Sunday, 31 August 2014

Whickham Flower Show

Whickham in Gateshead (North East England) is the next town down the road from our village of Sunniside where we live. On Saturday the Whickham Summer Flower Show was held in St Marys Centre. Alas, as one of the councillors for the area and as the Council was one of the sponsors of the event, I did not enter any of the competitions. Nevertheless, I did visit the show and took a stack of photos and video. The video is not yet edited but here are some of my photos. You can see more on this link.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Rose and Crown at Slaley

When we went to the Slaley Show earlier this month, we decided to have a look around the village at lunchtime for somewhere to eat. We discovered the Rose and Crown pub on the main road. It seems that it is the only community owned pub in the North East. A new chef had just started and if what we had for lunch was anything to go by, he was off to a flying start. Good quality food and very welcoming service.

Pizza at the Marquis of Granby

We don't eat out much when we're not away from home (see my self-sufficiency blog to find out how we produce most of our own food) but when we got back from holiday earlier this month we decided to eat out rather than eat in. We had heard that the Marquis of Granby pub, on the A692 between Streetgate and Lobley Hill (and therefore within walking distance of home), was under new management and had revamped the kitchen and menu and installed a pizza oven. We paid it a visit last week.

We were very satisfied with the meal and the service. The chances are we'll make a return visit at some point.

And finally - the North Wales video

All the photos have been sorted, all the videos are now edited. This is the final loose end from our North Wales vacation earlier this month - the video of the whole holiday.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sychnant Pass

This is the final video I made of an individual location we visited in North Wales earlier this month. We walked through the Sychnant Pass between Penmaenmawr and Conwy though we did not quite get as far as the latter. This is an area of stunning beauty.

Penmaenmawr Beach

This was filmed on the last full day of our holiday in Wales earlier this month. Penmaenmawr is something of a forgotten treasure. It has great views of Puffin Island and the Great Orme at Llandudno.

Welsh photos

A full set of my photos taken on our recent Welsh holiday can be found on this link.

Ceunant Mawr Waterfall Video

This waterfall is about a 15 minute walk from Llanberis in the Snowdonia National Park. We visited it earlier this month as part of our Welsh holiday.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

At the foot of Mount Snowden

We filmed this in two different locations next to Mount Snowdon during our Wales holiday earlier this month.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Saracens Head Hotel, Beddgelert

Another video from our recent Welsh holiday. The Saracens Head Hotel was where we stayed in Beddgelert in the Snowdonia National Park. This is a good quality hotel so it was not cheap to stay there, but it was worth the price.

Beddgelert video

This was the village in the Snowdonia National Park in which we had an overnight stay earlier this month. Great for views of mountains and streams. The name mean's "Gelert's grave" and the alleged grave can be seen in the video. The story about the killing of his dog by his master dates back to the medieval period.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Criccieth Castle video

This is the second of the videos now edited from our Welsh holiday earlier this month - Criccieth Castle

Friday, 15 August 2014

Puffin Island video

I've now started editing the videos from our Welsh holiday last week. This is the first - the boat trip to Puffin Island from Beaumaris. It's got some good views of the seal colony, cormorants and the North Wales coastline.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Evening walk along Pen Prom

We decided to do a bit more exercise on our last evening in Wales. It was back to Penmaenmawr beach as the sun was setting. Well, not quite the beach - the tide was in - rather the Promenade. So that was it, the end of our Welsh holiday. Next morning we were heading back home to Gateshead.

Photo above, looking west towards the sunset and Anglesey. Below, looking east towards Llandudno.

Sychnant Pass

After lunch at the Fairy Glen we had a pleasant walk through the Sychnant Pass. The scenery here explains why I like this part of the world so much. Great views of mountains and valleys. Peaceful and pleasant. The photos I took there give a flavour of the place.

Lunch at the Fairy Glen

The Fairy Glen pub in Capelulo, on the Old Conwy Road, was where we headed to after our walk along Penmaenmawr beach. I have eaten there before and regarded the food as okay. This time I have improved my personal rating of the pub. I had a ploughmans for lunch. Portions were generous and the quality was good.

