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A Guide Through the History, Nature, and Coastal Beauty of North Wales

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The land of North Wales nestled within the folds of the United Kingdom is a land of mystery and intrigue. It has epic landscapes, a rich history, fascinating villages, stunning castles, and one of Europe’s oldest languages. 

If you are planning a trip to North Wales or have it on your bucket list, this article is meant for you. In this explorative guide, we’ll seek to unravel the mystery that is North Wales. Join us as we embark on this insightful and vivid journey. But first, let’s explore a little history of North Wales and what makes this land and its people so intriguing. 

A Resilient History and Culture of North Wales 

North Wales or “Gogledd Cymru,” is a region that is rich with history and culture. Within this area unfolds a narrative that encapsulates the richness of time and culture that has gone through North Wales. This region is cradled by the Irish Sea, forming a mosaic of mountains, waterfalls, and trails. The illustrious Snowdonia National Park sits at its heart.

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The people of North Wales also referred to as “Gogs” are connected to the “Gwynedd,” one of the last independent Welsh kingdoms. In contrast, their southern counterparts are referred to as the “Hwntws”. The Principality descended from the Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys, following the end of Roman hegemony. 

The “Gwynedd” passed down a distinctive Welsh identity that has been well-preserved to date. The region stood firm amid the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons and kept resisting until the Principality of Wales was formed. That old Welsh resilience is symbolized by the mighty Snowdonia. 

Visiting any of the North Wales cities such as Wrexham, Bangor, and St Asaph paints a rich historical canvas with diverse hues. North Wales also plays home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal, both of which echo the genius of Welsh engineering. Along the Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales lies tales of industrial prowess. 

Besides picturesque towns, North Wales holds the distinction of having the most castles per square mile on Earth. Edwardian castles found at Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy, and Harlech stand as testaments to medieval grandeur. North Wales together with the regions of Powys and Ceredigion plays host to the Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Add These Destinations to Your Travel Bucket List in North Wales

North Wales is everything you’d want on a visit to an ancient, nearly mythical land. It packs the perfect blend of nature, beaches, culture, history, and a generally welcoming people. That’s everything you need to start planning your trip immediately. 

Let’s dive into these magical places you need to visit on your trip to North Wales.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (pronounced Pont – ker – sulth – tay) is a testament to the engineering ingenuity of the Welsh. This remarkable aqueduct is the longest and highest in Britain. It carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee, connecting two countries. 

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire system consists of embankments, tunnels, viaducts, and aqueducts. The entire length of the structure has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument of National Importance. 

For your day out, you can go on a canoe trip for hours as you enjoy the surrounding landscape. There are some excellent spots around the aqueduct where you can enjoy a picnic with your friends and loved ones. 

Llangollen and Castell Dinas Bran 

As you move towards the south, you’ll come into the charming town of Llangollen. Here, you’ll enjoy panoramic views whether you are walking along the river, or climbing up the surrounding hills. 

Atop one of these hills is the Dinas Bran Castle, a magnificent ruined castle. Despite the steep climb, rest assured that the challenge at the top will, be worth it. 

Llandudno

Llandudno is a scenic seaside resort sitting on your way to the North Coast. Llandudno is one of the most popular Welsh resort towns. Here, you can walk the promenade, a pier, or ride the cable car to the Great Orme.

Conwy

Conwy, with its medieval castle and well-preserved walls, is a journey back in time. Built by King Edward I in the 13th century, Conwy Castle stands as a formidable fortress. With its climbing its towers and wandering historic streets, one becomes immersed in the rich tapestry of Welsh history. 

Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a whimsical village designed in the style of an Italian village. This unique marvel stands as a colorful testament to the creative vision of its architect, Clough Williams-Ellis. 

A little southward, we find Harlech Castle, perched on a rocky hill. Here, you’ll get panoramic views of the sea and Snowdonia’s majestic mountains.

Black Rock Sands and Caernarfon

The coastal walk to Black Rock Sands unveils the beauty of the Welsh coastline. Continuing our journey northward, the town of Caernarfon stands proud of its medieval majesty. Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward I, is an imposing fortress, boasting towers, walls, and historic streets.

