Propose like Gatsby
The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and vintage and fine jewellery specialist Kayes have got together to offer romantic young men with marriage in mind the chance to make their proposal as magical as a scene from The Great Gatsby, with an exquisite vintage ring served in a champagne cocktail.
Imagine the scene: a Rolls Royce Phantom drops you off at The Chester Grosvenor, where you check into your Master Suite to find waiting a beautiful hand tied posy, a box of handmade chocolates and a bottle of cold Champagne.
While you distract your fiancée to be with a manicure at the award-winning Grosvenor Spa (making her hands worthy of the ring you’ll be giving her), you take a short walk through Chester’s rows to Kayes, in whose elegant surroundings you'll find a wealth of original vintage diamond engagement rings. Once you've chosen, Kayes will aim to have the ring tailored to fit and delivered in time to The Chester Grosvenor for the ultimate proposal.
As evening approaches, you’ll escort your fiancée to be to the Arkle Bar, where a champagne cocktail will appear for her served from a silver tray. When your loved one looks down on to the tray, she’ll find the stunning engagement ring and your perfect proposal will be complete.
Afterwards you will celebrate in style at Michelin star restaurant Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, enjoying a three course meal from the a la carte menu.
Price £960 per couple, subject to availability, ring not included. For more information visit www.chestergrosvenor.com or call 01244 324024
You don't want to be accused of being a Bridezilla, but you do know exactly how you want every last detail of your wedding to be... in which case, Brookhouse Mill is the venue for you.
'Our marquees are a blank canvas,' says proprietor Karen Hall, 'so the bride and groom can put their own, totally personal stamp on it. There's a definite trend for creativity in weddings these days, with brides wanting to make their day completely unique and individual, and we have no stipulations on what can and can't be done in one of our marquees.'
The other advantage of a marquee from Brookhouse is the space. 'You can get all your guests under one roof together which is great, especially if you're planning a big wedding,' says Karen.
But even though with a Brookhouse marquee you'll have carte blanche to decorate it and do with it you want, you'll have plenty of support to help you do it. Karen and her team will be there to help and organise everything to make sure your day goes smoothly.
'I can be as involved as the couple would like,' says Karen. 'For instance, perhaps the mother of the bride is an expert at floral art and is going to organise all the flowers - then we will assist her in every way we can. It's your wedding the way you want it, and we're here to help you from our first meeting to the first dance.'
For more information visit www.brookhousemill.co.uk or call 01745 813377
Push the boat out
If the idea of celebrating your marriage while cruising along the lovely River Dee really floats your boat, why not charter a trip with Chester Boat for your wedding reception. Luxury showboats Lady Diana and Mark Twain can accommodate between 40 and 120 guests, with catering provided, whether you want simple canapes or a full formal dinner for all.
The boat and landing stage can be decorated to fit in with your wedding theme, and will certainly provide a pretty and interesting setting for your wedding photos. The boats are available for day or night hire, for between two and four hours.
Chester Boat also cater for hen parties, offering a three-hour cruise on the theme of Mamma Mia or a 60s, 70s and 80s retro disco night, with a barbecue, live DJ and well-stocked bar.
For more information visit chesterboat.co.uk or call 01244 325394
Get your marriage off to a moving start at Llangollen! The Steam Railway is licensed for weddings and civil ceremonies, offering a unique venue for couples who are looking for a small, intimate ceremony and a relaxing experience for their guests.
Your wedding ceremony will take place in the Henry Robertson Suite, which seats up to 64 people, and you'll also have exclusive use of the footbridge above the railway for the duration of your ceremony until you board your train.
You then start your married life sitting back and relaxing with your guests in your exclusive carriage, decorated for the occasion with white linen tablecloths, where you'll enjoy your chosen wedding breakfast. During your journey all your needs will be taken care of by the railway's onboard staff.
The railway has a choice of two menus or will try to accommodate requests where possible. Bespoke packages can be arranged subject to availability
For a Wedding Brochure for 2014 visit www.llangollen-railway.co.uk or call 01978 860979
Let somebody else deal with all the stresses and strains of organising your wedding, leaving you free to enjoy your engagement. The team at Llyndir Hall Hotel and Spa at Rossett near Chester have an unrivalled reputation for providing the very best wedding celebrations, including fabulous photo opportunities, exquisite food and a beautifully designed wedding suite.
There are a number of wedding packages to choose from, including Classic, Executive and Superior. All include exclusive use of the Llyndir Suite and Conservatory, and use of the beautiful landscaped gardens and Italian terrace. You'll receive a red carpet welcome, with champagne for the bride and groom, and the hotel's event manager will act as your dedicated toastmaster.
With beautifully laid and decorated tables underneath elevated candelabras, Llyndir Hall's reception room is perfect for your reception. The resident DJ will entertain guests and at the end of the evening the happy couple can retire to their complimentary four-poster suite.
The packages also include complimentary upgrades to executive bedrooms for parents, and discounted accommodation rates for friends and family.
To find out more about Llyndir Hall's wedding services, visit www.bestwestern.co.uk or call 01244 571648
In the lap of luxury
For a truly special wedding, why not rent your own country house, set in its own landscaped gardens within the Snowdonia National Park? Plas Gwynfryn is a stunning, privately owned five-bedroom Welsh mansion near Harlech in north Wales – and it is licensed to hold civil ceremonies or partnerships.
Plas Gwynfryn is hired on an exclusive-use basis, and there's a choice of three beautiful rooms or an open air veranda for your ceremony, so you can choose the location that best suits your requirements and set the theme you want.
The house can sleep up to 14 guests, with five beautifully designed bedrooms, so it's perfect for a wedding party, and offers complete privacy for your group. For your wedding breakfast Plas Gwynfryn can accommodate up to 40 guests for a formal seated meal, or up to 100 guests for informal dining or an evening reception. With prior permission it is possible to erect a marquee on the lawn to accommodate a formal meal for more than 40 guests.
