When we decided on the area I set out searching the internet for somewhere to stay. We were on a strict budget of £300 tops for accommodation and we thought we'd be unable to find an apartment at that price and would be looking more at caravans although October is low season and cheaper than other times in the year. I'd not been searching long when I came across some new apartments in the grounds of Harlech castle. They were so new that there weren't any photos of them online but they fitted our budget and sounded ok so we took a risk and made a booking. A few weeks later we got an email saying that there were now photos online and boy oh boy were we delighted!
There are five apartments and they are in an old refurbished hotel right next to the castle. We stayed in apartment 2. You can see from the above picture just how close to it we were. There were also lovely views of the sea to the left and the mountains to the right. The ground floor of the building is the visitor centre, cafe and shop and some serious money has been spent on this redevelopment. The cafe has an indoor and outdoor area and amazing views. Sadly they didn't have soya milk or we would have gone in every day. It turned out that when we got there that the apartments had only been renting out for a couple of weeks and that we were some of the first people to stay there. We also got included in the booking a free pass for the pair of us to visit Harlech castle as well as other castles in Wales!
Everything in the apartment was beautiful quality and lots of it was locally made or sourced. As well as a very comfortable huge sofa there was this lovely armchair for sitting and reading.
I loved these organically shaped coat hooks and the fun wall display of mirrors.
This cabinet had different handles for each drawer and had the television, Dvd player and iPod docking system on top of it.
The bathroom had an amazing walk in shower and complementary toiletries that I was pleased to see were paraben free and cruelty free and supplied by a local social enterprise company.
We were so impressed by the design and accessibility of the apartments. Everything was wheelchair friendly without looking at all medical but just like good design. Here's Matt in the kitchen. The tea towel is hanging from a handle that you could turn to raise and lower the work surface, hob and sink. The bedroom also had sensors that you could put under your pillow if you were deaf which would vibrate if the fire alarm went off.
We made good use of the kitchen as there wasn't a great deal of choice for vegans in the area and we both enjoy cooking too. Here's an evening meal Matt rustled up of pan fried courgette, broccoli, carrots, potatoes roasted with rosemary + garlic and pan fried veggie black pudding served on a bed of spring greens drizzled with a sauce made from Vegg.
The hob was a halogen one and once we'd worked out how to use it (it even had a remote control!) I really enjoyed cooking on it. I took along a chocolate chip pancake mix I'd prepared at home that just needed almond milk and oil adding to it. The spray is low cal coconut oil which is my favourite oil to use for pancakes.
I also took along my travel measuring cups. These are made out of plastic and are like stackable Russian dolls.
Here's the finished pancakes served with apple, Sweet Freedom and some blackberries that we foraged down near the beach.
I really wanted to try some local Welsh food but it was all pretty meat and dairy orientated. We saw lots of ice cream shops with delicious sounding flavours and although I don't usually eat it often I started to crave ice cream. Luckily when we visited nearby Porthmadog we found the most amazing vegan Wholefoods shop on the high street called Vegonia that had a brilliant range of foods including this CoYo Sticky Date and Tamarind Coconut ice cream which was out of this world.
One thing that we did manage to find that was Welsh and vegan friendly was laverbread. This is a type of seaweed and we loved these laverbread oatcakes that we enjoyed with Violife cream cheese and a cocktail hour gin and tonic. We also bought a tin of laverbread to bring home to enjoy spread on toast.
The last day of our holiday was what would have been my dad's 80th birthday. My dad died 12 years ago but every year my sister and I make a point of having nice tea and cake as he was a big cake lover. We'd not spotted any vegan cake all week so I was resigned to having some biscuits I'd brought with us but when I got up Matt had already been up for an hour trawling the internet and had come up with a cake plan!
We jumped in the car and set off confidently to the Black Cat Cafe which is a charming little cafe situated just inside Glynliffon Country Park. We'd read that they always have vegan cake so our hopes were high. Unfortunately they had sold out the evening before and new supplies hadn't arrived. To be honest I'm not surprised they had sold out if the other non vegan cakes they had on display were anything to go by. They were all homemade and looked excellent. We settled for a pot of tea and a soya latte instead in the sunshine. If you are near Caernarfon I would definitely recommend a visit here and to also check out the lovely artist run shop a few metres from the cafe who also sell online.
Our next stop was Bangor. Being a much bigger University town we hoped that we would definitely find vegan cake here. By now it was lunchtime and we were nearly an hours drive from Harlech and we needed food. We stopped in at the Blue Sky Cafe. Whilst not a veggie cafe they have some great vegan lunch options. Matt had a thai style tofu burger which was almond and sesame tofu, caramelised pineapple and a ginger, chilli and peanut sauce served with some great chips and bean and green salads on the side. I went for the salad option which was grilled smoked tofu with roasted veg and micro salad served with a choice of local artisan bread or rice cakes. It's a really busy and popular place and as it was a cooler day I enjoyed sitting near a roaring fire. The interior reminded me a bit of the Whale Tail cafe in Lancaster. We were hugely impressed by the food and would definitely go back but were disappointed that despite having home made cakes and biscuits there were no vegan dessert options.
We had a wander round the town to walk our lunch off and it was about 3.30 in the afternoon before we entered Kyffin. And Kyffin did not let us down! Kyffin serve home made vegetarian food and they have several vegan cakes each day. The cakes we choose looked rather plain with just one layer and no frosting but you know how the saying goes - less is more. Well it was certainly true in this case as they were packed with flavour and had great texture. I would love the recipe for both of these cakes. On the left is a slice of beetroot and chocolate and on the left is sticky mango. Whilst both great the mango cake in particular was amazing! It tasted like there was a good wack of golden syrup in there. I've been searching the internet to try to find a vegan cake recipe that might be similar to how this tasted but haven't found anything yet. If you know of a sticky, syrupy vegan mango cake recipe let me know! It was so good we bought extra to take away. It was just the sort of cake my dad would have loved too.
As well as savoury food and cake the cafe also sell a wide range of sweets and chocolate including plenty of vegan friendly bars. I was pleased to find a bar of my favourite Seed and Bean Cornish Sea Salt chocolate so a bar of that came home with us too. Here's a review of it I did last year for Can I Eat It?
It was such an amazing holiday that guess what? A few days ago after much umming and ahhing and checking of finances and promising to get selling on eBay to raise funds we came to a decision and have booked to go back to the castle apartment for New Year. I always used to go away for New Year but haven't for many years now and I can't wait!