Despite growing up in Merseyside, living in Manchester and spending as much time as possible travelling and exploring, there’s one area very close to home where I’ve not spent too much time: Wales. Apart from a few trips as a child (and a hen do in Chester that involved visiting a spa in Deeside), Wales is very much undiscovered territory to me so when we were looking for a place for a weekend away, it seemed like the natural choice.
We stayed in rural Snowdonia – probably the most rural place I’ve ever stayed – but on the way there and back we made a few stop offs.
Albion Ale House, Conwy
I fell in love with Conwy as soon as we arrived. It was full of things I like: A castle! A beach! A cool bridge! And even better, it had both an excellent off licence (Vinomondo, mainly a wine shop but with a good selection of beer from Wales and beyond) and a beautiful pub owned by four local breweries.
The Albion is a 1920s pub chock-full of original features including an art deco fireplace, traditional fixed seating with push bells (no longer in use!) and even four of the pub’s original handpumps.
But it’s not just the history that’s of interest; it’s also the way its run. The Albion is operated by four breweries who have all come together to create a fantastic pub; Purple Moose Brewery, Conwy Brewery, Bragdy Gant Brewery and Great Orme Brewery. Beers on offer come from the four breweries alongside a selection of guest beers – in total it has eight beers as well as two real ciders.
There’s a focus on a traditional pub atmosphere – there’s no TV, no jukebox and, apart from bar snacks and nibbles, there’s no food.
What it does have is a beautiful building and a welcoming beer garden – complete with this little feature for four-legged visitors which I enjoyed.
Sadly, we only had time for a swift half but I can see why it’s received a number of awards and accolades since its opening in its current guise.
Albion Ale House, Uppergate Street, Conwy.
Snowdonia Parc Brewpub
One of the factors that sold our B&B to us was its close proximity to an award winning brewpub – Snowdonia Parc Brewpub. It was actually slightly further away than we anticipated (about 1.5 miles) and it was mainly walking on the road, but it was a pleasant stroll there and back from the B&B. Light evenings also helped – wouldn’t have fancied walking it in the dark!
The pub itself is located on a campsite in the village of Waunfawr. A large white building, it doesn’t appear to have too much character from the outside but it’s got a beautiful setting surrounded by fields and with the hills of Snowdonia as its backdrop. It’s a fairly extensive building with a number of different rooms and the bar itself is accessible from the two largest areas. One area features a darts board and a pool table and seemed to be mainly frequented by locals and the other side of the bar seemed more set up for dining and also had a patio door leading out to the beer garden. As we were dining, we went for this area and our fellow drinkers and diners including a family and a solo walker so it does attract a real mixed clientele.
Snowdonia Parc is the home of Snowdonia Brewery – and this appears to be the only place you can drink their beers. The beers are all of fairly traditional styles and on our visit there were four available on cask so we made our way merrily through them while we ate. My favourite of the lot was the Theodore Stout but the range seems to focus quite a lot on bitters/best bitters which just aren’t my thing. Always nice to sample different beers – especially ones you can’t find elsewhere – so an enjoyable experience overall.
Snowdonia Parc Brewpub, Waunfawr.
The Black Boy Inn, Caernarfon
A recommendation from our B&B, we visited this pub the evening after climbing Snowdon. I’d agreed to drive so it was lemonade for me all night (although I ate a massive piece of chocolate cake to make up for this!) but Ross set out to make his way through a selection of the beers on offer.
I love a pub with history and character, and this place has it in bucketloads. Dating back to 1522 (hence the slightly dubious name), it’s full of little nooks and crannies, old fireplaces and beams. It’s a short distance away from Caernarfon Castle and is within the city’s medieval walls.
But, despite its traditional look and atmosphere, it serves some very modern beers – including plenty on keg. During our visit, Ross sampled beers from the likes of Tiny Rebel and Kernel and I also noticed Beavertown and Brewdog on offer. Cask beers (which seem to have a more local focus) are also available so there’s something to keep all factions of beer lovers happy.
I would say that the only downside to the Black Boy Inn is its own popularity – it was very busy when we arrived and we did find ourselves sat in the beer garden for a bit until Ross managed to grab us a table in the main bar. They don’t take table bookings on the weekend which is worth bearing in mind if you want to dine there. But it’s a beautiful building with plenty of outdoor space (seating out back and out front) and somewhere I wouldn’t hesitate to return to – especially on an occasion when it’s not my turn to drive!
Black Boy Inn, Northgate Street, Caernarfon.
Not the booziest weekend away we’ve ever had, but a lovely one nevertheless! We were kept well-stocked by our visit to Vinomondo and my favourite place to enjoy a beer was actually back at our B&B – it had its own nature reserve complete with a river, so after my sober visit to the Black Boy Inn it was wonderful to kick off my shoes, dip my toes in the river and relax with a beer with nothing around us but the hills and a couple of sheep. Bliss.