They may spend much of their time at their new home Adelaide Cottage in Windsor and taking frequent trips up to London, but there was a period when Prince William and Kate Middleton lived a much more ‘normal’ life away from the spotlight.
Between 2010 and 2013, the royal couple called the Welsh island of Anglesey their home during William’s time as an RAF search and rescue pilot. While William was stationed there, Kate who was engaged to him at the time, set up home with him and the couple spent three idyllic years there before moving to the English capital shortly before the birth of Prince George.
With a population numbering a little less than 70,000, Anglesey is known for its lovely beaches and quiet coastal paths, making it the perfect place for William and Kate to ease into their new life together. From puffin spotting to castle visiting, one OK! reporter took a trip to the island to discover more about its allure…
Cross one of the two historic bridges over the Menai Strait to Anglesey – the Menai Bridge, opened in 1826, and the Britannia Bridge, opened in 1850 – and you’ll see why much of this coastline is designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty.
Its sweeping, sandy beaches, colourful cottages and picturesque villages provide the perfect getaway. The royal family has loved Wales for decades, but the Prince and Princess of Wales really helped put Anglesey on the map in 2011 when William, then the Duke of Cambridge, was based there as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot at RAF Valley.
As newlyweds, the couple rented a four-bedroom farmhouse near Bodorgan, which had access to a private beach and stunning views of Newborough National Nature Reserve and Forest.
Where to stay
Ben and Holly’s Hideaways is the passion project of an antique dealer and interior designer. Four exquisitely-restored self-catering apartments are set within a fairy-tale 16th century, grade II-listed pink Georgian mansion behind Gothic gates. The property, on the shores of the Menai Strait, boasts panoramic vistas of Snowdonia, but is also close to local amenities and visitor attractions.
With such jaw-dropping views of the sea and mountains, we did something unheard of with children in tow – we didn’t turn on the TV. Most evenings we spent watching boats on the Strait and the dramatic clouds rolling over the mountains. Seeing the full moon rising over the water was a true holiday highlight.
Our beautifully furnished hideaway, with its calming palette and Victorian touches, showed all the hallmarks of professional design and offered a perfect mix of antique and modern. It sleeps six, with two bathrooms, so it’s ideal for a stay with friends. We loved the attention to detail, especially the ultra luxe Tielle Love Luxury sheets in the bedrooms.
And we especially appreciated the welcome basket of locally-sourced goodies, including pancakes, Welsh cakes and wine.
On the doorstep
The Hideaways are just a stone’s throw from Beaumaris and a quick and easy stroll soon took us to the town’s picturesque seafront.
Luckily, the giant big wheel, known as the Eye, which closed during the pandemic, made a triumphant return for our visit. At more than 100ft high it’s not for the faint-hearted and it gently rocks from side to side. But kids love it and it boasts the island’s best views of the Menai Strait and Snowdonia.
The children adored crabbing off the fine Victorian pier and eating delicious fish and chips. But there’s plenty for big kids, too, with daily RIB tours during high season.
Where to go and what to do
Anglesey’s oldest castle, Beaumaris, now a World Heritage Site, offers a great day out for the whole family. Dubbed the unfinished masterpiece, it is exactly that – the last of Edward I’s “iron ring” of 13th-century fortresses built to subdue the Welsh. It’s awash with history and the guided walking tours are fascinating. See the hundreds of arrow-slits through the exterior walls, hear ghost stories and get lost in the “walls within walls” designed to help the castle withstand attack.
The boat trip to Puffin Island, off Anglesey’s eastern tip, is an absolute must and unbeatable on a sun-drenched day. It’s a bird sanctuary and a haven for wildlife, mainly, as the name suggests, puffins. The children loved seeing the resident grey seals, too. The best time to visit is during the breeding season, which is from April to July when numerous other species also flock to the island.
For a cultural day, Anglesey’s artisan markets, galleries and antique shops are great for browsing. Fearless types should give “coasteering” a go – leaping off cliffs into the sea is an unforgettable experience. Bearded Men Adventures will help you take the plunge (from £70).
Beaumaris’s best eats
Was it the sea air? Maybe, but The Neptune on Castle Street, Beaumaris served the best fish and chips we’ve ever had. The main event (£14.95) came with mushy peas and was superbly crispy.
For a tea break to remember, head to the Happy Valley Pavilion. This wooden hut beside the bowling green has fine views across to Snowdonia and serves what is reputedly “the best carrot cake in Wales”. We’d agree.
For a cosy evening meal, try the George & Dragon on Church Street. Built in 1410, it is one of Wales’ oldest pubs and has a gorgeous scrubbed-but-stylish feel. Try one of the local cask ales with your bacon-topped Welsh rarebit (£6.95).
For a good all-rounder, there’s always Harry’s Bistro. Set in Henllys Hall, an imposing mansion and former friary a mile from Beaumaris, it’s perfect for a special night out, but its kid-friendly, too. The food is fresh and seasonal and service is great. too. Don’t miss Harry’s own Welsh lamb faggots (£16).
From £688 a week. For more information, or to book, visit benandhollyshideaways.com
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