Step Back in Time with Days Out for History LoversPublished on 18 Sep 2023 by Amy Greenwood
Wales is known for its mediaeval castles and there’s certainly no shortage of them here along the North Wales’ coastline. While these impressive structures are undoubtedly a must visit for many history lovers there are plenty of smaller, less well-known, places to visit which make for an interesting day out for any history lovers.
Nant Gwrtheryn, or ‘the Nant’, is a former quarrying village hidden away at the bottom of a steep, winding road on the north coast of Pen Llŷn. The village is now home to the National Welsh Language and Heritage Centre where visitors can learn about the Welsh language and culture along with the history of the village. The old cottages have been converted and are now mainly used for the centre’s residential language courses, ‘Quarryman’s Cottage’ however has been recreated as a period house open to visitors.
The Nant is an enchanting place with an almost palpable sense of history and a truly beautiful place to visit.
Off the tip of Pen Llŷn lies Ynys Enlli, or Bardsey island, once the last stop on an ancient pilgrim trail. A monastery was established on the island in the 6th Century and a religious community thrived for centuries, today it is home to a small permanent population and day trips are possible in good weather. You can view (sadly only from the outside) the Trinity House lighthouse, once home to two keepers and their families, visit the small but perfectly formed church, take a look at the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey or step inside Yr Ysgol, the island’s former school, which is full of information and offers a real sense of what island life was once like.
But it’s not all history, Enlli has plenty to offer nature lovers; linger at the landing spot of Y Cafn and you may well see the colony of seals which live there, visit the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory which monitors the island’s varied wildlife (including seals, puffins, guillemots and Manx shearwater), or take a walk up Mynydd Enlli to enjoy the fantastic views (avoid the steep Eastern side which can be dangerous and don’t attempt this walk in wet weather as the ground becomes very slippery!).
Step back in time deep underground at Sygun Copper Mine on the edge of Beddgelert. The audio presentation and special lighting and sound effects provide an enjoyable, interesting, and realistic glimpse into the life of a Victorian copper mine; meet some of the characters who worked the mine and marvel at the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations as you follow the self guided tour to explore the old workings in winding tunnels and chambers.
Once you’ve finished exploring below ground take in the wonderful surroundings with a beautiful lakeside walk or let the kids tire themselves out at the adventure playground.
If you like your history a little gritty, Beaumaris gaol offers a fascinating insight into the world of a Victorian prison. There are many rooms to explore including the recreated infirmary, laundry, work yard, drunk’s cell, chapel and nursery. You can also visit the whipping room, view the treadwheel, and visit the condemned cell, where several prisoners spent their final night.
This museum is somewhat sobering, but nonetheless hugely informative and incredibly interesting; older children will love it and anyone with a keen interest in history will find it fascinating.
The Llŷn peninsula, once a collection of small fishing and farming villages, has a long maritime history. The Llŷn Maritime Museum in Nefyn is a great place to explore this history with videos, artefacts and interactive displays offering a glimpse into the area’s rich heritage.
Combine a visit to the museum with a trip to nearby Porthdinllaen, now known for its famous ‘Ty Coch’ pub on the beach, it was once a centre for boatbuilding and would’ve been a hive of activity with sailmakers, ropemakers, a blacksmith and fishermen all working on the shore. The old blacksmith’s hut at the end of the beach now houses historic photographs and other information about this once thriving community.