For more information visit www.plasgwynfryn.co.uk or call 01341 241 363
Rossett Hall Hotel is a Grade II listed Georgian manor house in the village of Rossett, near Wrexham, north Wales. The hotel offers an idyllic setting for your wedding day, combining Georgian grandeur and charm with all the amenities and comforts you would expect from a modern hotel.
With a wedding co-ordinator and a team of wedding specialists on hand, the hotel is dedicated to ensuring that your special day fulfils all your dreams and aspirations. The team will help you through all the stages of planning your wedding and can offer a number of wedding packages to suit your needs.
Business development manager Tracy Elliott says: 'This is your special day and you must have the wedding of your dreams. We listen to you, take your ideas and aspirations and create your perfect day. It's our privilege to help you celebrate with the personal service we pride ourselves on.'
The hotel sits in its own quiet grounds, offering a secluded and tranquil location, and has its own private bar and lounge, an elegant reception room with sun terrace and a grand stone staircase leading to the opulent bridal suite which has its own private lounge and a luxurious master bedroom. There is also accommodation for your guests.
For more information visit www.rossetthallhotel.co.uk or call 01244 571000.
Shooters Hill Hall is a gracious and elegant Regency house built in 1822 and set in beautiful Shropshire parkland and woods near Shrewsbury.
Designed intentionally as an exclusive venue for weddings and events, the Hall sleeps 10, with the luxurious accommodation including a bridal suite with dressing room and spa bath. The Hall is owned by Richard and Ishbel MacInnes-Manby and their sons Kit and Guy - and the whole family has a background in hospitality and interior design. Richard and Ishbel live in a separate wing of the hall, so there is always someone discreetly in the background to make sure everything runs smoothly on your day.
The Hall is licensed for civil ceremonies, so you can have your wedding and reception at one venue, and the grounds can accommodate marquees for from 40 to 200 guests.
Richard and Ishbel will help you to organise and plan your perfect wedding at Shooters Hill Hall, so you can relax and enjoy your special day without a care in the world.
For more information visit www.shooterhshillhall.co.uk or call 07917 445560.
Feels like heaven
Proprietor of Heavenly Brides and Belles Suzanne Heavens loves her job. 'I set up this shop for the love of the industry - I'm very passionate about it, I think it's a fun industry to be in,' she says. 'And I love hearing about brides' wedding plans!'
Since opening the shop in the Pride Hill Shopping Centre in Shrewsbury 18 months ago, where she started out selling ex-display/discontinued wedding dresses, bridesmaids and evening wear, Suzanne has progressed into selling more bridal wear and accessories and has become a stockist for Lincoln based designer Brides by Harvee.
'I concentrate solely on bridal wear now,' Suzanne explains. 'My collection still includes a lot of ex-display dresses, which are very popular due to their price tags (£50-£650), but the made-to-order ones from Brides By Harvee are really luxurious and at £700 to £1300 are still really reasonable.'
The shop is on the lower floor of the centre, a quiet and private location, with two units converted into one. One half is filled with dresses and accessories, and the other is a comfortable and intimate fitting area, where customers and their friends or mums can have a cup of tea, relax and make the most of Suzanne's eight years' experience in the industry.
'We're nice and friendly here,' says Suzanne. 'We're not pushy; we are honest and will offer advice when needed. Our customers are always very happy with the service they receive from us.'
Customers are so happy, in fact, that Heavenly Brides and Belles have already received the gold seal of recommendation from real brides reviews on weddingspot.co.uk - the only bridal shop in Shropshire to have won this accolade.
And with about 100 dresses from size 8 to 32, from a host of different designers, in different styles and fabrics, starting at £50, coupled with Suzanne's expert advice, there's a very good chance of finding the dress of your dreams at Heavenly Brides and Belles.
For more information visit www.heavenlybrides.co.uk or call 01743 249080
Why not get some help finding your perfect wedding gown, by visiting Trisha's Bridal Wear in Oswestry. Here you can book yourself one of the private showrooms where you'll be taken care of by one of the professional bridal consultants who will help you choose your dream dress.
Trisha's has a huge range of designer gowns to choose from, with two floors of wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses and evening gowns, from designers including Ronald Joyce, Fara Sposa, Opulence, Romantica and Linzi Jay. Trisha's is also an elite stockist of Venus wedding dresses.
Having found your dream gown, you want it to fit perfectly. The shop also offers an on-site alterations service for both ladies and gents, all carried out by fully qualified and professional seamstresses, so when you find your 'almost' dream dress, it can be made into the perfect gown for you.
For more information visit www.trishasbridalwear.co.uk or call 01691 671133.
With more than 30 years in the antique jewellery trade, County Goldsmiths is a name to be trusted when you're looking for that special item. And now the venerable shop is branching out into a new venture where very special customers can expect very special treatment.
'We now have a new shop next to our existing premises in Shrewsbury,' says owner Carla Mason, 'where we're specialising in bridal jewellery.'
The shop, which opened in June, stocks wedding rings, engagement rings, eternity rings and gifts for bridesmaids.
'It's effectively a specialist bridal jewellery shop,' says Carla. 'The aim is to offer the same sort of experience you'd expect when having your dress fitting. We're offering a very personal service, that we don't believe you get from high street jewellers. We understand that your wedding jewellery is as important as your dress, your cake and your flowers - and we want to make choosing it a beautiful experience.'
Like its older sister next door, the new shop has an elegant, boutique style, and has private viewing rooms for one-to-one service. There are in excess of 1,000 rings available, with prices starting from a very reasonable £250, from which the sky is the limit. 'There's something for everyone price-wise and style-wise,' says Carla. 'The selection of engagement rings we've got is quite overhwelming actually!
'We'll be doing lots of special offers for brides and we'll also be doing bridal shows,' she adds, 'so follow us on Facebook and Twitter at Woodings&Co to keep up with any special offers.'
