Wales is making light of this anniversary

Active Autumn: It is 200 years since the Jubilee Tower was built to honour George III. David Atkinson finds out how the occasion will be marked

Chris Oakley wants to show me North Wales in a new light – quite literally.

The Wrexham-based video artist will today beam a blue-white searchlight into the night sky from the Jubilee Tower at the summit of Moel Famau as part of a major art installation. The proceeding procession and dusk-light illumination are to mark 200 years of the tower, designed to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of George III. It will also mark 25 years of the surrounding Clwydian Range holding the status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The video installation, accompanied by laser projections, is intended to illuminate the tower across North Wales and North-west England. It will remain in situ throughout the coming week.

I join Chris for an autumnal walk in the Clwydian Range to examine with fresh eyes the tower's battered aesthetics. "I want to create a sense of spectacle," he explains. "But I also hope people will go away from here having realised that the Jubilee Tower is not just a dilapidated pile of stones on a windswept hill. It reflects the way history has evolved around us."

A grand procession of high-society bigwigs came to North Wales for the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone on 25 October 1810. The 115ft structure, crowning the highest point in the range, has dominated the landscape ever since, yet many of the walkers clambering over the ruins each day know little of the pathos and pride that underscore its tumultuous history. The architect Thomas Harrison envisaged it as a grandiose Egyptian obelisk, but the final construction, unveiled in 1817, was a scaled-down version. The structure then partly collapsed in gales in 1862.

Chris and I follow the stone-laid Offa's Dyke National Trail through the heather moorland on the two-mile climb to the tower. Tufts of clouds drift overhead; purple-hued heather and yellow-flowered tormentil splash colour across the path. The pasture provides the habitat for the indigenous black grouse, one of Wales's rarest birds.

As we cross a plateau, overlooking the Vale of Clwyd, the tower looms, weather-beaten but still imbuing a stoic sense of pride. A stone-pitched slate path marks the final, steep ascent to the foot of the tower where we sit, munching biscuits and sharing a flask of milky coffee. From the battlements the full widescreen view opens out: west to Snowdon and Cader Idris, east to Liverpool, and north-west to Llandudno's Little Orme.

"I find being here quite uplifting," says Chris. "It inspires a sense of freedom embedded in me on walks to the tower with my dad during my childhood."

Walking in the Clwydian Range not only offers me a fresh perspective on local heritage, but also introduces me to a lesser-known area of North Wales. The Clwydian Range stretches from Prestatyn on the northern coast to the deep-wooded valley of Nant y Garth, near Llandegla, in the south. Walkers and families often miss the area in the stampede to the nearby Snowdonia National Park, yet it has enough to draw visitors, including activities from mountain biking to woodland foraging, and a variety of places to stay, from homely B&Bs to boutique-chic hotels.

My base for exploring the area is the sturdy Welsh market town of Ruthin. It is packed with history. The 15th-century Nantclwyd y Dre is the oldest timber-framed building in Wales and hosts a new regional arts hub, the Ruthin Craft Centre. It features galleries, events and incorporates the manorhaus, a stylish, art-themed hotel set in a rambling period property with eight rooms, each showcasing the work of local and national artists.

Chris and I end our walk at the Loggerheads Country Park, tucking into plates of yellow, fluffy scrambled egg at low-food-miles champion Caffi Florence. The café, North Wales Regional Winner at the True Taste Wales Awards 2009, has become a beacon for regional suppliers to take their premium products to a wider audience. "We have tried to make the food we offer reflect the natural environment of the range," says the owner, Jane Clough.

There are plans afoot to restore the tower's bastions on either side of the west window, improving the entry points at the corners and installing interpretation material. The Jubilee Tower has been battered by the passing of time, but Chris's public art event is putting it back on the map.

Compact Facts

How to get there

Wrexham & Shropshire (0845 260 5900; offers return fares from London Marylebone to Wrexham General from £50 return. B&B in a double room at manorhaus (01824 704830; costs from £85 per night.

Further information

Jubilee Tower 200 (; Clwydian Range (clwydian; accommodation ideas (; Caffi Florence (01352 810397; caffiflorence; Ruthin Craft Centre (01824 704774;

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific