When you think of LGBT travel locations in the northern parts of the UK, there are some obvious big destinations which spring to mind. Manchester reigns supreme, closely followed by Blackpool, and although Scotland occasionally garners some interest in this field, if you try looking at north west Wales, you will find one of the smallest cities around, but with one large gay community: Bangor.
Most gay travellers will end up here because of University, but there is more to do than study Neuroscience or Marine Biology, as this city is unique. One of the smallest cities in the UK, Bangor fits the north Wales stereotype of being incredibly hilly (good for dog-walkers, bad for party-goers). It manages to exude small-town charm without the small-town mentality that usually comes along with it, and is currently being renovated with a brand new Students Union that is set to change the geography of the city dramatically and put it firmly on the map.
Sightseeing - Snowdon, Garth Pier, and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
Snowdon is the biggest mountain in Wales and is attractive for rock climbers and hikers alike. Whether you want to go for the view or the exercise, it is good from all angles and if you prefer a more lazy method of taking in the scenery, the Snowdon Mountain Railway takes people to the top from Llanberis (pronounced ‘clan-bare-iss’). That village is accessible by bus or car from Bangor. Garth Pier, one of the longest in the country, is known to be an enjoyable walk with lovely views at all times of year – and a charming traditional tearoom. If you’re interested in marine life, it allows viewing of the animals that take advantage of low-tide to hunt for food, plus there are various society kiosks that you can find out more information about tours and sight-seeing trips. If you want to visit the train station with the longest name in the country, it is accessible via train from Bangor on Anglesey – get on a train headed to Holyhead, but make sure you tell the conductor you wish to stop there, as it is request-only. If you have any problems trying to pronounce it, you are in good hands – call it Llanfair PG (pronounced ‘clan-fer Pee Gee’) to any local, and they will know where you mean. If you are looking for a good beach, we can recommend Penmaenmawr (pronounced ‘pen-men-mm-ow’) – a golden beach which runs for miles.
As Bangor is a University City, you will mostly find the best nights out during term-time, and as many during the working week as out of it. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants and clubs to keep you interested, with special notes being given to Fat Cats for their cocktails, and Yellow Bar (also called Yr Man Glan – The Old Glan, but ‘Yellow’ to locals, and a part of the Scream chain) for their beer and burger deals. Although Pound a Pint night has been taken down due to too much public disturbance, that’s not to say that drinks aren’t cheap pretty much everywhere. Local gay bar The Three Crowns is an attitude-free pub where drag hosts could easily out-bitch those in central London, but generally in the area there is a non-attitude about LGBT people, and of particular note is Rascals in Upper Bangor in this arena. Clubs are random and mixed-attitude, but Octagon and Embassy provide more than a couple of nights of entertainment.
Bangor is one of the few places in Wales where bilingualism between English and Welsh (or Cymraeg – ‘cum-ryeg’) is not only encouraged, but common-place, with both languages just as likely to be spoken all over the city and the surrounding areas. Key words to be spoken are: panad [pan-add] – usually meaning tea, but can be assumed to be a favourite hot beverage, depending on use; diolch [dee-oorc] – thank you; Nos Da [nos daa] – goodnight; and, Bangor is not pronounced ‘Bang-or’ or ‘Bang-ah’, but is actually said ‘Ban-guh’. Nothing like ingratiating yourself to the local population by being able to pronounce the name properly. Also take note – a lot of pronounciation requires the ability to make a sound like you are hocking up phlegm, however this is if you really want to impress people and pronounciation guides here have not included those sounds for simplicity.
Notes from a Previous Resident
Take advantage of drink and food deals in pubs and restaurants – this is a student-town so there is always some sort of offer on; avoid pubs with Welsh names (other than Yellow mentioned further up), as more often than not they are Welsh-Nationalist pubs where speaking English starts more fights than you can imagine, and, if the rugby or football is on DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE express a preference for England to win: if you wish to wear an England shirt you do so at your own risk. The LGBT crowd is more of a melting pot than elsewhere – gay boys and girls are not separated; and, if you time your weekend visitation for when the Old Boys take over (previously graduated sports teams who re-visit to re-live Student debauchery, if you are unfamiliar with the term), picking the right pub means you will see more hot naked men than in any Soho bar. It’s very hit and miss, but Rascals is usually a winner due to their later opening times, but last entry is midnight. Train tickets to get to Bangor from London Euston are as little as £13.50 each way (if purchased in advance from the Virgin Trains website), and a good mix of hotels can be found across the City, however The Menai in Upper Bangor is thoroughly recommended.
Thanks to Sammy Baker for the featured image of Bangor University’s Main Arts Building