We depart by coach from our pick-up points and head for Wales, stopping en route for refreshments (not included). We will break our journey with a visit to Brynkinalt Hall, near Chirk, a Grade II* listed building, the central portion of which was completed by Sir Edward Trevor in 1612. The original Jacobean Oak panelled Hall still remains, giving a glimpse into the original house. Extensive remodelling was carried out in 1808 to the design of Charlotte, Viscountess Dungannon, whose taste embellished the surrounding grounds and park. Some of the features of her designs are recorded in a historic book of drawings, plans and sketches, which offers a fascinating insight into the thoughts and ideas that led to the final designs. Charlotte also added many Gothic touches to the house, such as castellations and turrets. She also built a number of gate lodges, follies and a double walled garden. Some years ago, the family started a phase of restoration, aimed at returning the gardens back to their former glory. Sympathetic replanting of the Shrubbery is now underway, as is the restoration of several interesting architectural features, including two rockeries, small ponds and a little well. The walled garden is the focus of the next phase of restoration.
We continue to North Wales and our comfortable accommodation at the Royal Goat Hotel, Beddgelert. This is a family run hotel situated in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. The bedrooms all have private bathrooms, TV, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities. Dinner is served in the evening.
This morning, after breakfast, we cross the Menai Strait to the island of Anglesey where we visit Plas Newydd. Set amidst breathtakingly beautiful scenery on the Menai Strait, this elegant house was redesigned by James Wyatt in the 18th century. The 1930s restyled interior is famous for its Rex Whistler association, containing his largest painting, a magnificent trompe l’oeil mural. A military museum contains relics of the 1st Marquess of Anglesey, who commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. There is a fine spring garden and Australasian arboretum, with an understorey of shrubs and wild flowers, a summer terrace and massed hydrangeas. A woodland walk gives access to a marine walk beside the Menai Strait. Lunch is available here (not included).
In the afternoon we return to the mainland and visit Penrhyn Castle. Built by Thomas Hopper between 1820 and 1845 for the wealthy Pennant family, who made their fortune from Jamaican sugar and Welsh slate, this enormous neo-Norman castle is crammed with fascinating things such as a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria. Hopper also designed the castle's interior with elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture. The castle contains an outstanding collection of paintings. The Victorian kitchen and other servants' rooms, including scullery, larders and chef's sitting room, have been restored to reveal the preparations for the banquet for the Prince of Wales' visit in 1894. The stable block houses an industrial railway museum, a model railway museum and a superb dolls' museum displaying a large collection of 19th- and 20th-century dolls. The 24.3 hectares (60 acres) of grounds include parkland, an extensive exotic tree and shrub collection and a Victorian walled garden.
We return to the hotel in time for dinner.
Following breakfast we depart for our visit to Portmeirion, the famous Italianate village. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis acquired the site for Portmeirion in 1925 for less than £5,000 as it was then "a neglected wilderness - long abandoned by those romantics who had realised the unique appeal and possibilities of this favoured promontory but who had been carried away by their grandiose landscaping and 'improvement enthusiasm' into sorrowful bankruptcy." Over the course of 50 years the village was developed in a unique and wonderfully eccentric style, while at all times staying in harmony with the natural surroundings. Much work has been carried out in recent years to improve the gardens, enhancing the beauty of the architecture. We will take a walk in 'The Gwyllt', a display woodland where the major concentrations of Rhododendron, Azalea and Camellia were planted, with a wide variety of choice trees. Refreshments (not included) are available in the Portmeirion Hotel, the Town Hall self-service restaurant and Cadwaladers Ice Cream Parlour.
In the afternoon we visit Plas Brondanw, at Croesor. This Italianate garden was created by Sir Clough, who inherited the house from his father. On entering the cobbled stables courtyard the outside world seems to disappear. All you can hear is the sound of running water from the “fireboy” fountain, and the bleating of sheep in the nearby fields. The courtyard is enclosed by clipped yew hedging punctuated by towering columns of Italian cypress. A narrow gap in these green walls is marked by a low panel of elegant ironwork and the view beyond takes your breath away. The ground falls steeply to the wide plain, rising again in the form of Moel Hebog, a mountain the bulk of which is accentuated by a single tall foreground pine. In the shade by the house grow billowing white-flowered Japanese anemones, purple aconites, astilbes, hostas and ferns. On the sunny side of the path are crocosmias, buddleja, cistus and Hypericum “Hidcote”. Cordyline australis adds a flavour of the Riviera.
Following our visit we return to the hotel where dinner is served in the evening.
This morning following breakfast we transfer to the station here in Beddgelert for a journey on the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon. Hauled by one of the most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives in the world, we will travel at a leisurely pace through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park, snaking around seemingly impossible bends, up hard gradients and around the foothills of Mount Snowdon. As the line ‘zig-zags’ along the valley new and unexpected vistas of the surrounding mountains are revealed at every turn.
On arrival in Caernarfon there will be an opportunity for lunch (not included) and in the afternoon we shall visit Caernarfon Castle, possibly the most famous of Wales's castles. Its sheer scale and commanding presence easily set it apart from the rest, and to this day, still announce in no uncertain terms the intention of its builder Edward I. Begun in 1283 as the definitive chapter in his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon was constructed not only as a military stronghold but also as a seat of government and royal palace.
Dinner is served in the hotel in the evening.
This morning, after breakfast, we will leave the hotel and head for home, breaking our journey with a visit to Chirk Castle, a magnificent mediaeval fortress on the Welsh Marches. The lavish interiors include a 17th-century Long Gallery, a grand 18th-century saloon with rich tapestries, servants' hall, and the restored East Range, containing the library and 1920s style Bow Room showing off Chirk Castle’s connections to high society. The award-winning gardens cover five and a half acres of manicured lawns, clipped yews, herbaceous borders, beautiful rose, shrub and rock gardens, and a wooded pleasure ground. Don't miss the terrace overlooking the 18th century ha-ha at the bottom of the garden, with stunning views over the Cheshire and Salop plains.
We then continue back to our original departure points, to arrive during the evening.