Every school-child is familiar with that striking shape taken by North Wales on the map of Britain, so like to a human being pointing with outstretched arm down St. George’s Channel towards the Atlantic. In that shape Anglesey is the head, and Carnarvonshire is the pointed arm. On the lower side of the arm, towards the hollow of the armpit, there lie a village and two small towns. Naming from west to east they are Llanystumdwy, Criccieth, and Portmadoc.
In these three places and in the country around them the childhood and youth of David Lloyd George was entirely spent. It was there that he was trained and educated, and there that his mind first formed vivid impressions of the universe—there, on the sea-limits of Wales between the mountains and the ocean.
It is a fertile country, watered by streams from the mountains and showers from the Irish Channel, a country of deep grasses and rich woods right up to the foot of the mountains and down to the verge of the sea. From every raised point you obtain wide-stretching views. Facing you along the south-eastern horizon are the hills of Merionethshire, often shrouded in sea-mist, but on good days clear to the utmost detail of field and hedgerow. Still farther away, in the very best weather, can sometimes be seen even the outline of St. David’s Head and of the Pembrokeshire hills. Nearer home, the great stretch of Cardigan Bay sweeps round to the east in many a bend and fold of the coast. From above Criccieth you can see the famous castle of Harlech and the golden glitter of the sands at Barmouth, though you cannot hear the “moaning of the bar.” Taking it all in all, there are few finer prospects along the immense and varied sea-board of these islands.
Turn from the sea and look northwards; and you will gain glorious glimpses of the great piled mountains of the Snowdon group, sometimes hidden in cloud, sometimes clear to every wrinkle of their rugged outlines. These are “Eyri”—the “Eagle Rocks”—black in storm, blue and green in the sunshine, purple and crimson in the sunset. There is no mere prettiness in these mighty views, no soft luxury of Italian backgrounds, and yet no barren terrors of arctic solitudes. On all sides there is majesty and power—the power of the height and the storm, the majesty of the winds and the deeps.
Of these three places in which Mr. Lloyd George spent his childhood and youth, Portmadoc is the business town, Criccieth is the pleasure resort, and Llanystumdwy is the village. Portmadoc, with its straight-set streets of little grey houses, speaks of money and affairs; Criccieth is a little watering-place of lodging-houses and villas prettily placed in the innermost bend of Cardigan Bay; Llanystumdwy is just a little Welsh village drawn back from the sea and cosily hidden away in the woods, astride a little mountain river which hurries down to the sea with many a rippling murmur and many a gleam of white foam on its brown waters.