Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Self Catering at the Oakeley Arms

4* luxury at the Oakeley Arms Cottages

If you're looking for holiday cottages in Snowdonia, then look no further than the Oakeley Arms! Our lovely self-catering cottages are a relatively new addition to the Oakeley, so many of our customers don't know what lies just behind the hotel building!

Once derelict stables have been lovingly renovated into stunning holiday cottages set in the Oakeley Arms Hotel grounds. These charming self catering cottages in the heart of Snowdonia are enchantingly named after local mountains and rivers (don’t worry we’ll help with the pronounciation!)

Traditional furniture and original features mean that the cottages contain an abundance of charm and period style, but modern and quality fixtures mean that you won't have to compromise on style or practicality.

You’ll be greeted with wine and cakes on arrival and bed-linen and towels are provided. All you have to do is relax and enjoy the fabulous views across the Vale of Ffestiniog.

The cottages are within easy reach of the area’s popular attractions and local towns.

For more details, prices and to book see our website www.oakeleyarms.co.uk or call us on 01766 590 277

Friday, 22 June 2012

America Through a Veil of Tears

There are few stories that we come across here at the Oakeley Arms that render us lost for words, but this week we've found one.

America Through a Veil of Tears is the story of a father's long journey to come to terms with the loss of his son. Leslie Kay and his son Cai had planned the trip of a lifetime five years ago, when they flew off to America to start a ten-month motor-cycle tour together. But tragedy struck just a week in, when Cai was involved in a collision with a truck after a fault developed on his bike.

Heartbreakingly, Cai was killed and his father was left with a devastating decision. After coming home for his son's funeral, Leslie, who is from Bethesda, decided to return to the States to complete the epic adventure that he and Cai should have enjoyed together.

Whilst he was there he wrote a travel blog as a way of dealing with his grief and loss, and when he returned home he put pen to paper. America Through a Veil of Tears is the story of Leslie's lone journey.

What an incredible story, and an inspirational man.

You can find out more about the book here and you can read Leslie's blog here

Monday, 18 June 2012

Beautiful Borth-y-Gest

A beachy day out

Our regular blog readers will know by now that we are slightly biased when it comes to the fabulous area we live in; the Oakeley Arms is in Snowdonia, and we think it's one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We're always on the look-out for hidden gems in our area, and we reckon the postcard-pretty village of Borth-y-Gest is just that!

Situated on the coast a few miles west from the Oakeley Arms, Borth-y-Gest is one of the most picturesque villages in the area. It's much older than the nearby town of Porthmadog; there have been houses there since as far back as the seventeenth century. It was once renowned for its ship-builders yards, and it was originally thought to be a ferry port for the dangerous estuary crossing to reach Ynys and Harlech opposite.

The village centre is built around the shallow bay, which bustles during the summer months with boats and beach go-ers. But, step off the beaten path here, and you'll be rewarded with beautiful beaches, coves and rocky bays, many of them quiet and peaceful as not many people know about them!

Borth-y-Gest beaches

Borth-y-Gest is a great day out from the Oakeley Arms, and well worth a visit - just head west towards Porthmadog and then follow the signs; it's only a 15 minute drive.

Borth-y-Gest harbour

What's in a name?
The meaning of Borth-y-Gest may come from the ancient township of Gest, many centuries ago. Borth is a mutated form of the Welsh word for harbour or port, and the hill behind the village is called Moel-y-Gest (meaning "Hill of Gest").

You can find out more information about Borth-y-Gest on the website of village community group Friends of Borth-y-Gest here

Check back soon for details of a fabulous walk around Borth-y-Gest.....

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Euro 2012

Wales' link to the European 2012 championship

Ok, so Wales' National Football team didn't quite qualify for this year's European Championships, but there's still a reason for us Cymro to celebrate the sporting events that are taking place in Poland and the Ukraine this summer.

One of the host cities of the games is Donetsk, a large city in the Ukraine. Now, this city was founded back in 1869 by an entrepreneurial Welshman called John Hughes. Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil where he learnt his trade as an ironmaster. He later became one of the most acclaimed engineers of the British Admiralty, when they began cladding their wooden ships in iron sheets.

When the Russian Empire wanted a similar design for their warships, Hughes was sent to the southern part of the country,where he built a coal mine and steel plant. He took his wife and eight children, and they all began a new life over a thousand miles away from their native Wales. 

A thriving town soon grew up around the industrial areas and was originally called Hughesovka in tribute to the man who'd founded it. The architecture of the town reflected its British roots, with such iconic buildings as a memorial hospital, tea rooms and fire station.

