Visit Conwy and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Conwy, Conwy. Aberconwy is the Welsh name for the town, since it stands at the mouth of the Afon Conwy. The estuary makes a delightful prospect, opening between long hills through which the stream turns from side to side as it comes from its distant source, the small lake also called Conwy, in the Migneint mountains northward from Arennig Fawr. Denbigh, Merioneth, and Caernarfon counties meet at the shores of this lake.
The history of Conway town seems to have begun no earlier than the time of Edward I of England and the castle he set up to make his hold firm on the territories controlled by Llywelyn, last of the independent Welsh Princes. The castle once built, the town grew round it. The estuary, however, was so valuable in itself, and formed so important a strategic point, that earlier strongholds had possessed the place before him. About 5 miles South of Conwy, the small village of Caerhun stands on the site of the Roman station Canovium, and on the other side of the estuary, rather to the North, Deganwy, now a small slate-shipping port, marks with its name the Dinas Conwy (Fort on the Conway) that Llywelyn in his conflict with Edward had to destroy in 1260. On the severe line of defence drawn by this estuary many attacks from England on the independence of Gwynedd were halted.
The town is still contained within its medieval walls. Telford's suspension bridge across the estuary dates from 1827, and is one of his most impressive works. The railway bridge follows it closely, running above the l3th century walls and trying to harmonize with them by throwing up towers in the “Gothic” style. Otherwise Conway still stands much as it did when, in 1295, Edward I was himself besieged by the Welsh in the fortress of his own making, rescued only by the arrival of a ship with provisions from England.
The strength of Conway Castle saved it from any real threat of overthrow, and has preserved it as perhaps the most perfect specimen of its times anywhere in Britain. Only in the Civil War did it suffer alarms, and even then it seems to have imposed a kind of neutrality, or at least a double-sidedness, on both Cavaliers and Puritans. It was held at first for Charles by his Archbishop of York, John Williams, who was chased from his see by the rebels, and came to Conwy through “magnetick attraction” (it was said) like that which causes the salmon to seek its place of birth. Williams swore to hold Conwy against all corners; he urged all who were for the King to deposit their valuables in the Castle for safe keeping, and all good citizens to spend their days in prayer. But the Sir John Owen who was active in these same parts for the Royalist cause demanded that Williams should surrender the place into better keeping Sir John's own. Perhaps Williams was in some way suspect, since he was not only acquainted with Oliver Cromwell but was a cousin of his. “Cromwell” was an adopted name; Oliver's true surname was Williams, but his family had formed a connection by marriage with that of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Minister. The Archbishop had originally no great opinion of this Oliver Williams, alias Cromwell, for he told King Charles: “He is the most dangerous enemy your Majesty has. I knew him at Bugden but never knew his religion. He loves none that are more than his equals. And above all that live, I think he is the most mindful of injury”.
Deeply outraged by Sir John Owen's demands, John Williams wrote to Mytton. the local Parliamentary commander: “Expel me this intolerable Owen; Owen out, I will hold the Castle for Parliament and you. His Majesty would seem to have done with fighting now”. Oliver himself wrote to him from Putney: “Your advices will be seriously considered by us. We shall endeavour to our uttermost so to settle the affairs of North Wales as, to the best of our understandings, does most conduce to the public good thereof and of the whole. And that without private respect or to the satisfaction of any humour [prejudice] which has been too much practised on the occasion of our Troubles”. He signed himself “Your cousin and servant, Oliver Cromwell”.
Mytton's troops took the position without much trouble, the people of Conwy being, it was said, as ready to fight for Sir John Owen as for a maypole. The Archbishop then retired to Gloddaeth, an estate not far away. At the news of the King's execution, he fainted. He has been described as the one man who could have averted the Civil War. Afterwards he is said to have lived in a great house at Bethesda in Caernarfonshire. He was buried at Llandegai, a remote spot close to the sea. But he does not seem to have rested in peace. His ghost walked frequently, explaining to one Betty Jones that he was anxious for the security of a treasure he had buried there. Betty, however, refused to have anything to do with its recovery.
Conwy's Church of St Mary, in the centre of the town, is believed to incorporate, in its entrance arch to the South porch and part of the tower's West wall, portions of the Cistercian Abbey of Aberconwy, which was removed by Edward I to Maenan, lower down the river, when he created his new fortress.
An Elizabethan half-timbered house, Plas Mawr, built in 1585 by Robert Wynn of Gwydir, is now maintained by the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art, and its panelling, plaster-work, and ancient fireplaces are the background for its annual exhibitions. Another timbered building, where Castle Street and High Street meet, is claimed as the oldest house in Wales; the title of the Smallest House in Britain is given to a building by the river-quay.
Conwy is no longer a port, though the development of yachting in recent years has made the estuary a place of resort. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food maintains an oyster and mussel-breeding centre; beds at the mouth of the estuary are said to produce mussel-pearls.
Local tradition states firmly that the first sweet peas in Britain were grown by Queen Eleanor of Castile, in a little terrace overlooking the river and known as the Queen's Garden.
Nearby towns: Colwyn Bay, Deganwy, Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Llanrwst, Penmaenmawr
Nearby villages: Aber, Bethesda, Betws-yn-Rhos, Caerhun, Colwyn, Dalgarrog, Eglwysbach, Gwytherin, Llanbedr-y-Cennin, Llanddoged, Llanddulas, Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, Llanelian-yn-Rhos, Llanfair Talhaiarn, Llanfairfechan, Llangelynin, Llangernyw, Llangoed, Llanllechid, Llansannan, Llysfaen, Mochdre, Old Colwyn, Penmon, Rhos-on-Sea, Tal-y-Cafn, Trefriw
Have you decided to visit Conwy or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Conwy bed and breakfast (a Conwy B&B or Conwy b and b)
- a Conwy guesthouse
- a Conwy hotel (or motel)
- a Conwy self-catering establishment, or
- other Conwy accommodation