Valle Crucis; another Welsh gem!

On a recent trip home through Wales we stopped off again in Llangollen. We had a day to spare, so we decided to go and visit Valle Crucis Abbey which is just up the road. The ruined abbey lies on the road to the Horseshoe Pass; another beautiful place to visit. It is also known more formally as The Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can get more information about the abbey’s history and architectural information Castle Wales website. Further reading and pictures can be found on Wikipaedia.

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The name Valle Crucis means Valley of the Cross; the ruins nestle in the valley under the hills surrounding Llangollen. We visited in October when the heather and the trees on the hills had already taken on that wonderful autumnal gold.

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The site is wonderfully maintained by Cadw. There is an entrance fee, but it is well worth it.
Valle Crucis is a breathtakingly haunting place to visit; the abbey was built by the Cistercian monks in 1207, but now  lies in ruins having been one of the monasteries affected by the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1537. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what Valle Crucis looks and feels like.

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There are some pathways to follow but a lot of the site is not paved so care might be needed on damp days; I went sliding on a grass bank because I wasn’t looking where I was going!

When you reach the rear of the site there is a duck pond – complete with ducks! These little guys were very active;there was a lot of chasing each other around the pond, and it was also very vocal. You could actually hear them way before you could see them.

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The small white house in the last picture has a little visitors centre. When you enter the building you can hear the chants of the monks, and there is even one writing at his desk. Okay, so he’s not real. but he did give me a start when I walked in the door.

08-DSCF2759It’s not too hard to imagine what it would have been like for those monks here in this Welsh valley all those years ago, as they spent their time in prayer and contemplation.

The stonework in the abbey is amazing; I often wonder when walking around sites like this how they ever managed to build them. This is a photo of the vaulted ceiling in one of the buildings.

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Here are a few more photos of the buildings. I don’t normally photo-shop my pictures, but I was trying to capture the stonework in the buildings.

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I love this place; it has that far from the maddening crowd’ feeling about it.
Next time you’re passing in the area, take an hour and go and visit.

Glynllifon Estate; a hidden gem in North Wales.

On one of our visits to Wales, we stayed near Caernarvon, and having a bit of time to spare, we decided we would visit Glynllifon.

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Glynllifon is an old estate that once belonged to Lord Newborough and can be found near the village of Llandwrog. As you drive from Caernarvon to Pwhelli on the A499, it lies on your left; you can’t miss the gateway….
The original Regency style mansion is now privately owned and run as a Country House Hotel and wedding venue. According to legend there have been settlements here for over 1000 years.

There are walks through the gardens, and there are wonderful buildings, ponds and even Redwood and Giant Red Cedar trees. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Every twist and turn in the path throws something new at you, it’s no wonder we took so long to get around it.

The first thing we came across was a lovely little waterfall and iron bridge.

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Just beyond it was an old boathouse and pond. It was so quiet and peaceful there.

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The water had wonderful reflections of the trees, bushes and buildings……..

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Thee pathway led through the woods and as we turned the corner we spotted the mansion itself, and the series of bridges in the lawns in front of it.

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Then it was back to the woodland walk; there are loads of interconnected pathways that weave their way through the woodlands. There are derelict buildings, covered in moss, and surrounded by ferns. I love the way the sunlight filtered through the overhead canopy…..

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The paths twist and turn; there are hidden caves and wonderful little streams that you cross back and forth over.

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Towards the end of the path is an amphitheater set into the hillside. I wonder what was staged there and who sat in the stone seats clapping?

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So we turned and headed back and passed this beautiful fountain; hard to spot where the water ended and the lawns began.

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And then we found the best wood carvings; it was a mother otter and her cub carved from a fallen tree. It was simply beautiful work!

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On the way out we stopped at the craft shop for a quick cuppa and a browse around; there’s lot’s of pieces made by local craft workers.

Another great place to visit.

Steam Back in Time……. Llangollen Railway.

Even in the 21st century, the modern day viking has to travel. That means an overnight (or two!) stop in some friendly and comfortable Bed & Breakfast we’ve booked into. When we’ve been out of Ireland, we regularly stop off in Llangollen in Wales. It makes an ideal break in the journey that lets us get a decent nights sleep and a ferry the following afternoon. We usually stop at ‘Squirrels’  run by Peter and Lillian. I cannot recommend this wonderful guest house highly enough; there is always the warmest welcome when you arrive, the rooms are beautifully presented and kept and there is probably the best guest house breakfast I’ve ever had!

Llangollen is a wonderful town with good restaurants and pubs to pass the time in; it also has a lot of places for people to visit. On one of our stopovers last year we decided to spend some time on the Llangollen Steam Railway – vikings on a train!!!
You pass the station on the short walk from ‘Squirrels’ to the town centre and we’d often said that we should try it out; so finally we did!

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This was one of the best ideas we’d ever had; the ticket covers you for a full day. A whole day on a train line that runs for just seven and a half miles – you have got to be kidding; but we bought the ticket…… and spent nearly the whole day there!

The railway runs steam, diesel and railway cars from the station in Llangollen to the end point in Carrog. You can check the timetable to see what train runs at what time. We wanted to do the steam train journey as we had been on them as a kids and hadn’t been on one in a while. We had a chance to wander round the station for a bit before the train left. It’s like stepping back in time with the train blowing steam, the old trolleys and gas lamps.

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You can get up close and personal with these trains, and the drivers are very informative about them; what they are, where they came from and what they do! You’d almost want to get into the cab and drive it off………..

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The carriages are just as I remember the old steam trains to be!!

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There are several stops along the way where you can disembark and take a walk and then catch the next train that passes. The views along the way are spectacular; it really was a great way to just unwind, relax and be. The Dee Valley is a beautiful place……….

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You even get to go through a tunnel; I think I said to Bob that there was a one coming up and we should shut the windows; he seemed to not notice my comment, and all of a sudden there was black smoke from the engine blowing in through the open window!! He moved pretty quickly to get it shut! Look closely and you can see him. Trust me, there was a lot of smoke..

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At Carrog, there is a wonderful pub that serves food called the The Grouse’, where you can sit  and relax as you watch life in the Dee valley.

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The cattle were very entertaining; there was a family that had gone for a picnic in the cattle field. Being the inquisitive creatures they are, the cattle kept coming over to visit…… I think you can imagine the scene.; it was like watching them play tag!

And after that chill-out time, we headed back. The trains have to turn around to take us home; it’s quite a sight to see these old steam trains in all their glory in this beautiful place.

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Great way to spend a day,  and we finished it as any good viking would do in the pub; slainte!