Tag: North Wales

How To Raise A Glass To North Wales’ Real Ale Trail

I joined a real-ale-themed tour of North Wales recently for Guardian Travel.

It was a trip around the hidden-gem rural pubs and microbreweries [pictured above] often overlooked by the stampede down the A55 towards Anglesey.

Based around Caernarfon, it highlighted the rise of community pubs at a time when our traditional village hostelries are struggling to survive.

There has been an explosion of local microbreweries and craft-ale pubs in recent years with The Albion Ale House in Conwy one of my favourites.

Here’s a preview of the article.

As the afternoon gave way to dusk, I was nursing a pint of Clogwyn Gold from the Conwy Brewery at The George in Carneddi, near Bangor, currently the Gwynedd a Mon branch of CAMRA’s Community Pub of the Year.

It was a tiny, no-frills bar with cheese rolls on the bar, beers stains on the carpet and a queue of people for the pool table but, an early Saturday evening in spring, it was bustling with a mix of regulars and ale-trail day trippers.

Landlord Dewi Sion says: “I still believe that serving a proper pint of local ale in a proper pub can create a place where a community comes together.”

Read the full story coming soon in The Guardian.


Northwest hotel reviews for The Hotelegraph

Foodie escape: Northcote, near Preston, Lancs
Foodie escape: Northcote, near Preston, Lancs

I’ve seen a lot of hotel rooms in some 16 years of travel writing.

And I saw a whole lot more over the summer months on a journey that took me from a castle in North Wales to a country haven for foodies in rural Lancashire [pictured above].

The reason? Telegraph Travel has been beefing up its hotel coverage and I picked up a fair few of the reviews around the Northwest and North Wales.

The bulk were in Liverpool and have been appearing steadily — digital first, of course.

The home to the majestic, Unesco-listed waterfront offered a colourful range of properties from budget basics to a Titanic-themed hotel.

But the stand out place was a night at 2 Blackburne Terrace, a hidden-gem boutique guesthouse in the city’s Georgian district.

Here’s a sample of what I said about it:

Set in a late-Georgian townhouse, this is very much a bespoke experience with frissons of flamboyant design and theatrical flourishes from the hosts to foster a very personal ambiance.

And here some of the reviews.

2 Blackburne Terrace

30 James Street

Epic Apart Hotel

Doubletree by Hilton

Aloft Liverpool

For autumn I will be packing my reviewer’s notebook for Carmarthenshire and Hull.

Please drop me a line with any suggestions.

More from: The Hotelegraph.

The rocking horse


New year makes me nostalgic.

Not for new years gone by – I’ve not had a stand-out new year’s eve for years now.

Indeed, the last couple of years of have done little to inspire new-year cheer. I’m relieved in many ways, frankly, that 2013 has shuffled out the door at last.

But, as I take down the decorations and put out the detritus of the holidays for recycling, a nostalgia for childhood still brings a warm glow.

It’s a yearning, I guess, for a time when life was less complicated and new year was a time of purely innocent expectation.

The horsey in the playground at Rossett (pictured above), North Wales, still brings me that nostalgic glow.

I was back there again over the holidays with Maya and Olivia, working off some toddler energy after lunch in a nearby pub by pin-balling between the slide, the swings and the rocking horse.

I’m pretty sure this is the very same horse I used to clamber upon as a child when we lived nearby and used to visit the village for lunch with my granddad.

It looks, after all heavily weathered and probably hasn’t seen a lick of paint since the mid Seventies.

These days, my horse has become the preferred rocking horse for Maya and Olivia.

On a dark winter’s day, seeking signs of light as I gather my resources to square up to another year, something about passing on the innocent joy of Rossett’s stoic stallion still brings me a sense of comfort.

Times change but the horsey rides on.

How do you feel at the start of a new year? Post below.

Liked this? Try New Year Blessing.

An afternoon at RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve


It’s the last days of the summer holidays. A time when boredom thresholds plummet, nerves are frayed and emotions run high.

So, an afternoon of fresh air and wildlife watching at the RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve seemed a good plan for myself and Maya (pictured above and below). Besides, they were having a little do to showcase the changes at the reserve over the last year.

The Conwy Connections project has delivered an upgrade to facilities at the reserve in an attempt to attract new visitors – notably families.

There’s a new play area for kids, Y Maes, a central village square for picnics, and the LookOut, a new green-built indoor space for watching wildlife across the water to the saltmarsh.

Nature walk

We followed the boardwalk on a windy but bright late-sumer day, looping through the reedbed to the Tal-y-fin hide with views across to Conwy Castle.

Wild raspberries fringed the path and autumn migrating wildfowl from Scotland and Iceland put on a winged display as the hum of the nearby A55 faded into the background.

We took the Blue tit trail, circling back towards the Visitor Centre via the wildlife garden with its clumps of scented honeysuckle and fragrant lavender. On the way, we hunted frogs by the pond and uncovered minibeasts in the shrubs.

We’re back at school in a few days but, for now, we just breathed the fresh air and soaked up the last rays of summer-holidays sun.

Press launch

Back at the event, meanwhile, the flesh-pressing and speech-making was in full effect.

And Maya? She eschewed the lengthy presentation for the monkey bars, whizzed through the tour and made it to the marquee early to snaffle the best of the cake.

That’s my girl.


RSPB Conwy