Despite the somewhat disturbed night’s sleep, once we were up and showered we were ready to get breakfast and get going.
Zac demolished his Welsh breakfast in record time and after I’d had chance to savour my eggs Benedict, we finished loading the car, got some directions from the owner, fussed over the puppy and were blown out of the door.
The weather was somewhat cheerier and after debating over which castle to try and find, Zac set off on course for Llangollen.
He’d also seen that there was an aqueduct on the way and after my slightly haphazard explanation of exactly what an aqueduct was, we decided to just call in on the way to have a look.
Walking along the canal Zac was doing his best not to push me in, a temptation all too real when we’re near a body of water, but given how blustery and cold it was, he knew how much trouble he’d be in if he did it. Plus the car would be all wet (although I think that was the real sticking point, not the prospect of my wrath).
We wandered half way along the aqueduct and stood and watched the world go by for a while, until the constant stream of dog walkers and the relatively narrow path made us decide to head back to the car and carry on to Chester.
Convinced he could jump across, Zac was reluctant to walk underneath the aqueduct to get to the other side, but I wanted a snap of the bridge from lower down.
It’s strange the amount of architecture we have in England that I’ve always just taken for granted. No where else in the world are you as spoilt for castles and country homes and aqueducts, relics of past ages, and a lot of things that coming from such a ‘new’ country as Australia, Zac’s never seen before.
Trying to explain what a country house is is a different kind of challenge; it just is. I’ve been visiting country houses on school trips, as days out and simply for the tea rooms my whole life and when you try and break the idea down to someone who’s never experienced them before, you realise just how strange and unique a notion it is.
I love that we preserve our heritage in the way we do, I’m a member of the National Trust and I think it’s so important that we do everything we can to preserve these parts of our country’s history that are still standing, but paying to see a house that’s bigger, more strangely decorated and funnier smelling than your own, purely for the novelty pencil and rubber you’ll inevitably be able to buy from the gift shop or the chance of a cream is incredibly British.
It’s a strange notion, but it’s a part of what makes Britain special and when it’s just been another element of your development and culture, part of your summer holidays and half terms, your childhood trying to explain why you love visiting them so much is difficult.
It’s just a house.
But Zac has an enquiring mind and while I enthusiastically dug deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of ‘National Trust houses’ and country homes and history, he just sat and listened.
I was wholly unconvinced I’d managed to make them sound interesting enough.
He pulled his ‘fair enough’ face and said: “Shall we go, then?”
This country house was closed.
But thrilled I’d managed to convince him that the prospect of a country house was enticing I happily tucked in to a Welsh cake (essential car snack for a Welsh road trip) and we carried on to Llangollen and the castle.
We were meeting Dawson in Chester – a happy twist of events where we were both in the same city at the same time, a rarity and an opportunity that must be immediately capitalised upon, wherever in the world we are.
Time wise we could just about squeeze in the castle, but it was going to be a whirlwind trip and after driving around for 20 minutes to no avail we were about to turn and head to England.
In a last ditch attempt to find the castle, Zac took a different route and by luck we found the footpath up to Castel Dinas Bran.
We’d seen the outlines of people on their way up to the top and there seemed to be a railing, which mean a footpath, which meant it could be done, but as we began our climb up, there was a sense of uncertainty about whether or not we should be there.
The wind getting stronger the higher we got, Zac decided the footpath would take too long and wanted a more direct route up to the top, so we began the climb ‘as the crow flies’.
Out of breath, wind whipping at our faces, we finally looked up and realised we’d made it.
Zac a few steps ahead of me grabbed my hand as I began to wobble and we crawled the last few steps into the ruins themselves.
I’m not exaggerating when I say we were nearly blown over.
There was a break in the wind for only a few moments and after the rain started to whip our faces we decided a retreat was in order.
Not before Zac had taken an ‘in joke’ family photo and we’d sat in awe of the view though. Marking our initials out in rocks, hair was tied back, earrings removed and we set off on the trek down.
Which turned out to be a much quicker, more pleasurable experience than the way up!
I was still nervously watching my steps after recovering from a torn hamstring and Zac insisted I followed his steps.
“Don’t *mumble* your feet… *mumble, mumble, wind, mumble*” it was impossible to hear him over the din of the elements when he was talking in to the wind, which was currently carrying his words away from me.
“Wherever you go, I go.” I had to shout to be heard over the wind, as I navigated the hill, stepping into a large, soft pile of mud that Zac had just avoided.
“Are you kidding me? I just said DON’T step there, right after you said wherever I go you go!!”
He looked at me sternly for a few moments before I burst out laughing and he grinned, pecked me on the cheek and ran down the hill.
I looked up just in time to see him launching himself over the fence: I wish I’d got in on camera!
Back in the car we jammed the heating on, turned the music up and headed to Chester, where Dawson was waiting to be our personal tour guide.