King of Castles (and home of The Smallest House In Great Britain): Wales may be out of the World Cup – but the medieval town of Conwy is a winner
- Angela Epstein visits Conwy and notes that ‘everyone seems to enjoy living here’
- She admires the view of Conwy Castle from the Quay Hotel & Spa in Deganwy
- From the castle’s towers she can see the estuary of the River Conwy and beyond
On the Conwy waterfront, a squat crowd gathers around a red-fronted house on the tiny promenade of this picturesque North Wales town.
A cheerful autumn sun casts a glimpse of the mudflats of the River Conwy estuary and greedy, fat-bellied gulls wheel and squawk overhead.
The source of the crowd’s magnetic pull (apart from a cheerful lady in traditional Welsh costume at the entrance)?
A tiny plot of land at the end of a terrace, believed to be – as the sign above the Quay House proclaims – ‘the smallest house in Britain’.
Angela Epstein visits Conwy, the Welsh market town which is home to Conwy Castle (above) – ‘one of the largest and best preserved medieval structures in the country’.
Although only 72 inches wide and 122 inches high, a visitor to Conwy, a walled market town on the edge of Snowdonia, is unlikely to overlook this small tourist hub.
Forced into a void by some poorly calculated 16th-century building work, it supports a row of much larger white terraced houses. Painted a cheerful scarlet, the house sticks out like a tiny thumb rather than a sore thumb.
Mind you, it’s amazing what can be squeezed into this two-story (two-story!) des res. Last but not least, a single bed, a tiny little stove, a small table and a couple of hooks to hang clothes. It’s hard to believe the last person to live in it was a burly, 6ft 3in tall local fisherman named Robert Jones.
But as my husband Martin and I discover on a tour of the city, Conwy has myriad contrasts – perhaps best articulated by the fact that behind “the smallest house in Britain” the skyline is framed by one of the largest and best in the country – Preserved parts of medieval construction work.
Pictured is ‘The Smallest House in Britain’ which is just 72 inches wide and 122 inches high. “The house sticks out more like a tiny thumb,” says Angela
“Everyone seems to enjoy living here,” Angela explains of Conwy (above)
Conwy Castle was the architectural brainchild of Edward I, whose plan it was to build a chain of fortified towns around Wales to protect the lands he had just invaded.
Both Conwy and its castle were founded in 1283. The latter is what we’re seeing for the first time from the bedroom window of the Quay Hotel & Spa in Deganwy, a six-minute drive away, where we chose to stay for its luxurious amenities, as well as its view over the water. On the night of our arrival, the castle shines majestically in pink and pink floods.
A tour of the castle means climbing spiral staircases to reach the top of its eight round towers – some of them are 70 feet tall. Sometimes only a length of vertical rope helps with the ascent, but the vertigo is rewarded with panoramic views over the estuary and the Snowdonia mountains beyond.
Angela’s base is the Quay Hotel & Spa in Deganwy (above), a six-minute drive from Conwy
Edward I also ordered stone walls to be built to surround Conwy and it is still possible to complete a three quarter mile walk along these largely uninterrupted barriers which rise and fall over the town center like a static roller coaster.
In the town center independent shops burst with life on the High Street (visit Edwards of Conwy, an award-winning master butcher, as the refrigerated display case is a work of art) alongside nuggets of architectural history such as Plas Mawr – a late 16th-century town house.
Everyone seems to enjoy living here (earlier this year Conwy was named one of the best places to live in the UK).
As a waitress at our hotel in her 20s summed it up: “We can get to big cities if we want. But otherwise, what more do we need.”