Guests staying with us for the first time are always surprised by the wide range of “things to do”, both close by the hotel, or within a short drive. To enable you to maximise your enjoyment we have listed below some of the places that we particularly recommend. We are right on the border between England and Wales so you have two countries to choose from!
NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTIES
We are very fortunate to have five large National Trust properties close by – these are probably the places most frequently visited by our guests. Don’t forget to check with the current leaflet for which day each property is open. All have good cafés for a light lunch.
Chirk Castle (15 mins). Very much a Norman border fortress castle with dungeons and towers. The gardens are beautiful, especially in spring. Always a pleasure to visit. Improvement work is always being carried out to open up more areas for visitors to explore.
Erdigg House (20 mins) This is a splendid house which was neglected from approx 1900-1970 and therefore escaped modernisation, so it retains many sculleries, kitchens and pantries, all of which are on view as well as the main rooms and the servants sleeping quarters. We recommend that you watch the video of the house as it was when the National Trust took it over in 1970, which is shown in a stable block as you go through the archway into the first large stableyard. The gardens were restored at this time and they have now matured into an attraction in their own right. The parkland to the house is also open to the public, which gives an opportunity for a longer walk. As with most National Trust properties dogs are not welcome in the gardens, but the parkland does permit dogs. The car park for Erddig is in an orchard, so it is suitable to leave dogs parked in the shade whilst the house and gardens are visited. The old carriages have been restored and are now available for horse drawn trips around the parkland.
Powis Castle (30 mins). Fairy-tale red sandstone castle with magnificent gardens and The Clive Museum inside. The gardens are always colourful and packed with flowering plants at the peak of perfection. Prince Charles is usually in residence as “Prince of Wales”during the last week in July, but he is not always painting in the gardens! Powys is often busy, but a new café has been opened at the far corner of the gardens which is quiet and a welcome place to stop before exploring the woodland garden. The gardens are large so there is plenty of space for everyone. A good place to visit on the way to Powys Castle is the Dingle Nursery/Derwen Garden Centre near Guilsfield. They grow a large percentage of the plants on sale on the hills surrounding the nursery and are reasonably priced and very good quality.
Bodnant Gardens (1.25hrs). Near Llandudno on the North Wales coast, so a bit further away, but well worth visiting as they are the best gardens we have ever visited and regularly voted “favourite gardens” by NT members. Jointly run by the National Trust and the R.H.S. There are many outstanding collections of plants, notably Camellias, Magnolias, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas. A large plant sales area provides an opportunity to buy some unusual plants. We recommend driving via Betwys y Coed on the A5, but returning on the A55 and Mold & Wrexham – not so pretty, but quicker.
Attingham Park (30 mins) An elegant 18th-century mansion near Shrewsbury, with Regency interiors and a deer park. Lots of paintings, silver and furniture collections, but Â recent and continuing renovations are bringing it to life. The walled garden is gradually being brought back into production providing flowers and fruit and vegetables for the house and tea rooms.
PLACES OF INTEREST CLOSE BY
Old Racecourse Oswestry (1 mile). It is at the top of the hill on the way back to Oswestry and is crossed by Offa’s Dyke Path. On a clear day you get marvellous views to the south, west and east. It is open common land, ideal for walking dogs. There is common on both sides of the main road although the car park is on the south side.
Chirk and Trevor (Llangollen) Aqueducts (8 miles). The Thomas Telford-designed aqueducts that carry the Llangollen canal high over the Ceiriog and Dee valleys. There is a footpath along both aqueducts, but hold on tight if it is windy!
Llanrheadr Waterfall (1/2 hr). It is the highest waterfall in Wales and the narrow road leading to it takes you into the heart of the Berwyn Mountains. There are lots of walks starting from here including a short steep walk to the top of the waterfall, flat walks along the river and long walks to the top of Cadair Berwyn (2750ft). There is a café at the waterfall, but it has limited opening times especially in winter; a packed lunch or picnic are better options.
Oswestry Hill Fort (3 miles). A large Iron-Age hill fort just north of Oswestry (take a left turn as you leave Oswestry just past Morrisons) This is a huge fort, which has not been well signposted but is of great interest. There is a walk marked out around it with the history of the fort explained.
Ellesmere (20 mins). A group of “meres”, with plenty of leisurely walks around them and lots of birdlife on the water and in the surrounding woods. We particularly recommend Colemere. You are able to walk right around it, it is very quiet, next to the canal, and then you can go back to Ellesmere for any facilities needed.
Oswestry Market (3 miles). The main market day is Wednesday (also Saturdays – May to September) There is a big indoor and outdoor market which is always very busy, as many farmers and their wives (often Welsh speaking) come to the street and livestock markets. Also, on the last Friday morning in every month, there is a “Farmer’s Market” which sells local produce.
PLACES TO VISIT FOR A DAY OUT
Shrewsbury (1/2 hr). An attractive county town divided by the River Severn which has many Tudor passages (shuts) and other historical buildings worth visiting including Shrewsbury Abbey and Castle. There is also a wide range of shops, including Tanners, our wine merchants, which is housed in a beautiful timber framed building on Wyle Cop. Park and ride is available and is signed as you approach Shrewsbury on the A5.
Chester (1/2 hr). A wonderful city, with a wall to walk around, which provides a route to see most of Chester’s main attractions e.g. the cathedral, the shops, the river and, of course, the “Rows”. Parking in Chester is very expensive and can often be full, so Park and Ride is especially useful at busy times – this is easily found on the approach into Chester. The best long-term parking is on Little Roodee; turn right immediately after the bridge over the river Dee.
Much Wenlock and Church Stretton. (South of Shrewsbury). Both small market towns with castles/abbeys and good walking close by such as on Wenlock Edge and The Long Mynd.
Montgomery, Clun and Bishops Castle, all small sleepy, pretty towns south of Welshpool (or villages really as they are all small) which remind you of how life was when you could park in the main street for free, and not a Smiths/Tesco/or any other chain store to be found. Look for “Bunners” ironmongers in Montgomery and try The Castle Hotel for lunch in Bishops Castle, which we have recently bought with our son Henry and his partner Rebecca. They will make you very welcome and provide a good lunch for you. It has a beautiful garden if you are lucky enough to visit on a fine day.
Ironbridge (50 mins). This is a collection of many museums around Thomas Telford’s Ironbridge. There’s lots to see in the china museums and about the birth of the industrial revolution.
Hawkstone Park Follies (50 mins). This is a spectacular woodland fantasy of caves, cliffs and castles. They were created in the eighteenth century but only recently restored and have been used as the setting for the BBC’s Land of Narnia. Equally popular with the young and old this park is full of surprises and is much better than it sounds.
Wales!! All of the roads west of Rhydycroesau are very quiet (except the A5), so driving is a pleasure. In spring many roads are lined with wild flowers. There are many places to visit but those we like the best are; -
Lake Vyrnwy. (40 mins). Visit the lovely waterfall at the farthest end away from the dam – park in the designated car park and walk through the fields. There is a lovely drive through the mountains from Vyrnwy over to Lake Bala, but don’t stop at Bala town – it’s disappointing.
Llangollen (30 mins). Visit Telford’s aqueduct on the A5 at Trevor, climb to the top of the hill to Castle Dinas Bran, or walk along the limestone cliffs to Worlds End before visiting the town and its attractions on the river Dee. The International Eisteddfod is held every July when the town is full of competitors from all over the world in colourful costumes. Good place for lunch is The Cornmill, just upstream from the town bridge.
Snowdonia National Park. (1 hour+). Speaks for itself. If you are disinclined to slog it up Snowdon there is a narrow gauge railway to whisk you to the summit. (Closed wintertime). We recommend that you buy tickets for the railway by telephone the day before you go, to avoid arriving and finding that all trains are fully booked until late afternoon. Do ask us to check the weather forecast to see which day of your visit looks to have the best visibility.
Ceiriog Valley and the Tanat Valley. Both delightful drives on quiet roads.
Llangynog and the pilgrimage church at Pennant Melangell at the end of the Tanat Valley. ( 40 mins). A very special spiritual place.
Aberdovey. (1.25 hours). An unspoilt seaside village with a long beach and jetty, in a beautiful location, where the mountains come down to the sea on the River Dovey Estuary. Nicer than nearby Barmouth.
Portmeirion Italianate Village. (1.25 hrs). The village is in a stunning location by the sea, with plenty to look at in the village, woodland and beach beyond.
Harlech castle and beach, (1.25 hrs). Situated overlooking a huge sandy beach, wonderful in summer but very exposed in winter.
Many of the places mentioned produce leaflets with opening times and directions on. We try to keep a wide selection of leaflets but if one is missing please ask any member of staff for information.