For my birthday at the beginning of August, there was only one place I wanted to go. Somewhere I could breathe salty sea air, with stunning views and surrounded by history. Welcome to the small Welsh town of Conwy.
It was actually the second time I'd been in less than a month as Chickpea and I met up with a group of friends here in July. The photos then are a mish-mash of the two days which you'll see ranged from mist and drizzle to glorious blue skies - and that was just one of the days! You'll also notice the tide in the harbour comes and goes as it was out on our first visit and in on our second. Just to confuse you!
There's lots to see so let's get going. Conwy is dominated by the castle, built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289. I've visited it a few times over the years but not on either of our recent visits. In fact, the last time was when my American friends were over almost 10 years ago: many happy memories :)
We parked at the back of the castle and walked past this row of twelve latrines to enter the town. Can you believe these cost the equivalent of £45,000 to build? I hate to think what the wall would have looked like in those days though - eurghhh!
Edward I also built the walls which surround the town and you can still walk along them though they're pretty steep and slippery in places.
There are great views over the surrounding hills, even in the drizzle.
And stunning views of the castle and town next to the river Conwy from which it takes its name.
At the end of the wall, you descend down to the river.
On our first visit, there was an event going on with stalls all along the quayside.
The RSPB stand, who have a reserve nearby, had a display of owls.
Another bird we saw a lot of was the jackdaw which has a special place in the town's folklore: people born within the town walls are known as jackdaws.
One of the most traditional industries in the area is mussel fishing, celebrated by this sculpture. They are still gathered in the centuries old way by hand raking.
All along the quayside, there was another kind of fishing going on: children fishing for crabs. You could buy a bucket, line and bait from a shop nearby.
It was very popular and very fruitful - we saw bucketfuls, all of them tossed back into the water later.
Further along the quayside is one of the most famous tourist attractions, the smallest house in Britain. It's squeezed into a gap between one of the wall towers and a row of terraced houses and has a floor area of only 10 feet by 6 feet! You can see photos of the tiny interior here.
On our first visit we followed the path which takes you along the side of the river to where it empties into the sea, though we didn't go quite that far. There were lots of oystercatchers probing the sands.
Back in the town, we're heading across one of the three bridges which cross the river parallel to each other. The oldest is the suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1822-26, which you'll see more of in a moment. The second is Robert Stephenson's railway bridge, built in 1846-48 made of two giant iron tubes. The third is this modern road bridge.
There's also a tunnel under this beautiful estuary.
Our destination was the Toll-keeper's house which stands at the entrance to the suspension bridge, both now owned by the National Trust.
It's a tiny place and was once home to a family of six. Worth a quick visit if you're a Trust member.
The suspension bridge itself is free to cross so we did just that, making our way back towards the town centre.
Next stop was another National Trust property in the town centre: Aberconwy House. It's a medieval merchant's house dating from the 14th to 15th century. Until the National Trust took it over, it was in danger of being dismantled and shipped to America!
There are only a few rooms, decorated in different periods. We were fascinated with the wooden crate suspended from the ceiling. The guide explained it was used for proving dough and storing bread to keep it away from mice.
The bedroom is decorated in Victorian style when the house was being used as a temperance hotel. It's a lovely old place with wonky, creaky floors, old timbers and uneven stone walls. I much prefer these kind of properties to the grand stately homes.
There's another old building just across the street from Aberconwy House. The date above the door says 1589 but I've just been reading an article which says they've discovered it has parts dating back to at least 1441. It was a pub for a long time but is now privately occupied. The owner has created a website which documents all the renovations including a 'before and after' video (fascinating if only for a glimpse of the mosaic-covered bath shaped as a stiletto!).
We're now looking down the high street towards the arch in the town wall leading to the harbour. Aberconwy House is the last white building on the right.
Turn to your left and there's some lovely plaster decoration on the side of a building.
We were stood in front of this building which dates from the 1930s and used to be a cinema. Now it houses shops and a lovely cafe, Amelie's, where I had my birthday lunch.
In the gable end, there's some lovely decorative ironwork with peacocks and squirrels.
At the top of the high street is a statue of Llywelyn the Great (c1172-1240) who dominated most of Wales for 40 years - if you wish, you can read more about him here.
Just off the high street is St Mary's and All Saints church.
We were here to see the low iron cage in the churchyard. 'We are Seven' is a poem by Wordsworth which it's claimed he wrote after a conversation with a child he met here: the seven are the child and her siblings, alive and dead.
As we end this part of the visit, why not help yourself to a bunch of herbs from the community garden?
I picked a stem of lavender and put it in my buttonhole where it released its fragrance all day long.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour of this beautiful and historic town. There's just so much to see and enjoy. And I'm not finished yet! There's one more building I want to show you but it deserves a post all of its own, and it's not the castle! x
PS There's a free town trail and map which you can download here and covers most of the things I've shown you and more.