Sadly, Hughes passed away in 1889 and the business was taken over by his sons. During Soviet rule in the early 20th century, the town's name was changed to Stalin (stalino means "steel" in Russian) but it was renamed in the 1960's during a period of destalinisation to Donetsk, in order to distance itself from the previous leader Joseph Stalin.

Today, it's a thriving city which is home to over 1.5 million people and is one of the most important industrial cities of the Ukraine. All thanks to a Welshman named Hughes, over 150 years ago.

Statue of John Hughes in Donetsk.
Image by Sven Teschke on wikicommons

Monday, 11 June 2012

Etape Eryri

Are you up for a cycle challenge?

This coming weekend will be one to remember for cycling enthusiasts, as Gwynedd welcomes a brand new cycling event - the Etape Eryri will take place on Sunday the 17th June.

Etape Eryri is a cycling race with a difference. Not only are the routes pretty challenging, but they wind, twist and turn through some of the most breath-taking scenery in the UK, right here in Snowdonia.

There are three different routes - Etape Bach (small) is the shortest at 47 miles; Etape Canol (middle) is 76 miles of cycling, and Etape Mawr (large) is a whopping 103 miles of pedal power! So this is not an event for the faint hearted.....

All of the routes start and finish at Caernarfon Castle; the two longest routes go right past us here at the Oakeley Arms, so we'll be looking out for the Etape Eryri cyclists as they pass and cheering them on! We'll certainly welcome them in for a pint or two if they need some refreshment, although we have a feeling they'll be whizzing right by.

image by guenter m. kirchweger on sxc.hu

The event is even drawing some of the country's top cyclists. There will be three pro cyclists from Britain's Team Sky competing at the Etape - Chris Sutton and Michael Barry will be a great boost to the start list, and the legendary Dave Brailsford, Team Sky's Manager, will be at Caernarfon with his team members.

As well as the cycling events, there'll be loads to see and do for non-cyclists. There'll be a festival vibe at the Castle Square in Caernarfon with kids entertainment and a brilliant mountain bike display team. It's not one to miss!!

You can find out more details on the Etape Eryri website here

The event is still open to entrants, although there are maximum time requirements  - participants must finish Etape Bach in 6 hours and Etape Mawr in 10 hours. More info and registration on the website. 

What's in a name?
An etape literally means "a stage of a cycling tour" and Eryri of course, is the welsh word for Snowdonia.

Etape Eryri is organised by Always Aim High Events. You can find out more about their other adventure events on their website here

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Gypsy Wood Park

If you go down to the woods today.....

Here at the Oakeley Arms, our guests are often asking us for recommendations for fun, family days out, and one of our absolute favourites is Gypsy Wood Park.

Gypsy Wood Park is a brilliant outdoor attraction for all the family. Set in twenty acres of pretty woodland, this magical place is packed with animals, fairies and even a fairy godmother to make wishes come true.  There's a brilliant miniature railway, that kids (little and big) will love. And don't forget your wellies for the woodland walk!

The animal paddocks are definitely a highlight at Gypsy Wood. When we visited their Pygmy goats had just had a litter of tiny, lively babies. They were just adorable as they literally bounced around on the hay. Don't miss Simba the horse and his friends, the miniature donkeys, the tiniest (and cutest) breed of sheep in the world (Ouessant), pot-bellied pigs, Shetland ponies, rabbits and not forgetting the funny alpacas!

Animal lovers really will adore all the sights, sounds and smells of Gypsy Wood. This lovely, family run park will keep the whole family entertained for hours.

Gypsy Wood is situated in the village of Bontnewydd, near Caernarfon; approx 40 minute drive from the Oakeley Arms. It's open between Easter and mid September (10:30 - 5:00 daily).

You can find out more information at their website here

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Meirioneth Bee Boles Project

Ooooo Bee-haive.....

Sorry for the buzzingly bad beehive pun, but we couldn't resist!

We've got some exciting news here at the Oakeley. We are proud to have hosted the first meeting of the Meirioneth Bee Boles Project last month.

The Bee Boles Project is run by the Meirioneth Historical and Record Society and the Meirioneth Bee Keepers Association, and it's a project to find the lost Bee Boles of Meirioneth.

Just what on earth is a Bee Bole, we hear you cry! Well, they are sheltered alcoves usually found in stone walls, where straw skeps (traditional conical bee hives) were hidden. The holes sheltered the delicate skeps from the elements, and were really important until the middle of the nineteenth century  when the more modern and robust beehives that we know today became commonplace.