Anglesey Crossing and Beaumaris Castle

As you cross over to Anglesey via the Menai Suspension Bridge and Britannia Bridge, you come to the quirky town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. That mouthful is one of the longest town names in the world. 

Beaumaris Castle with its unfinished appearance, leaves an indelible mark. Built by Edward I, it eases seamlessly into the surrounding picturesque landscape. 

Ynys Llanddwyn and Parys Mountain

Off the coast of Anglesey lies Ynys Llanddwyn, an island connected by a sandy beach. This is a destination for the romantic, with a chapel dedicated to Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. 

Moving toward the tip of Anglesey, Parys Mountain presents an otherworldly landscape. Here, you’ll come across the remnants of a once-thriving copper mine. The colorful rocks, craters, and pools create an alien beauty that captivates the imagination.

Snowdonia-Eryi National Park

Snowdonia is a mountainous National Park spanning over 800 square miles. The Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, and England by extension. Here, you will enter a realm of majestic peaks and natural wonders.

Snowdonia is quite sizeable and packs a variety of different places that are all exciting to visit. Let’s explore these places one by one. 

Swallow Falls and Betws-y-Coed

West of Snowdonia lies Swallow Falls, a breathtaking cascade and one of Wales’ most visited natural attractions. Just a stone’s throw away lies Betws-y-Coed. This is a charming village surrounded by forests, rivers, and waterfalls, offering a tranquil retreat into nature.

Snowdon and the Challenge of Tryfan

Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and England, stands as the most iconic landmark in North Wales. If you choose the ascent, the direct Pig Track or the more adventurous Watkin Path both offer climbers breathtaking views. For the more daring, the north ridge of Tryfan presents a challenging scramble. With Tryfan, you will get an adrenaline-pumping experience and panoramic vistas of the valley below.

Beddgelert’s Legends and Penrhyn Castle

In the heart of Snowdonia, the village of Beddgelert holds legendary tales of a faithful dog. Visitors can pay homage at the grave of Gelert, the heroic hound. Nearby is the iconic Penrhyn Castle. This a 19th-century neo-Norman masterpiece surrounded by walled gardens with fountains. From the castle, you can see views of Swnowdnoia’s summits, the Great Orme, and Puffin Island.

Llanberis and the Industrial Heritage of Dinorwic Slate Quarry

Our journey through Snowdonia continues to Llanberis. This is where the National Slate Museum holds the history of the slate industry in North Wales. The Dinorwic Slate Quarry is an industrial heritage gem. Here you’ll find remnants of its past glory with old buildings, machinery, and railways. 

Set against the granite formations, you’ll catch glimpses of the industrial past of the area. Below the main mining area, you’ll see rows of barracks that have been ruined by time. You’ll also see the machines that were used in the quarry options, providing both a fun and educational experience. 

Llyn Padarn

Llyn Padarn, with its Lonely Tree, is one of the most photographed spots in Snowdonia. it encapsulates the tranquility of the region. Nearby, you’ll find the historical treasures of Penrhyn Castle and the dramatic landscape of Dinorwic Quarry. Both of these we’ve covered above. 

Porthmadog 

Porthmadog is a coastal town with a picturesque harbor. This is a great place to explore especially if you’d prefer your trip to be near the coast. Porthmadog provides access to unique coastal walks, and you’ll get to enjoy the sea against the Snowdonia backdrop.

Bon Voyage

Hopefully, you enjoyed that enthralling mental journey through the enchanting land of North Wales. As you plan your visit here, you should expect to come across rich history, a lifetime of nature, and a rich tapestry of history and culture. 

From beautiful medieval castles and industrial remnants to the enchanting Snowdonia, North Wales is the ideal destination for the intrepid traveler. Bon voyage!

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Charity

Fishguard RNLI celebrates first female Coxswain in Wales, as charity marks 200th year 

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ON MONDAY, March 4, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will celebrate 200 years of saving lives at sea. Fishguard RNLI Lifeboat Station is celebrating being both the oldest lifeboat station in Wales, as well as being the first Welsh station to have a female Coxswain. 

