North Wales in a weekend: history

This blog mini series gives readers ideas of things to see and do on a weekend in North Wales. This month we're uncovering Welsh history.

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Well-connected and easily accessible from across the UK and beyond, North Wales is the ideal place for a weekend getaway to explore the spectacular landscapes, escape everyday stresses and head out on an adventure.

History buffs will be in their element here, with myriad castles, forts, ruins, stately homes and historic landmarks to discover, all tied up in ancient folklore and fascinating tales. With so much to explore there’s no shortage of excursions to fill your time here. In this week’s blog we visit two of our favourite historic landmarks, the ultimate heritage weekend in North Wales.

Saturday – The Great Orme, Llandudno

Head out today on a drive which takes you from the rugged mountain landscape of Llanberis to the North Wales coast. Llandudno is one of the UK’s favourite seaside resorts, with a grand Victorian promenade, top shopping venues, a range of wonderful eateries and plenty to explore. The drive takes around forty minutes, along the A55 expressway, with wonderful views of Anglesey along the way.

Those interested in historic literature will enjoy following the trail of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-inspired wooden statues scattered across the town, while those interested in military history should head for the Home Front Museum just off Chapel Street in the town centre.

But for a truly unique day out, visit the Great Orme Copper Mines. In 2013, the mines were recognised by Guinness World Records for being the largest Bronze Age copper mines in the world. The ancient mines date back an incredible 3,500 years or more, and their discovery was a breakthrough for historians studying Bronze Age and British history. Before they were discovered, historians believed there was no copper mining in Britain at all during the Bronze Age. In fact, so important a discover were they, that they were labelled the “Stonehenge of copper mining” by Professor Alan Williams of the University of Liverpool. The mines were uncovered during a project to landscape part of the Great Orme, the magnificent limestone headland that overlooks Llandudno.

Around eight kilometres of tunnels run as deep as 70 metres – a huge area of copper ore deep inside the Orme. Testing has revealed that during a ‘golden age’ of mining, the Orme was providing the bulk of Britain’s copper, and traces of it have even been found in historic artefacts across Europe.

Today, visitors can walk through the mines and genuinely feel like they have stepped back in time. You’ll understand the scary and inhospitable conditions endured by miners and truly understand the scale of their undertaking. Walk the mine on a self-guided tour, which gives ample time to wander and explore. There are pathways that transport you across the mine’s surface, and you’ll be able to view the opencast mine, which was actually mined over 4,000 years ago, plus take a closer look at an amazing 145-metre Victorian shaft. The excellent Visitor Centre showcases a selection of Bronze Age tools and artefacts, and offers plenty to satisfy any historian’s curiosity.

After working up an appetite exploring the mines there is a huge range of restaurants and cafes to visit around Llandudno before heading back to the hotel. As you’re at the seaside, why not treat yourself to an ice cream? Forte’s of Llandudno and The Looking Glass offer a tempting range of flavours and desserts for those of you with a sweet tooth!

Sunday – Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon

After a trip to the seaside yesterday, you might fancy staying a little closer to the hotel today. Luckily, we’re surrounded by world-class attractions, including some spectacular castles. One of the most impressive, Caernarfon Castle, is just a twenty-minute drive away from the hotel and offers a superb day out that will captivate even the most casual history buff.

The engineers of King Edward I began building Caernarfon Castle in the 1280s, as part of an ‘Iron Ring’ of castles designed to intimidate and subdue the native Welsh people. It was a grandiose show of wealth and power, and resulted in one of the world’s most impressive medieval structures.

To bring Caernarfon to life Edward hired Master James of St George, a pioneering architect responsible for the design of several of the king’s castles. Caernarfon’s distinct design comprises colossal walls, octagonal towers, six portcullises and a range of defence mechanisms including murder holes and arrow slits.

You’ll be wowed by the castle’s magnitude as you approach; the structure sits in an enviable position on the Afon Seiont, towering over the charming town of Caernarfon. Visitors can spend hours here roaming the castle’s walls and spaces. The climb to the top of the Eagle Tower rewards with spectacular bird’s-eye views over the town. Back at ground level, stand on the spot where HRH Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales back in 1969 – a royal tradition started by his ancestor Kind Edward right here in Caernarfon. Afterwards, spend some time at the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, housed in aNorth Wales in a weekend: history castle tower. It presents a fascinating history of our national regiment, from its creation in the seventeenth century to present day.

There are plenty of places to stop to refuel around the castle before heading back to the Royal Victoria. Treat yourself to something sweet at Scoops Artisan Ice Cream, enjoy a drink or two at the historic (and, reputedly, very haunted) Black Boy Inn or sample superb Welsh fusion food at Ty Castell on the high street.

Of course, there are plenty of other historic landmarks and things to do all around the North Wales area. Get in touch with our friendly team for first-hand insight and plenty of personal recommendations on how to spend your time here.

The Royal Victoria Hotel’s range of rooms and superb dining makes for the perfect base for historic adventures in North Wales. For the best prices, book your stay direct with the hotel.