The only drawback was that after we went for a further walk, we returned to the Fairy Glen mid afternoon and found it closed.

Walking Penmaenmawr beach

The final full day of our Welsh holiday last week was spent in and around Penmaenmawr. We started by walking down to the beach. The tide was out, revealing a vast expanse of sand and very few other visitors. I have been on the western end of the beach lots of times but not on the eastern part, so we walked along there, soaking up the scenery (great views of Puffin Island, Menain Straits and the Great Orme) and the sun, which was out in force.

Looking west - you can see the quarrying in the mountainside.

Looking east towards the Great Orme.

Anglesey and the Menai Straits on the horizon.

A better view of the quarrying above Penmaenmawr.

Having walked east along the beach, we then crossed the A55 Expressway and walked through the graveyard of St Gwynin's Church in Dwygyfylchi, the village to the east of Penmaenmawr. Some of the graves date back to the 18th century but the church itself was built in the late Victorian period, on the site of a previous church.

From there, we headed south, up the valley of the river Afon Gyrrach to the Fairy Glen for lunch.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pub quiz in Pen

20 years ago I occasionally visited the Legend pub in Penmaenmawr. Now it has been renovated and renamed as the Gladstone, after the former Liberal Prime Minister of the nineteenth century who was a regular visitor to Penmaenmawr. We visited the pub on the Wednesday evening of our Welsh holiday for the pub quiz. We came nowhere near winning!

Back in Conwy

We got back to our base in Penmaenmawr from Llanberis in the early afternoon but we weren't hanging around for long. Instead, we headed off to Conwy, taking the road via the Sychnant Pass. Conwy is one of my favourite old towns in the UK. The medieval walls are still largely intact and the castle dominates the town. It also has great views across the bay. The main drawback is that there are often lots of cars (and we were as guilty as everyone else visiting by car). Fortunately we got a parking space next to the walls.

We have visited the castle and walked the walls in previous years so this time we were just looking to have a late lunch and wander around for a bit.

One of our favourite places for relaxing is on the waterside, next to the smallest house in the UK! There was a queue to go in so we gave it a miss.

Our late lunch was at the George and Dragon on Castle Street. Food was pretty much what you expect from a pub and despite being on the tourist route, was not pricey. What attracted us however was the chance to eat our meal in the garden at the back.

Back to Penmaenmawr afterwards.

Llanberis and the Ceunant Mawr Waterfall

You can't miss the quarry as you come into Llanberis. It looks like a big chunk has been bitten out of the mountainside. The terraces across the quarry are clearly visible. Our reason for coming to Llanberis was to see the Ceunant Mawr waterfall, a 15 minute walk at most, though uphill for most of the way.

The walk took us under the Snowdonia Railway viaduct and then later we had to cross the track.

That brought us to the top of the waterfall. The water drops about 30 - 40 metres so this is no tiddler!

And the inevitable selfie:

And finally, back down in Llanberis after the walk to the waterfall, we called into the cafe next to the station for tea. As you would expect, lots of tourists around and so the queue for a cuppa was not short.

At the foot of Mount Snowdon

The drive north from Beddgelert to Llanberis took us past Mount Snowdon and through the Snowdonia National Park. Although the sky had clouded over and the peak was misted over, the views of the mountain were spectacular. We made two stops on the way.

And finally, the inevitable selfie:

Breakfast at the Saracens Head, Beddgelert

I can't finish my report of Beddgelert without referring to breakfast at the Saracens Head Hotel. Superb! After I had had my fill, we packed up the car and headed to Llanberis.

Ice cream at the Caffi Cwrt in Criccieth

We needed to sit down and have refreshments after our walk around Criccieth Castle. We found Caffi Cwrt on the bank up from the beach so we decided to stop for ice cream and tea in the garden at the back.

Despite being on the tourist route, it was not charging tourist prices. The service was particularly good.