On the day the charity turns 200, the RNLI is revealing its volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards in west Wales have saved an incredible 3,891 lives during its two centuries of lifesaving.  

Since the charity was founded in 1824, its volunteer crews in west Wales have launched the lifeboats 14,872 times, saving 3,776 lives, while its lifeguards – who became part of the RNLI’s lifesaving service in 2001 – have responded to 8,865 incidents, saving 115 lives*.  In total across the UK and Ireland, 146,452 lives have been saved by the RNLI – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.  

Since 1824, the four lifeboat stations in Ceredigion have launched 4,848 times and saved 1,238 lives. In Pembrokeshire, the five stations have launched 8,563 times and saved 2,395 lives. Burry Port station in Carmarthenshire has launched 1,461 times and has saved 143 lives.  

Fishguard Lifeboat Station on the far west coast of Pembrokeshire was the first lifeboat station to be established in Wales. Originally established in 1822, Fishguard’s first lifeboat was built by locals. In 1855, local inhabitants requested that the RNLI take over the station. 

The station has also made RNLI history by being the first station in Wales to appoint a female Coxswain – Gemma Gill. Gemma has recently passed out as Coxswain and is thoroughly enjoying her new role.  

Gemma joined the RNLI in 2001 serving as a volunteer for North Berwick and Aberystwyth RNLI before becoming a full-time staff member.  

Gemma said:  ‘The first person to take me to sea on a lifeboat was a woman called Rhona, and she told me “don’t let other people decide what you’re capable of,” which has always stuck with me. 

‘While I believe it’s a matter of skills and experience rather than gender, I recognise the significance of this milestone. 

‘We’ve come a long way from the image of a lifeboatman in his oilskins, and, as the first woman to become an RNLI coxswain in Wales, I hope to inspire other women and girls to join the lifeboat crew.’ 

Although not officially part of the early lifeboat crews, women have always played an active role in the work of the RNLI, from the ‘lady launchers’ who played key roles at lifeboat stations assisting in the launching and recovery of vessels, to fundraisers such as Marion Macara who helped to organise the first recorded charity street collection in Manchester in 1891.  

Throughout its history, Fishguard lifeboat station has been awarded 28 medals. One gold, 18 silver and nine bronze. Today the station operates a D-class inshore lifeboat Edward Arthur Richardson as well as a Trent class Blue Peter VII.   

While much has changed in 200 years, two things have remained the same – the charity’s dependence on volunteers, who give their time and commitment to save others, and the voluntary contributions from the public which have funded the service for the past two centuries.  

Jo Partner, RNLI Head of Region for Wales says:  ‘I am immensely grateful to everyone who is involved with the charity across Wales – our volunteers, supporters and staff. Today is a hugely significant day in our history and an occasion we should all be very proud of. I know there are lots of events being planned across Wales to mark this very special day and I hope people enjoy being part of this special piece of history.   

 ‘I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who play a part in making the RNLI the proud organisation is it today – which really is a cause for celebration.’   

RNLI Heritage Archive and Research Manager, Hayley Whiting, says: ‘The RNLI’s founder, Sir William Hillary, witnessed the treacherous nature of the sea first-hand when living on the Isle of Man and he wanted to take action. His first appeal to the nation in 1823 did not have the desired result but, thankfully, he persevered and gained the support of several philanthropic members of society, who put their names to the charity at a meeting in the City of London Tavern on 4 March 1824.  

‘Twelve resolutions were passed at that meeting, the core of which still stand as part of the RNLI’s Charter 200 years later. This shows how the RNLI’s values and purpose have remained unwavering for 200 years, despite the social and economic changes and challenges of the past two centuries.  

‘Hillary’s vision was ambitious and forward-thinking, and no doubt he would be extremely proud to see the charity he founded still going strong today, and to see how much it has achieved.’ 

