Thursday, 30 August 2012

Rain Power

Rain, rain, rain.....
So, this summer hasn't exactly been scorching! There have been the occasional rays of sunshine flooding through the Vale of Ffestiniog and just about reaching the Oakeley Arms Hotel, but we've mostly been wearing our wellies!
The weather may not be so great for us, but there's a little place just down the road here in Maentwrog that is loving all this rain!
Building began at Maentwrog Hydro Electric Power Station in 1925, and it was operational three years later in 1928. At that time the power generated from the station was more than enough for all of the homes in North Wales, but as power demands grew the hydro electric power from Maentwrog supplied a smaller and smaller percentage of the area's electricity.
Today, the station supplies enough power for about 12,000 local homes every year. But, thanks to the increased rainfall in May and June, the summer's output has been increased by a whopping 150%!
The station makes electricity by using the natural force of water collected from rainfall which then gathers in a series of lakes, streams and cuts, that all eventually floods into the lake at Trawsfynydd.
The increased output from the Hydro Electric Power Station is great news for the local area - it is one of the greenest and most sustainable forms of feeding our ever growing energy appetite. Much of the area around the power station is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of it's concentration of rare plants and wildlife. So any small steps we can take to preserve and protect these special habitats are welcome ones!
Image by Barry Hunter on wikicommons

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Welsh Castles

Castle Crazy

The Oakeley Arms Hotel is set in a very special part of Wales; on the edge of Snowdonia and only a mile or two from the beautiful Welsh coast.

The hills and coastline of this part of Wales are rich in history and legend, and one of our favourites, is the story of Edward's Castles......

The year is 1272. After decades of civil war and unrest, England is in turmoil. The aristocracy are battling over land and the working classes are are uneasy. A new king, Edward I, has just come to the throne and he is determined to restore peace; he plans to begin by dealing with England’s most troublesome neighbour - Wales.

Tensions between the king of England and Welsh rebels had been brewing for years, and by 1277 Edward could stand it no longer. Goaded by the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, who was slowly claiming more and more land towards the English border, Edward not only invaded Llywelyn’s territory but came up with a grand plan in a bid to control the unruly Welsh army.

He built great fortresses, designed to subdue rebels and remind them of the power of their new English rulers. The plan worked; by 1284 Wales was officially incorporated into England and Llywelyn was killed in battle.

Known as Edward’s “Iron Ring”, the most prominent castles were built at key positions along the Welsh coast. They are almost 800 years old and have survived countless battles and brutal attacks but most have aged extraordinarily well. They are fine examples of groundbreaking medieval castle architecture and of Edward I’s determination to assert his authority over the Welsh.
Harlech Castle

Edward's largest castles survive at Harlech, Criccieth, Caernarfon and Beaumaris. All of these are open to the public, and all are well worth a visit. Harlech castle is only a short drive from the Oakeley Arms Hotel.

They are all looked after by Cadw, and you can find out more at the website here


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Portmeirion Festival

Festival Fever

Our local area will soon be welcoming a brand new festival, and we have to say we're pretty excited about it. Festival Number 6 is a new festival set in the stunning grounds of Portmeirion village, just a short hop from the Oakeley Arms Hotel.

Festival Number 6 promises a weekend of not just music, but art, literature and culture too. The line up for music includes New Order, Spiritualized, Primal Scream, British Sea Power and Euros Childs to name but a few and how about Caitlin Moran, Simon Day and Phil Jupitus on the comedy, literature and culture bill.
We think that it's probably not one to be missed.

To find out more about this extraordinary festival in a very special place there is loads more information on the Festival Number 6 website.
Portmeirion is the beautiful setting for this extraordinary festival


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Mining Life

Hi-Ho's off to work we go.....

Here at the Oakeley Arms, we're surrounded by history, industry and unique local legends, but one of the most important is industrial heritage that lies deep under the rolling hills and fields of the Ffestiniog Valley. It's important to us today because it is thanks to the slate mining industry that most of this area grew and developed. Indeed, our namesake, the Oakeley family of Plas Tan-y-Bwlch owned some of the largest and most profitable slate mines in the area (you can read more about the history of the Oakeley family on our blog post here)

But, have you ever wondered what life was really like for these industrious slate miners and their families? Well, now's your chance to find out. There's a fabulous museum and exhibition in Corris, which is not too far from the Oakeley Arms.

