Go straight to gaol, but don’t miss Ruthin’s many other attractions
- Credit: Archant
WORDS BY JAYNE THOMAS PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
Ruthin is a town steeped in history welcoming tourists from all over the world while still continuing to grow and develop.
County councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts, who runs several businesses in the town, believes that Ruthin, is the ‘best kept secret in North Wales’.
He said: ‘I grew up in Ruthin and have spent most of my life here and I remember it being a town for life with lots of things happening.’
Two-and-a-half years ago he bought a shop called ‘Just Right’ in Denbigh, selling good quality cooking utensils and bespoke designer porcelain, including Moorcroft and PortMeirion and last year opened another ‘Just Right’ in Ruthin.
Huw said: ‘I always say that Ruthin is the best kept secret in North Wales as it boasts the four best attractions in the area: Ruthin Craft Centre, Ruthin Gaol, Ruthin Castle and Nantclwyd y Dre.’
Also supporting the local community is Peter Jones, managing director of Waterco Ltd, based on the Lon Parcwr Industrial Park.
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Waterco, a nationally recognised expert in water, drainage and flood risk has been in Ruthin since 1990 and employs over 20 local people.
They have strong links with Ruthin Rugby Club and supply all the team shirts for this season which has now been extended to 2013-14. All the shirts are worn by six teams, from the first XV down to the Under 7’s.
Several members of staff regularly play for the club or have done in the past and Peter’s grandson plays for the Under 7’s.
Peter said: ‘We already have a sign at the ground and a link on their web site so when I was approached about providing the shirts I was delighted to do so.’
Caru Amore Pasta is the brainchild of Eira Roche from Ruthin, who uses top produce and her Italian cooking skills to create fresh pasta and ravioli.
Eira, who also runs regular cookery classes for children at the Bodnant Food Centre currently runs her business from home but hopes that it won’t be too long before she realises her dream of running a shop.
She said: ‘I have always believed in sustainable food, something emphasised during my time spent working in a restaurant and cookery school on a country estate in Tuscany.
‘Every region in Italy has its unique ingredients, and food plays such an important part of their culture. I was keen to bring some of that Italian spirit back to Wales, and offer a Welsh twist to Italian cuisine.’
With the help of Cywain, the Menter a Busnes added value food project, Eira has sourced Welsh ingredients for the new pasta products which include fresh milk from Calon Wen organic milk and Cilmeityn Goats’ cheese. She also hopes eventually to be using homegrown vegetables.
One of the top tourist attractions in Ruthin, is the town’s gaol where there has been a prison on the site since the 17th century. It closed in 1916 and had various uses before it was extensively renovated and reopened as a museum in 2002 and it can now offer civil weddings.
Samantha Williams, Manager of Denbighshire County Council’s Heritage Services said that they had already held two this year.
She said: ‘They went down very well and in one of them all the guests had their mug shots and fingerprints taken and we were able to send them the photographs.
‘It is a very unusual venue but the Pentonville block is very light with good accoustics and while the bride and groom have their photographs taken, sometimes with a ball and chain, guests can wander round the rest of the building.’
There will also be an historic unveiling later this year when work starts on uncovering a secret garden at Nantclwyd y Dre, Wales’ oldest timbered town house.
Samantha said: ‘We will be developing a 70 ft garden which has been untouched for centuries. It will be like an oasis in the middle of the town and some of it dates back to medieval times.
‘The garden has never been open to the public but thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding work will start on this later this year with the help of volunteers.’ She said.
Leonardo’s Delicatessan, in Well street, run by local woman, Ceris Brunzel and her husband, Andreas offers award-winning homemade pies.
Ceris, who has worked for the BBC in hospitality and Andreas, a German masterchef who has worked in several top London hotels including Park Lane and the Hilton, started the business after moving back to Ruthin from Switzerland 13 years ago.
Ceris said: ‘Over the years Andreas has won numerous awards for his pies and in April this year won champion pie in the beef and ale category in the National Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray. He also received bronze awards for his fish, free range chicken and venison pies.’
The name ‘Ruthin’ comes from the Welsh words rhudd (red) and din (fort), and refers to the colour of the red sandstone which is found in the area, and from which Ruthin Castle was constructed in 1277-1284. The original name of Ruthin was ‘Castell Coch yng Ngwern-fôr’ (red castle in the sea-swamps).
Pendref Chapel was built in 1827 and is the town’s oldest chapel. It stands at the upper end of Well Street (originally named Welsh Street) and next to it is No 6 is where the Welsh national anthem was first printed.
Ruthin makes an ideal base for exploring the stunning countryside of North Wales with its charming little villages and local landmarks such as Moel Famau and Moel Arthur. Don’t miss the Nant y Garth Pass (on the A525), where the road winds up steeply and the views are spectacular, and of course, the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct at Llangollen.
St Peter’s Church dates from the 13th and 14th centuries and has a magnificent oak panelled roof given, according to legend, by Henry VII.