County Goldsmiths, 2 Butcher Row, Shrewsbury, visit www.countygoldsmiths.co.uk or call 01743 588751
With all the focus on the wedding ring, it often gets forgotten that the bride might like to wear something a bit sparkly on her way up the aisle as well as back down it. Jewellery store Mococo, with shops in Mold, Ruthin, Wrexham and Chester have a lovely range of bridal jewellery, which can be given as gifts or chosen to carefully complement your dress and outfit.
Brands include Pandora, Clogau, Swarovski, Thomas Sabo, Diamonfire and fun and fashionable Daisy London. This lovely Daisy Heat Chrakra bracelet, £58, signifies love and compassion and will help any bride to feel relaxed and happy on her day.
Brie my bride
Perhaps you don't have a sweet tooth, you'd prefer to keep your carb count down (even on your wedding day), or maybe you just want to do something completely different, in which case a cheese wedding cake is a great alternative to the traditional fruit variety.
Porters Delicatessen in Llangollen, Denbighshire, specialise in cheese wedding cakes and have access to a huge variety of cheeses, including a wide selection of British and Welsh types so you can create something extra special for your day.
'It's best to come and enquire early,' says Tracey Hughes at Porter's, 'that way you can come in and taste the cheeses we have on offer. The heart-shaped Neufchatel from France is a very popular way to finish off a cheese wedding cake.'
Once you've chosen your cheese it takes about four weeks for Porter's to source them and ensure they are in prime condition on the day itself. They can deliver to and set up your cake at local venues, or the cheeses can be couriered further afield with step-by-step instructions for assembling at the other end. Of course, pick up from the shop and self-assembly is also an option.
'Cheese wedding cakes are becoming very popular,' says Tracey. 'Not only are they something a bit unusual, but they're also very good value. We offer a very flexible service and do our best to do whatever suits the customer.'
For more information visit www.portersdeli.co.uk or call 01978 862990.
Have your cake...
What with worrying about the dress, the venue and the honeymoon, it's all too easy to forget other details of your wedding, but whatever you do, don't leave it till the last minute to organise your cake.
'I recommend that you order your cake as soon as you can,' says Mike xxxx of cake specialist Sugar & Spice in Wrexham, 'usually six to eight months before the wedding so there's plenty of time to discuss what you want.'
But don't panic if time is pressing - 'I can get cakes made quicker if necessary,' Mike adds, 'provided I have what's needed in the shop.'
Sugar and Spice have been making cakes for many years and can help you create your dream cake, whether you want fruit, lemon, chocolate, carrot, coffee or even something more unusual such as a rainbow sponge. Each tier can be a different type of cake - perfect if she's a chocaholic and he's nutty for fruit cakes .
For more information visit www.cakesbysugarandspice.co.uk or call 01978 264355
Pretty as a picture
A picture paints a thousand words - and you definitely want your wedding photos to be saying the right things about you. Good wedding photographers can get booked up a year in advance, so as soon as you've confirmed the date and booked the venues, it's time to start your search for a photographer.
Don't be tempted to cut corners when it comes to your wedding photos - you may have a friend who's a dab hand at taking a good picture, but do you really want to entrust the only lasting record of your special day to an amateur? Much better to book a professional such as Nigel Hughes Photography, based in Porthmadog, Gwynedd.
Says Nigel himself: 'We take pride in our professional ability and dedication and we use top-of-the-range digital photographic and developing equipment to provide an inimitable and bespoke record of your special day.'
Nigel, who has 30 years' experience, has a fresh, contemporary and romantic style and has experience of photographing weddings in all sorts of locations from the grandeur of Portmeirion to village churches. As well as ensuring all the usual formal photos are made, Nigel will spend time unobtrusively taking candid, informal pictures of the proceedings to capture the wedding day atmosphere and to make sure you have a complete and joyful memento of your day.
For more information visit www.nigelhughesphoto.com or call 01766 513612
Travel in style
Travel to your venue in style in a chauffered 1920s reproduction car from Bespoked Wedding Cars. You can choose from a Cowley Landaulette six-passenger limousine; a Regent Landaulette six-passenger limousine, or a Beauford four-door long-wheel-base limousine. All have luxury ivory interiors and are designed with bridal gowns in mind to be extra roomy.
Owner of the family-run company Derek Brooks says: 'As full-time wedding transport professionals we understand what's needed to make your day run smoothly and to time, and we ensure you get those special photos for a day to remember.'
You'll get your car and your experienced, smartly dressed, child-friendly chauffeur for the whole day, and Bespoked Wedding Cars will take care of all the details for you, so you can concentrate on enjoying your special day.
Bespoked Wedding Cars cover Wrexham, Mold, Wirral, Cheshire, Shropshire, Denbighshire, North Wales and the surrounding areas. For more information visit www.bespokedweddingcars.com or call 01978 7623015
Camp it up
If you're planning a retro wedding, make sure your transport (and possibly even your honeymoon getaway vehicle) fit with the theme by hiring a classic Volkswagen from Hilltop Classics near Wrexham. With quirky Beetles Billy and Cherub, plus stylish campervans Molly and Emily available, you'll be spoilt for choice. And if a VW isn't your style, perhaps you'd prefer a Jaguar E-Type called (very elegantly) Eleanor, or if you're planning a summer wedding, open-top beach buggy Georgie.
'All our cars are available for hire,' says owner Paul Williamson. 'All the cars are available chauffer driven, and of course, the campervans can be hired for self-drive so bride and groom can head off on their honeymoon straight after the wedding.
'We're very flexible - it's your day and we do our best to do it your way. And of course when you hire one of our vehicles for your wedding it comes fully decorated with ribbons, bows and floweres, and we'll even include a bottle of bubbly.'
For more information visit www.hilltopclassics.co.uk or call 01978 755100
On the most important day of your life, you don't want to leave out the most important member of the family - and with a new bespoke wedding service from dog grooming salon Groomintails, you don't have to.
Julie, owner of Groomintails, will put together a package that meets both your needs and those of your pet, so they can be part of your day and will look the part for those all-important wedding photos, meaning you don't have to worry about any embarrassing events or distractions.
