This journey around the coast of North Wales was ridden over several days. You can adapt the route and information accordingly to suit your needs. To be honest, the original plan was to travel by train from the Black Country to Colwyn Bay and return home from Bangor railway station. A great route around some lovely coastal roads combined with a few climbs and calling into some excellent pubs.
One would think that choosing to ride in North Wales in July would be a safe bet in terms of decent weather. But this is North Wales. Ever heard the weather forecast declaring that the wettest place in the UK today is Capel Curig? It's always Capel Curig - only soggy Ireland makes Capel Curig seem like an arid desert.
And so, the best laid plans and all that .... the weather turned during the night at Porthmadog and we awoke to leaden skies and pouring rain. The final leg was supposed to be a ride to Beddgelert, up towards Capel Curig before turning for the descent down Llanberis Pass, over to Bethesda and down into Bangor. Never mind seeing Snowdon - we could hardly see out of the hotel window.
And here's the rub - one that many a sensible soul should go along with. Sometimes you just have to be prepared to quit while you're ahead. There's no fun to be had riding in the rain for six hours [the estimated duration of the rain cloud]. Who wants to be cold and wet pedalling with their head down in the blustery wind pretending you're having fun? This isn't an endurance test - it's a holiday. Besides, the low cloud means that motorists cannot see you until the last minute so what's the point of risking your life in order to complete the exercise. And that's all it would be ... a case of ticking the box. What's that? A direct train from Porthmadog to Smethwick Galton Bridge? In the warm? In the dry? A coffee trolley? We're on it.
To be fair to the hotel chain, there are some good Travelodge locations - for example, the one overlooking Liverpool's Albert Dock is fabulous. Indeed, on this holiday there could be no complaint about our position in Llandudno. However, I think it's fair to say that the view from many a Travelodge can mean a backdrop of Motorway Service Stations, the arse end of a Little Chef or some industrial prospect. Porthmadog pretty much takes the biscuit. Check out the builder's yard from our window and the massive piles of junk and rubbish that would normally be in a landfill site. Not exactly an uplifting experience when you draw the curtains in the morning. But the rooms are cheap, sort of clean and you can sleep with your bike so they are great for cycle touring. We generally plan a route that goes from one Travelodge to another. At the end of a long day in the saddle all you need is a half-decent mattress and a shower that works. So on this route we stopped at Llandudno, Caernarfon and Porthmadog. We ditched the night adjoining the Bangor by-pass when we abandoned a day in sodden Snowdonia.
Getting to North Wales on the train is not without issues. We boarded at Smethwick on a train that originated in Birmingham. There were few passengers so we assumed we were in for a nice quiet journey through Shropshire and Cheshire. Although we had reserved spaces for two bicycles, we found that there isn't really a dedicated space for bikes on the Holyhead service so you just have to occupy the general area for prams and wheelchairs. Not a problem as the train was virtually empty. Another cyclist was sat peacefully reading Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" so all was well with the world. Then we rolled into Wolverhampton where hordes of screaming children, accompanied by a mass of screaming parents, piled onto the train with more baggage than a pair of five-times married middle-agers seeking fun and another doomed relationship. And they all had a pram, pushchair or buggy, along with five suitcases. And there we were occupying the only space in which such contraptions could be accommodated. Despite having booked the bikes onboard, we were suddenly the target of passenger invective.