Criccieth Castle

The sun continued to shine on Tuesday last week as we arrived in Criccieth. Parking was easier than I expected. We found a parking bay next to the beach and at £3 for 4 hours, the price was not as bad as it can be in some tourist places. I hadn't been to Criccieth since 1995. Then, the purpose of the visit was to attend an event marking the 50th anniversary of the death of David Lloyd George, former Liberal wartime and Coalition Prime Minister who lived in the town. There is a Lloyd George Museum in the town but we did not visit it last week as our visit was too brief. Instead, we were here to go to the castle.

Although similar in structure to other North Wales castles, Criccieth's was initially built by the Welsh to keep out the English rather than, as with those such as Conwy, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, built by the occupying English to keep Wales under English rule. It sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking both the town and the sea. We spent about an hour walking around it (entry was, I think, £3 each so it wasn't going to break the bank to go in.)

And finally, my selfie outside the Castle:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Photos of Beddgelert

I'll start with this photo. I think this is the first time I have ever been to a dog's grave but it gave the town its name. The photo below explains all.

Other photos from around the village:


From Llys Ogwen, we headed to Beddgelert, a village at the junction of two rivers in the mountains in Snowdonia. Having spent much of the morning in the car, we headed off for a walk. 

In the Saracen’s Head Hotel we found rooms were available. We decided to book one for an overnight stay. Hotel rather than B&B, slightly upmarket, but worth the money.

 Beddgelert is a village that takes its floral displays seriously. Tubs and baskets were everywhere. Lunch was in the Tanronnen Inn which itself was ablaze with colour. It was a good choice financially as well. Food was good but not charged at tourist rates. We had wanted to take the steam train from the local station to Portmadoc but when we saw it would cost us £26 each, we decided after lunch to head off to Criccieth by car instead. I will write a separate post about that visit. 

The drive back to Beddgelert and a short walk along the riverside was followed by dinner at Caffi Colwyn. This was not through choice. It turns out that Beddgelert has a daytime tourist economy but not an evening one. Caffi Colwyn was the only place open for food. 

We sat outside under a canopy as the rain started to fall. I was disappointed with the meal. It was pub food quality but restaurant prices. After eating we wandered around looking for somewhere open. We found the bar in the Royal Goat Hotel. We were too late for the quiz there though it looked like only those on a coach trip were participating. We headed back to the Tanronnen for a drink there and had one final one back at the Saracen’s Head. This turned out to be a waste of money as we took the drinks up to the room and then fell asleep. We each found a flat pint of cider in the morning!

Llyn Ogwen

On our 2nd full day of our visit to North Wales last week, we left Penmaenmawr for an overnight stay at Beddgelert. This meant a bit of a drive down the A5 and it took us past Llyn Ogwen, a long ribbon lake sandwiched between mountains. Fortunately it had a stopping point so we got out to stretch our legs. It was a chance to get some photos of great scenery.

Slaley Show - the video

This was filmed mainly for my self-sufficiency blog but it gives a taste of what the Slaley Show is all about as well as featuring some of the competitions we won!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Slaley Show

This post is a short interlude from writing about my visit to Wales last week. We timed our Welsh holiday so that we could be back in time to go to the Slaley Agricultural Show in Northumberland. I had a number of entries in the jam, honey and fruit liqueur sections. It was also the first time I had been to this show. Despite rain overnight, thankfully we had a sunny, though breezy day.

The show has sheep, horse and dog sections and for kids, there was a pets competition. Whilst there is a focus on agricultural matters, this is a show those not into food production or rural pursuits would also enjoy.

And now for some photos of the day (I recorded some video as well but I'll post the finished version once I've done the edit).

If you are interested, I did win first prizes for my honey, fruit liqueur and rhubarb and blackcurrant jam!

More photos of the event can be viewed on this link.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dylan's Restaurant - Menai Bridge

After leaving Beaumaris, the plan was to eat at a restaurant in Menai Bridge called Dylans. Once the issue of finding a space in one of the town's car parks was resolved, we headed over to Dylans on St George's Road. It was worth the hassle of finding somewhere to park. It enjoys a great view over the straits though the view of the Menai Bridge was largely obscured. Nevertheless we were able to sit out on the balcony and continue to enjoy the sun as well as the food. The restaurant sources much of its food locally, especially its seafood.

