Hot Spot: Conwy, Gwynedd

Rough seas, lofty peaks and old ruins give this pretty town a distinctly medieval feel, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

In contrast to the typical Victorian English seaside town, Conwy in North-west Wales is a walled medieval town with a castle built in the late 13th century for Edward I. Architectural and historical treasures in this World Heritage Site include three original gateways, a 14th-century merchant's house and an Elizabethan townhouse. Spanning the River Conwy are a Thomas Telford suspension bridge next to a Robert Stephenson railway bridge. For good measure, Mount Snowdon is visible to the south.

In contrast to the typical Victorian English seaside town, Conwy in North-west Wales is a walled medieval town with a castle built in the late 13th century for Edward I. Architectural and historical treasures in this World Heritage Site include three original gateways, a 14th-century merchant's house and an Elizabethan townhouse. Spanning the River Conwy are a Thomas Telford suspension bridge next to a Robert Stephenson railway bridge. For good measure, Mount Snowdon is visible to the south.

"Within the walls are many quirky cottages that are full of character, and just outside town are other interesting homes and new builds," says Annette Jones of agents Daffyd Hardy. "Property values are levelling off but this will always be a good area in which to buy. Conwy has the mountains and the sea, and proximity to the A55 makes it good for commuting to Chester, Manchester and Liverpool. There are also excellent private-sector and general schools."

Buyers include staff at the area hospitals, and people relocating to the area. "Businesses are doing very well, and Wal-Mart is coming," says Jones. "Many people new to Conwy rent while they familiarise themselves with the area. Investors buy properties up to £150,000. Houses up to £300,000 are also selling well, especially with sea views."

Councillor Tony Tobin, an active chorister and retired paramedic, has seen the decline in the fishing industry and the Welsh language during the 65 years he has lived in Conwy. "But we still have a mussel industry, and there has been a revival in the Welsh language. As a World Heritage Site, there can't be great changes in Conwy and, to be honest, there have not been many."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

The A55 tunnels under the River Conwy, linking the town with Bangor, Colwyn Bay and Chester (45 miles).

Attractions

The Wales Actors' Company is performing Much Ado About Nothing at the Castle next week (21-23 July). The week-long Conwy River Festival 2004 begins 31 July and features boat races and parades, barbecues, discos, crafts and market stalls, events for children and a bowling competition. Don't overlook the Mussel Museum, with its bevy of beautiful bivalves, and Teapot World, with its novelty teapots, some more than 200 years old.

Architecture

Aberconwy House is a fourteenth-century merchant's house with stone elevations on level and a half-timbered first floor. Plas Mawr (c.1580) - the Great Hall - is noted for its fine decorative plasterwork. Conwy also boasts Britain's smallest house. Originally a fisherman's cottage, it measures 9'x5'and was once occupied by a man standing 6'3".

Prices

A two-bed maisonette is selling for £78,500 but most currently available properties are well above £100,000. A three-bed corner house with loft room and garage is £142,500. Within the town walls, a four-bed (two are in the attic) terrace with small rear courtyard is £225,000, and a four-bed terrace (one in the attic) is £245,000; all at Dafydd Hardy.

Top drawer

A detached four-bed house in the popular Cadnant Park area of Conwy has a 37' indoor swimming pool, conservatory, garden with pond, large south-facing rear terrace, and double garage; £575,000 at Bryan Davies.

Outskirts

A two-bed mews-style cottage with small garden and parking on the outskirts of Conwy; £179,500 at Iwan Williams. In Bryn Pydew one mile from Conwy, the four-bed Old Smithy is an extended late 18th-century detached cottage with 27'x12' kitchen/breakfast room, dining room, study and two further receptions. The house has landscaped gardens to front, side and read, and overlooks the Conwy Valley and Snowdonia; £449,000 at Bryan Davies.

Conwy Valley

In Llanrwst, south of Conwy, a three-bed house with large garden, £99,950, and a two-bed flat conversion, £165,000. In Llanbedry y Cennin, Llwyn y Gwaew is a 40-acre smallholding comprising a four-bed farmhouse, detached two-bed cottage in Snowdonia National Park; c.£675,000. Both at Iwan Williams.

Bungalows

A three-bed corner-plot bungalow with detached garage and large gardens on a hillside plot, £235,000 at Dafydd Hardy. A two-bed semi-detached bungalow with carport, garage, and tiered gardens in Gyffin, £135,000. Gyffin has a bus service into Conwy.

Business

Ferns Guest House in Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia, is a stone guest house with nine en suite bedrooms and separate one-bed owner's cottage; £435,000 at Iwan Williams.

Estate agents

Bryan Davies, 01492 544551; Dafydd Hardy, 01492 581999; Iwan Williams, 01492 642551.

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