Groomintails can collect your dog from wherever they've been staying, groom them, and look after them and handle them at the ceremony and venue, making sure they've got plenty of food and drink, can get outside when they need to, and get some peace and quiet if it all becomes too much for them.
For more information visit www.groomintails.co.uk or call 07808 801995.
Music to your ears
Your first dance on your wedding night is one you'll remember for the rest of your life, and you want to get it right. Red Rooster Discos, who are based near Denbigh, north Wales, know how stressful it is choosing that all-important song, and the fear of getting up to dance with all eyes on you, but with 40 years' of DJing experience, they can help you make sure everything goes smoothly.
Husband and wife team Nicola and Dave will meet up with you before the special day to discuss all your requirements. 'If you don't want a first dance that's fine too,' say the couple, 'or if you want the guests to join in after a few bars of music, that's OK. We've even had couples who had a dance routine for fun and helped them organise it.'
Red Rooster pride themselves on being able to 'read' the atmosphere and keep everybody dancing all night long. 'We play what you want us to. It's your day but you don't have to run the night. Your part is to enjoy your guests and the party while we do the hard work.'
For more information about Red Rooster Discos visit www.redroosterdiscos.co.uk or call 01745 890367.
Wales and the borders has some of the best hillwalking in the country – but heading out into the wilds can be a daunting. Mountaineer and guide Graham Uney explains why the best way to enjoy the hills is to equip yourself with the right skills – and picks his six favourite hill walks
There something amazing about being out in the moors, hills and mountains. You’ve chosen your destination for the day’s walk, planned the route beforehand, packed all the necessary clothing, maps and compass, and packed lunch, and headed off into the wilds.
Your day might take you up beautiful valleys, and alongside rushing streams, or up narrow ridges and on to rocky summits where the views open out in all directions and make you feel truly alive.
Imagine how much greater your sense of achievement and enjoyment would be if you had complete confidence in your ability to find the route there and back safely. How about having the knowledge and experience to pick a route well off the beaten track, so you could really explore the mountains? Or what about having a good understanding of the upland environment, and being able to put a name to the birds, wildflowers, lichens and mosses you see along the way – wouldn’t that make for a very special experience too? All of these things can and should be a part of any day spent in the hills – anyone with a modicum of fitness can get to the top of a mountain, but there’s so much more to it than that! Every single step of the way can be special, not just the five minutes you spend at the summit cairn.
We are blessed in this part of the UK in that we are pretty much surrounded by lovely countryside, and there are lots of great hills and mountains within easy reach of all of us. But how to learn the skills and get the knowledge to enable you to really appreciate it all? Well, for the beginner there are broadly three ways into this magical world of mountains and moorlands.
The first, and by far the most common, is to go to your local outdoor clothing retailer, ask them what you need, take their word for it, and go try to find a way up a mountain. Most people who take this approach pick a well-known peak – say Snowdon. They’ll follow the hordes of other beginner hillwalkers on the Miner’s Track, get to the top, then go back down again. They’ll feel a real sense of achievement, but won’t really have a clue about what the other mountains are that they’ve seen, or what wildlife they could have been looking for, or know anything at all about the amazing human history of the peak – the mining, the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the mountaineering history, or the upland farming that are all inter-twined with the overall picture of what makes Snowdon what it is.
These are the people who might head over to Snowdon once every couple of years, and do the same thing over again. Those who do decide to tackle a different mountain are astounded to find that not every peak has a long chain of people heading up and down that they can follow, and sadly, many of them get lost and find themselves on scary, rocky ground. When they do eventually make it home, sometimes with the help of a volunteer team of mountain rescuers, they declare that they’ll never go near a mountain again.
The second way into the hills for beginners is to go with someone who knows about the mountains. This can be a very good approach, as the more experienced person should know how to read a map and compass, and to keep an eye on the weather. They should also have the sense to change the route plan if conditions are not good, and ideally, they’ll also know everything interesting there is to know about the mountains! Amateur hillwalkers can be good for this, but the only way to know you’re going with the absolute best person is to pay a qualified, experienced mountain guide.
And finally, the other option for the beginner hillwalker is to take control of your own safety and enjoyment in the hills. Book yourself on a course to learn about the equipment you need, how to use a map and compass, how to read mountain weather forecasts, what hazards there are in the mountains, and how to call for a mountain rescue team in an emergency. You’ll also learn about access and your legal rights in the hills, and yes, you’ll learn about the environment too.
Then next time there's an unexpected sunny Saturday, you won't hesitate to lace up your boots, pack your rucksack and get out there and explore. What better way to make the hills your own?
Wild Walks Wales
Graham Uney runs hill skills and guiding company Wild Walks Wales. Graham has more than 30 years’ experience of exploring the mountains of the UK, is a qualified mountain walking leader and writes guidebooks for walkers.
He offers guided mountain walks throughout Wales, and these are suitable for anyone, from absolute beginner to the more experienced hillwalker.
Wild Walks Wales also offers the brand new Hill and Mountain Skills Scheme which teaches everything you need to know before going into the hills – equipment, map and compass skills, hazards, weather forecasts, emergency procedures, access, and the environment. The Scheme is split into two different courses: Hill Skills is aimed at beginners, while Mountain Skills is for those who have done a little hillwalking, but want to progress on to higher, rockier walking terrain.
The company also offers other skills training, including the National Navigation Award Scheme, which teaches you how to read a map and compass. These courses are run at three different levels from beginner through to advanced.
For full details of guided hill and mountain walks, and skills courses for walkers visit www.wildwalkswales.co.uk or call Graham on *************(landline to come), or 07720 169191.