The charity has a history of innovation, and adapting to challenging circumstances, such as: 

Lifejackets: In 1861, Whitby lifeboat crew launched six times to rescue stricken vessels in a storm, but on their sixth launch a freak wave capsized the lifeboat and all but one of the crew were lost. The sole survivor was Henry Freeman, who survived because he was wearing a new design of cork lifejacket. After this event, the cork lifejacket became more widely adopted by lifeboat crews.  

Fundraising: In 1886, 27 lifeboat crew members from Southport and St Annes lost their lives while trying to rescue the crew of the Mexico. A public appeal was launched, driven by local man Charles Macara. An 1891 appeal raised £10,000 in two weeks. On 1 October, Charles and his wife Marion organised the first Lifeboat Saturday. Bands, floats and lifeboats paraded through the streets of Manchester, followed by volunteers collecting money. More than £5,000 was taken on the day, which was the first recorded example of a charity street collection. 

Lifeboats: In 1914, over 140 people were saved when the hospital steamship Rohilla was wrecked. The ship had been en route to Dunkirk to help wounded soldiers but was broken up when it ran aground on rocks near Whitby.  Five lifeboats battled terrible seas to reach the ship.  A motor lifeboat (the first of its kind) from Tynemouth, took the last 50 people on board. In total, 144 people were saved by the crews, who worked for over 50 hours in atrocious conditions. The motor lifeboat proved its capabilities and became more widely accepted by lifeboat crews after this event.  

Wartime: When the First World War broke out, many lifeboat volunteers were called away to fight. The average age of lifeboat crews at home increased to over 50. During 1914-18, RNLI lifeboats launched 1,808 times, saving 5,332 lives.  In 1939, young lifeboat volunteers were called away again to war. By the end of the Second World War, RNLI crews had saved 6,376 lives around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.  

In 1940, 19 RNLI lifeboats were used to evacuate troops from Dunkirk. Two had RNLI crews onboard, while the others were crewed by the Royal Navy. The lifeboats and their stand-in crews saved thousands of lives while being shelled and bombed for days.  

Throughout its bicentenary year, the charity is running events and activities to remember its important history and celebrate the modern lifesaving service it is today, while hoping to inspire generations of future lifesavers and supporters.   

A Service of Thanksgiving to mark 200 years of the RNLI will take place at Westminster Abbey on 4 March 2024 at 11.30am. It will be attended by representatives from RNLI lifesaving communities around the UK and Ireland.  

For further information about the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, visit RNLI.org/200

*Statistics from RNLI Operational Data from 4 March 1824 to 31 December 2023 inclusive. A life saved shows how many of the people helped by the RNLI would have lost their life had the RNLI not been there.  

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News

Unwelcome Caller: Pembrokeshire’s looming Council Tax dilemma

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AS WE HAVE reported, Pembrokeshire County Council faces a contentious decision as it considers a recommended inflation-busting 16% increase in council tax to balance its budget.

Councillor Mike Stoddart, known for his critical blog posts as ‘Old Grumpy,’ is voicing strong opposition to the proposed hike, highlighting the intricate challenges and pressures facing the council in these financially strained times.

The recommendation for this substantial increase comes as the council grapples with a tight financial situation, prompting a series of budget-setting seminars aimed at aligning council members on the path forward. Stoddart, who previously voted against last year’s 7.5% increase, remains a staunch opponent, citing a lack of compelling justification for the new rate and expressing concerns over the methods used to secure consensus among council members.

The crux of Stoddart’s argument lies in the perceived manipulation of council members through what he describes as ‘psyops’—psychological operations—intended to sway their votes in favour of the budget proposals. He criticises the shift from informative seminars on local government finance to pressure-laden presentations forecasting dire consequences should the council fail to approve the tax increase. This, according to Stoddart, transforms a complex decision into a dichotomy of distributing “pain” between taxpayers and service users, a decision he argues should remain in the political realm, subject to public scrutiny and debate.