Bicycle issues aside, the children ran riot, the mothers screamed, the grandmothers screamed, the men got their lager tins out, toys were flying around the place. I even managed to pick up a knee injury from some airborne object. The only person having a worse time of it was Sir Thomas More in Mantel's Booker Prize-winning tome. As for the laid-back cyclist wading through Tudor England he was now being assaulted by spat-out dummies and a mouthy claptrap of a woman with tattoos on her tits. Basically, it was carnage. And we hadn't even got out of Wolverhampton. More people boarded at Shifnal by which point the train was getting uncomfortably crammed. Thing couldn't get worse could they? Then the train stopped at Telford. The platform was a sea of people destined for the Welsh coast. By the time everyone squeezed in, it was elbow room only. Yet the inadequate rolling stock just kept on hoovering up people from the platforms at Shrewsbury, Chirk, Ruabon and Wrexham until the faces of passengers were pressed up against the window panes. The guard hid in the rear cubby hole for the journey, too scared to face the wrath of customers stood for several hours when they had paid for a seat. What you would really want at a time like this is for the manager of Arriva Trains to be hurled onboard and every passenger to be issued with a baseball bat. Or maybe the suffering should be dished out to one of the principal shareholders of Deustche Bahn, the German company that own this franchise and enjoys multi-million pound profits which largely goes on investment and modernising German railways. This is no way to run our train service. Or Britain!
Talking of transport and the economy. Can anybody tell me the sense in using subsidised fuel, a precious non-renewable source of energy, in order to transport hordes of holidaymakers on budget airlines to Spanish beaches? More money leaking from the UK economy so that chavs and chavettes can tank themselves up on vino-la-plonko. Or the less Chav can lounge around in resort compounds in more exotic locations whilst not daring to venture out to witness the living conditions of the indigenous people who will never benefit from the money generated by the foreign-owned hotel chains and tour operators. Meanwhile, coastal towns of Britain continue to decline towards oblivion. We disgorged at Colwyn Bay's forlorn railway station and headed to the pier. It was a truly pitiful sight. This could be Morrissey's "coastal town that they forgot to close down - come, Armageddon!"
Despite enjoying a few boom years, Colwyn Bay's pier has had a chequered history. With the architect handing over a golden key to the pier's owners, an opening ceremony was performed in June 1900. The Edwardians could enjoy entertainment in the 'Moorish'-style pavilion, a lavish building with a large auditorium and a full orchestra pit. The crowds flocked to the pier which had to be extended by the Victoria Pier Company who opened a second 600-seat theatre at the pier head in 1917. Five years later the main pavilion building was totally destroyed by a fire. The owners had to be bailed out by the local council who spent £45,000 on a replacement pavilion. Opened in July 1923 the building never made it to its tenth anniversary because another fire gutted the place in May 1933. Within two months the smaller theatre on the pier head also went up in flames. This was an era when fag smokers had a habit of torching the coastline's wooden structures.
Colwyn Bay Urban District Council had to dig deep to build another theatre so who could blame them for reducing the budget. A mere £16,000 was spent on the pier's third pavilion and the idea of reinstating another building on the pier head was shelved. The forsaken pavilion on today's pier was opened in May 1934. The council aimed to claw back some of the cost by introducing a two-penny toll to wander along the planks, grab a deckchair and listen to the band. For a few shillings extra punters could venture into the theatre to see The Colwyn Follies.
Rock 'n' Roll did for the pier, though post-punk joined forces with Northern Soul in an attempt to salvage the wreckage. The rot set in during the late 1950's and the decline continued throughout the 1960's and 1970's. Band members clung on as if they were playing on the deck of the Titanic but, one-by-one, they played the last post and were issued with their P45. By 1962 pre-recorded music was being transmitted via loudspeakers. Still, as a young whippersnapper, I can remember sizeable crowds at Colwyn Bay. By this time Trust House Forte invested a few quid upgrading the pavilion and converting it into a Dixieland Theatre. The company also introduced Golden Goose Amusements. The old tearooms also got the Golden Goose treatment - jam and scones were replaced with burgers or fish and chips. The Dixieland will still figure in many treasured memories for fans of The Damned, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Elvis Costello, The Specials, and many more artists who plied their trade here. The venue even hosted soul legends such as Martha & The Vandellas, Junior Walker, Jackie Wilson, The O'Jays and Major Lance.
Several operators bought or sold their interests in the pier, with a succession of doomed projects never getting off the ground. In the early 1990's the game was up and the vandals moved in. And here the skeleton acts as a reminder of another age, a period of kiss-me-quick hats, sticky rock and saucy postcards.