[six separate boxouts/panels with a pic each to be dotted through the feature]
Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr
These, the highest peaks of the Glyderau range in north Snowdonia are among the roughest, wildest mountains in Wales. I just love the craggy slopes, and the huge boulder fields that adorn the summit plateau. There are many routes to the tops, but only a few are suitable for walkers. The best is from the Ogwen Valley, climbing up through Cwm Bochlwyd to Bwlch Tryfan, then up a path that zigzags across a scree slope to the summit plateau of Glyder Fach. From there you can walk across to Castell y Gwynt – the Castle of the Winds – and onwards to the top of Glyder Fawr before descending the famous Devil’s Kitchen. Whichever way you go, be clear that it will be very rough underfoot, and that these are serious mountains where you really do need the knowledge and the right gear to make it up and down safely.
Where to stay, eat and drink: Betws y Coed, Llanberis, Bangor, Caernarfon
Surely the most popular peak in south Snowdonia, and for a very good reason. Cadair Idris is simply superb. It’s another mountain full of craggy slopes, and with amazing views out to Cardigan Bay from its summit. Of the routes suitable for walkers, the best has to be the Minffordd Path. This takes you up the mountain from the south, but follows a rocky ridge above a huge cliff for much of the way. You can traverse the highest point of Cadair Idris – which is known as Penygadair – and descend via the heathery slopes of Mynydd Moel.
Where to stay, eat and drink:: Dolgellau, Barmouth, Machynlleth, Tywyn
These hills are much gentler than those of Snowdonia, but actually get ignored by many walkers. This is a shame in some ways, but it does mean that for those in the know, there’s a much better chance of having the summits to yourselves. There are three main peaks here - Cadair Berwyn, Moel Sych, and Cadair Bronwen – and good paths lead up to the main summit ridge from the banks of the Dee in the north, or perhaps even better, from Pistyll y Rhaeadr – the highest waterfall in Wales – in the south.
Where to stay, eat and drink: Llangollen, Bala, Oswestry, Wrexham, Corwen
The highest hill in the Cambrian Mountains, and this one is a real cracker! Vast areas of moorland surround the main peaks of the range, and give a true sense of solitude as you stride out along the broad summit ridges. Good navigation skills are essential up here though. This is the heartland of red kite country, and there’s lots of other great wildlife to look for too. Oh, and why not visit the sources of the River Wye, River Severn, and River Rheidol while you’re at it – they all begin life on the upper slopes of the Plynlimon ridge!
Where to stay, eat and drink: Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth
Pen y Fan
The most popular mountain in the Brecon Beacons gives a lovely walk no matter where you start from. I prefer heading into the range from the north, where long ridges rise up to meet the sandstone scarp-slope that forms the whole northern side of the range. The valleys between the ridges are simply gorgeous places to be during the summer months, and once you’ve climbed on to the tops the views will open out in all directions, making for a memorable day down in the ‘Beacons’.
Where to stay, eat and drink: Brecon, Abergavenny, Crickhowell
I always enjoy a visit to the Shropshire Hills where the delightful rolling landscape draws you in and tempts you to explore. Think of gentle heathery moorlands, deep verdant valleys, and welcoming little villages with great real ale pubs and you’ll get the idea. For me, the Stiperstones are the crowning glory of the Shropshire Hills. The heather moor summit is festooned with great rocky pinnacles which lend a definite sense of mystery and intrigue, especially on a misty or windy day. Go in August for the heather in full bloom.
Where to stay, eat and drink: Bishops Castle, Church Stretton, Welshpool, Shrewsbury
Fancy some sunshine and sand this summer? We have one of the world's greatest playgrounds on our doorstep: the North Wales coast. Gill Chetcuti heads for the beach...
Wales's dramatic coastline, shaped through a combination of erosion, weathering and geological changes, is known for its diversity and beauty. Its rich variety of stunning landscape and habitat – both human and natural – ever-changing vistas and wild history are unequalled, bursting with miles of award-winning beaches, abundant wildlife, quiet fishing villages and cheerful seaside resorts.
The Welsh coast has always been a place for recreation, as well as to make a living, although until the mid-19th century fun on the beach was a luxury only for the wealthy. As the fashion for seaside resorts grew in Victorian times, the character of the coastline changed to accommodate visitors flocking to enjoy the bracing sea air and convivial atmosphere. The pursuit of health and beauty transformed old towns and created new ones. The arrival of rail travel in the mid 1800s meant rapid expansion for seaside resorts, as first the emergent middle-class Victorians, and then the Edwardians, converged on the beaches.
Fun for all
By the late 19th century, the beach holiday had reached new peaks of popularity. Wales has a long coastline for a relatively small country and now much of it was studded with resorts of various sizes. Mid and north Wales were particularly popular destinations, especially with workers from industrial centres such as Birmingham and Manchester – and the promenades, piers, and pleasure beaches at places such as Aberystwyth, Llandudno and Beaumaris are the legacy of this shift.
Nowadays, everybody loves a day by the seaside and whatever your favoured type of holiday – whether you want to get out on the water on a surfboard or a boat, take a romantic stroll hand-in-hand along the prom, build sandcastles with the kids on the beach, or explore wildlife, history and landscape – there's somewhere on the Welsh coast that will suit you.
During the Victorian era, Aberystwyth was billed as the ‘Biarritz’ of Wales, and the town is still a popular and lively seaside resort boasting a Norman castle, a large shopping complex and plenty of excellent restaurants. The promenade runs along the shore to the Victorian funicular electric railway on Constitution Hill. Aberystwyth is also the terminus of the Vale of Rheidol Railway, a narrow gauge, single-track line running 12 miles through the spectacular mid-Wales scenery.
From there, less than an hour’s drive north up Wales’s west coast, past the wild Ynyslas Sand Dunes and Borth Bog, you come to to one of the area’s most impressive locations. Barmouth, lying between the foothills of Snowdonia and the Mawddach Estuary has been a firm favourite with visitors from the Midlands since Victorian times. The huge beach is perfect for sunbathing and family fun, and the trails around the estuary mean that, whatever your interest – walking, cycling or birdwatching - you'll never get bored.
A pilgrimage to the peninsula
The Llyn Peninsula is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, renowned for its golden sands, and also for its unique Welsh charm and character. Its position in the gulf stream means it also has its own unique microclimate, with warmer sea temperatures and weather.
