Monday, August 24, 2015


So far on this trip every day we were in the car found us oooohing and aaaaaahing over our pretty surroundings.  Somehow, even though we were still seeing rolling hills and sheep, each area we visited seemed unique.  On our drive to Wales, our last stop, I kept thinking there was no way it could stand out to us more than any other place we'd seen.  Boy was I wrong!  The drive to Wales was beautiful, and the closer we got to it the more quaint it became.  The windy rural streets were still lined with stone fences, but the homes were covered in trees and flowers.  The hills were steeper and covered with more trees.  
On our way to Snowdonia, which was where our b&b was, we stopped in Llanarmon-yn-lal (pronounced Yanarmon n yal), in the northeastern part of the country.  That is where my great-great grandmother, Ann Jones, was born (my paternal grandfather's grandmother).  Her parents, Thomas Jones and Sarah Davies, said goodbye to her and her brother as they made their way to America in the late 1800's.  I have a particular interest in Ann because though I know the names of her parents, that is where my pedigree chart ends.  I have looked for more information about her parents with no luck.  When we planned our trip we decided to come to Wales for this reason.  
Llanarmon is a small town with a population of 700, with one market, one pub and the post leaving every other week.  When we passed through it was a Friday afternoon and incredibly quiet. The pub was closed, but there was a beautiful church across the street so we parked in the lot and made our way over.
This was it.  Could I find Thomas's and Sarah's graves, giving me the much needed information I was looking for?  St. Garmin's church was beautiful, right in the center of the town with a circling cemetery.  The church was built in the 13th century and was added on to 200 years later.  We tried opening the door but sadly it was locked.  We made our way around the cemetery, looking for Ann's parents, but without any luck.  Either they weren't buried there or their gravestones were grown over or unreadable.  I was pretty disappointed.  The neat thing, however, was that a large percentage of the families buried there were Joneses or Davieses, most likely relatives.  I though that was really neat. When we returned a few days later I asked someone if there were many people in the town with those last names, and they chuckled out a strong "yes."  If only we could have stayed there for a couple days!  I would have loved finding some distant cousins.
We saw that there were a few more churches around; two of them were now homes but there was another church, a Methodist church, down the street.
This chapel, Bethel Chapel, (evidently only Church of England structures are called churches), was also locked.  We had hoped to find some records inside.  But we combed the cemetery there too and found a gravestone with a Thomas Jones and Sarah Davies on it, completely in Welsh!  Eric took out his cell phone to translate as I tried to figure out letters, as it was very hard to read.  After 15 minutes we put everything together to find out that Sarah would have been 60 years old when Ann was born. Probably not who we were looking for. :(  
At this point we decided we needed to get back on the road, but I wasn't ready to go.  We planned to come back on Sunday, maybe even in time for a service at St. Garmin's church.  I emailed the reverend and hoped that he could help me.  Here are a few more photos from Llanarmon.

Our next stop was Conwy (above) to see Conwy Castle.  It was a ruin, but you could envision what it used to look like.  Eric was anxious to see it.  Conwy was cute, a seaside town.  You can see below the narrow passageway cars drive through over there, and how it creates chaos in traffic.  Eric couldn't believe the way people were expected to drive.  He still talks about loving the wide roads here in the states.

Conwy was pretty neat.  I wish there had been more information about the castle as were going through it.  I would have loved a tour.  But we were given a pamphlet with pictures of what the castle most likely looked like in it's prime in 1287, so that helped.
Eric looking intellectual because I asked, and because somehow it seemed an appropriate pose to do inside a castle.....
love this
stairs leading up inside one of the towers
We ate in Conwy at this place (above, can't remember the name.  I had fish and chips but they didn't compare to the ones we had in Kewsick).  Then we headed out.
Bye Conwy!  
Okay, this is where Wales knocked our socks off.  We started heading to Snowdonia.  Our b&b was in a town called Bedggelert (BETH-gelert), one of several tiny towns tourists use as a gateway to the mountains. At this point we were still in rural countryside like we had been seeing, climbing upwards into the mountains.  Then we reached the top and headed down to the valley......and were gobsmacked! Prepare yourselves for some majestic beauty.
Of course these photos don't do justice but we were surrounded by mountains covered in bright green grass, with lakes and trees below.  It was so amazing!  We just couldn't get over it.  It was how I would picture the Alps without snow.  It may easily have been the most beautiful place I've ever seen. 

