I decided to follow in the sea legs of Admiral Lord Nelson on our short break in Menai Bridge – and took the 14-year-old in my charge on a boat ride through the Swellies – that stretch of water notoriously difficult to navigate safely because of the whirlpools and surges caused by the strong currents and unpredictable tides washing around the island of Anglesey.

Unlike the hero of the Napoleonic Wars, I spent the rest of the weekend with my teenager talking about his newfound passion for fishing, dining out on big bowls of Welsh mussels and plates of glistening homemade pie, then playing cards and dice games as we watched the sun go down. Well who knows, perhaps that bit of history was also repeating itself.

Grandson and I were in North Wales for a stay at the newly renovated Victoria Hotel, part of Greene King’s Chef & Brewer Collection. Lord Nelson (1758-1805) came to Menai Bridge with his crew to train in the fast-flowing waters in preparation for the sea battles ahead in foreign waters. The youngest among them would have been just 12 years of age, as was Horatio himself when he first went to sea. By the time he was 14 he had already experienced sailing in the West Indies, the Northwest Passage and the North Sea and taken part in an expedition to the Arctic, to find if there was a navigable passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Great British Life: The welcoming Victoria Hotel. (c) Ed BagnallThe welcoming Victoria Hotel. (c) Ed Bagnall

The Victoria, fresh from its multi-million-pound makeover exudes Welsh hospitality, from the helpful and efficient staff to the charming, well-thought-out bedrooms. The hotel, which has been welcoming guests since the mid-1800s, is set in the centre of Menai Bridge and a good base for exploring the region. The pretty Welsh stone frontage leads to a cosy, well-stocked bar, and dining areas including a large conservatory, and then on to flower-filled gardens with sensational views over the Menai Strait and Snowdonia.

After checking in, we stepped out into the town – a place that feels like somewhere you could make a home – then to Dylan's, the flagship venue of the acclaimed North Wales restaurant chain that now has eateries in nearby Llandudno. and in Criccieth. Lunch in this family-favourite venue, which serves the best locally sourced produce and seafood were those aforementioned mussels, just the thing to set us up for our battle on the Swellies with RibRide, which has its office right next door. We booked in, then walked down to the quayside to join the UK's top-rated boat tour along the strait and under the Menai and Britannia bridges, which was both a history lesson, a nature watch, and 40 minutes of pure exhilaration.

Great British Life: A Swellies adventure with RibRide. (c) RibRideA Swellies adventure with RibRide. (c) RibRide

Back at The Victoria, we sat on the balcony of our room and talked about what it would have been like to have sailed on a tall ship navigating the Swellies, with only sails and oars to keep you on course. And then a pre-dinner drink before dinner in the bustling dining room enjoying a sharing chef's charcuterie board, steak and ale pie and sea bass with seared scallops before sitting out among the fairylights, taking in the views and playing games.

After a hearty breakfast eaten looking out onto the Victoria's gardens and beyond, we left Menai Bridge for an obligatory stroll around Llandudno (half an hour up the road) on our way back to Cheshire. Llandudno has long been the place we frequently visit in North Wales as a family but its neighbour on the strait just a few miles further on will now be included in our itinerary.

The Victoria Hotel: Telford Road, Menai Bridge LL59 5DR


Dylan's: St George's Road, Menai Bridge LL59 5EY


RibRide: Porth Daniel, Water Street, Menai Bridge LL59 5DE