The Corris Mine Explorers is your chance to really go back in time and discover what this historic industry was all about. The Braich Goch slate mine was first opened in 1836 and was worked until is was abandoned 40 years ago. This unique visitor centre really allows you into the depths of the mine, taking you back along 130 years of fascinating history.

Image by Peter Smyly on wikicommons

And every Wednesday evening until the 29th August, this underground world is brought to life with a dramatic performance by Theatre Rue and the Corris Mine Explorers. Life and Death Underground is a fabulous dramatic performance about the daily life and toils of a Victorian slate miner. The atmospheric production will unfold by candelight... it's not one to be missed....

Performances are every Wednesday at 4pm and 7pm
Adults: £10 and Children: £7
At the Corris Craft Centre, Corris, Machynlleth. SY20 9RF
For more information visit or call 01654 761 244

Corris is near the town of Machynlleth; less than 30 miles away from the Oakeley Arms Hotel.

Monday, 13 August 2012

50 Things....

Great days out from the National Trust

So far, the school holidays have been a bit of a rainy wash out, so if you're desperately trying to think of summer holiday things to do with your little angels this summer, don't despair!

The National Trust have launched a brilliant new campaign to get kids out and about and exploring their local area.

image by Colin Broug on
"50 things" is a great new initative, designed to get kids under 12 years old exploring, learning, creating and off the sofa! From finding bugs and skimming stones to jumping puddles, climbing a hill and picking blackberries, there are loads and loads of fun activites for your little treasures to get stuck into.

There's also a brilliant interactive website, where children can track their adventures and find things to do (it's fully accessible for parents too). All you need to do is sign up and create a page for each child.

As well as suggesting things to do, there's also a usefl map to find National Trust places to visit. In Gwynedd, kids (and grown ups) are spoilt for choice - there's the fabulous centre at Craflwyn, Beddgelert, the Roman remains of Segontium at Caernarfon, the vast outdoor playground of Snowdonia and the brilliantly historical house of Penrhyn Castle at Bangor. And all these places are just a short hop from the Oakeley Arms.

Find out more at and enjoy the last few weeks of the (hopefully sunny) summer hols!!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The North Wales Pilgrim's Way

Follow the Pilgrim
Here at the Oakeley, you know by now that we love a good walk, but this week we're wondering about an extra special challenge? We've heard a few of our guests and customers mention the Pilgrims Way, which is a fabulous long distance footpath that spans the northern coastline of Wales.

This stunning walking route runs for 150 miles and follows in the footsteps, literally, of the thousands of ancient pilgrims that would have at one time completed this route as part of their religious education and spiritual journey.

The route begins in Holywell, North East Wales, which was an old embarkation point for ferries that came from the North West of England and the Isle of Man, and it ends at Bardsey Island, a saintly (20,000 saints are said to be buried here) and very religious island. In Medieval times, three pilgrimages to Bardsey were considered to be the equivalent benefit to personal religious enlightenment  as one trip to Rome.

As well as an enormous sense of fulfilment, the route aims to give walkers more insight into the varied and rich history of Wales, and the opportunity to explore some beautiful countryside -  the Clwydian Hills and the Llyn Peninsula to name only a couple of the stunning areas that the walk passes through.

Annual pilgrimages are organised by the route's founding members, and anyone can join them for a section - or the whole lot if you're feeling energetic!

You can find out more information on the route, as well as maps, historical information and details at the website. Click here

Happy Walking!

Image by Mynydd Mawr (Nowster) on wiki commons

Monday, 6 August 2012

National Eisteddfod of Wales

For Art's Sake...

This week is a very special week for Wales. Never mind all the brilliant successes of Team GB at the Olympics, it's time for the National Eisteddfod of Wales - the most celebrated, and, some consider the most important, of all the annual Eisteddfodau  that are held each year in Wales.