And I thought Wales would disappoint us!!
We grabbed some gas in the cutest town, Betws-y-Coed, and I jumped out to take a picture.  We were told over and over the right way to say the name of this town (we went through it again later), but I still can't remember it.  It was tough to pronounce.  I didn't want to leave Betws-y-Coed because of its charm.  Little did I know what we would find in Beddgelert.....
We got there around 9:00.  Parking was hard to find so we found a spot down the street and hoped it was okay.  We later asked our b&b host about it and she said it was fine.  We loved Beddgelert!  As you can see, it is adorable.
A neat story about how the town got it's name.  In the twelfth century a ruler came to this area with his dog.  The man loved to hunt, and after one of his outings came home to find his baby gone, and his dog with blood on his face.  The man was so enraged that he killed his dog.  Later a dead wolf was found in the area.  The man realized that his dog had in fact killed the wolf to protect his child. The man was so grief stricken he named the town after his dog, Beddgelert.
I just love that story.  Some say it is only a legend, but I choose to believe it :)

Our room was cute and very tight.  The bathroom was the smallest we'd seen.  Sitting on the toilet took some maneuvering!  And there was no way both of us could get in there at the same time.  We were actually pretty impressed that all the essentials were there in such a small space.
Our room also overlooked the river, so we propped open the window and listened to the water all night.  Great perk.

Our b&b was on the right side of this building.  Our room was up at the top.
Our plan Saturday morning was to get up and hike.  Our host, Colleen, lent us a guidebook and recommended one of her favorite hikes to us, a hike to a pretty lake called Lyn Dynas.  There were two routes you could take, and we decided to take the longer one.
Colleen used to live in London making good money, but took a trip to Beddgelert one time and fell in love with it.  She had thought about moving there, and on a later visit stayed at the b&b next door. The one she now owns was up for sale, so she bought it.  And she's so happy there.
The trail she told us about was about 5 miles long, and in the beginning followed a river.  Before the trail was this beautiful church (I told you, I love old churches!). 
gate to the trail
I forgot to mention that when we had breakfasted that morning, it was raining.  So before we left we donned all our rain gear.  As we started the hike, the rain was going strong.
loved the river!
In spite of the rain I couldn't wait to explore more of Snowdonia.  The views were amazing from the get-go.  Eric didn't mind the rain at all.  It all added to the ambiance.
This structure was used for sheepherding, called a sheepfold

All of a sudden we heard an engine coming, and turns out we were right next to a track.  Before we knew it the train was right in front of us.  So cool! 

After a few miles we came to a clearing.  We were in a little valley and the mountains and hills were covered in grass and purple heather.  We were soaked pretty well at this point and after a climb very hot, too.  The rain finally let up and we found ourselves on a ridge.  The wind began to blow, which felt wonderful.  We courageously took off our rain jackets and tied them to our backpacks, hoping the wind would dry them for us.
I mentioned in a previous post that I came to appreciate my rain pants.  On this hike I was wearing waterproof boots, jacket, and pants.  But it was raining so hard that my feet were wet, and the water leaked through my jacket too.  My pants were the only things that stayed dry.  Bless them.

We reached a ladder crossing a fence that was pretty neat.  Up the ridge we went until we reached a sign pointing to Beddgelert and Lyn Dynas (the lake we were hiking to).  I'm telling all of this in detail for a good reason.  Just stick with me.

Wow!  An actual marker!  One of 3 we saw.

Sorry for all the photos; it was really hard to leave many out.

Thank heavens it remained dry for us, and eventually we made our way down a descent.  You can see below the beautiful view we had of the mountains and Lyn Dynas.  
I told Eric something like, "I can't imagine heaven being any prettier than this......"

At this point we crossed paths with a couple from Newcastle that took our picture, and we returned the favor.  After that the hike evened out and we made our way to Sygun Copper mine, where we were supposed to then walk back to Beddgelert, not far from there.  
Remember how I mentioned that the hike outside Keswick didn't have markers?  Neither did this hike.  We were left to ourselves to find the trail back to town.  There were no posts and nothing in the guidebook to point out which road was to lead us back.  So, we picked one.
Eric's panorama.
The road we chose took us up another climb, which put us back to the first clearing we had reached before, back over the ladder and up the ridge.  This time we followed the sign pointing to Beddgelert. To make a long story short, there was some more backtracking, some frustration, and after a horribly steep descent to the bottom, we finally finished the hike.  In the end we had hiked a total of 10+ miles, doubling our hike!! We had basically taken both routes to Lyn Dynas.  Ouch.  Below is a view of Beddgelert.  We had no idea how big it was until we saw it from this angle.
We went to our b&b to change, and on the way saw a group of people huddled down the street. There was a small restaurant with outdoor seating across the street, and a car parked in front with cones around it.  This was the cause of all the excitement, and of course it was our car.  We walked up to it to see a sign taped to the windshield that said something like "double lines, very dangerous!" People all around us were shaking their heads, disgusted with the driver who would park on the double yellow lines, which was evidently illegal.  I was humiliated, but had some comfort knowing that everyone else was unaware that the car was ours.  We headed back to our room, changed, and talked about the situation we were in.  The only way to fix things was to move the car, in front of everyone.  Just thinking about it made me red in the face.  "I really don't want to go back out there," I told Eric.  "It's okay," he said, "its an honest mistake.  I don't care what they think.  You stay here and I'll move the car."  What a relief!! What a brave husband I had!! :)  The ironic thing about all of this is that one of the reasons we parked where we did is that there was another car parked right in front of us (also on the double line).  The other ironic thing is that driving in Wales is dangerous.  Period.  How could parking on a double line be dangerous??  And the next morning when we left, wouldn't you know there was another car parked in the same spot, right along the double line.
We had heard of a place called the Fairy Glen a few miles down the street.  It was supposed to be just minutes from the road and appear somewhat magical.  We checked it out.  It was pretty, but we didn't really see what all the hype was about.

