The county of Conwy, nestled on the northern shores of Wales, is home to an array of unique historic experiences for visitors, from medieval fortifications to beautiful Regency-era estates.
The county’s pearl is, of course, its namesake town of Conwy, with its imposing Norman castle, immaculately preserved town walls and diverse architecture.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites to visit in the county and town of Conwy.
Constructed under the orders of King Edward I and built between 1283 and 1289, Conwy Castle was one of an ‘iron ring’ of strongholds commissioned to establish the king’s dominance over Wales. During the English Civil War, Conwy was initially a royal stronghold before falling to Parliament in 1646. Following this, the castle was slighted, or purposefully damaged to put it beyond military use, and eventually fell to complete ruin in the late 17th century.
Today, Conwy Castle is managed by Cadw and is open to the public. With its imposing towers and turrets and a striking position high over the Conwy estuary, the castle remains an atmospheric and picturesque site.
2. Smallest House in Great Britain
This curiosity can be found at the quayside of the town of Conwy. The bright red house is only 1.8 meters wide and 3 meters high, making it truly unique in Britain. Occupied until May 1900, the structure is open to visitors who can marvel at the sheer size (or lack thereof) of this Conwy icon.
3. Llandudno Pier
In the resort town of Llandudno one can find the longest pier in Wales, stretching over 700 meters out to sea. The structure was completed in 1878 and became a huge tourist attraction. In the early 20th century major works were done on the pier, to improve it for the large number of visitors that came during the summer months.
The Llandudno Pier is to this day the home of many shops and entertainment facilities, drawing in tourists from across the United Kingdom.
4. Plas Mawr
Plas Mawr is one of the best preserved Elizabethan buildings in Great Britain. Built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585 as a private home, the house has fulfilled many roles in the coming centuries – it has been used as a courtroom, a school building and as an art gallery. The interior is richly decorated, with many pieces of furniture coming from the 16th century.
The stunning building is open to visitors and can be found in the city of Conwy.
5. Gwrych Castle
Even though the complex looks like a medieval fortification, Gwrych Castle was actually built during the Regency era, between 1812 and 1822. Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh intended the building to be a memorial to his ancestors. The castle played a role during World War Two, when it housed some 200 Jewish refugees who came with the Kindertransport programme.
In more recent years the site has been used as a filming location for the UK TV series ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ The castle is open to visitors all year round.
6. Gwydir Castle
The splendid Tudor era building can be found near the market town of Llanrwst. It used to be the ancestral home of the Wynn family, who constructed the house around 1500. The site has seen many additions from the 17th and 19th centuries. For the past twenty years Gwydir Castle has underwent major restoration works and is now open to the public.
If one wished to stay in the beautiful castle for longer, there is a Bed & Breakfast located in the main building.
7. Conwy Town Walls
The medieval walls of Conwy are truly a marvellous sight to behold. They are considered to be some of the best preserved in Europe, built between 1283 and 1287. The whole fortification system consists of 21 towers, three gateways and 1.2 km of stone walls.
The best part is that one can easily walk on top of the walls, follow the footpath and circle around the town.
8. St. Trillo
The county of Conwy is home not only to the smallest house in Britain but possibly also one of the smallest churches in the country. St. Trillo is large enough for just 6 people. The tiny building stand above a natural well, believed by some to have been an ancient holy well. The water is still used for baptisms.
Because of its small size only a limited number of visitors can fit inside St. Trillo. The chapel is located in the town of Rhos-on-Sea.
9. Conwy Suspension Bridge
The almost 100 meter long structure was one of the very first road suspension bridges in the world. Construction started in 1822 and would take four years before being finished. The bridge was deigned by Thomas Telford, who was also the creator of the imposing Menai Suspension Bridge. Telford made sure that his project in Conwy would merge with the preexisting style of the medieval castle.
The suspension bridge is still open for foot traffic and can be found right next to Conwy Castle.
10. Bodnant Garden
The massive garden, found close to the small settlement of Tal-y-Cafn, was founded by Henry Davis Pochin in 1874. His plan, which was continued by his descendants, was to turn the estate grounds into world renowned gardens. Nowadays the grounds are the home to a large botanical collection, with plants from across the globe. For any hungry visitors there is the the Pavilion and Magnolia tearooms.