North Wales: A Cultural Roadtrip to Llandudno

When you think of North Wales – what do you think of?

Seaside walks, excellent seafood and mountains might come to mind, but you probably don’t think of excellent art galleries.

Although London more often than not hogs most of the limelight when it comes to art exhibitions – there’s a burgeoning Art scene that is steadily growing in popularity. Having heard about a number of high-profile artists bringing their work to the culturally interesting region of North Wales, I took it upon myself to organise a little road trip taking in a handful of the galleries that have been captivating art lovers in recent times.

I’m not someone who you would describe as a ‘gearhead’.

I actually only passed my driving test when I was 32 – I knew I was leaving it to the last minute but like with a lot of life’s other responsibilities (see: buying house, finding partner and cleaning dishes) I always felt like I could put it off just one more year. When it came to actually passing my test I was a hopeless bag of nerves whose manic performance (I will not refer to what I did as ‘driving’) must have elicited a Fatherly response of utter pity in the instructor.

I’d not really driven since then – so you can read this supposedly art-centric article as also ‘Baby’s First Big Drive’.

I woke up at 7am on the Saturday morning with a feeling of dread in my heart. It had been a while since I got behind the wheel to go to the shops, let alone for a road trip half way across the country. By the time I’d shuffled my way into my car and reacquainted myself with the funny smell that had been hanging around the passenger seat foot-well for the last few months it was gone 8am and time for me to set off.

My first port of call was the kind of place that my Dad would have loved to have visit.

There are plenty of things to do in North Wales: mountain climbing, biking, zip-lining – none of which would have appealed to him. No – my Dad had always been a fan of standing and watching things slowly move by, which is why he would have loved Pontcysylte Aqueduct. This impressive World Heritage is one of the iconic sights of Wales and I was surprised by how moved by it I was. As holiday makers made their slow way across the nineteen-arch aqueduct, I was impressed by how well this over 200-year old building had stayed up and touched by how many people still used it.

But there was no time to dawdle. I had a date with a modernised art gallery in a quintessential Victorian seaside town and I wasn’t going to miss it.

Mostyn had been on my list of must-sees for a long time. Originally opened between 1901-1913, this grand old place is believed by many to be the first gallery in the world created exclusively for women to exhibit their work in. After losing and reopening during the 70s, Mostyn was finally reopened in May 2010 with help of a $5m pay cheque – reborn by a modern architectural company as a chic throwback to its Victorian heyday.

It’s certainly an impressive building, more for its surreptitious place on a quiet back street in Llandudno, a town that was once crowned as ‘Queen of the Welsh Resorts’. I parked up with ease and guided myself into the immaculately kept galleries. Estella Scholes’ current work: Circles, Stones and Fragments of the Shore is certainly aptly titled.

Despite the on-the-nose title, this is a great body of work that reflects much of what I saw of North Wales in my day of driving – a vast, varied landscape that is filled with more culture than you might think…

Posted in Art

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