190709 Wales watching Stories of the beauty of the north countryside, the friendly people and historic towns like Port\[Seth Parker\]hahmadog and the walled town of Conwy enticed Robin Brown to pay a visit THANK heavens the Welsh have either been thoughtful enough or been forced to provide the English interpretation on their road signs. Failing that, I am sure my road trip to Llandudno in Wales would have been a disaster, with me arriving in a different town. One cannot imagine that a sign marked “Twmpathau” means speed humps ahead. It is certainly a language to confuse the traveller but easily forgotten on meeting the friendly local inhabitants. After a six-hour drive from Lancing in Sussex, plus a welcome stop along one of the many motorways for a quick lunch at, believe it or not, an American-style diner with old Elvis numbers pumping out of the speakers, we arrived in Llandudno. It is a typical seaside resort and, fortunately, we had arrived several weeks before the UK summer break, when we believe it is nigh impossible to find a bed or even space to walk on the promenade. I do not think I have ever seen so many B&Bs in one small town. The quantity of accommodation is astounding. We booked into Adcote House – a B&B run by Mike and Anne. It was also one we could afford as we were on a fairly tight budget thanks to the rand hitting R15 to the pound. It turned out to be excellent and only about 200m from the beachfront. It was also interesting to meet an owner of a B&B who had spent time in Cape Town and would like to retire to Somerset West. Here we were for two days with a host of things to see and do, including, I was hoping, a trip up the 1 084m Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain south of the Scottish Highlands. It was here that Sir Edmund Hillary trained for his successful assault on Mount Everest. Deciding on a circular day trip, we left Llandudno early the following morning, headed first for Llanberis village, the gateway to Mount Snowdon and one of the most beautiful areas in North Wales. The village grew thanks to the quarrying of slate but today its main source of income is tourism, and visitors from around the world flock to climb aboard the small diesel train that claws its way up the mountain. The more energetic walk the route to the summit and hikers, hillclimbers and mountaineers flock to the area. We continued on the road and through the Welsh hills on a narrow mountain pass between age-old stone walls. Most people in the UK agree that if one can get a car and a cow alongside one another then it qualifies as a road. Through beautiful valleys and alongside lakes, the road winds haphazardly until one reaches the small coastal town of Porthmadog, which has several fine examples of small steam trains. Porthmadog came into existence after William Madocks built a long seawall, completed in 1811, called the Cob, to reclaim a large proportion of the Traeth Mawr from the sea for agricultural use. In the second half of the 19th century, Porthmadog was a flourishing port. A number of shipbuilders were active there and were renowned for the three-masted schooners known as the “Western Ocean Yachts”. Porthmadog’s role as a commercial port was effectively ended by World War I. The slate wharves have now been partly built over with holiday apartments, and the harbour is used by leisure yachts. We sat in the Porthmadog Harbour railway station, the terminus of the Ffestiniog Railway from Blaenau Ffestiniog, awaiting the arrival of the tiny steam train, and tucked into a dish of battered cod and chips. Unfortunately time was running out, and as we had not prebooked we had to forego a ride on the train. We headed for the walled town of Conwy, guarded by the giant Conwy Castle, which has been described as one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe. Conwy Castle and town |are surrounded by a well-preserved wall, which helps the town maintain a medieval character lost by other Welsh castle-towns over the years. Conwy is a town that time has chosen to pass by. Despite a few modern shops, it still looks very similar to the town King Edward I envisioned some 700 years ago. Conwy is something of a paradox. Originally a symbol of English domination of Wales, in time the Welsh managed to reclaim the town, replacing English oppression with its own medieval character. Construction of Conwy began in 1283. The castle was an important part of King Edward I’s plan of surrounding Wales in “an iron ring of castles” to subdue the rebellious population. The highly defensible wall he built around the town was intended to protect the English colony at Conwy. The local Welsh population were violently opposed to English occupation of their land. Almost all the castle is accessible and well-preserved, and a climb to the top of any of the towers offers the visitor spectacular views of the town, surrounding coastline and countryside. The Inner Ward is the heart of the castle, containing the suite of apartments which Master James of St George contracted to build for King Edward and Queen Eleanor in 1283. Unfortunately, all the floors are now missing. We returned to Llandudno and, thanks to a fine summer evening, were able to stroll out on to the pier, enjoy another fine seafood meal and retire to the warmth of one of the many fine old homes, where we bade farewell .

London - Looking for world-class service? Go no further than this £35-a-night (about R450) hotel in North Wales.

Proprietors Ian and Carol-Lynn Robbins treat their guests so well that their Lauriston Court Hotel beat 650,000 others worldwide to win the accolade from the TripAdvisor travel website.

The 11-bedroom hotel, in the seaside resort of Llandudno, also came sixth in the best bargain hotel in the world rankings.

TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards are worked out by analysing reviews by readers and the Lauriston Court has more than 400 rated “excellent”.

British seaside hotels have not traditionally been known for excellent service. But thanks to the dedication and attitude of former nurse Mrs Robbins, 57, and her husband Ian, 49, they topped the service rankings.

Mother-of-two Mrs Robbins said: ‘”say to people who stay here, ‘No matter what your problem is I can fix it.’” The couple pride themselves on the well-equipped rooms and offer a full breakfast in the overnight price.

They had previously run another hotel in the town, and then bought the Lauriston Court two years ago.

Mrs Robbins said she was “thrilled” by the honour. The couple start work at 6.30am and keep going until bedtime. “We are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week for whatever our guests want. We don’t look upon it as a job, it’s a way of life.”

Mrs Robbins recalled the time she helped an elderly female guest get dressed in full Scottish regalia for a wedding and then undressed her later and put her to bed.

TripAdvisor spokeswoman Emma Shaw said: “For a British hotel to beat over 650,000 others really is something to be proud of.”

Other British successes included the Rudding Park Hotel, near Harrogate, being named the world’s fourth best hotel. The Caribbean in Doncaster came eighth in the world’s top bargain hotel rankings. - Daily Mail