Check out our photograph of the six silhouette figures on Colwyn Bay's Promenade. This public art commission is part of an Arts Council of Wales-funded project entitled 'On the Beach' and completed by Freshwest Design in April 2016 - but it's noticeable that there are more figures [that look to me like melting chocolate] than there are actual holidaymakers on the beach! By the way, I'm not here to knock Colwyn Bay - I just want it to be the place it was when I was a nipper. Maybe when the petrol has run out and we're onto Ibiza Anthems Volume 128 the crowds will fall in love with Colwyn Bay all over again. In the meantime they could tart up the old Dixieland, get The Specials to reform and have another listen to "Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?"
Whilst the pier may have been abandoned, there has been a degree of regeneration in Colwyn Bay, the most conspicuous being the Porth Eirias Water Sports Centre a short distance to the east. Bryn Williams, a locally-born celebrity chef, has opened a bistro within this complex and here we were able to grab a quick coffee before setting off on our ride. We headed along the excellent North Wales Coastal Cycleway, part of National Cycle Route 5. This is a cycleway we would return to later in the journey. Once off the promenade, the surface is pretty much like a billiard table so you can enjoy an ultra-smooth ride to Llanddulas.
Raynes Jetty is less than 2½ miles into the ride and serves to remind the visitor that this coast was not always devoted to tourism. Although improvements to other transport links have greatly reduced its role, Raynes Jetty is used to load limestone from the quarry at Llanddulas and taken to other ports around the coast. You will pass over the conveyor belt that feeds the quarried stone to the awaiting vessels. Although used in the construction of buildings, the limestone in this part of Wales is highly suitable for use in the chemical and cement industries.
In November 2011 MV Swanland, collected 3,000 tons of stone from this jetty and headed for the Isle of Wight. However, the vessel ran into difficulty on the rough Irish sea and sank with the loss of six crew members. In April of the following year another freighter was pushed onto the sea defences near the jetty though the crew were all airlifted to safety. The boat however was a complete wreck and dismantled with blow torches in front of passing cyclists.
The jetty was sometimes used by illegal immigrants seeking to gain entry into Wales. For example, in February 1939 two Irishmen from Cork stowed themselves on the steamship Asteria. On climbing off the ship and onto the jetty they were detained and arrested. The men were charged at Abergele where they pleaded guilty, stating they had merely come for work. They were subsequently imprisoned. These days, given that the unemployment figures for the area, combined with the long-term sick, accounts for 30% of the population, it would be no surprise to find the locals clambering onto boats seeking a brighter economy across the Irish Sea.
It is roughly a mile further on when you pass the old lifeboat house and encounter the railway viaduct over the River Dulas. This is a replacement for an earlier viaduct that was completely swept away in the floods that hit England and Wales during August 1879. The London & North Western Railway had to erect a temporary wooden viaduct to restore services to Holyhead and Ireland. In the meantime work on new steel spans was undertaken at the company's Crewe workshops. In a construction programme that is unimaginable in this day-and-age, work on the new viaduct went on around the clock to build the masonry piers. The site was one of the first in Great Britain to use electric lights to facilitate round-the-clock operations. The new viaduct was opened on September 14th, just 24 days following the disaster.
The worst disaster on this line occurred in the previous decade when, on August 20th 1868, the Irish Mail train crashed into goods wagons being shunted at Llanddulas. The regular Bangor goods train from Chester was due to be shunted at Llandudno Junction but there was a delay. Consequently, it was decided to fly-shunt the train at Llanddulas in order to allow the mail train to pass. Busy quarry working meant that there were already goods wagons in the sidings so the train had to be split. When pushing the uncoupled wagons into the sidings a gear in the brake van was damaged and five of the wagons started to descend towards Abergele. There is a steady gradient up from Abergele to Llandullas so the driver of the mail train put on some speed to surmount the mile-long climb that includes a long curve in the track close to Gwrych Castle. As the train came around the bend the driver, James Thompson, saw several trucks descending rapidly towards his mail train. His first instinct was to jump from the engine, during which he was wounded. The stoker, Joseph Holman, was however killed. On impact, the engine and four carriages of the mail train taken on at Chester were engulfed in flames as two of the runaway goods wagons contained fuel. The passengers to the rear of the train who had travelled from London were more fortunate and they were able to get out of the carriages. They were joined by quarry workers and a line was formed to convey sea water in buckets to subdue the fire at the front of the train. However, the flames swept through the carriages at a rapid rate resulting in the death of 33 people. It was reported that the survivors and quarry workers could plainly see for some time the skeletons of the victims as they burned, the bones of whom were calcined into dust. The event shocked the country as it was reported in almost every newspaper across then land. The inquest held at Abergele ended with a verdict of manslaughter against the two breaksmen in charge of the goods train, Richard Williams and Robert Jones. Samuel Eaton, the station-master at Llanddulas, was also censured for neglect of duty.