Bee Skep
Image by Rosser1954 on wikicommons

There are thought to be Bee Boles across Wales - some are over 500 years old. The Meirioneth Bee Boles Project currently have nine sites listed, but are looking for more so they can record them before they are lost or overgrown forever. They are important historical sites because they mark a way of life and traditions that are mostly lost.

We're really lucky here at the Oakeley Arms to have some Bee Boles - just behind the dog cemetery in the garden. They were probably used to produce honey for the hotel kitchen.
You can see them in this picture below, just behind the gravestones....

Bee Boles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple square holes, like the ones here at the Oakeley, while others are ornate, grander and larger. So, keep your eyes peeled and give us a buzzzzzzzzzzzz if you think you've spotted a Bee Bole in your garden or have passed some while out walking.

You can contact the Meirioneth Bee Boles Project by e-mail on merioneth.beeboles@gmail.com or by telephone 01341 430 262.

Click here for more information about the The Merioneth Historical and Record Society  and here for information about the Merioneth Beekeepers’ Association.

Beeeeeeee happy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Queen Facts

I bet you didn't know....

No, silly! We're not talking about Queen the legendary rock band (although now you come to mention it, that would make a v good future blog post....), we're on about Her Majesty the Queen!

In honour of next week's diamond jubilee, we're celebrating with some weird and wonderful facts about Queen Elizabeth II. How many do you know?

Read on for the goss....

image by Agencia Brasil on WikiCommons

  1. The Queen is the first British monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Wedding Anniversary. I wonder if she'll share her secret?
  2. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were married in Westminster Abbey in 1947 There were 2,000 invited guests, and 8 bridesmaids!
  3. The bride's wedding ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold which came from the Clogau St David's mine near Dolgellau.
  4. Only Queen Victoria has reigned for longer than our current queen. She managed almost 64 years.
  5. When Prince Andrew was born in 1960, The Queen became the first reigning Sovereign to give birth to a child since Queen Victoria.
  6. The Queen is patron to more than 600 charities.
  7. The Queen's grandfather, King George V, made the first ever royal Christmas speech live on the radio in 1932.
  8. Every year, the Queen has delivered a Christmas message; except in 1969. That year, she decided the royals had been on television too much after a documentary was broadcast about them earlier in the year.
  9. The first time Queen Elizabeth made a radio broadcast was when she was just 14 years old, during the BBC's Children's Hour.
  10. Queen Elizabeth II is the fortieth monarch since William the Conqueror
  11. One of the Queen's hobbies is Scottish country dancing. When she stays at Balmoral, she hosts annual dances known as Gillies' Balls, for  staff and members of the local community.
  12. The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on a Saturday in June.
  13. When one of her subjects reaches 100 years old, the Queen sends a special telegram. To date, she has sent around 100,000 telegrams in the UK and the Commonwealth, and the yearly number is steadily increasing.
  14. Apparently, Queen Elizabeth is the only British monarch that has been properly trained to change a spark plug. We're not sure how, or when, or indeed why, but it's a useful skill neverthless. 
  15. The first British Prime Minister to be born after she was crowned was Tony Blair. The Queen has seen 9 changes of Prime Minister.
  16. She has sat through 91 state banquets; let's hope the food was tasty....
  17. And she's posed for 139 official portraits.
  18. Three of the Queen's four children have divorced.
  19. She apparently once demoted a footman because he gave whisky to one of her corgis!
  20. A new breed of dog was created when one of Her Majesty's Corgi's mated with a dachshund. It was dubbed the "dorgi"!
  21. The Queen has a whopping 9 different thrones! One is at the House of Lords; two are at Westminster Abbey, and there are six in the throne room at Buckingham Palace. We wonder which is her favourite?
  22. The Queen's coronation service in 1953 was the first coronation ceremony to be televised.
  23. Her childhood nickname was "Lilibet".
  24. Queen Elizabeth made the first ever royal Transatlantic telephone call - she spoke to her parents from England as they toured America in 1927.
  25. In an effort to attempt to quell Welsh Nationalism in the 1940's and to help the people of Wales better relate to the Royal Family, Elizabeth was inducted into the Gorsedd of Bards at the National Esiteddfod in 1946.
  26. The Queen is expected to open the 2012 London Olympics at the ceremony on 27th July, and the Paralympics in August. Her father opened the London Olympics in 1948, and her great-grandfather (Edward VII) opened the London Olympics in 1908.
What are your favourite facts about Queen Elizabeth? Let us know if we've missed any!

And don't forget to come and join us for the Oakeley Arms Jubilee Garden Party on Monday 4th June. More info here

Image by JMCMurdo on sxc.hu