Iain Russell is head of Finance and Operations here at Wild Beauty, but he is also the man in the know about the surrounding area and all the wonderful things to do in and around North Wales.
We caught up with him to chat about some things not to be missed when visiting this beautiful part of the country.
What is the best bit about living in such a beautiful part of the world?
It is a genuine privilege to live in this part of the world; especially if you are an eco / outdoor loving soul like me. I can walk out of my front door and disappear into the great green outdoors for hours; we have two coasts within an hour, with national parks lakes and rivers in all directions.
Can you recommend a few things that are not to be missed if you are visiting the area?
I’m a water sports fan, first and foremost, and this is an ideal part of the world for that. We have the National White-Water centre in Bala for rafting and canoeing, and Surf Snowdonia is great if you prefer surfing. There is also caving, canyoning, sailing and paddle boarding options a plenty.
(Iain in action kayaking down the Cwm Llan waterfalls in Snowdonia)
North Wales is also famed for its biking trails; but slightly less well known are the amazing walking trails we have in this part of the world. The Dee Valley Way, North Berwyn Way, Hiraethog Trail and Clwydian Way alone are all within walking distance of the Rhug Car Park!
Finally, any visitor to this area must remember that you walk in the footsteps of Arthurian fact and legend. Despite what modern interpretation may tell, Arthur’s life and times were all in and around this part of central North Wales. Merlin’s fabled Crystal Fortress may well have been Caer Euni, just down the road from Rhug, which shows very rare vitrification of some of the stone.
Best place to visit in the area – (apart from Rhug Estate!)
The old market town of Ruthin is well worth a visit: the church, historic buildings, the Castle and plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy along with them. The stone (Maen Huail) where, legend tells, Arthur beheaded Huail to seal his ascendance to the throne, still stands in the centre of town.
For lovers of Llangollen I would suggest a visit to the often overlooked, Plas Newydd House and Gardens and discover the amazing story of the Ladies of Llangollen.
Horse lovers are in for a rare treat here too, as a small heard of Przewalski's horse are paddocked in Clocaenog forest just north of the Rhug Estate. Once extinct in the wild, Przewalski's horse is an ancient breed which descends from an ancestral line that deviated from the modern horse lineage tens of thousands of years ago. Yet there they stand in a small paddock in North Wales for any intrepid horse fan to visit.
There is one last stop than any, and I would argue every, visitor to this area must make. Exactly 4.5 miles west of the Rhug Estate carpark, on the A5 in the Village of Ty Nant, there is a turning south. Follow this round a bend and there, just before the bridge, is a closed road to the left. Park up and walk this road. It’s a closed section of the old A5 (bypassed in 1996) and runs along a deep and simply breath-taking section of the Ceirw Gorge. Steeps sides, waterfalls, vertiginous sides; it’s a rare and much driven past hidden gem.
What is your favourite wild escape?
When you live in this part of the world, every day is a wild escape, all seasons, all weathers. I can just grab my backpack and head out of my back door - quiet, calm, wild: nature is all around. Whether you want to stretch the legs, fill the lungs or just enjoy the views, there is something for everyone.
With so many waterways around, sometimes just popping a camp chair down by the river and having a cup of coffee and a read is all you need to reset!
What do you love most about the Rhug Estate?
The Estate is a diverse and constantly changing place. I have worked here for over 3 years and am still discovering new things. I’ve only recently found the Roman Road; and on a bird walk this summer I was stunned by the diversity and number of species that are to be seen here - the Rhug Estate go to great lengths to encourage and preserve bird life.
The ethos of the Rhug Estate is something that makes working here a real pleasure. The modern blended with the heritage, with one foot firmly in each area; it’s also renewably powered and sustainable.
Finally, there are some amazing people here and that adds an element that is hard to replicate.
What is your favourite Wild beauty product and why?
I cannot claim to be a beauty junkie and I am not sure that I even have what could be described as a beauty routine, but I do use the Tonic and the Overnight Cream. Combined they make the best aftershave on the planet, and I use them every time I shave. Tonic first then Overnight Cream: when I remember, I add the Serum in between the two and that adds even more of a boost.
You live a very sustainable life – what would you recommend as an easy switch for people to try and be greener?
There are things we can all do that can make quite a sizeable change to our personal carbon footprint. Switching to a renewable electricity supplier is a start, it just takes a phone call. If you drive, learn to do so in a fuel-efficient manner. Gentle driving saves fuel, which saves you money (especially at the moment) but it also lowers emissions, reduces brake dust and tyre rubber deposited in the environment as you drive.
Shopping local and buying local is another simple step. A huge proportion of the carbon cost of Fruit and Veg is in the transport; one study estimates that the 1.5% of UK Fruit and Veg that is flown into this county accounts for 50% of the transport carbon of the entire sector. Or try growing your own, it’s easier than you think!
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I’m a lover of the outdoors; kayaking, paddle boarding, walking, wild swimming. I love to read, mostly history, philosophy, or travel. I have a leaning towards medieval woodworking and carving; although sadly I’ve not had much time for that recently, but the vegetable garden is flourishing, and we’ve plans to expand it in the coming years.