Visit to Caernarfon, 15-17 May 2017
Given Jesus College’s historic links with Wales, a JOMG trip to Caernarfon – the most Welsh of towns – is long overdue! The town has a superb location – the island of Anglesey is across the Menai Strait to the north west, and the mountains of Snowdonia to the south east.
Caernarfon is probably best known these days for its castle, one of the “iron ring” ordered by Edward I to subdue North Wales, a goal that was only partially achieved. The castle and town walls – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – were built between 1283 and 1330, with the unusual banded stonework and polygonal towers thought to be in imitation of Constantinople.
The town’s period of greatest prosperity came in the 19th century as a result of rapid growth in the slate industry. Slate was exported from Caernarfon all over the world, generating ancillary industries such as ship-building and iron production. After the 1914-18 war, slate production went into slow decline, but shops selling slate artefacts such as coasters, name plates and wine-racks are a reminder of the industry, while Penrhyn Quarry at nearby Bethesda is still thriving.
Caernarfon is a centre of Welsh language and culture, and around 9 out of 10 inhabitants speak Welsh as their first language.
The town boasts several choirs, with celebrities from the surrounding area including opera singer Bryn Terfel, Aled Jones (Walking in the Air), and Gwyneth Glyn (Jesus 1999), while the annual Harp Festival attracts enthusiasts from around the world.
Some 15 minutes up the A4086 is Llanberis, and the terminus for the Snowdon Mountain Railway, with a choice of footpaths to the summit for the more energetic. Other diversions in Llanberis are the Slate Museum, the Electric Mountain, and the Zip Wire (claiming to be the longest in Europe and the fastest in the world).
The British Rail line from Caernarfon to Bangor was closed in 1972 and is now part of the Wales Coast Path, ideal for biking and walking. However, local narrow gauge railways have in recent years been resurrected, including the Welsh Highland Railway, from Caernarfon to Porthmadog (next to Tremadog, birthplace of Jesus alumnus T. E. Lawrence).
Monday 15 May
15.30: Meet at the Galeri Café/Bar, Victoria Dock, Caernarfon. Guided walk (about 45 minutes) through the town
18.00: Welcome, orientation, and dinner (19.00) at the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, Porth yr Aur, Caernarfon (beer and wine may be purchased at the bar and table)
Tuesday 16 May
9.15: Meet at Castle entrance, Y Maes, for guided visit.
After the guided tour there will be the option to split up and visit parts of the castle which the guide tells you about, but does not take you to – notably the “Inside Edward’s Head” exhibition, and also the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum (entry to both included as part of castle entry). Climbing to the top of the Eagle Tower is worth it, for the view).
There are cafes and pubs within easy reach of the castle for lunch or takeaway sandwiches and drinks.
14.00 pm: Meet at Welsh Highland Railway Station for journey (departure 14.15) to Porthmadog (arriving there at 16.30)
17.30 pm: Coach back to Caernarfon. Arrive 18.30
Dinner is left open for the members to make their own arrangements.
Wednesday 17 May
9.00 Meet outside the Black Boy Inn, Northgate Street. Guided archaeological walk up to and around the Roman fortress of Segontium (about 2 hrs 30 mins)
13.00 pm: Light farewell lunch provided by the Cymdeithas Ddinesig Caernarfon Civic Society in “Y Wal”, Palace Street. (Drinks may be purchased at the bar)
After-lunch: an optional free end to the visit: a coastal/countryside walk led by Ifor Williams starting from Y Wal to the church of Llanfaglan – St Baglan – built in the 13th century with 17th century additions, now owned by the Friends of Friendless Churches.
Travel to Caernarfon
Rail: Nearest main line station is Bangor. Bus service about every 20 minutes from Bangor station to Caernarfon. Come out of the station, turn left up the hill, and the bus-stop is a few yards up on the left. Check with driver that the bus goes to Caernarfon. Taxi is around £25.
Road: A55 along the North Wales coast links to the UK motorway system. Leave the A55 at Bangor and take the A487 to Caernarfon. Other routes from central or southern England – e.g. via Corwen, Dolgellau or Bala – are more scenic but much slower.
Sea: sailors – if they’re sufficiently intrepid – can get visitors’ berths at Victoria Dock.
The Celtic Royal (celtic-royal.co.uk) , the Black Boy (black-boy-inn.com), the Premier Inn (premierinn.com) and Travel Lodge (travelodge.co.uk), among others. Totter’s Backpacker’s Hostel (totters.co.uk) is said to provide excellent value. All the above are within easy walking distance of the main square, Y Maes, with the Black Boy and Totters the closest. There is also a range of B&Bs such as Bron Menai http://www.bronmenai.co.uk .
Caernarfon is an increasingly popular venue, so do book early”
Due to tour and transport restrictions, the group size is limited to 30
Nearby places of interest:
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Llanberis Slate Museum and the Electric Mountain
Port Meirion, Clough Williams-Ellis’s Italianate village, the setting for 1960s cult series The Prisoner and more recently for Festival 6
Blaenau Ffestiniog slate caverns
Well preserved pre-historic sites abound in Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Queries about booking: Chris Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact when in Caernarfon: Eddie Williams
Land line: 01286 672244
You’ll get a number of out-of-date and/or shoddy websites if you google “Caernarfon”. Among the better ones are:
Caernarfon Tourist Information, Oriel Pendeitsh, Castle Street, Caernarfon, LL55 2NA, Wales, UK. Telephone:- +44 1286 672232
(recent cuts in funding may affect this service)