The route passes under the viaduct and up Station Road to emerge on the old turnpike road. You will pass under the horrifically busy North Wales Expressway which takes traffic around Llanddulas. The noise of tyres on tarmac is omnipresent all along this coastline. On a bicycle one can largely avoid the noise pollution by scuttling through leafy lanes and cycle paths. The village was first by-passed as early as 1939 when a road programme costing £200,000 took traffic around Llanddulas. This would have impacted on the pubs that had served travellers for more than a century.
The Celtic Cross on the corner of Pencoed Road is the war memorial for those who died in both World Wars. The memorial was unveiled in June 1921 to commemorate nine local men who were killed in the First World War. There is a separate memorial for Arthur Banks who is not included on the names added for the Second World War, though you will note that his uncle Arthur Chaplin Banks is included in the list of nine men who died in the First World War. Arthur's father, Charles Chaplin Banks also served in the First World War, first as a soldier in the 5th [Flintshire] Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. He subsequently became a flying ace and was awarded the Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. Like his father, Arthur Banks joined the Royal Air Force in WW2 and served as a sergeant in the Mediterranean. During an operation in August 1944, he was forced to crash land his aeroplane which had been hit over Northern Italy. Locals took him to a group of Partisans who attempted to return him to the Allied-held part of Italy. However, they were betrayed, captured and imprisoned. Arthur Banks was subjected to days of torture by both the German authorities and Italian Militia before his battered and burned body was dragged to a bridge for execution by hanging. He was tied up and pushed off the bridge but he managed to wriggle free and swim to the riverbank. He was tracked by the fascists who subsequently shot him. At the end of the war 27 people were put on trial at a War Crimes Tribunal for their part in the torture and execution of Arthur Banks who was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his "courage and endurance ... in the face of most brutal and inhuman treatment." The citation for the award stated that "his courage and endurance impressed even his captors."
Well, we haven't travelled very far but have took in a lot of information ... time for the first pub on the route. The Valentine Inn has erroneously been linked to the Welsh politician Lewis Edward Valentine who, along with Saunders Lewis, Huw Robert Jones and others, formed Plaid Cymru in 1925. Nine years later he was one of three Welsh nationalists to attack RAF Penyberth, an air base on the Llŷn Peninsula, an action that led to his imprisonment at Wormwood Scrubs. However, the treatment of the activists by the English dramatically increased the profile of Plaid Cymru and, on their release 15,000 supporters greeted them as heroes in Caernarfon.
It is such a great story I wish the pub was named in Lewis Valentine's honour. But the fact is that a pub named the Valentine was in existence during the early 19th century. The building is thought to date from the late 18th century. It is true that Lewis Valentine was born in Llanddulas in 1893. I would like to think that he did at least patronise the Valentine Inn but he trained as a Baptist pastor so maybe he was not tempted by the demon drink! Mind you, his father Samuel Valentine, like a good number of the local population, worked in the local quarry, so perhaps needed to seek refreshment at this historic tavern. Having said that, he was also a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist minister so beer may not have been part of his doctrine.
