Situated at the Eastern end of the Menai Strait and within close proximity to its neighbour, The Isle of Anglesey, Bangor is perfectly placed for further exploration of North Wales and is easily accessible by the modern road network
Bangor can trace its roots back to 525AD, when Saint Deiniol a Celtic missionary arrived with his followers, to form a monastic settlement, which they enclosed with a wattle fence, or bangor in Welsh, from which the city got its name. Around 546AD, Maelgwn, King of Gwynedd, consecrated Saint Deiniol as a bishop, making the church a cathedral and as such, gave Bangor the title of the earliest diocese in continuous use in Britain. Since that time there has been continuous building and rebuilding of the cathedral, especially in Norman times, following confrontations between the Welsh and English, with each phase leaving its mark on the site. A major restoration was carried out in 1866, under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott, who carried out his duties diligently and leaves the building we see today. From its early beginnings, Bangor grew slowly until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when accelerated growth was caused by improved transport links and the growing export demand for slate, the major industry in these parts.
On the outskirts of Bangor, there is an ostentatious example of the wealth created by the slate industry. Open to the public, National Trust owned Penrhyn Castle, a 19th century Neo-Norman fantasy, was built for the Pennant family in a grandiose style. Cathedral-like in proportion and extravagant in style, the castle includes a five storey keep and 300 plus rooms, all with luxurious fittings and furnishings. Paintings by Canaletto, Gainsborough and Rembrant, amongst others, hang on the walls. Outside there are over 45 acres of grounds, formal gardens and parkland, with superb views towards Snowdonia and over the Menai Strait. All this built with the huge profits from the family’s slate quarries at Bethesda. Within the stable block there is the Industrial Railway Museum displaying important locomotives and industrial artefacts from the slate quarries.
The fully restored Bangor Pier stretches out into the Menai Strait, appearing to almost reach Anglesey. Built in 1896, this attractive pier is a pleasant place for a stroll, with views of the strait, the Great Orme Llandudno, Anglesey, Snowdonia, Telford’s suspension bridge and Bangor itself.
Bangor Museum and Art Gallery shows an interesting exhibition of local antiquities and ever-changing displays of contemporary Welsh art. Theatre-goers can enjoy concerts, plays, films and dance performances at Theatr Gwynedd.
The Vaynol estate alongside the Menai Strait is a fine open space for visitors and Bangorians alike, to stretch their legs and enjoy the panoramas. Open parkland, woodland areas and curious follies also make this area a lovely spot for a picnic.
Having both a university and a cathedral gives Bangor the honour of being the only city in Gwynedd, a small city of only 14000 residents, but a city nonetheless and being a city, Bangor provides the facilities that befit its title. When the population becomes further swelled, as the university students arrive in the academic terms, Bangor takes on an extra verve, an almost cosmopolitan feel. So for sports facilities, shopping, culture, bars, restaurants and atmosphere, Bangor has it all, accordingly making the city a worthy place to stay awhile.