I had to decide what to do on my first weekend in Bangor as I couldn’t go back to Swindon (I’d never leave if I did), so I decided on checking out the local park run at the National Trust owned Penrhyn Castle, then take a wander around the castle itself… after all, I have a National Trust membership card and I’m going to use it whilst I’m here!
What is so unique about this parkrun is that it begins in the courtyard of the castle and you run around the grounds in two large loops, passing the walled garden and the gorgeous views of the mountains, before circling again but this time in two smaller loops. Just starting and finishing in the castle makes it memorable.
I haven’t been to many park runs (but I am determined to get my 10 runs shirt whilst I’m up here) and this one was the tiniest one I’ve attended – only 166 runners, of which about 20-30 were first-time tourists on holiday to the place (I chatted with a guy from Cambridge and a woman from Norwich). I’m not even going to tell you where I placed, it’s embarrassing (but I wasn’t last) but I did it. I’m building back up to 5K, just because I do enjoy running and have missed it so much.
I really did enjoy this run. You begin by running down a hill but what goes down must come up… then you do it again… and again… and again! When I have a Saturday free next I’ll come here again (I also want to run Conwy, Newborough Forest and Nant y Pandy park runs)
Penrhyn Castle is a 19th-century neo-Norman castle that sits within 24.3 hectares (60 acres) of grounds (which include parkland, an exotic tree and shrub collection as well as a Victorian walled garden) between Snowdonia and the Menai Strait in Bangor.
The grounds are open from 10:30am yet the castle is open from 12pm, which is unusual. After my park run, which started at 9am, I decided to find the geocaches on site and look at the collection of trains in the stables to pass the time whilst I was waiting for the castle to open.
The trains on display were ones that ran on narrow gauge railways that ran close to Penrhyn Castle to and from the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda. The locomotive, Charles, was one of the three remaining steam locomotives working on the quarry railway. I enjoyed reading about the history of the trains and getting to look inside the carriages and locomotives.
Penrhyn Castle was the home of the Pennant family (from 1840, the Douglas-Pennants), owners of the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda and is beautiful inside. You can see why it took 20 years to build! Each piece of stone and wood is hand-carved.
So the interior designs were by architect, Thomas Hopper, who expanded and transformed the building but left the original spiral staircase from the original property (pic above left).
As mentioned, the owner who commissioned the work was George Hay Dawkins-Pennant, and it isn’t until you read the information signs that you realise all of this was built on the money of his cousin Richard Pennant (who owned it before George), who had made his fortune from slavery in Jamaica and local slate quarries. So, essentially the castle was built on the money he made from buying and selling slaves. Doesn’t seem such an appealing place anymore…
Many of the rooms were very grand in size and decoration – with wallpaper that was hand painted in China and shipped across and specially designed Norman-style furniture, including a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria when she visited in 1859.
To the side of the castle, but still within its grounds, are the Victorian kitchens and dining area. I’ve loved how they’ve recreated the layout so you get a sense of how they once originally looked.
I’ve always been drawn to Victorian houses and their contents, especially the kitchen area as they’re so grand in scale in these country houses/castles.
So my Saturday was interesting. After the parkrun and the visit around the castle, I sought out the local laundrette and washed some clothes (how grown up!), then planned for the next day’s activities…