In some documents dating from the mid-19th century the pub is listed as the Valentine Arms Inn, suggesting a reference to a family of this name. Certainly, Samuel Valentine was a man of some influence in the area. However, his ancestors hailed from Ruabon rather than the locality. An interesting side story is that another of his sons, Moses Idwal Valentine, joined the Manchester police force and was promoted to Assistant Chief Constable and awarded the King's Police and Fire Service Medal for distinguished service. He was a high profile and feared detective in the 1930's and 1940's and gained the nickname MI5. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1958.
The Valentine Inn stands in the heart of the old village. Although expanded in the 19th and 20th centuries, in earlier times Llanddulas consisted of few buildings. In the reign of King William IV there was the church, a vicarage, Ty Ucha House, the mill complex, and cottages in Mill Street at the top of which stands the pub. Of course, there were outlying farms and cottages but these buildings formed the nucleus of a settlement around the church and straddled what was once known as the "Great Road from Chester to Holyhead."
Thomas Foulkes was the publican during the early 1840's, a period when Thomas Williams was mine host at the nearby Railway Inn. The miller was William Williams and John Hughes operated the village shop. Locally-born Thomas Foulkes kept the Valentine Inn with his wife Jane. Curiously, she hailed from Castle Donington in Leicestershire. It would be interesting to know what brought her to Denbighshire? Daughter of a railway worker is one line of conjecture. The Foulkes couple were able to hire two servants to undertake the daily chores at the tavern. Jane Foulkes succeeded her husband as licensee of the Valentine Inn. As a widow and bringing up three young children, she was helped by a servant named Elinor Williams.
During the mid-19th century most of the cottages in Mill Street were occupied by quarry workers and stone masons. A few doors from the pub was the butcher's shop of William Griffiths. Robert Hughes traded as a tailor from a workshop in the yard behind the Valentine Inn where a few cottages housed quarry workers.
In May 1868 an inquest was held at the Valentine Arms Inn, on the body of Abel Davies, a widower, 59 years of age, who had met with his death by falling down a precipice. It appears that he was paying his addresses to a woman in the neighbourhood whom he met at Llanddulas. After conversing together for a short time, he went away, though it was reported that the woman went home and stayed up expecting him to follow her. Instead of going along the road he turned to some fields, along which there was a footpath to the woman's house. This sounds like he was welcome to stay the night but the neighbours were not to see them going into the house together? However, on his circuitous route around the back, he fell down a precipice about thirty yards deep, and fractured his skull when he hit a tree during the fall. The jury inside the pub returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
Serving beer to a tap room full of quarry workers was bound to lead to the odd bit of trouble in the Valentine Inn. In November 1876 the village bobby was called to deal with a situation at the pub. Police Constable Thomas Owen eventually charged Thomas Powell, Penmaen, Llysfaen, and John Jones, Minffordd, Llanddulas, with refusing to quit the Valentine Hotel [note the status of the house at this point] Powell was fined 15s., and Jones 10s., with 10s. costs in each case - the grim alternative was seven days' hard labour, though whether tough quarry workers would find prison labour that arduous is another thing!
Jane Foulkes eventually retired and moved to Rhyl's High Street where her son William had a chemist's shop. John and Sarah Foulkes, her other children, were both drapers. Abergele-born Elizabeth Davies was licensee for a period before the licence of the Valentine Inn was transferred to Joseph Jones on November 5th 1881. He was the brother of Elizabeth Davies. His rivals for custom during his early days were David Evans at the Fair View Inn and William Roberts at the Railway Hotel. The latter would be renamed the Dulas Arms during the Second World War.
Joseph Jones was a joiner by trade. His parents had kept the King's Head at Abergele for many years. He quickly became a key part of the community at Llanddulas and served as an overseer of the parish before being elected chairman of the St. Asaph District Council. He was helped at the Valentine Hotel by his nieces, Emma and Annie. He also employed Mary Sturgess as a housekeeper.
