Express & Star

Relax in your home from home beside the seaside

As someone who never really fancied the idea of cramming my family into a holiday home and staring glumly out at the great British weather, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I was offered a stay in a Willerby Homes mobile home on the Min-Y-Don park near the sea in Harlech, Wales.

The Willerby Homes' Shrewsbury model comfortably sleeps four

However, I’m pleased to say that all my preconceptions were blown out of the water by our half term break.

We arrived in Harlech in the midst of Storm Brian after a hairy two-and-a half hour trip over the Welsh mountains, in howling gales and driving rain. I was almost blown off my feet as I went to get the key to our base for a short break on the Min Y Don park. However, the welcome was warm and once we were shown our ‘Shrewsbury’ model Willerby home, we began to relax.

Holiday homes have come a long way and really are the perfect home from home, a real seaside bolthole or a country retreat.

Comfortable and cosy, the Shrewsbury model sleeps four with a well-equipped kitchen, shower room and spacious lounge offering all mod cons and a tasteful decor – the perfect place to unwind with a glass of wine or two! The double bedroom featured plenty of storage and an en-suite toilet, while the twin bedroom was ideal for my boys.

I visited with my husband Steve, two sons and family pet – our Golden Retriever Molly. My boys – Matthew aged 13 and 11-year-old William – were delighted that the park had Wi-Fi. And Steve took full advantage of the on-site gym.

The Min-Y-Don caravan park is set below the magnificent World Heritage Site of Harlech Castle, and only a few hundred yards from the sand dunes of Harlech beach.

A caravan holiday home and touring park owned by Salop Leisure, the site was awarded the Welsh Tourist Board Five Star “Excellence” rating. The site is easily accessible and the spacious, level pitches all benefit from their own parking spaces, tarmacadamed roads, low-level lighting, careful landscaping and planting.

Harlech itself is most famous for its medieval fortress, Harlech Castle, which was built by the English King Edward 1 in the 13th century in his attempt to subdue the Welsh, and is now a World Heritage Site.

The castle played an important part in several wars, and during the 15th century Wars of the Roses, Harlech was held by the Lancastrians, before Yorkist troops forced its surrender in 1468, a siege memorialised in the song Men of Harlech.

In the 21st century, the ruined castle is managed by Cadw as a tourist attraction.

The castle is open daily although opening times vary. Admission costs £6.50 for adults, senior citizens and children under 16 £4.20 and a family ticket costs £19.30 (prices valid until March). The tearooms serve cream teas to die for and staff even provide a blanket to snuggle up under if you fancy sitting outside and it gets a bit chilly!

Harlech is a fairly small resort, but has several pubs, gift shops, an Indian restaurant, a chippy and a cafe serving a whole host of meals from breakfast baps to pizzas. The beach boasts beautiful sand dunes, the reason behind the area’s designation as a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The beach is an ideal place for children to play. Dogs are allowed with some restrictions.

If you fancy going a little further afield, Barmouth isn’t far and has a wide range of pubs, shops and restaurants. Obviously, visiting in October some of the family-friendly attractions were closed and the beach is more wind-swept and rain-lashed than bathed in sunshine! However, a bracing walk along the sand is great for blowing the cobwebs away.

There are plenty of options for food in Barmouth, from traditional fish and chips to pubs and restaurants. We had tapas at The Tilman in Church Street. Our four-legged friend was more than welcome and the family are now firm fans of tapas! With dishes such as fillet of beef with celeriac puree and red wine sauce for £12; roasted chicken wings with garlic thyme and chestnuts for £5; Hake fillet and braised lentils for £8 and pork and beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce £6, there’s something to tempt everyone.

Also worth a visit for some liquid refreshment is The Last Inn, further down Church Street. Also dog friendly, this 15th century inn is one of Wales’ most famous pubs with traditional inglenooks and ships beams.

Other places to visit include Portmerion. Designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village it is now owned by a charitable trust. The village has served as the location for numerous films and TV shows, and was ‘The Village’ in the 1960s television show The Prisoner.

Porthmadog isn’t far and provides a wide range of shops and supermarkets, perfect for stocking up. Also nearby is Black Rock Sands beach and not far from Harlech is Shell Island.

There’s lots for the more intrepid to do in nearby Snowdonia National Park. Walk up Snowdon at 3,560ft, experience the world’s fastest zip wire at Zip World or ride the perfect wave at Surf Snowdonia.

However, the beauty of owning a holiday home, in whichever part of the country you chose to buy one, is that you can cram in as much or as little as you want, because you can keep on coming back. You can find your favourite pub or chippy and will always know the best place to stock up on provisions.

The Willerby home we stayed in boasted plenty of storage for the every-day items like bedding and cleaning products, so all you really need to pack is your clothes, some first night essentials and your holiday starts as soon as you turn the key in the door.

All you need to do is pick the perfect model for your needs and find the location that is right for you.

Willerby has been making holiday homes for more than 70 years, and puts that extensive experience into thinking of everything you could possibly need to make your trip as relaxing as possible.