough! Matt was our captain and was very knowledgeable about the boat and the water he was taking us on. He stopped when he needed to around other boats and ensuring our safety at all times. I guess we will have to go and do it again… sucks!
This is where the River Conwy meets its three tributaries flowing from the West, the Llugwy, the Lledr and the Machno. In the centre of the town you are treated to a mini rapid where you can sit and hear the water roaring past you with force. Not far away the tourist attraction of Swallow Falls will give you a camera worth snap of waterfalls.
Much of Betws-y-Coed was built in Victorian times and a popular attraction in North Wales in the Victorian era. It is the principal village of the Snowdonia National Park. Betws-y-Coed is a walkers paradise with several walks suitable for a variety of fitness levels throughout the mountain range. Just over the bridge a notice board with the walks and paths highlighted on it. Do check these before you set off so that you know what colour to follow. A few of them are very steep to start with! There are also a lot of outdoor shops catering to the adventurer. You can pick up a bargain on a backpack and save a few quid on walking boots.
We loved our breakfast!
If you prefer to stay at a reasonable altitude there are plenty of craft shops and cafes to eat in. The Alpine café served us breakfast (below). We found them to be such a good café that we went back later in the day. They have a wide range of veggie and vegan items, as well as extensive cake menus, home made fruit smoothies and to top it off – all palm oil free!
There is a motorhome parking area at the back of the car park at the end of the train station. We parked up here and only had to pay £2.50 up to midnight and then we were free until the morning. The train station also houses a mini steam train for the kids (although my dad would have loved it… if you have time, why not jump on a train to the beautiful countryside around the area from another perspective!
11) Climb Snowdon
This is one of the few that I still haven’t done. My friends have walked it (Thanks Zena and Tabs for the picture) and I am planning to do this next time I visit. Zena loves to travel – here is her insta) I aim to get fit so that I can really enjoy it. Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England. It’s one of our most famous and recognizable landmarks. With 6 different walking paths and a train service, the summit seems within reach for everyone. The train from Llanberis to the summit of Mount Snowdon, in a Victorian style carriage, is a major tourist attraction. We advise you to book your tickets in advance. Since 1896 people have begun their exploration here and climbed the 1086 ft journey in the comfort of the train rather than walk up!
If you are walking, please make sure you read up about the mountain and the routes you can take. There is a visitor centre at the summit and their website states that you can see as far as Ireland on a really clear day! Visit the “the highest re-fuelling station in England and Wales” and have a drink in the summit Café.
On the A5 between Betws-y-Coed and Llangollen, a 6,700 acre in hand organic farm is the geographical core of the Rhug estate. The estate houses many animals including cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and geese. It is the Bison, however, that give this location its unique selling point. A large restaurant serves novelties such as Bison Burgers, cream teas and full main meals to impress anyone! (check out this menu!!!) and their café serves more bbq orientated meals for a quick bite.
The shop houses almost 3000 products from its own range and those of other local suppliers and small businesses. These items include meat, deli, beverages and gifts.
Rhug is committed to an organic approach to farming. This means that the farm benefits from organic pastures that the animals are free to graze on, and they live their life free from unnecessary drugs. They are reared with minimal stress and a high quality of life. This is overseen by the estates governing body.
I hope that you have found something to cater to your tastes in this list. I could probably write one of these every week and still not get to the end of all the things North Wales has to offer. It really does have something for everyone!! Please do comment below and share other places you have been to or if you visit one of these places after reading my post, do come back and let me know if you enjoyed it.
Visit Llandudno! Situated on the coast of North Wales, Llandudno is a location full of promise and mystery. It incorporates both tourist attractions, stunning welsh countryside and wildlife. For this specific visit we decided to stay in a hotel and found a Travelodge. This is the only branded hotel in the town centre with a Premier Inn about 5 minutes out of town however there are so many B+B’s and independent hotels to choose from.
This Travelodge is one of the chains newest hotels and is only a few minute’s walk to the beach. Car parking is available on the roads central reservation or on side streets which could get busy.
After easily finding the hotel and a parking space we decided to check out the beach. Llandudno is a horse shoe shaped bay with large Victorian hotels standing shoulder to shoulder along the seafront. There is a large promenade, suitable for heavy volumes of foot traffic and push chairs, and a shingle beach leading out into the Irish Sea. Llandudno is home to the longest pier in Wales, which houses amusement arcades including one with a ZOLTAR machine. (If you have ever watched the film “BIG” you will either be enthralled or scared of it). You will also find a variety of shops, food stalls (including seafood and cheese as well as donuts and burgers) and kids games to keep all the family happy.
Visit Llandudno Pier – It has been lengthened since its original construction. Originally it started half way up with it’s entrance by what is now the Grand Hotel. An additional section brought it further inland alongside the edge of the bay. The pier is dog friendly, something that is rare to find, and they can enjoy the warm smell of donuts too! Llandudno is what we imagine a typical ‘British’ seaside town to be. Clean, friendly, colourful, charming and happy. Even though many British seaside towns are showing their age and some poverty, this doesn’t seem to have reached Llandudno. It looked fresh and vibrant with an air of Victorian charm.