It sounds like Joseph Jones was a benevolent person but was prone to be taken for a ride. In the summer of 1896 he allowed John Fairfax Jesse of Ruthin to stay at the Valentine Hotel following the latter's accident in a trap. However, the visitor quickly got his slippers under the table and ended up staying for several months free-of-charge. He had originally agreed to stay only for a few days. After overstaying his welcome, he was asked to leave on several occasions but he simply wouldn't move out. The matter eventually went to court when Joseph Jones claimed for loss of earnings from a room at the hotel occupied by a man described as "a most troublesome customer" for over 23 weeks. It was claimed that Jesse was afforded a private sitting room along with his bedroom and was provided with meals by the publican's niece Emily. Not only did the visitor not pay for his stay, he borrowed money from Joseph Jones. During the court case it was stated that he often demanded fish for his dinner rather than the beef provided and that the publican would have to go to Colwyn Bay or Abergele to buy this. Described as an inveterate smoker, the guest was also supplied with a considerable supply of cigars and cigarettes.
This court case provides a glimpse of the Valentine Hotel at the end of the 19th century. John Jesse implied that the establishment was not only a poorly-run hotel but that it was little more than "a quarryman's grog shop." He claimed that his meals were of "the most simple character." He told the court that for breakfast "they invariably went to a shop and brought a piece of ham on paper" which created much mirth in the public gallery. He added that the family "could not cook him breakfast or anything to save their lives" which brought the house down in court. He stated that he was often fed tinned meat or tinned salmon. With regard to the exclusive sitting room, Jesse told the court that he rarely had this to himself for the publican's elder niece "practiced the piano and played it very well." He added that a "dressmaker from the village habitually used the sitting room to sew." Moreover, he added, "when the relatives of the publican came, some of them brought their own victuals with them, and made use of the room." He stated that "the chimney drew so abominably bad that he found it better to be without a fire in the sitting room." He also claimed that ordinary people went to the bedroom to wash their hands and "generally left the water in the basin, as black as it could possibly be." When cross-examined he denied having any bad habits and that "he had never brought birds of a feather to the house, or indeed birds of any feather. There were quite enough of them already." By this time the court room was howling with laughter. The publican put up a stern defence of himself and the Valentine Hotel. He stated that Jesse came home drunk every night but, despite repeated attempts, he could not get rid of him. The court found in favour of Joseph Jones and awarded the publican £42 for board and lodgings plus out-of-pocket expenses.
In 1897 Joseph Jones sold the Valentine Hotel to Worthington's - their beers are advertised in these historic images of the pub. In May 1897 the licence of the Valentine Hotel was transferred from Joseph Jones to Mr. Hugh Lewis-Roberts of Llandudno. As a tenant he paid the Burton-on-Trent brewery £90 per annum rent for the Valentine Hotel. Hugh Roberts kept the hotel with his wife Emma. The licensee's father and mother had formerly kept the Albert Vaults at Llandudno.
During the Second World War the Valentine Inn had a narrow escape when a German parachute mine landed in the mill pond to the rear of the pub. This was one of two such devices dropped on Llanddulas in what is thought to have been an attack on the railway viaduct.
The Valentine remains a busy community pub selling real ales in a traditional environment. Run by Luke and Becky Faux, the pub hosts a number of events both inside and outside in the garden. Quiz nights are very popular - I think they even put on a treasure hunt from time-to-time. The pub's links with Burton-on-Trent have been maintained by stocking Marston's beer, along with guest ales. If anyone knows the historic link resulting in the Valentine name here at Llandullas do let me know. I must admit that I'm a little surprised the village did not have a tavern linked to the legend that there was once a cave on Pen y Cefn that was the abode of the Devil - that is until the people of Llanddulas bravely carried out an exorcism to drive him out! Also, being as King Richard II was betrayed in 1399 at nearby Penmaen Head, did the owner of the Dulas Arms, when changing from the Railway Hotel, not have the imagination to come up with a pub name to link into this act of treason? Something to ponder over a beer at The Valentine!
