28 May 2012
Over the next 60 days we will be devoting our blog to uncovering the Torch Relay Route. We’ll be in front, behind, neck and neck and at times running along either side of the torch as it makes it ways across the country, celebrating the sights, sounds and smells that the UK has to offer. We will blog every 3-4 days during the Torch Relay, highlighting places of interest in the area through which the Torch is about to pass and flagging up interesting stories and local sites for you to discover.
Day 10 starts out in the attractive, mid-Wales, seaside town of Aberystwyth. Well known for its beaches and beautiful scenery, such as the Cambrian Mountains and Cardigan Bay, Aberystwyth is also renowned for its university and for being the cultural capital of Wales. If you’ve been watching the Torch Relay as it tours the town and want to find out a bit more about the Olympics, why not visit the ‘Following the Flame’ exhibition at the National Library of Wales. The National Library of Wales houses the Welsh national collections, including millions of books, thousands of manuscripts and archives, maps, pictures and photographs, films and music. The building itself is magnificent, and was first occupied in 1916. You can join tours that highlight its history and collections and allow you to engage in Aberystwyth’s academic environment.
London 2012 has embedded sustainability into its planning from the start, putting sustainability at the heart of the way they plan, build, work, and travel. Located just 6 miles from Machynlleth, a Torch Relay stop deep in the heart of the beautiful Welsh countryside, the Centre for Alternative Technology also has sustainability at its core. They have over 7 acres of hands-on displays and gardens dedicated to eco-friendly principles, as well as 35 years experience in sustainability practice and testing new ideas and technologies. There are working examples of environmentally-responsible buildings, waste management, sustainability in the home and organic growing, demonstrating what we can do to reduce our impact on the planet, whilst having some fun at the same time!
No trip to this part of Wales would be complete without a visit to one of Edward I’s castles. There are many to choose from but we’ve highlighted Caernafon Castle as an exceptional example. Caernafon Castle is one of the most impressive of all the Castles build by Edward I and it is one of the world’s greatest medieval fortresses. As the seat of imperial power in England and Wales, everything about the castle is on a regal scale. The remains of the town walls that defended the castle are still standing and also worth a visit.
Early on Day 11 the Torch Relay will arrive in Conwy, home to another impressive Edward I castle and part of a World Heritage Site. It is also the location of one of the first road suspension bridges in the world. Built in 1826, the architect, Thomas Telford, matched the bridge’s supporting towers with the castle’s turrets and part of the castle had to be demolished during construction for the suspension cables to be anchored into the rock. The bridge provides visitors with stunning views over the Conwy estuary.
For something a bit quieter and away from the crowds, while the Torch passes through the village of Rhos on Sea, why not explore the tiny Chapel of St Trillo? It measures 11ft by 8ft and is thought to be the smallest church in Wales, if not in the entire British Isles. The chapel is of unknown date and occupies the sites of a pre-Christian holy well, which once supplied St. Trillo with drinking water. The chapel contains seating for a congregation of 6 people and provides a nice contrast to the towering castles of Conwy and Caernafon.
On Day 12 of the Torch Relay, the flame enters England at Chester. Chester is well known as a tourist destination, retaining its original Roman street patterns and boasting Britain’s largest amphitheater. However, while there is plenty of attractions in the city to keep the average tourists amused, once the Torch relay has continued on its route, it may be worth leaving the city’s borders to spend some time at the nearby Tatton Park, one of the UK’s most complete historic estates. With a Tudor Old Hall, a Neo-Classical Mansion, 50 acres of landscaped gardens (with a little corner of Japan in its grounds), a rare-breed farm and 1,000 acres of deer park, there is plenty to see and do. It gives visitors a real chance to experience the countryside and history of the area in one place.
The Torch Relay returns to Wales for a short period before crossing the border once again, into Shropshire, an area of unspoiled countryside and historic towns. This area is also well known for its ceramics. While following the Torch Relay around the historic towns it might be worth popping into the village of Jackfield. With both the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site and whole host of industrial heritage museums in the area, such as the Jackfield Tile Museum, this is the perfect place to learn about the UK’s manufacturing and industrial past. For example, two tile manufacturers were founded in Jackfield in the 19th century and the tiles made by these companies were exported as far India, Russia and the USA. The companies also supplied more locally, producing the tiles for the London Underground for example – a reconstruction of Covent Garden Underground station stands in the museum today. Another related museum can be found near the last stop of the day for the Torch, Stoke on Trent. The newly renovated Wedgwood Museum was one of the first permanent museums established by ceramic manufactures and the objects and archive material in the collection provide a unique insight into the world’s most famous potter and the company he founded. These two museums will allow visitors to gain an insight into the industry that made this area famous and contributed to the region’s local identity.
We hope you’ll enjoy exploring the variety of places to visit in Wales and the West Midlands and we’ll be back in a couple of days with more tips of where to visit along the Torch Relay route in the West Midlands, North West and across the Irish Sea on the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
Post by Hannah, Discovering Places team.
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