All this and beaches such as those at fashionable Abersoch ('Cheshire by the Sea'), the Whistling Sands Beach near Aberdaron (you can hear the sand squeaking underfoot as you walk on it) and the two European Blue Flag Award-winning beaches at Pwllheli, mean the Llyn is a deservedly popular holiday destination.
There's also historical and architectural interest here, with castles at Criccieth and Caernarfon, plus, of course, at the tip of Tremadog Bay is the unique seaside resort of Portmeirion. Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, the Italianate village has served as the location for a variety of films and television shows, but is best remembered as the setting for the 1960s spy drama, The Prisoner. It is now a hotel and holiday resort.
Often considered to be the capital of the Llŷn Peninsula, Pwllheli, meaning ‘salt-water pool’ is a vibrant town, usually teeming with visitors of all ages. It has two award-winning beaches – South Beach and Glan y Mor – and the town itself boasts an eclectic array of independent shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs. It’s also one of Britain’s busiest market towns.
Those looking for a quieter life will love the smaller resorts, such as Nefyn, renowned for its unspoilt seafront, and the fishing village of Aberdaron, where, during the Middle Ages, hundreds of pilgrims congregated waiting for fair weather for the two-mile crossing to Bardsey Island. Today, Aberdaron is still unspoiled and beautiful, with panoramic views, gorgeous sandy beaches and delightful rocky coves.
Walkers will be particularly happy here – well-kept footpaths stretch along the cliffs and beaches, and the waters have been designated a special area of conservation, and the coast is a site of special scientific interest (SSI) because of the variety of wildlife here.
Anglesey’s dramatic landscape is stunning in its own right, and it is no surprise to learn that its 125 miles of unspoilt coast has been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path caters for walkers of all abilities, and each route takes in rugged cliffs, rock formations, sand dunes and woodland. There are more than 70 designated sites of archaeological interest on the island too, as well as Blue Flag beaches, museums, lighthouses and family entertainments such as the Sea Zoo.
The north-facing coastline of Wales has a character all of its own. Again there are castles – not least at Conwy, a World Heritage site – miles-long stretches of beautiful, golden beaches, and great seas for surfing, swimming, sailing – whatever fancy takes you. The six miles of sands between Rhyl and Prestatyn in Denbighshire have recently received the coveted Seaside Award, which recognises water quality, facilities and general beach management. And the resorts here are great for families of all ages, with lots of traditional attractions such as Punch and Judy shows, donkey rides, amusement arcades and funfairs.
Conwy is also one of Britain’s best-preserved medieval towns and the walls offer a splendid walk while on the streets below are attractions such as Aberconwy House (a rare, 14th-century merchant’s dwelling) and ‘The Smallest House in Great Britain’, also known as the Quay House.
Llandudno, meanwhile, which sticks out into the ocean with sea on three sides, is Wales's largest seaside resort, and its Grade II listed pier is, at 2,295 ft, the longest in Wales. This bustling town was termed 'Queen of the Welsh Resorts' as early as 1864.
There are loads of things to see and do on the Welsh coast this summer, whatever your fad, fancy or craze.
If you want to be in the water...
Welsh wildlife guru Iolo Williams says scuba diving on the Welsh coast is the next best thing to diving in an aquarium – because the waters are so clear and the wildlife and underwater scenery are as good as anything you'll see in warmer climes. The sea around Anglesey is particularly good for scuba diving.
Coasteering was practically invented in Wales. It's a heady and adrenalin-filled mix of jumping rocks, scrambling over shorelines, riding the swells and jumping off cliffs, and is a way to see the Welsh coast like you've never seen it before. Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula are great places to try this out. Try Llyn Adventures (www.llynadventures.com) and Anglesey Adventures (www.angleseyadventures.com)
Fancy trying the latest craze of Kite surfing? Wales is the place to do it. Kite surfing world champion Kirsty Jones says Wales is better than Hawaii – there are great seas and winds, but best of all, friendly seals and dolphins too. Try Borth beach in Cardigan Bay or Rhosneigr, Anglesey. Visit www.coastriders.co.uk or www.kitesurfwales.co.uk
Coastal kayaking is a perhaps slightly more sedate way to explore the Welsh coastline and see the beauty of the country from a different angle. The Mawddach Estuary is a great place to canoe, and a favourite of one of Britain's leading kayakers, Loel Collins. With views of Cadair Idris and the Rhinogs and the estuary opening out in front of you as you paddle quietly along, at one with the sea life around you, it's an awesome way to discover Wales.
If you want to be on the water...
An exhilararing rib ride will get you up close and personal with sea life (and the sea – it gets wet!). You can expect encounters with seals and dolphins, to learn about the history of the scenery you're seeing and to see shipwrecks and stunning scenery. There are trips from Anglesey to Puffin Island and from Caernarfon to Llanddwyn Island, to give just a couple of examples. Visit www.ribride.co.uk
A boat trip is always a great way to spend a day, and there are plenty of options. Take a scenic coastal cruise visiting seal and seabird colonies or watching the dolphins ride the bow waves. Visit secluded coves, spectacular cliffs and caves and untouched islands. Try Shearwater catamaran cruises on the Llyn Peninsula (www.shearwatercruises.com) or Anglesey Boat Trips (www.angleseyboattrips.com)
South Wales is probably better known for its surfing , but Hells Mouth on the Llyn Peninsula makes it into Welsh surfing champion Gwen Spurlock's top spots for Wales. Don't be fooled by the name – it's a lot friendlier than it sounds and a great place to ride the waves. And because the northern beaches are so much quieter than the south, it's a great place for beginners. Visit www.westcoastsurf.co.uk.
And if you want to be by on and in the water...
Wakestock Gwyl y Mor (Festival of the Sea) is a weekend-long festival of music and wakeboarding at Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula. It's a showcase for the best music, comedy, arts, food and drink from across Wales – and, of course, for the hottest wakeboarding talent too. With competitions on the water by day and music by night, plus all sorts of family events and entertainments, it's a great way to make the most of the Welsh coast.