From The Valentine it is only a few yards to the Lychgate of St. Cynbryd's Church. This is a lovely Arts and Crafts example of early Tudor inspiration. It was designed by the Liverpool architect Harold Hughes who established his practice in Bangor. The lychgate was erected in 1899 for the ship-owner Alfred Lewis Jones, later a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. He owned a house in the parish and was colloquially known as 'Banana Jones.' He dedicated the lychgate to his mother Mary Jean Williams. On the front tie-beam there is a Welsh inscription above which is an oak carving, possibly of Saint Cynbryd.
We rolled through and down to the church which is well worth exploring inside, if only to see the remarkable white marble font of a kneeling angel, the work of Cecil Thomas in 1928. The older medieval font remains in the building. The church was erected in 1868-9, supplanting a church of 1732 which itself was a replacement for an older structure that had collapsed. The building was designed by the Gothic revivalist George Edmund Street, the architect responsible for the Law Courts on The Strand. This church was one of several commissions for Robert Bamford Hesketh of nearby Gwrych Castle. The construction project was undertaken by Messrs. G. and J. Hughes of Llandudno. In what was described at the time as modern Gothic, and since listed as eclectic Decorated style, the church walls are of local rubble, relieved with white limestone. The windows and buttresses are of wrought Caen stone. The roof is high pitched and slated with Whitland Abbey green slate, with a ridge of red ornamental tiles. Inside, the church is particularly noted for the tripartite carved stone reredos in Decorated Court Style, the work of William Earp. Dedicated to Saint Cynbryd, the church was consecrated on May 24th 1869 by the Lord Bishop Dr. Short of St. Asaph. Before the service the rector, the Rev. Davies, with a number of the neighbouring clergy, and the school children of the parish carrying banners, marched through the streets singing a processional hymn, and, still in procession, marched to the church. In the evening a hearty Welsh service took place, the sermon being preached by the Rev. J. Pryce, Junior Vicar of Bangor.
We cycled around the church and exited onto Beach Road, turning right to cross the old turnpike and up Beulah Avenue. Things have been easy up until this point but this is where there is some 'proper' cycling to be undertaken. The road passes the old chapel and crosses the Dulas before ramping up somewhat. This is a lovely long climb up to Plas-newydd and around to Llysfaen. If you prefer a harder eye-popping ascent you can turn right at the trees up Llindir Road. However, as I was riding my heavy touring trekker with pannier racks and bags, I took the easier option. It is still a decent gradient but nothing too serious as the length of climb takes the sting out of the ascent. Riding along Isallt Road, you are passing the sites of several former lime kilns before coming to a junction close to the Tabor Baptist Chapel of 1884.
I had to stand on the pedals to climb up Geulan Road before turning right along Tan-Y-Graig Road. Along here, on the north side of the lane stands the former Castle Inn. Named after the seat of the Bamford-Hesketh family seat erected in the early 19th century, the pub had traded up until a few years ago. Behind the pub is a popular climbing crag. Local quarrymen were often accused of heavy drinking in this tavern that was quite unruly in the 19th century. The house was frequently raided by the police to nab customers drinking out of hours. In 1900 licensee Mary Roberts was summoned for keeping pigs in an unsanitary condition at the Castle Inn. Even as recently as 2010 the Castle's reputation was tarnished when an officer of the court was savaged by a dog when he went to serve a fines enforcement notice.
More to follow on this route...
View and Download Map
The route map covers the entire day's cycle ride so it is not only this section of the route. The route loops around Llanddulas and Llysfaen before returning to Old Colwyn before heading in the direction of Llandudno.
The route profile also covers the entire day's cycle ride so it is not only this section of the route. I have scrunched it up a bit in order to fit - the hills aren't that bad!
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this route - perhaps you drank in different pubs? Or maybe you spotted something I missed en-route? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or route guidance for others. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.
Choose Your Bike
In addition to smooth tarmac, this route over several days, follows a number of former railway lines, brideways and a few other off-road sections. Consequently, we opted to ride trekking bikes with wide puncture-protected tyres. I rode with disc brakes but this is not really necessary. On this first day, the ride follows tarmac only so could be completed on a road bike.