The Eisteddfod is a cultural festival, that celebrates the very heart of Wales, it's people, history and culture, as well as the importance of local community. Although it certainly is a celebration of Wales and it's language, the festival is not exclusively for Welsh speakers. In recent years, the organisers have extended the welcome to anyone who is interested in Wales or it's hugely varied culture.

The Eisteddfod takes place in a different town each year, alternating between a venue in North and South Wales, so that it is accessible for as much of Wales as possible. This year, it takes place in the Vale of Glamorgan, and is expected to draw crowds of almost 160,000 people.

The history of Eisteddfodau in Wales is thought to date as far back as the twelfth century, when Lord Rhys invited poets and musicians to perform at a great gathering. The origins of the modern Eisteddfod date back to 1880, when the National Eisteddfod Association was formed and the inaugral event took place in Caernarfon.

There's loads and loads going on this year in the Vale of Glamorgan Eisteddfod - from face painting to poetry and from ball games to bands. If you fancy a little trip down to South Wales, then you can buy tickets and find all the info you need on the Eisteddfod website (click here)

Eisteddfod tents 2008 (image by Patrick on wiki-commons)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Borth-y-Gest Walk

A Beachy Walk

Regular blog readers will remember that a couple of weeks ago we featured the lovely village of Borth-y-Gest on the Oakeley Blog, and that we promised details of a fabulous walk there. Well, never ones to go back on our word - here's the Borth-y-Gest walk.

It starts in the main car park in the village (postcode for sat nav is LL49 9TS)

Distance/Time:   6.5km / 4 miles
Start:                     Car park in Borth-y-Gest (at the southern end of the bay, opposite the cafĂ© and shop)
Grid Ref:              SH 565 375

**Please note that parts of this walk are tidal, so please check tide status before starting and do not continue if it is unsafe to do so. The walk is best undertaken at low or falling tide.

1: Turn away from the harbour and walk up a short path at the top left corner of car park; turn left at the top.

2: As the road sweeps right, stay ahead and as the road ends stay ahead again and follow the footpath; pass a small church above on the right. Continue ahead on the clear path with beaches below on the left behind the hedgerow; ignore steps on the left.

3: Eventually, at a T-junction after upward steps, stay ahead (ignore the right fork). Cross bridge down to beach. Aim for large sand dune straight ahead. At bottom right corner, find path path uphill bearing right and soon becomes a clear path that snakes upwards and levels out.

4: Turn left at top and walk beside large wall. The path ends at a footpath sign and a rough drive. Turn right through the (usually) open gate then immediately left. Follow the path to reach steep steps and follow them as they zig-zag downhill to reach a concrete slipway.

 5: Either turn left down the slipway then right onto beach; or if tide is high go straight over and follow a stony path on top of the embankment with the golf course on the right. Aim for the rocky outcrop ahead on the left with a small white house just visible.

6: If the tide is out then skirt around the edge of the rocks and to the left of the house. If not, continue along the embankment path to the right of house and pass above it before dropping down to Black Rock Beach.

7: Once on the beach, continue ahead with dunes to right, for almost a kilometre. Cross a brook (may be deep at high tide or after heavy rain).

8: Take the first main exit you reach on the right (look for a sign-board and blue cabin) passing caravan parks. Soon after the pub take a right turn for Y Ffridd then follow a public footpath sign on the right leading into a wooded area to emerge onto a golf course.

 9: Turn left to follow the wide gravel path across the course. After a large bend and fence posts, the track meets a tarmac road. Turn left then almost immediately right to walk along a fence to a path uphill into trees. Continue until you emerge at a caravan park then turn left.

 10: After tennis courts go slightly left at junction then immediately right (with a cabin on the left). Follow this windy road uphill, eventually passing two wooden bin stores.

11: At the first caravan on your left and a slate sign for Borth-y-Gest and Beach ahead, turn right to cross a small grassy clearing, leading to a path through trees then fork left and go through the gate.

12: Follow the path downhill, behind school buildings then through a kissing gate. Turn right then left at road, down Mersey Street and back to car park.