Criccieth Castle & Llanberis Slate Mine

Rain coming down in a steady, cold drizzle. Mud. And a little Welsh castle.

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(Yes, another castle. I saw it for all of 10 minutes, just long enough to get drenched.)

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This set of ruins, Criccieth Castle, is mostly visited for its spectacular view. It is seated on a peninsula in Gwynedd, North Wales, on a bluff overlooking the ocean. On the day we visited, however, the “Celtic twilight” reigned, and all I saw was a bit of ocean and a wall of mist. Even that was impressive, though. (And I’m not talking vampires here; the “Celtic twilight” refers to the way all the rain and mist makes the light dim during the day.)

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There is a view, see!

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Criccieth Castle is another castle built by the Welsh princes rather than invaders; it was meant to protect North Wales.

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Fun fact of Welsh law:

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Remember your tic tacs, guys!

Next, we visited the Llanberis slate mine. Being down in the mines (there are 16 levels and 250 chambers of the old mine; I won a piece of slate for recalling that fact!) meant no rain, which was a nice break.

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We went on the last weekend that the little trolley was in use, ever, after something like 100+ years. It was pretty emotional for the people who had worked there in the past, and even our little group of 45 American college students was struck by the mood. It was tragic to learn about the hard, short working lives of the miners in the Victorian age, and the more recent (1950s) lack of health & safety. North Wales is known for its slate production, though its heyday is long past. If you see a blue-gray slate roof anywhere in the world, know two things: 1) It came from North Wales, and 2) It will last 250 years.

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Another neat thing is that Bangor University was built from donations from slate miners; they set aside a portion of their paychecks to found the University. There’s even a poem (in English and Welsh) in the library building to “guilt students into going to class”, as one British student put it.

Things like that put the gift of education into perspective.

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