Adding to the complexity are communications from the council’s finance chiefs, setting strict guidelines for proposing alternative budgets. These guidelines effectively place a veto power in the hands of the s151 officer, the council’s finance chief, over any alternative budget proposals. This move has sparked concerns over the democratic process within the council, with Stoddart highlighting the inherent conflict of interest in having one’s proposals judged by an officer whose original budget they aim to challenge.

The narrative took a more dramatic turn with the involvement of Max Caller CBE, a figure introduced to underscore the grave consequences of failing to set a balanced budget. Stoddart’s recounting of Caller’s seminar paints a picture of stark warnings against the backdrop of potential misconduct charges, a tactic Stoddart views as fearmongering designed to quell dissent.

Despite the pressures, Stoddart’s resolve remains unshaken. The veteran councillor is calling for greater transparency and accountability, suggesting that recordings of key seminars be made public to allow constituents a clearer understanding of the deliberations leading up to the budget decision.

His stance reflects a broader concern for democratic integrity within the council.

You can read ‘OLD GRUMPY’ by clicking HERE.

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Health

Senior doctors in Wales vote to strike over pay

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  • A 48 hour strike will take place from Tuesday 16 April

CONSULTANTS and SAS (specialist, associate specialist, and speciality) doctors have voted to strike as part of a dispute with the Welsh Government over their pay, which has been cut by almost a third in real terms since 2008/9.

The results of the ballots, which ended at midday today (Monday 4 March), for doctors working in both branches of practice in Wales saw 86% of consultant voters and 94% SAS doctor voters cast their ballots in favour of industrial action.

A significant 70% of consultants and 58% SAS doctors eligible to vote in Wales had responded to a call to take part in industrial action which will take place from Tuesday 16 April.

Consultant and SAS doctors make up over half (54%) of the hospital-based medical workforce combined, with 3,137 Consultants and 1,088 SAS doctors working in hospitals across Wales. *

The BMA is now calling on all consultants and SAS doctors in Wales to participate in a 48 hour strike, except for those providing ‘Christmas day’ cover.

This level of cover will ensure doctors can provide emergency care, but all elective or non-emergency work will be postponed during this period.

BMA Cymru Wales is working with NHS employers on precise staffing levels that are appropriate and will provide guidance to members in advance of any strike days.   

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of the BMA’s consultants committee in Wales, said: 

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision. No doctor wants to strike, but the conditions now faced in the workplace caused by the extreme pressures on the service and unsafe staffing levels have left doctors with no choice.   

“Fewer doctors now want to develop their careers in Wales with some health boards reporting vacancy rates of over third for senior doctor posts.  

“Colleagues are now choosing to retire early, reduce their hours or move out of Wales where pay is competitive, and wards better staffed. 

“Unless doctors are better valued for the work they do, more and more doctors will leave an NHS already under severe pressure in Wales”. 

Dr Julie Jones, Deputy chair of the BMA’s SAS doctors committee in Wales added: “Doctors are burning out from covering significant gaps in the workforce and patient safety is at risk. With this result our members have chosen to take a stand for the profession and for patients.

“People are waiting for treatment for longer than ever before, resulting in poorer outcomes and more time in the hospital and we all deserve better.

“This result represents a profession that is not ready to give up on the NHS and its patients in Wales”.

The decision to ballot members was taken after the BMA rejected the Welsh Government’s first and final pay offer for the 2023/24 financial year for those working in secondary care.

For consultants and SAS doctors on closed contracts the offer was 5%; SAS doctors on more recent contracts received as little as 2.5%. This final offer left BMA Cymru Wales with no choice but to enter a trade dispute and ballot for strike action.  

Over the last 15 years, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of almost a third since 2008/9. They received another sub-inflationary pay offer from the Welsh Government for 2023/24 which is below the recommendation made by the DDRB and is the worst offer in the UK. 

The BMA is calling on the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding to enable discussions around an uplift in senior doctor pay that will retain existing doctors and ensure that we are able to recruit more.

Consultant and SAS doctor strike action will take place from 7am, Tuesday 16 April to 7am, Thursday 18 April.

Junior doctors in Wales will begin their third round of strike action a 96-hour full walkout from 7am Monday 25 March in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service**

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