Bed Bath And Beyond Paintings – Sick of clone High Streets? Do not worry, Wales’s market towns are refreshingly “genuine”. Find out how one particular historic marketplace town is managing to reinvent itself although keeping faith with its heritage.
There are a handful of items that are likely to take place even though you are in Ruthin. You are going to meet useful, friendly folks. You are going to relax into the peaceful pace and, let’s be truthful, you may well get rained on. But you are unlikely to get lost.
It is not a big town. Most roads lead to St Peter’s Square, at the prime of the hill and flanked by handsome timber-framed buildings. So, it really is slightly embarrassing that we did, in fact, get lost. Blame it on all those quite shops and extended views down sloping roads over striking roof lines and beyond to the Clwydian Variety. Quite distracting.
I am here with my pal Charlotte. I’m from Brighton, she’s from Manchester. Obtaining dropped our bags at our hotel, the beautiful Manorhaus, we head out and swiftly discover that Ruthin boasts a surprising number of shops – and Boots is the only chain store. “This is a genuine treat,” says Charlotte. “Time to shop and lots of independent retailers, too.” “And no kids to interrupt us, either,” I add. On that cheery note, we march off.
Ruthin has the brass tacks outlets – butcher, ironmonger and bakery – alongside a handful of upmarket boutiques and jewellery shops, including Mococo and Twenty3. We’re a lot more interested in the shops that sit someplace in among the sensible and the indulgent.
Like Leonardo’s, our first stop. A thriving deli, it is packed with shoppers, picking up a Snowdonia Whisky Cheese sandwich or some fresh-baked brownies. Charlotte picks some apricot and ginger chutney and we both take some of Leornardo’s awardwinning chicken, leek and laverbread pies.
Honey buns, a Ruthin speciality, make an irresistible snack. We tuck into a single each and every, a sweet, bready treat that’s incredibly filling.
Leonardo’s has been in business for ten years, while the Ruthin Book Shop, just down the hill, has been run by Janet Kenyon-Thompson for 25. Janet says her buyers come from far and wide, with locals mainly coming in for maps.
Down the hill, Tilly Mint opened in 2008 in a cosy basement with a timbered ceiling. It’s just the type of shop I really like, packed with vintage collectables, from sparkly Sixties handbags to 1930s postcards and Victorian ceramics. I’m drawn to the boxes complete of old marketing cards, but eventually fall for a framed Victorian seascape and bag it for my living space wall.
It sounds like elephants are carrying out aerobics upstairs, but it’s just Spavens the sweet shop above. It really is a mecca for heavy-footed youngsters. Charlotte has a notoriously sweet tooth so dives in for a bag of strawberry bonbons and some blackcurrant liquorice “the traditonal sort – my favourite”.
Nearby on the square, we discover Cerrig & The Green Lady, a sweet-scented emporium of toiletries and cosmetics produced with natural ingredients, numerous from modest producers in Wales and the UK. Charlotte treats herself to some Neal’s Yard Toning Eye Gel, an indulgence at £19.55, but there are lots of goodies for just a couple of pounds too, from handmade soap to beeswax candles.
Ruthin is clearly working difficult at attracting visitors with distinctive, independent shops, although also remaining a down-to-earth market town. Of course, it would be wrong to judge Ruthin solely on its shops. It has a lot of history a medieval settlement with a castle constructed by Edward I (now the Ruthin Castle Hotel), the town was burnt to the ground by Welsh hero Owain Glyndw r in 1400.
Consequently, several of Ruthin’s buildings have medieval cellars (the only part to survive the fire) topped with timber-framed constructions from later in the 15th century, like Nantclwyd y Dre, Wales’ oldest timber-framed constructing. I loved all the old, handsome buildings.
A contrast to all this history is new kid on the block, Ruthin Craft Centre, opened in 2008. It’s an exquisitely-developed space with 3 galleries hosting the greatest in international contemporary applied art.
The centre is beautiful to stroll around, with a cafe and present shop, sorry, “retail gallery”, also, selling higher-top quality glassware, ceramics and jewellery, a beautiful Welsh blanket catches my eye, but at more than £200 it really is a obtain that will have to wait until the next time.
Obtaining pottered, shopped and lingered in the Craft Centre, we lunched on our Leonardo’s pies. We’d planned a stroll in the Clwydian Range to round off our day, but the hills are obscured by drizzle, so we retreat to the comfort of Manorhaus, exactly where owner Gavin Harris serves tea in the rich red lounge.
Refurbished in 2007, each of its eight rooms has a king-size bed, goose-down duvet and deliciously crisp Egyptian cotton bedlinen. They have been designed in collaboration with nearby artists.
I am in Oriel five, decorated with paintings by Ian Williams. There’s an impressive roll leading bath by the sash window (I did pull down the blind ahead of utilizing it, to spare Ruthin’s blushes), a wet space and a lounge region with its own fireplace. I could have happily moved in for the week.
It’s very straightforward to relax at Manorhaus, with aid from the steam area, cinema and restaurant where, in the evening, Charlotte and I devour 3 fantastic courses, including heavenly poached haddock and a rich rabbit stew.
My only regret is that Gavin baulked at showing us his robes. He’s mayor until May possibly this year, and eager to see the town prosper. “The chain is excellent,” he confides, “but the robes are a bit musty.”
Ruthin is something but. Helpful hyperlinks www.visitruthin.com www.manorhaus.com www.northwalesborderlands.co.uk