Mostyn Street is located just behind the promenade and is the main street for shopping here when you visit Llandudno. Well known high street shops can be found here as well as independents covering gifts, antiques and clothing. There is a small retail park just 5 minutes away with more high street names.
There are an abundance of restaurants, coffee shops and take-away’s. From fish and chip shops to full seated restaurants. The town library and small shopping arcade feature tourist information centres.
Llandudno is the birthplace of Punch and Judy. To celebrate this there are shows on the promenade multiple times a day during peak season. A great opportunity to get the kids to sit down for a while! Another treat for the kids is to let them have a go at crabbing. Buckets and reels are available to purchase from several shops.
Alice, Alice? Who the hell is Alice?
As you travel through Llandudno you may notice some carved statues that look like the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and a Cheshire cat to name a few! It turns out that the real Alice, inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books by Lewis Carol, had a holiday home here in Llandudno. Alice used to visit Llandudno frequently and in homage to her the town has created a guided walk. It’s great to do with a dog, with wonderland themed statues in locations around town! You can buy the maps from the tourist information centre.
There are plenty of places to eat when you visit Llandudno and Harvey’s, a New York bar and grill, hit the spot! It has a lovely atmosphere and is a great place to relax. The food was amazing and the service was first class. There are plenty of cafe’s, restaurants and bars around, almost every side road featuring a food outlet.
Nothing beats being on the pier or the prom with a bag of chips but do be warned… the seagulls will likely mug you for the food, they don’t have manners!
Two tourist attractions can take you to the top of the Great Orme. A cable car or a tram. The cable car is weather dependant and doesn’t run in windy conditions. As we had a dog at the time we opted for the Tram ride (dogs travel for free – even the big ones!) Trams were running every 10 minutes but you may have to queue in peak times. It is worth the wait if you like stunning views. The tram stops halfway up the hill where you can get off and explore the copper mines – stick a pin in that… I’ll come back to it.
You could also continue to the next tram and head up to the top of the Orme. Here you will be able to see for miles and miles on a cloudless day, in every direction. There is a nature reserve up here where you can walk around the Orme in peace. Dogs are welcome here there are lots of sniffs to wear them out. The Captains Table café/restaurant serves food and drinks for when you want to rest or take it easy. For the kids there is a playground and there is also a gift shop by the tram station.
The Copper Mine was something that we came back to do a few days later and decided to drive to. It took about 45 minutes to go around the attraction which was full of fascinating information. The Orme Mines are thought to date back 4000 years – 2000 years before the Romans invaded. Over the past 28 years mining engineers, cavers and archaeologists have been slowly uncovering more tunnels and large areas of the surface landscape. This has revealed what is now thought to be the largest prehistoric mine, so far discovered in the world making this site very special.
There are 9 levels that have been uncovered so far and evidence of fires which were used to crack the rocks can also be seen. Unfortunately, not much of the site is open to the public yet but when speaking to a member of staff they said that they may open more in the future.
Excavations can only take place in the winter so that they can open it to the public during the summer season. It is very narrow inside and if you suffer from claustrophobia you may find it a bit much. The mine has been dug out using hand held tools, so the miners wouldn’t dig out more space than they needed to follow the copper veins.
Thursday saw us take the van out for a spin. You can easily spend a week in Llandudno and not needed to take a car out. Everything we needed was available in Llandudno. We drove west to Anglesey and found this to be a beautiful place to visit with a rich wildlife. Lligwy Beach in Moelfre is a wide sandy beach with low sand dunes giving an open airy feel. Dolphins and Puffins can spotted here – Keep your eyes peeled to see the local wildlife.
Thanks to the SATNAV we headed down a tight single track lane to the beach, and had to pass a lorry coming the other way. Minor damage was caused to the van in the shape of bramble scratches but nothing too major. The beach was worth it as there was plenty of space, golden sand and beautiful scenery. There was a little café where we purchased hot chocolates and hot bacon baps for lunch. Sunshine and blue skies accompanied us which I believe are a rarity in Anglesey.
Although there are plenty of attractions to keep you occupied when you visit Llandudno, you may wish to visit other local places. Here are a couple of ideas!
Conwy Castle. A stunning castle and part of CADW. We have passes to CADW sites and really recommend them. It’s a good idea to get here early as parking can be troublesome in peak season. The castle is a 13th centuary medieval fortification and was build for Edward 1st.
Colwyn bay, just on the other side of Llandudno. Free parking on the road side and a promenade with coffee shops, ice cream parlours and a Celtic hat shop to name a few!
Llandudno itself has two beaches. The main tourist one on the north face and then a west beach, which is quieter and dog friendly. It does not have the abundance of shops or tourist attractions but instead is a quiet beach, with lots of benches on the path way, for you to enjoy a quiet stroll. Being west facing you may also find the best sunsets on this side of Llandudno with views of the Ormes to treasure for ever.
There are still many parts of Llandudno that we did not get to fully experience in our 4 days here. We definitely want to visit Llandudno again!