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Bradshaw’s Guide

Menai Straits from Anglesey Column. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress


A cathedral town and bathing place in Carnarvonshire, North Wales, near Snowdon, and only 2¼ miles from the Britannia Bridge. You enter it by a tunnel 3,000 feet long. It is an excellent resting place, not only for the fine mountain scenery of this quarter, but for the Britannia and Menai Bridges, the Penrhyn Slate Quarries, Beaumaris Castle, and other exclusions, by road, railway, and boat. More than 50,000 persons come here in the season, so that lodgings at such times are high and difficult to be had. About 40 years ago there were only 90 houses, now there arc 1,331, to a population of 6,738.

The “city” is chiefly a long street, winding about under the rocks towards Garth Point, where there is the public promenade, besides a ferry over the Lavan Sands to Beaumaris, on the Anglesea side. The peaks round Snowdon, and the rocky headlands of Penmaen Mawr and Orme’s Head are in view.

Among the buildings are the Assembly Rooms, Shone’s Library, County Dispensary, Glynne’s Grammar School, and a small plain Cathedral, 23 feet long, with a low tower, not older than the 10th century — the former one having been burnt by Owen Gwyndwr or Glendower. It was originally founded by St. Deiniol as early as 000, whence Bangor claims to be the oldest diocese in Wales. The income is £4,000 per annum. This argument was used when there was a talk of suppressing it some years back. There are tombs of two Welsh princes, Gryfydd (or Griffith) ap Cynan and Owen Gwyndwr; and a new painted window placed here by Dean Cotton, through whose exertions the church has been restored. It is the parish church to the town, the service being in Welsh. In the library is the missal and anthem book of Bishop Anian, who held the see in Edward I.’s time. Another bishop was Hoadley, appointed by George I.; he preached a sermon here from the text, My kingdom is not of this world, so displeasing to the high church party, that it gave rise to a long dispute — the celebrated Bangorian Controversy.

A British camp and part of a cattle may be seen on two points, near Friar’s School. Further south is Vaenol, the seat of the late Assheton Smith, a mighty hunter in Hampshire, and owner of the Dinorwic Slate Quarries, under Snowdon. About 30,000 tons are annually sent down to Port Dinorwic by railway, and 1,000 hands employed. Opposite, on the Anglesea side, is Plâs Newydd, the seat of the Marquis of Anglesea, for many months the residence of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria. It has the Anglesea pillar, fixed on Waterloo day in 1816, with, a cairn, and an immense Druid cromlech. Anglesea was the last and most famous seat of Druid worship.

One mile east of Bangor, is Penrhyn Castle, the seat of Colonel Pennant, proprietor of the famous Penrhyn slate quarries, worth £70,000 a year: it is an extensive Norman pile, built by Wyatt, of Anglesea marble; and open on Fridays to the public. As may be supposed, many curious articles in slate are to be seen. The park fence, seven miles round, is all of that fabric.

The Penrhyn Slate Quarries are about five miles up the river Ogwen, under Snowdon, following the tramway, and well deserve a visit. You pass Llandegai Gothic Church, with the tomb of Lord Penrhyn, a great benefactor of this neighbourhood, who made the slate works what they are. He spent £170,000 on the shipping port alone. An inclined plane leads up to the edge of the vast mountain, on the sides of which above 2,000 hands are employed in hacking and splitting. The slates are trimmed and piled in thousands according to their size, under the names of duchesses, countesses, ladies, &c; and are used for roofing, gravestones, schools, and other purposes. They have a fine smooth grain; many of the chapels and houses about here are wholly built of that material. The slates are brought down by rail, and shipped at Port Penrhyn (close by) to all parts of the world, to the extent of 70,000 tons yearly. The gross receipts may be calculated at £150,000 a year.

From the slate works the road ascends the wild pass of Nant Francon or Beaver valley, between the Glyder Fawr and Carnedd Dafydd, the latter a peak of the Snowdon range, 3,420 feet high. Carnedd Llewelyn to the north of it is 3,469 feet. The road crosses the Ogwen at the Benglog Falls, which are at the outlet or Llyn or Lake Ogwen, where a stream joins them from Llyn Idical situate in a most gloomy hollow up the sides of Glyder Fawr, a peak to the south 3,300 feet high (you may wind over it past a gap called the Twll Dû or Devil’s Kitchen and Llyn-y-Cwm to Llanberis). It is a difficult path, but offers fine prospects. From Ogwen lake the road descends to

Capel Curig a pretty spot on the Llagay, near the two Mymbyr Lakes, 14 miles from Bangor. The village, not in itself very important, beyond the facilities it affords to the tourist as a centre from whence some of the most charming excursions may be made, being situated in the very heart of the most splendid lake and mountain scenery that North Wales can boast of. The views of Snowdon are here truly magnificent. Hence down the pretty Llagwy past Rhayadr-y-Wennol fall to Betws-y-Coed in a green sheltered nook of the Conway six miles further, is a resort well known to anglers and artists.

From the Slate Works to the tops of Uarnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn is a fatiguing walk of four to six or severn miles; but there is a grand prospect from both. To Dolwyddelan Castle, under Moel Siabod, 2,870 feet, and thence on to the vale Of Ffestiniog requires a walk of 18 miles from Capel Curig.

The carriage road winds round the east base of Snowdon, passing Trifaen (so-called from the three stones 15 feet high on the top) and the Glyder Bach or Littlw Glyder, 3,000 feet high, and joined to Glyder Fawr, or Great Glyder, by the Waenoer, a desolate plain half a mile wide, covered with weather beaten stones. Moel Siabod, or Shabod is on the south east side. At Nant-y-Gwryd Inn, a road branches off to Beddgelert, 12 miles from Capel Carig, passing Llyn Gwynant, &c. Following the main road through Snowdon you come to the famous Llanberis Pass, a narrow and rugged defile, about three miles long, between the perpendicular cliffs of Glyder Fawr on the north and Snowdon on the south. It is united by the Seiont, which runs down to Carnarvon, and resembles the wild pass of Glencoe in Argyleshire, or the Gap of Dunloe near Killarney. Blocks of rock lie about on all sides. One immense heap called the Cromlech was turned into a sort of house by a herdwoman. It is near the Gorphwysfa or resting place at the top of the ascent from Capel Curig.

Two miles further, in a quiet glen, is Llanberis .

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Places nearby

  • Anglesea : Holyhead

    Holyhead, so called from a monastery founded by St. Gybi in the sixth century, is the chief packet station for Ireland, and stands on Holy Island, on a bay between it and the west side of Anglesea, 64 miles from Dublin.