Wales is where Fangirl Quest got started and the country will always hold a special place in our hearts. During the time we both lived in Cardiff, we did several small day trips to locations nearby and even drove to Snowdon mountain for Gishwhes once. However, this was the first time we had the chance to do a proper, longer roadtrip around Wales and really explore everything the country has to offer. This year Wales is celebrating the Year of Legends, bringing together storytelling and movie magic with the country’s rich history and stunning landscape. Not only is it a perfect theme for our travels but the TV advert stars one of our favorite movie dudes, Luke Evans!
In February we spent a week on the road in Wales, visiting several filming locations and adventuring around the country. While the time of year is not the most ideal for outdoor adventures, we didn’t let the weather stop us from finding our epic! Our travels started in Northern Wales, home to the ruggedly beautiful Snowdonia National Park as well as many other interesting destinations.
Sometimes referred to as “The Castle Capital of the World”, Wales has hundreds of castles you can visit. Many have been used as filming locations but some are interesting for other reasons. Conwy Castle falls into the latter category. Built in the 13th century, it is remarkably well preserved and a World Heritage Site. The entire town is walled, so starting from the castle you can walk around the whole of Conwy atop the battlements. You can also purchase awesome King Arthur swords from the gift shop and take dorky 360° photos but maybe that’s just us…
Our stop in Conwy was sadly a short one, but we still made time to see the Smallest House in Great Britain. Located on the beautiful Conwy Quay it stands at just 6 feet wide and 8 feet high, which makes it last resident, a 6’3”ft fisherman, practically a giant. In the summer the house is open for visitors and while the upstairs is no longer structurally sound enough to allow visitors, they can admire it from a stepladder from the ground floor. If you have time, the Conwy Quay is also lovely for a stroll on the waterfront, complete with an ice cream shop and a pub.
From Conwy we drove on to Anglesey, an island off the north-west coast of Wales. From here you can for example catch a ferry to Ireland from the coastal town of Holyhead, which we’ve done before. This time however, we were headed to the the sand dunes of the National Nature Reserve of Newborough Warren. It’s a beautiful area for hiking but as we were short on time, we headed straight to Ynys Llanddwyn: a small tidal island that was the filming location for both Clash of the Titans and Half Light. It’s a bit of a walk from the car park and as daylight was fading fast and the tide rising even faster we couldn’t risk going to the tip of the island to see the Tŵr Mawr lighthouse, but we did find the spot from Clash of the Titans and snapped a lovely frame from the movie. The beaches are beautiful though and the view of Snowdonia is quite magnificent so we hope to go back with more time (and hopefully a bit warmer weather).
We had lots of plans for Snowdonia. Big plans. We were planning to hike up to Dinorwig Quarry to snap some Clash of the Titans and Willow sceneframes, we were going to find the camping ground at Llyn Gwynant that posed as a Chinese village in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and we hoped we might even spot the place at Llyn Trawsfynydd where the legendary Camelot was in the movie First Knight.
Unfortunately the weather had other plans.
Now we’re used to the weather in Britain being unpredictable, even not so co-operative at times. Yet nothing could’ve prepared us for what Northern Wales had in store for us… The rain was coming sideways, sheets of water in a wind so strong it was hard to even get the car door open, let alone hold the ZenPad up for any sceneframing. Rain ponchos were pretty much useless since they kept getting caught in the wind and, as mentioned, the rain was coming in sideways anyway.
The fog was so thick we couldn’t even see up to Dinorwig Quarry and we would’ve been soaked in minutes had we even tried to walk there. We actually managed to drive to the campsite at Llyn Gwynant but even if we could’ve survived being wet, we were afraid our equipment might not…
We don’t despair easily in the face of difficulties when looking for locations, but this time we came pretty close to just giving up. Luckily we didn’t though, because towards the evening we finally caught a break! We knew that parts of the new movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword had been filmed in the area around Llyn Ogwen, near our hotel for the next night. The rain finally let up just enough to actually get out of the car for more than two minutes. It was still raining and windy, but it was manageable. The new King Arthur movie isn’t even in the theaters yet, it comes out in May, and we had no idea about the exact locations, just the general area where some scenes were filmed. The only pictures we had were a couple of screenshots from the trailer and some promo shots. But sometimes, just sometimes, perseverance pays off and luck is on your side. You can read the whole story of how we managed to find just the right spots and snap some awesome sceneframes from a movie that hasn’t even been released yet here.
Our last destination before leaving the majestic mountains of Snowdonia behind was Zip World in the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in Northern Wales. The old slate mine has been turned into an incredible adventure park, complete with the largest zip zone in Europe, Zip World Titan. Unfortunately for us, the over 2-kilometer long zipline is only open from spring until autumn, but as we shivered in the freezing wind even at the bottom of the mine, we couldn’t help but feel that maybe it was a good thing that we didn’t get to experience it at this time… Titan is definitely something we want to experience though and this is one of those destinations we hope to get back to as soon as possible!
The massive zipline is not the only adventure Zip World has to offer. The rest of the activities are hidden inside the old mine, a fact we appreciated as it allowed us to escape the bitter cold and wind for a while. We got to experience Bounce Below, a massive maze of net trambolines and tube slides. Once we found our footing and got over the fact that the highest nets are REALLY high up in the cave, we had a blast! We were also sweating in just minutes of bouncing around so no warm layers of clothing needed. I can imagine the place is pure heaven for kids but even us (almost) adults enjoyed exploring all the nooks and tunnels of the site and even managed to capture some slow motion video of our bouncing.
Check out the map for all the locations and our route through Wales!