It was the caravanner’s worst nightmare. Just one week to go before a long-planned late summer tour to Anglesey, and our normally ultra-reliable Škoda Octavia Scout developed a gearbox fault, which meant we couldn’t tow our Coachman 450.

Annoying and disappointing in equal measure, this left us in something of a quandary over what to do next.

Time to hire a tow car

Cancel the whole trip, or track down a hire company able to supply us with a suitable vehicle to take its place? My husband Colin – who really does love a challenge – insisted on the latter and immediately got on the case.

Most local and regional hire companies said they didn’t hire vehicles with a towbar (see: how to choose a towbar), because it was an insurance risk. Only one said we could hire a car, but we’d have to arrange our own insurance. Our provider said it couldn’t offer us cover.

Colin eventually found a rental firm that would hire and insure a car – for an eye-watering price that wasn’t far off having a towbar fitted. Several deep breaths later, I agreed that we should go ahead, and a huge beast of a Mitsubishi Barbarian arrived on our doorstep in good time to take us away for our Welsh adventure.

Mitsubishi Barbarian
The hired Mitsubishi Barbarian parked up at Black Horse Campsite

The Mitsubishi was certainly bigger and bulkier than we were used to driving, but handsome is as handsome does, as they say – and it definitely did the job, once Colin had mastered the intricacies of an unfamiliar four-wheel-drive gearbox and the sheer size of the vehicle.

And once I got used to hauling myself up into the front passenger seat, I was perfectly happy with the arrangements – while our Dalmatian, Zara, relished the extra space she had in the back.

Beautiful Beaumaris

Fortunately, after the unexpected expense of hiring the car, we were headed for the reasonably priced Black Horse Campsite at Pentraeth, between Beaumaris and Benllech, on a farm with stunning views over Snowdonia (Eryri), although if you’re after ideas for where to stay, our best caravan parks in Wales guide is well worth a look.

Great views of Snowdonia from the pitch
Great views of Snowdonia from the pitch

We were charmed to find free-range hens strutting around the hardstanding on our arrival. As ever, one of our top priorities was to stay somewhere close to a wide selection of dog walks, and site owners the Griffiths helpfully suggested several promising options, including Red Wharf Bay, which was right on the doorstep.

Beaumaris was our first port of call, and it was easy to see how this delightful seaside town acquired its French-flavoured name, meaning ‘beautiful marsh’.

Its picturesque setting overlooks the Menai Strait and the mountains, and its blend of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture is equally easy on the eye.

However, the indisputable jewel in its crown is the fabulous 13th-century fortress, Beaumaris Castle, a World Heritage Site.

When we visited, at the height of the holiday season in August, this was the authentic setting for a bustling Medieval Fair, featuring everything from folk music and traditional crafts to jesters (naturally acting the fool) and mock battles.

Medieval Fair
The bustling Medieval Fair

Impressive as the castle is, ironically, Edward I’s vision of a stronghold on the scale of the castles at Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech was never fully realised.

Master James of Saint George, the architect, conceived a symmetrical design, with four concentric rings of formidable defences and a moat with its own dock, but it remained incomplete – because Edward ran out of money.

The south gatehouse and six great towers never reached their intended height, and building had stopped by the 1320s – yet the castle remains an imposing sight.

We spent a thoroughly entertaining day exploring its history, enjoying music, song and dance by North Wales troubadours The Whipperginnies and watching the jester’s antics and juggling skills.

However, the highlight of our visit was the mock battle between the English ‘soldiers’ defending the castle and their Welsh counterparts, assisted by a band of ‘barbarians’ (visiting children), who helped to quell the ruling class by enthusiastically wielding foam batons.

Reenactors at Beaumaris Castle
Reenactors bring the historic castle to life

Later in the week, we took advantage of the weather to enjoy a superb outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

We arrived early with chairs and blankets to bag a good view of the stage and have a picnic in the castle’s atmospheric grounds before the dramatic action began.

Those blankets came into their own after sunset, when the temperatures dropped but we stayed snug and warm.

Beaumaris is also an excellent place to shop, whether for groceries or gifts, and there is a fine selection of good cafés and restaurants to choose from, too.

Dining out in style

Our favourite lunch stop, given the sunny weather, was Beau’s Tea Rooms, a charming tea shop overlooking the pier, the quay and the Menai Strait. It has a pleasant terrace if you can find a table (it’s extremely popular, especially during the high season).

Restaurant choices include Indian, Italian and Spanish options, but we enjoyed dinner at the Grade I listed Bulkeley Hotel, just a stone’s throw from Beaumaris Castle.

This fine hotel was built in the early 19th century to accommodate the then Princess Victoria on a visit to the island.

The Green, opposite Beaumaris Castle, is an excellent place to take dogs for a walk (on the lead), and our only disappointment was that we were unable to join one of the many interesting pleasure cruises that are usually available from the pier.

Although the waters of the Menai Strait looked as calm as a millpond in the sun, we were told the sea currents were too strong to risk any voyages that day.

