|The Way to
My first day in Wales I spent almost entirely on car driving, as
I was heading for Ireland and had chosen the youth hostel at Conwy
as my place to stay to be able to conveniently reach Holyhead
ferryport on the following morning.
Actually, it was more of an afternoon and evening, due to the
Hamburg ferry's arrival in Harwich at noon and because I lost
almost an hour in Birmingham rush-hour traffic. I left the M6 at
Wolverhampton to head for Shrewsbury, from where the A5 directly
took me to the Welsh border somewhere behind a town called
Oswestry. This probably isn't the fastest way to get from
Harwich to North Wales, but I'm sure it is the most scenic one.
Shortly behind the Welsh border, the terrain becomes more and more
hilly, until you find yourself driving up a river valley within the
mountains, sometimes widening, sometimes narrowing. Because I had to
reach Conwy within the opening hours of the youth hostel's
reception, I wasn't able to stop anywhere and take pictures, which I
With a little more time, it would have been possible to take a
look around Shrewsbury
in Shropshire, which is supposed to be quite a picturesque town.
Another cultural landmark, the world's first iron bridge at "Ironbridge", would have been
within easy reach as well.
The first significant place along the A5 is the town of Llangollen. The A5 then
continues to make its way through the Welsh mountains and eventually
reaches the resort Betws-y-Coed. I got there
around sunset and saw the mountains of Snowdonia bathing in orange
sunlight, while the valley floor was already dark and dotted with
the lights of Betws-y-Coed. Can't believe
I didn't stop to capture this amazing view. When arriving at Conwy
some 30 minutes later, I already had decided that, if
possible, I would spend more time in Wales than originally
The first thing I did after checking in at the youth hostel and
checking out the wheelchair facilities was to get back to the
check-in and make a reservation for the way back from Ireland one
week later. Luckily, they still could accommodate me, and so I had
an additional day to do some sightseeing in North Wales. I drove
around a bit in then mountains of Snowdonia. Then I went to Bangor,
where I did some shopping, had lunch and spent an hour or so on the
pier enjoying marvelous views of the Welsh coastline and Menai Strait ( the sound
between Mainland Wales and the Isle of Anglesey). There are
beautiful resorts and beaches along the entire coast, and visiting
all of them is a matter of weeks, not days.
Conwy is one
of the most beautifully situated towns I'v ever visited. My
suggestion for a nice evening walk: Park your car on the central car
park and take over the bridge to the other shore of the Conwy River
estuary. Continue a bit to the left along the shore and wait for the
sunset there! Only 10 km or so north of Conwy is Llandudno, the best
known resort on the Welsh coast. Nice promenade with lots of
A view of the River Conwy estuary
Despite the difficult terrain, North Wales is a very
well-developed tourist region. The Welsh Tourist Board
explicitly encourages facilities to be made accessible, and this
seems to show. I've seen disabled parking lots and signs to handicap
restrooms as well as lowered curbs in nearly every town I visited.
In addition to this, many tesco and Safeway superstores have very
good disabled facilites. A particularly good example is the tesco
superstore between Conwy and Llandudno Junction, which I very much
recommend German industrial architects to visit in order to find out
how to plan, build and equip accessible buildings.
One remarkable example for the high regard for visitors with
special needs in this area is the Vale of
Llangollen Canal Boat Trust, an organisation providing accessible
boat trips on specially designed vessels.
When I cross-read the brochures on display at the youth hostel's
reception, I noticed a surprisingly large number of places which
stated they were partly or fully accessible, so there's plenty of
things disabled people can do here. Conwy is quite steep, but
at least has centrally located handicap parking and restrooms (can't
blame them for building the town on a hill, can you?). The visitors
centre is only a stone's throw away from the parking lot.
The promenade area of Llandudno is almost flat, so you will have
no problems moseying along the beach and in the streets behind the
first row of hotels. The "Great Orme", a 200-meter-high cliff, is
accessible by car, but besides the great view from the parking lot
at the top, there's not a whole lot to do up there.
The excellent Brochure "Discovering Accessible Wales" can be
ordered from the Wales Tourist Board.
mentioned, I stayed at the Conwy Youth Hostel (YHA) and was
extremely pleased with the facilities there. They will give you one
of their family rooms for the price of a double room, if you prefer
privacy to dorm accomodation. Bulk beds and inaccessible en-suite
bathrooms, but otherwise ample manoeuvring space. The handicap
bathroom will be on the same floor. It has a wheel-in shower with
one of these foldable shower seats. As often the case, I found that
one a bit too small, but you can always stay in your chair. The
excellent management and staff are extremely helpful, open and
good-humoured. Not only one of the best-situated, but also one of
the best-managed hostels I've ever been to. Book well in
advance, this already is a popular place, and I'm sure it will
become even more popular as the word is spread around the continent.
The only problem is the narrow lift which must
be used in order to get to the rooms. I barely fit in, and my
chair isn't really a wide one. Tel. 01492 - 593571
Other accessible accommodation listed in RADAR's "Accessible Holidays
- Bryn Meirion Guest
House, Benllech (Anglesey), Tel. 01248 -
853118. This is the closest one to Holyhead ferry port.
- Dolhyfryd Lodge, Abergele (Dengbyshire), Tel. 01745 - 826505
West Shore Hotel, Llandudno, Tel. 01492 - 876833
- Traeth Ganol Hotel, Prestatyn (Flintshire), Tel. 01745 -
- Rhosydd B&B, Pwllheli (Gwynedd), Tel. 01758 - 612956
The Pier in