We had dinner at a restaurant in Betwsy-y-Coed.  It was at a hotel that had both indoor and outdoor seating.  There were so many people there it was ridiculous, but they had space for us and the prices were good.  At this point in the trip I was in the mood for something un-English so I decided to get some Thai.  Eric got a burger that he said tasted like meatloaf.  We walked around the town afterward.  Such a neat place!
I was anxious to get back to Llanarmon.  I hadn't heard back from the reverend at St. Garmins, and knew we wouldn't make it back in time for the 10:00 service, but still hoped for the best.  We had heard there were records inside the church.  When we got to the church, however, it was still locked! It turns out that the reverend travels between 5 different churches, and that day there wasn't a service. I was dismayed, but not ready to give up.  
fun info about Llanarmon
I remember my last trip to Europe.  The people in England were so friendly.  That's one thing that really stands out to me.  This trip felt different.  I had mentioned to Eric how friendly people would be before we came out, but hadn't found that to be the case this time around.  I really wanted to find someone we could shoot the breeze with; make a connection with.
tied up to the church gate
While Eric was parking the car I stopped this man, Tony, who was walking around the cemetery, to see if he could help.  He was one of the most friendly people I have ever met.  He just wanted to get to know us and talk.  He told us he loved to take pictures, that he enjoyed watching the West Wing (one of our favorites), and that he was visiting his brother-in-law, Dave, who lived there.  He offered to take our photograph (below), and then introduced us to Dave.  Dave said he knew of a woman down the street who had keys to the church, and offered to take us there.  
On the way Dave talked about the town.  It turns out that the market and pub are run by volunteers. Pretty neat.  The woman with the keys wasn't home, so we decided to stop at the market and grab a snack.  There was a couple sitting outside that Dave introduced us to so we sat down and joined them. There were some cyclists sitting there too but they had finished their lunch and were starting to get back on their bikes.  We chatted with the couple at the table for a while and then Tony came and joined us too.  It was so fun; we were finally making some friendships, and to make things even better it happened in Llanarmon.  
I had to step away and take this photo of Eric chatting it up with the locals :)
We finally said goodbye and made our way back to Bethel Chapel to try our luck there again.  This time it was unlocked.  We went inside, and looked around for a minute since it was empty.  Eric took this photo of the ceiling, which was very beautiful and ornate.  There was a home connected to the chapel where the reverend lived so we stopped and asked if he knew where any records would be that could help us.  He told us to check out the county records in Ruthin.  
We headed back up to Edinburgh but stopped to take some more pictures on the way.  This one is just outside Llanarmon.

The reverend from St. Garmins emailed me back and informed me that records inside the church only date back to the 20th century, and also suggested I check out the county's records office.  So that is my next step.  

We also saw Hadrian's wall on the way up, which was begun by the Romans in 122 AD.  We had seen it snaking along the hills on our drive down but didn't have the time to see it then.  
It was impressive.
About a week before we left on our trip, my brother Ian informed me there was a castle in Edinburgh called Craigmillar that our ancestors, the Gilmours, had owned for a time.  It was now a museum. Although I really wanted to see it we just didn't know how we were going to fit it in the schedule. We decided to stop and see it before checking into our hotel for the night, but when we drove by it was late and had been closed for a while.  I took this photo of it (below).  It was a bit painful that we had been so close to it and unable to see it.  We also saw a sign on the way for a town called Gilmerton. The name is spelled differently from the Gilmours that owned the castle, but the same way as my grandmother's maiden name, so maybe there is a connection there too.......
The next morning we made our way home.  We had had such a great time, and were also so ready to see the kids.  Towards the middle of our trip I would smile and my heart would drop a little every time we saw any children.  And it was so great when we saw them the next day!  Maybe someday in the future we will take them back out to Great Britain so they can see the castles themselves that they keep wanting to hear about :)


Bethany Fegles Photography said...

What a beautiful place!! What a trip for you and Eric to take, wow! And what a lovely place for our Great Great Grandmother to grow up, too. I'm dying to know more of their story now that you've peaked our interest - please do a follow up post if you locate those records from the County Records Office!
Thanks for sharing soooo many lovely photos!!

Sasha Cornelius Eggli said...

I'm glad you guys had such a great trip! Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed taking the journey with you through your posts :)