Visit www.wakestock.co.uk for more information.
Walk the coastline
It’s hard to believe that the Wales Coast Path has celebrated its second birthday already. The 870-mile route stretches from the Dee Estuary near Chester all the way to Chepstow in south-east Wales and attracts almost three million visitors a year.
It's a great way to explore the countryside as well as the coast itself and also to discover Wales's history and heritage along the way. You can walk for an hour, a day, a month or a year – whatever takes your fancy and there are plenty of places to stay, eat, drink and visit on the way.
Visit www.walescoastpath.gov.uk for more information
The storms that ravaged the Welsh coast at the end of last year and the beginning of this wreaked havoc on many of our coastal towns, seriously testing – and in many cases breaking down - their defences.
Since then, the Welsh Government has provided more than £10m to help badly hit communities, including £7.2m to repair damaged flood defences, £2.3m to support repair works to tourism and business, and a further £855,000 to repair damaged sections of the Wales Coast Path and provide extra regeneration funding to Aberystwyth, which was particularly badly hit.
Local communities have pulled together to rebuild their towns and villages, and the best way to show your support for these beautiful areas, which we all love to visit and would hate to lose, is to visit, spend some time and some money, and support any local initiatives that are going on.
Whether you stroll, traipse, amble or march, there is no getting away from the fact that one of the most underrated forms of exercise - the humble walk - is good for you
Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of getting fit and a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just half an hour every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones and reduce excess body fat as well as significantly reducing your risk of developing a multitude of serious health conditions. In addition, unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free, does not require any special equipment – apart from decent footwear and waterproofs – and almost anyone can do it!
A quick poll around the Yattar Yattar office unearthed our favourite walks... and here they are!
The Wales Coast Path
Whilst no one is seriously suggesting you traverse the entire 870-mile trail around Wales’ coastline, the beauty of this path is that you can break it into bite-size chunks and simply walk whichever section (or sections) your hearts desire!
The Wales Coast Path was launched in May 2012, as the world's first coastal path to cover an entire country. Running through 11 national nature reserves and other sites of interest, (including those managed by The Wildlife Trust and the RSPB) it attracts in excess of 2.5 million visitors per year! Split into eight geographical areas: the north Wales coast and Dee estuary, the Isle of Anglesey, Menai, Llŷn and Meirionnydd, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Gower and Swansea Bay and the south Wales coast and Severn estuary, the award-winning pathway is open all year round. Although some sections are more challenging than others are, there are routes to delight walkers of all ages and abilities, and hardened hikers can even join up with Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, another long-distance footpath, to add an extra dimension to their expedition!
Wepre Park to Ewloe Castle
Wepre Park, an ancient, wooded river valley, is a hidden gem in the heart of the often-overlooked town of Connah’s Quay in Flintshire. Rich in wildlife and steeped in history, the 160-acre park is a popular beauty spot and perfect for walkers looking for a moderately easy stroll with a fascinating reward at the end! The prize is Ewloe Castle – a mid-13th century stone keep and courtyard fortress, founded by Prince Llewellyn ap Gruffydd to protect the surrounding Ewloe Forest from English invaders.
The walk begins at the car park and takes you along a narrow stony path past the children’s play area and up towards the charming visitor centre where, from there on, the well-established route to the castle (and other destinations) are clearly signposted. Give yourselves a good half-an-hour to reach the castle as the path is quite steep in places, and you’re likely to want to stop along the way to marvel at the sights.
Once at the castle, a flight of steps will afford you access to the lower ward, which contains a well and the West Tower. Another flight of steps will take you to the triangular upper ward surrounded by a curtain wall.
After you’ve regained your breath and eaten your sandwiches, make for the information board and turn right just beyond it. Here you will need to descend a part-stepped path and cross the bridge over Wepre Brook. Follow the signs for Devil’s Basin – a pretty waterfall above a pool – and pass an outcrop of red sandstone known as Red Rocks. Continue along the railed path, past the picnic tables, before rejoining the main trail back to the visitor centre.
Betws-y-Coed and Llyn Elsi
Betws-y-Coed, located at the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, has long been a popular destination for visitors due to its picturesque location and breathtaking scenery. Amongst its myriad of attractions is the famous Waterloo Bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1815. Also worth visiting are the majestic Swallow Falls and the atmospheric Fairy Glen off the A470 where the River Conwy flows through a narrow gorge.
Betws-y-Coed is a haven for walkers and boasts many great routes suitable for all abilities. At only three miles (4.8km), this one to Llyn Elsi is relatively short and provides fine views for relatively little effort. The route we have chosen begins in the crescent behind Saint Mary’s Church. Follow the road to the left of the church around a right bend and then turn left on to a forestry track where you will see Llyn Elsi signposted. A steep-ish climb through thick woodland is next, but don’t let that put you off – it is mercifully short if you keep to the main track and follow the waymarkers. When you reach a fork in the track, bear right and then left at the T-junction. Follow the signs on the lakeside path through Gwydyr Forest until you reach the imposing Ancaster Memorial above the lake – Llyn Elsi.
A circuit of the lake offers sublime, wide-ranging mountain views for a marvellous photo opportunity before you retrace your steps downhill and back to Betws-y-Coed, following the waymarkers at all times.
Staying in Snowdonia, Llyn Idwal is another pretty lake lying within Cwm Idwal in the Glyderau Mountains, and is very popular with visitors, especially walkers. The lake is named after Prince Idwal Foel, a grandson of Rhodri Mawr, one of the ancient Kings of Wales. Legend has it that Idwal was unlawfully drowned in the lake however, in reality, he died in battle against the Saxons in 942 and was cremated beside the lake, as was the burial custom for Celtic nobility.
At around three miles, the walk to the lake is short and uncomplicated, ideal for new or inexperienced walkers, and its rock formations and rare plant life make it a fascinating afternoon’s stroll.