It was a pity, because the selection was very tempting, including a Menai Strait sightseeing cruise and a Puffin Island wildlife cruise to spot seals and seabirds. Definitely something to experience when weather conditions allow.

Anglesey is deservedly much loved for its beaches, and over the years we have visited, and strolled along, most of them.

One place we hadn’t considered before, on the south of the island, is part of the gorgeous Newborough National Nature Reserve and Forest.

Newborough National Nature Reserve
Newborough National Nature Reserve’s stunning panoramas

Managed by Natural Resources Wales, this is one of the largest and finest dune systems in Britain, a combination of coastal marshes, sandy beach and stunning rock formations shaped over centuries.

Wildlife sanctuary

It has a slightly European feel, thanks to the Corsican pine trees that were planted after World War II to help stabilise the ever-shifting terrain. They offer valuable sanctuary for a wealth of wildlife, including red squirrels, if you’re fortunate enough to spot them (sadly, we weren’t).

Newborough is a really fabulous place to explore on foot, a bike – or a horse! The area is criss-crossed with a network of trails that are suitable for walking, cycling, running and orienteering.

We parked in the spacious car park by the beach and paused to consider our options, finally plumping for the 4.5-mile (7km) Saint, Sand and Sea Trail, a moderate route that takes about three hours.

At low tide, this includes the atmospheric island of Ynys Llanddwyn, which is linked to the legend of St Dwynwen, patron saint of lovers, celebrated in Wales on 25 January.

This charming story dates back to the fifth century, when Princess Dwynwen was forbidden to marry the man she loved. She ran away, became a nun and then devoted the rest of her life to helping other lovers find happiness.

It’s a lovely walk, but be sure to study the tide tables carefully before setting off. We speak from experience here, because we didn’t, and almost ended up being cut off on the island for several hours – at high tide, the water surrounds it very quickly.

We were advised to head back to shore by two friendly cyclists – who had done their homework – and had to wade back in knee-deep water. Zara was unimpressed, and demanded to be carried.

Famous name

On the way back to our campsite, we couldn’t resist stopping off at the famous village of Llanfair PG, near the Britannia Bridge, to see what is said to be the longest place name in the UK (and apparently one of the longest in the world), reproduced at the train station – Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Back in the 1960s, visitors could buy what was then thought to be the longest available platform ticket (6in or 15cm), but these days, the village is probably best known for what is claimed to be the longest valid internet domain name.

On our final day, we returned to Llanfair to explore the exquisitely situated National Trust property Plas Newydd. Here, you can enjoy glorious Grade I listed gardens and views over the Menai Strait and Snowdonia.

Plas Newydd
Plas Newydd overlooks the Menai Strait

Dogs (on leads) are welcome in most areas of the gardens and in the Old Dairy Café, so if you tour with a four-legged friend, this is a good choice for a day out.

Plas Newydd gardens
Most of the gardens at Plas Newydd are dog-friendly

The Dancing Marquess

Home of the Marquess of Anglesey, this splendid house’s previous residents include the 1st Marquess, who lost his leg during the Battle of Waterloo, and the 5th Marquess, aka the Dancing Marquess, famous for his theatrical lifestyle, who turned the family chapel into the Gaiety Theatre, and died at the age of just 29.

While you’re discovering the superb interiors, don’t miss renowned artist Rex Whistler’s (1905-1944) breathtaking, 58ft-long mural in the dining room, which was commissioned by the 6th Marquess in the 1930s and designed as an imaginary view from the house.

So was the unexpected extra outlay to enjoy our late-season trip worth it? On paper it seemed extravagant, but we soon forgot about the cost, and still smile at memories of a relaxing holiday in one of the loveliest areas of North Wales.

If you’re looking for more touring inspiration, take a look at how Victor Charles got on during a tour to the Isle of Purbeck or see how Nigel Hutson enjoyed exploring North Yorkshire. Alternatively, if you’re thinking of a shorter weekend trip, don’t miss our guide to spending 48 hours in the Norfolk Broads.

Where we stayed for our tour to Anglesey

Black Horse Campsite

Y Bwth, Nr Pentraeth, Anglesey LL75 8YP. 01248 450 076,

  • Open: All year
  • Pitches: 5
  • Prices: £20-£25

Conveniently situated, this rural CS has fine views, and is close to the coast. There’s a wide variety of dog walks. Both grass and hardstanding pitches are available, with or without electric hook-up. Facilities are limited, so we appreciated having our own washroom to avoid queues. Free-range eggs on sale when available.

Way to go

Setting off from our home in the Derbyshire Peak District, we headed north on the A6 towards Stockport, turning left on to the A555 past Manchester Airport, then joining the M56 to North Wales. From the end of the motorway we took the A5117, A550 and A494 to join the A55 towards Bangor.

Crossing the Britannia Bridge to Anglesey, we headed north on the A5025 towards Amlwch. We turned right after 3.4 miles at a layby, on to a minor road to access the site, 100 yards on the right.

Our outfit

Glossop Caravans Special Edition 2017 Coachman Festival 450 and hired Mitsubishi Barbarian.

Find out more about a tour to Anglesey

Lead image: Getty Images

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