Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing host to American friends Susan and Missy respectively. In those three weeks I driven two and a half thousand miles in my two seater MG taking in sites from the west coast of Wales to the highlands of Scotland, and from Liverpool to London. By way of recording those adventures I’d like to share some of what we saw with you starting with a little bit of England before moving onto the rolling hills of Wales.

It took me a while to ask Susan the obligatory airport question when she arrived in the UK on a crisp late summer morning in September. “How was your flight?” Everyone asks that, it’s a ice-breaker, an opener, a defacto question to which the answer is largely irrelevant. Susan had arrived in the UK for her first time and was excited to be here, if the flight had been bad then in a short while that wouldn’t matter anyway.

As much as I can be critical of this over-crowded country of mine, I love to play the tour guide. I’m no expert in the history or tales that this land could tell, but just having a chance to experience it through the fresh gaze of a visitor is always a pleasure.

After Susan took a nap we meandered around the garden village of Port Sunlight catching up and enjoying scenes that could easily have been from picture postcard of England. Victorian houses overlooking carefully tended gardens and standing as close together as books on a shelf.

The next day, after visiting the nearby city of Liverpool, we headed to Wales and the hideaway of my friend Romy who had been kind enough to let me use her secluded stone cottage while she was away on business.

At the end of a winding track that takes you over a rickety wooden bridge, through a frighteningly narrow tunnel, three gates, and a grass track, Romy’s cottage is a very well hidden gem in the heart of mid Wales.

We arrived at night, the surrounding hills are silent and we’re enveloped in absolute darkness a long way from the amber glow of street lights. It wasn’t particularly cold but nonetheless I started a fire in the wood burning stove and made a cup of tea as surely any Englishman would. We stepped outside and looked up at the night sky that was awash with millions of stars as the milky way hung like cloud above us. I could have stood there for hours.


The next morning we ate breakfast outside enjoying the breathtaking scenery and the warmth of the late summer sun. The gentle sound of running water from the nearby brook blended into the background as birds sang. At times Susan was quite simply spellbound. She said she would have been perfectly content to stay there for the rest of her vacation. The irresistible charm Romy’s cottage had clearly swept her off her feet, as well it might. However, the plan for the day was to press on and see more. (Click on the picture above to see a bigger version.)

We packed the car and left the cottage heading west on roads that would eventually take us to the Isle of Angelsey. Along the way we stopped at a pub for lunch. Sitting outside we both enjoyed a hearty beef, ale, and mushroom pie cooked and served by staff whose first language was Cymraeg, that’s Welsh to you and I. (Click on the picture below to see a bigger version.)


With no real timetable we headed off the main roads and onto what I called ‘wiggle roads’ whereupon we often paused to take in the magnificent countryside. Another stop was the picturesque market town of Dolgellau, then with the top down on the MG we took to the open road heading through the arresting landscape of Snowdonia National Park. It’s on days like this when I most enjoy having a convertible. (Click on the picture below to see a bigger version.)


Reaching the coast we stopped just as we approached the seaside town of Criccieth. I pulled off the road into a small parking lot where I knew there would be an impressive view of Criccieth Castle that was built for Llywelyn the Great in the 1230’s. The castle overlooks the surrounding coastline and is an imposing monument to a time it almost seems impossible to imagine today.

As the sun began to set we came to the town of Caernarfon with it’s spectacular castle that looks out to sea and over the the Isle of Angelsey, our next stop. We crossed the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Straits, that’s the Afon Menai in Welsh meaning the “River Menai” which is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 14 miles long that separates Angelsey from mainland Wales. By now it was dark but that didn’t stop us visiting a rather eery looking Beaumaris Castle after which we decided to put tradition to one side and visit an Indian restaurant for dinner.

After dinner we began the journey back home crossing the Menai Bridge and taking the road back to England. Despite the darkness we still made brief stops to marvel at the majestic Conway Castle, and ruins of Flint Castle that stands on the banks of the River Dee just yards away from homes that seem almost oblivious to the history they rub shoulders with.

After seeing so many castles and old stone buildings I decided that the grand finale for the day should be the experience of crossing the Flintshire Bridge, a concrete Torsion bridge built in 1997.

Though it might not sound like much, the experience of crossing this awesome bridge with the roof down while looking straight up at the torsion bars gives the impression of being pulled up into the bridge. Most people who cross this bridge probably never think to look up when it seems more obvious to look around in an effort to catch a glimpse of a more traditional bridge view. But I like to think of this experience as a gift to my passenger, as if sharing a secret known only to a few. Of course, like much of Wales, it loses something of its magic in its explaining, but should you have the opportunity to experience this first hand you’ll understand what I mean.

Next stop Scotland.

Port Sunlight Village (England)
Liverpool architectural tour
Snowdonia National Park
Isle of Angelsey
Castleworld – Find a castle
Learn Welsh
[Video] Coast : Hollyhead Angelsey to Liverpool England