Understandably not the cheapest of meals but you pay for quality.

Sealing the deal around Puffin Island

And so, to the main reason for the visit last Monday to Beaumaris on Anglesey: a boat trip around Puffin Island. Back in the 1970s, the island was infested with rats. As a result, the seabird population was being decimated. Since then, the situation has been turned around. The rats were killed off (with 4 tonnes of poison), the birds have returned and there is a strong seal colony as well. No one is allowed on the island, therefore preventing damage to the site by both humans and their travelling rat companions.

We took the boat called the Island Princess from the pier. At £8.50 a ticket, I thought this was a fair price, unlike some of the astronomical ticket prices we found being charged for tourist rides on the holiday. The boat was open topped. The guide/captain/skipper had the fortunate combination of being informative and amusing.

The trip took about an hour and went anticlockwise around the island. On leaving Beaumaris, we had a fantastic view of the North Wales coast. In the distance was the Great Orme at Llandudno.

As we got closer to the island, the sound of the seabirds grew. Alas, we were missing the sound of the puffins. Though this is a major breeding site for them, it seems they had left for their annual migration in late July. Cormorants however were there in large numbers.

I hadn't seen seals in the wild in the UK before so seeing them on the rocks on Puffin Island was a first for me.

The rock layers were clearly visible.

The signal station, part of a chain that ran along the entire North Wales coast to Liverpool before the invention of the electronic telegraph. Messages were relayed by flag semaphore.

Black Point on Anglesey, opposite Puffin Island.

Back in Beaumaris, I spotted that the business that owns the Island Princess, Starida, also run other boats for sea fishing. It's something I would love to try but we didn't have time on this holiday to attempt to fulfill that ambition.

Final note to self after the Puffin Island trip: take a hat. I caught the sun quite a bit!

Lots more photos of the Puffin Island trip are on my Flickr site.


As part of our North Wales holiday last week, on Monday 4th August 2014 we went to Beaumaris. I have visited this small town on the south eastern coastal corner of the Isle of Anglesey a number of times in the past. The purpose of this visit was to take a boat ride around Puffin Island though I will write about that in a separate post. The boat trips are one of the main reasons for going to Beaumaris. Others include a visit to the 19th Century gaol which is now a museum (I visited it a few years ago so didn't go there on Monday); superb views of the North Wales coastline and mountains and Beaumaris Castle (I have not been in before and was not able to fit a visit in to our schedule last week but you can see much of the castle from the eastern end of the main street - see photos below).

The town is largely unspoilt by modern developments and retains its own character. There are narrow streets off the main road many of which are traffic free.

The town seems to cling to the waters edge.

Looking east, what appears to be an island on the left on the horizon is actually the Great Orme at Llandudno. Much of Llandudno sits on the low-lying land spur of land that connects the Great Orme from the mainland but from Beaumaris it is easily mistaken for an island.

Looking west up the Menai Straits.

After our boat trip, we stopped for a refreshment break at the Bulkeley Hotel. We sat out at the front, overlooking the Menai Straits. It is south facing so we got a good blast of sun.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Back in North Wales

I am back in North Wales for the first time in nearly 4 years. In the UK it is one of my favourite places to visit and it has stunning coastlines and countryside. I am staying in Penmaenmawr at a friend's house though we have had one night's stay elsewhere. I go home tomorrow. So, here is the first post from this visit and it's about the restaurant I visited on Sunday evening.

Bunkers Bistro is on Conwy Old Road, near Penmaenmawr golf course. I think it used to be a garage and was converted some years ago into a restaurant. It has stunning views out across the bay and of the mountains that surround Penmaenmawr.

Food is good quality here and that's reflected in the price. Service was good as well. If in the area, this is a place to visit as a treat. I recommend the chicken breast: