Due to the geography of Wales, one has to take the train back into England and then north again. Four hours later, after stops in Newport and Holyhead, my train stopped in Llandudno Junction.
From the Victorian seaside resort town of Llandudno, one can see the stunning 14th century castle that crowns the medieval town of Conwy across the river. Due to the fact that trains do not often stop right in Conwy, travelers are known to cross the long bridge and walk into Conwy.
It just so happened that my hostel–Conwy Youth Hostel–was a fair walk across the bridge, past the castle, through the town and up the hillside. If I were ever to go back to Conwy–easily one of my favourite stops on my trip–I would find a hotel right in the city centre.
A combination of getting into town late and then walking for close to an hour back and forth from the hostel–darned check in time–almost made me miss my one opportunity to visit Conwy Castle.
I rushed down to the gates and learned that I still had an hour and a half–more than enough time to visit the castle. Conwy Castle is truly an incredible sight; built by Edward I to subjugate the Welsh in the 13th century.
I walked up every staircase, peered out of each and every one of the towers, but I was careful to make sure there weren’t any mannequins. I’m strangely terrified of mannequins.
Once finished at the Castle, I ate supper at the Royal George pub in town, a medieval inn and pub. Polishing off a steak pie with a nice dark English ale is a great way to finish the day.
Stepping out of the pub, a drunk Scotsman pointed out the medieval walls to me and showed me where I could climb up onto the ramparts. He was very proud of the walls, but was quite adament that Conwy was still an English town, because of its deep rooted English connections to Edward I.
When the city was built, Conwy was incredibly important because even if the Welsh were to attack, the English could quickly restock their towns due to the close proximity of the river port.
I didn’t have the heart to tell the Scotsman that I had already found his not so secret staircase up onto the walls. Taking a different route up onto the walls, I made my way to the ancient guard house where I had a majestic view of both the fortress and the river.
Although the hostel was clean and quiet, it was mainly for senior travelers and I spent the evening watching a TV special on the creation of laundry soap, voiced over by a dull English bloke.
After walking all day long, my feet were sore and I never got the chance to see the medieval castle lit up at night. Instead, I listened to awkward ghost stories told by a man from Liverpool. Once again, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had no idea what he was talking about.
The next day, I hopped aboard a train to the medieval town of Caernarvon where the Princes of Wales have been crowned for centuries.
The castle was foreboding and I enjoyed being able to walk through the old covered halls, loved the courtyards and the wind on the highest towers. An elderly Scottish man gave me a candy when I told him I was going to Rosslyn Chapel.
He told me he used to enjoy going to the chapel outside Edinburgh as a kid and loved the old Grail stories. He must have been a wizened Grail hunter who was trying to pass his legacy onto me. Game on old man!
On a tour of the city itself, all of the hospice care centres and closed up shops depressed me. While the castle is incredible, I found there wasn’t much to see in the village of Caernarvon.
Back in Conwy, I walked down by the docks and then under each one of the town gates, north, west, east and south, just to see what I could find. For supper, I went back to the Royal George. I did not know that I would be stepping into one of the strangest nights of my life.