Friday 15 March 2001
We’d been talking about having a weekend away for a few weeks but were unsure of where to go. There were a few more limitations than usual because of the foot and mouth epidemic. So, it had to be somewhere coastal. I’d never been to Wales so this seemed like a good idea. Rich did some research and decided that, despite the long drive, Aberystwyth sounded like a good place to base ourselves. We did some research on the web and found what looked like a fantastic hotel in Chancery, 3 or so miles south of Aber. So, armed with an RAC route plan we headed off.
We left Ealing on the A40, joined the M40 and motored along until we got to the Warwickshire services where we had “dinner” at Burger King. We got back into the car and continued on our long drive — 220+ miles in total. The Welcome to Wales sign had a foot and mouth caution notice next to it. After a slight wrong turn, we finally arrived at the Conrah Country House Hotel in Chancery. We checked in, got shown to our lovely room and crashed out.
Saturday 16 March 2001
We got up and went down to breakfast. There seemed to have been only us staying there as ours was the only table set. We had a lovely, freshly prepared breakfast before returning to find that the room had been serviced already. This was very impressive.
We decided to head North and started off by driving into Aber and stopping at the sea front. We got the camera out and discovered that it had a totally flat battery.
From Aber we headed along the coast road to Borth. We got the kite out and got some good flying in during the strong gusts of wind.
From Borth we drove to Dolgellau. We parked up and headed to the bank (which had a dual language cash machine) and then to Boots to get a new camera battery.
We drove along a bit further, having a quick stop just outside Barmouth for a photo opportunity, before arriving at Harlech. The Lonely Planet made the castle sound interesting, and so we parked up and investigated. Unfortunately, it was closed due to foot and mouth threat (apparently they keep livestock in the castle grounds). So, we had to settle for a cup of tea and a danish pastry at a coffee place in the town.
From Harlech we headed further North to Port Meirion — famous for it’s mediteranean architecture and being the setting for the 1960s series “The Prisoner”. Admission was £5 per adult which we thought was too much for something we weren’t interested in. The road to the village had disenfected rags at the end over the road which all cars were driving over to prevent foot and mouth from spreading.
From here, we headed back south and drove via Aberdovy — a fishing village. We had a quick photo stop at Furnace, where there were some lovely falls and a water mill.
We drove back to the hotel, and after a quick chat with the donkey in the grounds we headed back to our room to collect our swimmers. The hotel had an indoor pool in the courtyard and so we spent a good half an hour or so there. The only minor problem was the walk back to the main house in the cold with wet hair!
One of the magazines in the room was the Johansens Recommended Hotels in Great Britain & Ireland 2001 book. This lists loads of places to stay in the same league as the Conrah, some of them look great.
We decided to dine at the hotel and so went downstairs to reception. The orders are taken in the lounges (there are several) and so we sat down in huge leather armchairs near a log fire. So, we chose a bottle of red New Zealand merlot and our food and sat comfortably in the lounge until dinner was served.
We ended up having about a 6 course meal — appetiser, starter, sorbet to cleanse the pallete, main course, cheese board and finally coffee. The coffee was again served in the lounge. The service was excellent, but unfortunately whilst the food was good, it wasn’t outstanding.
Sunday 17 March 2001
We headed down to breakfast and didn’t have the dining room to ourselves this morning. Again, breakfast was wonderful and feeling ready to start the day we packed our stuff and checked out.
We decided to head South today with the eventual aim that we’d take the M4 back to London. Our first stop was at Fishguard and we drove to the area near the Ocean Lab. We got out of the car, but only briefly as there was an icy cold wind.
Leaving Fishguard, we crossed one of the many small toll bridges to get to Pembroke dock. From here we headed to Pembroke and parked up before walking to Pembroke castle. This castle was open as there was no livestock around the castle, and so we paid our £3 each to get in. We also bought a guide book so we could figure out what all the buildings were for. It seemed like quite a big castle to me, with lots of towers and parts of it that just looked like how a child would draw a typical castle. The guidebook was useful as it showed how the castle had expanded over the years.
We headed our from the castle and went into the nearest cafe for some refreshments. This was the Richmond coffee house, and I started off by finding someones camera on a chair. We ordered tea and Bara Brith (a fruit cake type thing) and shortly discovered that the owner had some very odd ideas: mobile phones should be banned; the internet was evil (no-one knew what was happening on it); and no-one says thank you anymore, everyone says Cheers which makes him think of drinking…
After escaping, we drove down to Tenby and parked up for half an hour or so. We took the kite down to the lovely, long beach and flew it for a bit, but the conditions were a bit poor and it was a struggle to keep it airbourne. At least the sun was out.
We then headed off to join the M4 and head back home to London. We went over the Severn Bridge and were surprised (and pleased!) to discover that you only need to pay a toll going west (we were going east). We headed off along the length of the M4 and finally arrived back in Ealing after a really pleasant weekend.