This part of North Wales is recognised as an area of unsurpassed beauty where there is something for everyone from sandy beaches to picturesque villages; medieval castles to tranquil gardens; historic houses to an architectural eccentricity.
LLANGOLLAN (14 miles) is famous for singers and singularity. Its International Musical Eisteddfod every July attracts visitors from all over the world and was one of the first places outside his native Modena to hear the voice of the young Luciano Pavarotti when he appeared there (along with his father) as a teenage member of his home-town choir.

Plas Newydd, was ‘Gothicised’ by Lady Eleanor Butler and the Hon Sarah Ponsonby. Known as ‘the ladies of Llangollen’, they eloped and lived there together from 1780-1829 in what would now be a civil partnership but in Regency days was little short of a scandal. Notoriety, however, made them notable, especially in literary circles: Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron were friends and even the Duke of Wellington visited. Their house can be visited from Easter to October.

The town itself is full of gift shops aimed at tourists but it is also a centre for amateur theatre societies, some of them producing plays, musicals, cabarets and concerts of a very high calibre.Two miles west of Llangollen is Valle Crucis, a large Cistercian abbey, built in the 13th century but largely destroyed during the Reformation. However, many original features remain and its aura of peace and contemplation is palpable.

LLANDUDNO, Wales’ largest seaside resort, still retains much of its Victorian and Edwardian elegance, especially in the sweep of hotels and boarding houses along the town’s wide, sandy beaches and the lengthy pier with its traditional attractions. It’s a real bucket-and-spade place.Over it looms the Great Orme, most easily climbed by cable car and home to over half a million of a unique species of butterfly, the silver studded blue, in summer. Just five miles away is the mighty Conwy Castle, now a World Heritage Site.

PORTMEIRON is recognised all over the world as the setting for the cult TV series The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGooghan. An annual prisoner Convention is held there every spring: 2008 saw it celebrating the series’ 40th anniversary. The village’s Italianate architecture sits incongruously on its Welsh peninsula and has been a tourist attraction since it was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s. Around it is the Gwyllt, 70 acres of sub-tropical woodlands criss-crossed by over 20 miles of paths to wander through. Portmeirion is also famous for its eponymous pottery, much of it designed by Susan Williams-Ellis, Clough’s daughter.
NATIONAL TRUST properties within easy reach include Plas Newydd on Anglesey, Chirk Castle and Erddig, both near Wrexham, and Bodnant Garden near the coast at Colwyn Bay.

COTTAGE GUESTS will find a full
information pack coveringhorse riding; fishing - fly & course;quad trails & karting; climbing, paintballing, canoeing; white water rafting, sailing, surfing; abseiling, cruises, railways and gardens.If you have a particular interest and want to know about availability, contact:
Johanna Jackson

Beaters' Cottage
Stable Cottage

RUTHIN (14 miles) is a pretty market town looking over the Vale of Clwyd. There are remains of the castle, built by Edward I in the 13th century, and most of the centre of the town is an attractive mix of buildings spanning six centuries. St Peter’s Church in the main square dates from the 14th century while, along from it, the 16th century Myddelton Arms has a steeply-pitched roof housing an unusual array of seven dormer windows, collectively known as the ‘eyes of Ruthin’. Next door is the Georgian Castle Hotel.

Across the square, the half-timbered former courthouse built in 1401 now contains the NatWest Bank – and still displays the remains of a gibbet – and in front of the mock-Tudor Barclays Bank is Maen Huail, a large limestone rock on which King Arthur is supposed to have beheaded a rival.

The medieval Nantclwd house in Castle Street is the oldest known townhouse in Wales. Added to over the centuries, it has recently been restored and seven rooms, each representing a different period of its history, are now open to the public. The castle itself, rebuilt in the 19th century, is now a hotel featuring medieval banquets.

The Ruthin County Gaol by the river is now a museum and a farmers’ market is held in its courtyard on the last Saturday of every month from May to October. The new Craft Centre with workshops, galleries and tourist information centre is due to open this year (2008) opposite Tesco (there are also smaller Somerfield and Co-op stores).

BALA (11miles) sits at the head of its lake (Llyn Tegid in Welsh), the largest natural body of water in Wales. It is also within the boundaries of Snowdonia National Park and, perhaps because of this, its range of shops, inns, cafés and restaurants on its main street has not, so far, been standardised.At one end is Tomen y Bala, a large Norman castle mound, or motte, now a public garden and worth visiting for its views over Lake Bala and the mountains beyond. The lake itself is four miles long and a mile at its widest and is home to a unique fish, the Gwyniad, apparently a species of herring and survivor of the Ice Age. There is also a narrow-gauge railway that runs along its southern bank.
BETWS-Y-COED has been a renowned beauty spot since Victorian artists flocked to the area to record its rivers, waterfalls, bridges, woodland and surrounding mountains.
The arrival of the railway opened the village up to holidaymakers from the industrial towns of Lancashire and it is still a holiday resort with many hotels, pubs, tearooms, restaurants and delicatessens catering to visitors’ needs.
On the outskirts of the village, the River Conwy rushes over the Conwy Falls and through the narrow gorge of Fairy Glen and is spanned by one of Thomas Telford’s iron bridges called the Waterloo because it was built in 1815, the year of the famous battle.