The diverse range of museums across Anglesey, Snowdonia and the Lleyn not only give us a fascinating connection with our region’s past, they help us to understand its present.
It’s quite a story. From copper kingdoms to slate caverns, a colourful Marquess’s military museum to a Prime Minister’s boyhood home, we think you’ll be captivated by our favourite museums in North Wales.
The atmospheric Gothic courthouse, which you’ll find opposite Beaumaris Castle in the centre of the town, is open to visitors from April to October. Built in 1614 it has an original hammer-beam roof which must have hung heavy over prisoners as they stood in the dock awaiting their fate. Over at the Victorian gaol you get a reminder of the harsh treatment of prisoners in the 1800s. Its tread wheel, designed for hard-labour prisoners, is the only one in Britain still in place. A nursery above the women's workroom has a slit in the floor through which mothers could, by pulling a rope, rock their babies' cradles without stopping working. The dimly lit corridors and spartan punishment cells will run a chill down your spine.
Man has been extracting metal from the rocks here for a very long time – there’s evidence to suggest it was an important mining site as long ago as the Bronze Age. The Copper Kingdom visitors centre tells the story of how copper has shaped the lives of people of Anglesey – and how it made a few of them very rich indeed.
This elegantly imposing mansion set on the shores of the Menai Strait is owned and managed by the National Trust. The house is the seat of the Marquess of Anglesey and famous for its Rex Whistler mural and exhibition. It also houses a fascinating military museum with relics from the First Marquess of Anglesey’s military career. He was one of the finest cavalrymen of his generation, and fought alongside the Duke of Wellington. Look out for the articulated wooden leg which replaced the Marquess’s right leg after it was blown to smithereens on the battlefield at Waterloo.
The Oriel Ynys Mon is a fascinating museum and gallery which showcases the best of Anglesey’s art, history, culture and wildlife. It’s a pleasure to visit for adults and children alike. The gallery is a leading venue for renowned Anglesey artists like Kyffin Williams and Charles Tunnicliffe (you might recognise his work from the charming Ladybird books he illustrated). In addition to the permanent collection there’s a changing programme of exhibitions as well as a social history and archaeology gallery. You’ll also find a rather lovely cafe and gift shop.
This fascinating museum at Llanystumdwy, just outside of Criccieth, tells the story of one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. The museum brings to life Lloyd George’s childhood with a unique display of objects, a film about his life, astonishing 'talking head' speeches, a Victorian schoolroom and library. The Victorian cottage garden is a pleasure to walk around and Lloyd George’s riverside grave is just a short walk away. An enriching and absorbing day out.
At Llechwedd Slate Caverns you get to experience life as it was for a Victorian mining family. Tours start with a ride on the UK’s steepest cable railway which will take you 100s of feet underground to explore the old mine workings. On your way you’ll hear tales of the miners’ family life – children as young as 12 would work down in these dark caverns. They helped make North Wales the slate capital of the world in the 19th century.
The mighty colossus of Caernarfon Castle is the biggest of Edward I’s ‘iron ring’ fortresses in Wales and it still packs a powerful punch. The castle itself is likely to keep you enthralled for many hours, but keep some time aside to visit the excellent Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, which is housed in the Queen’s Tower at the castle. It tells the fascinating story of Wales’ oldest infantry regiment and their role in Britain’s most famous military campaigns.
This museum, in the pretty mountain village of Llanberis, tells the story of the Welsh slate industry. And what a story it is. North Wales was once the slate capital of the world and people have been quarrying the tough stuff here for over 1,800 years. It’s a story that has shaped this landscape in many different ways.
This fascinating woollen mill has been owned by the same family since 1859. You can tour the working mill museum and see the machines which transforms raw Welsh wool into beautiful bedspreads, tapestries and tweeds. You can buy some of these beautiful products in the Mill Shop.
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