Beginning at the car park, follow the rocky uphill path towards the mountain gate. Continue through the gate and over the oak bridge – from here you have excellent views of the peak of Y Garn. When the path evens out, look west to enjoy the view of Nant Ffrancon and the slate village of Bethesda in the distance, whilst to the east you can see Nant y Benglog and Llyn Ogwen.
Now the path will begin to wind steadily uphill, curving right until it reaches the shores of the lake. From here, take time to enjoy the superb views of the surrounding peaks, in particular Glyder Fawr, at 3278 feet the highest in the Glyder range. Another famous landmark here is the collection of rocks known as the Darwin Idwal Boulders.
We’ve chosen the clockwise route around the lake; turn left along the lakeside path and bear right around the head of the lake. Now you will need to negotiate some boggy ground and several small streams before picking up the stony path again along the west side of the lake. Continue until you rejoin the outward route and retrace your steps back to the start of the trail.
Next, we have chosen Shropshire and the ancient hill of the Wrekin. This, the county’s best-known landmark (and possible inspiration behindTolkien's The Lord of the Rings) is immensely popular with walkers and outdoors enthusiasts, and offers amazing panoramic views from its summit of 1335 feet. Although legend states that the Iron Age hill fort at the top was created by a giant with a dislike of the inhabitants of Shrewsbury, historians believe it to have been the headquarters of the pre-Roman Cornovii tribe.
This particular Wrekin walk is a moderately easy one of approximately three-and-a-half miles and should take you under two hours to complete if you begin if from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust car park and take the direct route to the summit. Turn right on to the road signposted to Shrewsbury, then left on to a wide track and follow the incline through the trees until you reach the Halfway House, a favourite watering hole for Wrekin walkers for more than 150 years. Pass through the adjacent gate and follow the path on its gentle climb, before turning sharp left. You’ll now find yourselves at Hell Gate – the earthwork entrance created by the Cornovii people. Shortly after, the path climbs steeply again, rising through the inner earth ramparts, known as Heaven Gate. This is where fragments of Iron Age pottery were found, as well as remnants of the wooden huts that were once inhabited by the tribe.
Once at the summit, enjoy the extensive views, with the help of the toposcope – a marker erected to pinpoint key landmarks and the Welsh mountains.
The Sandstone Trail
This is a 55-kilometre long-distance walkers' path, following sandstone ridges running north south from Frodsham in central Cheshire to Whitchurch just over the Shropshire border. Varying in difficulty from easy to moderate (depending on the terrain and route), it is a firm favourite with many – from enthusiasts seeking a testing two to three day hike exploring the whole trail, to those desirous of shorter or more leisurely excursions.
The most accessible, walker-friendly sections of the trail include those in Delamere Forest Park and along the Llangollen Canal. Because it follows the central sandstone ridge or runs across open farmland, other paths may be more challenging. Much of the trail is hilly and uneven, and there are several short, steep sections, some over bedrock, others on stone or timber-edged steps. In parts, the trail runs close to unfenced cliffs and steep slopes so take care, especially if you or anybody in your party is inexperienced. However, the trail is fully waymarked along the whole route – a yellow disk featuring a black boot print stamped with the letter ‘S’ should keep you on track, and there are numerous information boards dotted along the way too. Visit www.sandstonetrail.com for more information.
Accommodation en route, or via a short diversion from the trail, is plentiful with something to suit everyone. Whether your preference is for hotels with all mod cons, inns with historical connections, welcoming farmhouses or simple B&Bs, you won’t be disappointed!
Not ready to go it alone? Here are some organised walks for your diary:
Get Walking Week – Oswestry
Saturday 3 May to Saturday 10 May
Oswestry Walking for Health, part of Walking for Health – England’s largest network of health walk schemes, is offering a series of free leisurely strolls, aiming to raise awareness of the health benefits of walking. Run by Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support, these walks hope to provide everyone with access to short, scenic and friendly walks within easy reach of where they live, helping them to become, and more importantly, stay active.
For more information about this local Get Walking Week event, contact Liz Evans on 01743 255068 or email
Minera Lead Mines – Clywedog Trail Walk
Sunday 11 May
The Clywedog Valley, complete with its beautiful waterfalls and exciting woodland is the perfect setting for a Sunday stroll for the whole family. Bearing this in mind, why not don your sturdiest walking boots and join in the fun! The walk begins at Minera and follows the Clywedog Trail to Kings Mill. There will be fun activities en route and a minibus available, both at the halfway point and at the end of the trail, for those who need it!
Out of Bounds Walk
Tuesday 13 May
Wednesday 21 May
See Cheshire’s Tatton Park in a new light on this ranger-led circular tour, exploring areas not usually open to the public. This adult-only stroll takes you through the award-winning gardens and deer park, much loved by the regular tourists, then on to the less visited (yet still fascinating) areas.
For prices, times and availability call 01625 374428 or visit the website at www.tattonpark.org.uk
Bridgnorth Charity Walk
Monday 26 May
Held annually since 1967, this walk in the heart of Shropshire is an established source of funds that benefit a host of local charities. Organised by a volunteer committee there are two separate trails – the senior walk that is 22 miles and very hilly, and a shorter, junior walk. You will need to gain sponsorship to get involved with this event.
To find out more about this worthwhile walk, visit the website at www.bridgnorthwalk.org
Alyn Waters Llay Side – Orchid Walk
Wednesday 25 June
Alyn Waters Country Park plays host to this colourful and educational trail amongst a variety of blooms including the impressive common spotted orchid as well as bee orchids and helleborines, some of which are quite rare. All ages are welcome to attend this free event so we’ll see you there!
A few things to bear in mind...
$1· Leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available.
$1· Be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.
$1· Follow paths unless wider access is available, such as on open country or registered common land (known as Open Access land).
$1· Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home.
$1· Keep dogs under control, especially around farm animals.
$1· Dress appropriately and pack plenty of water.
$1· Plan ahead and let people know where you’re going and what time they should expect you back.
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