Clothing and Equipment
The weather in Wales was changeable during our trip so it's best to pack a gillet and waterproof jacket - these also come in handy if the sea breeze is cool during the early morning or late afternoon.
Never underestimate the usefulness of a bungee. These are great for securing your bike on the train to prevent it falling over. Just loop one end around the top tube and the other on some fixture of the carriage - for example, the parcel shelf.
Some Inn Signs on this Route
"I don't know how you get dressed if you live in Wales, because it's pouring rain and then it's hot sunshine, and then it might hail. It's just
"At the Abergele Petty Sessions, on Saturday, Ernest Homan, barber, Queen Street, Rhyl, was summoned for riding a bicycle on the footpath at
Llanddulas. The defendant did not put in an appearance, and, after hearing evidence, the bench inflicted a fine of £1, and 6s. 6d. costs. Addressing the court, the
Chairman [Mr. Mason] said that the danger arising from the furious riding of bicycles was one that was increasing rapidly, to the danger of the public, and they felt that
it was high time that some steps should be taken to minimise the annoyance as much as possible. There was a gentleman lying dead in the town at that moment who was knocked
down some short time ago. He did not mean to allege that his death was caused by the accident, but it certainly did him no good. It behoved magistrates in all parts of the
county whenever an offence was committed to do their utmost to check it, by - if no other means could he adopted - inflicting heavy penalties. He was the last man in the
world to detract from the pleasure of bicycle riders, but they must thoroughly understand that the public had as much right to the roadway and footpath as they had, and
therefore ought not to run over a person because he was in the way. Mr. George [magistrates' clerk] said he was sure the public would be much indebted to the chairman for
his remarks. Mr. Copping [Chairman of the District Council] also deprecated the increasing danger that was attached to the high rate of speed attained by cyclists, and
described an incident where a rider whom he admonished for riding on the footpath wanted to fight him. Happily, that danger was averted. [laughter]. The chairman further
remarked that it was becoming the custom of cyclists to ride on each side of the carriage which they were overtaking. The rule of the road was that they should pass on the
right side, a state of things that well-trained horses had become used to; but when they passed on the left side as well it was obviously dangerous. It was fully high time
that some authority or other should lay down regulations for cyclists to adopt. Mr. Oliver George said they had witnessed many serious accidents at Rhyl, and after what
their worships had remarked he should imagine that any cyclists who were found guilty of furious riding would be severely dealt with. At the same court Henry Parry,
Pennington Terrace, Llanddulas, was fined 5s. and costs for riding a bicycle without a lamp. The bench said that if riding was dangerous in the daylight, it was doubly so
"Furious Riding by Cyclists"
Liverpool Mercury : October 5th 1896 Page 5.
"An unknown woman cyclist who was in collision with a motor-car on the main North Wales coast road between Abergele and the village of
Llanddulas, and who died in the West Denbighshire Hospital a few hours later from a fractured skull, was identified by a Bible yesterday as Sarah Evans, aged about 45, a
domestic servant in the employ of Sir Ernest Tate, of Galltfaenan Hall, Trefnant, near St. Asaph. She was reported missing from the Hall yesterday morning. The body was
identified through the Bible bearing her name which was found in a bag at the back of her wrecked cycle. It is understood that she was on her way to visit friends in the
"Identified by Bible"
Gloucester Citizen : December 29th 1936 P.11.
"Herbert Jackson, Norwood, Old Colwyn, and Vincent Jackson, of the same address, were summoned by P.C. Pierce for riding bicycles without
lights at Llanddulas, on the 28th of May. Mr. Amphlett for the defendants, admitted the offence, saying that the defendants left Manchester to ride to Colwyn, giving
themselves ample time to reach home before lighting up time, but were delayed by the strong weather. A fine of 1s. and 7s. 6d. costs was inflicted on each of the defendants.
Joseph Jones, Clip Terfyn, Llanddulas, was fined 6d., and 5s. costs for riding a bicycle on a footpath, on the 1st of June, at Llanddulas."
North Wales Times : June 18th 1898 Page 7.