Before I had even set eyes on the lush pastures of Clwyd, I felt swamped in Welshness. At Chester Services I encountered a barrage of red-shirted rugby fans, all cheery bonhomie and ruddy cheeks, flooding the Costa Coffee.

To the soundtrack of Nevin's finest export, Duffy - omnipresent throughout my three-day stay - their talk was of victory.

There is a feelgood factor at work in the Principality in the spring of 2008.

Living in Cheshire, Wales has been a natural weekend retreat for me for more than 40 years.

It helped that my immediate family were holed in various abodes on the Lleyn Peninsula, but I sense I would have felt at home there if that had not been the case.

This time would be no different. Sliding effortlessly down the A55, past the iconic vision of St Asaph's marble church', through welcoming Conway and Llandudno, I was happy to be heading towards a delightful hotel on the fringe of Snowdonia.

Called Ty'n Rhos - at Seion, three miles above Caernarfon - it sits in rolling foothills, offering landscaped gardens and stunning views over Anglesey.

Perfectly positioned for adventurous forays into the mountains or, as would be the case with me, gentle mooching through the gardens of Bodnant, the Italianate genius of Porthmeirian and a Sunday ambling the coastal paths of Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey.

Ty'n Rhos proved a five-star delight; a place where interior elegance is matched by comfort and, although alone for most of the weekend, I melted into a relaxed state, whether languishing in the bright, inspiring conservatory or shamelessly cradling an after-dinner brandy in the lounge.

Saturday morning loomed with leaden skies and, for me, a full itinerary.

Although not one of the world's natural gardeners, I am, however, partial to idling dreamily beneath bulbous rhodedendroms and admiring the fruits of the labour of people clad in Wellingtons and corduroy.

Wales is bursting with stunning gardens. (Check out for a quick and easy guide). Personally always find it impossible to drive past the mighty Bodnant in the Conway valley, which even boasts a spectacular string of giant Redwoods which tower from the dell formed by the River Hiraethlyn.

The Pavilion Tea Room alone revamped for 2008 - is worth adetour in its own right. (Great scones).

But it is still difficult to resist a stroll through those timeless gardens, especially given the proud new entrance pathway, which now sweeps safely under the road.

Bodnant provides a two-hour stroll on two levels.

The upper section, which spreads around the hall, is a series of terraces informal lawns, waterways and Italianate terraces.

The elegance here always reminds me of the idiosyncratic folly known as Porthmeirian, in which I have often lingered.

Springtime also brings the glory of Bodnant's famous Laburnum Arch, a striking tunnel of gold and once seen, never forgotten. (April to May).

The lower aspect of Bodnant, the aforementioned Dell', is quite the opposite.

A dense, dank, dark green jungle of moss and looming grasses. But throughout the gardens, species have been introduced from China, north America, Eastern Europe and Africa.

Following Bodnant, I swiftly decided to forsake the touristic pleasures of Llandudno and took the mountain route through Capel Curig, Betws-y-coed, Bedgellert and, eventually, Porthmeirian itself. This is one of the great drives of Wales....or of the world, perhaps?

The true heart of Snowdonia in a country that, although small, always appears vast, damp, demanding and intoxicating.

The sweeping road from the gritty mountaineering centre of Capel Curig provides dizzying views across the lakes of Nant Gwynant and Lyn Dinas, all cowering beneath Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

The drive is hugely satisfying - unless the drizzle becomes too dense - and I finished the journey at Clough Williams-Ellis' aformentioned folly, Porthmeirian.

I am old enough to recall the giddy daftness of The Prisoner television series which saw Patrick McGoohan pursued by voluminous balls across the sands of Porthmadog.

("Where am I?" he yells in one famous scene... with Snowdon clearly visible directly behind him).

On Saturday evening I returned to Ty'n Rhos and willingly submitted to the nuances of an innovative menu.

Actually, not strictly true. I am vegetarian and notoriously difficult' when it comes to food and many a nonplussed chef has retreated in a huff.

Not so at T'n Rhos where the creations were cheerfully warped to suit my individual demands.

The food was served with panache and style and locally sourced vegetables tumbling from my terrine. Glorious.

My dining companions, not so awkward, saw the menu through to the dessert (dark and white chocolate mousee laced with Tia Maria & Cointreau). By this time I was lost to a pudding wine and the crackle of the lounge fire.

I reserved Sunday for Anglesey many do.

It is the home of my favourite National Trust house, Plas Newyydd. I love it partly for the handsome allure of the house itself but mainly because it contains the largest collection of Rex Whistler paintings in existence. Included among these is his finest work, a fantastical panarama, which, at 58 feet wide, covers an entire wall.

Coded within this stunning scene is Whistler's unrequited love for Lady Caroline the beautiful eldest daughter of the family at Plas Newydd. She is depicted as Juliet while the artist hovers beneath the balcony.

A love unfulfulled...and a life cut tragically short. Whistler was killed at Normandy, aged 39.

It is not the happiest tale, I admit , but I carried thoughts of it with me until I reached Red Wharf Bay near Moelfre.

Snowdonian views are neatly contained from this distance and the scene extends to include Llandudno's Great Orme.

Gazing upon this perfect vista from the window at The Ship Inn, I consumed a broccoli and fennel soup.

Somewhere in the background, Duffy was endlessly begging for mercy.