"Britain's first shanty town"
- The Times
Rhyl is in a seaside town in Wales. Although once a very beautiful resort, it has become very run down in recent years, although there are attempts to revive the town. The Town could be called an enclave of England due to the sheer number of tourists and English people who live there. Rhyl remains popular with a large number of tourists, mainly from the north of England, and continues to attract visitors despite its numerous and visible social and development issues. In reality, there is little to recommend Rhyl for visitors to North Wales as immeasurably better examples of Welsh seaside resorts can be found elsewhere on the coast.
"Down-at-heel and depressing"
- Which? magazine
"From the train, North Wales looked like holiday hell - endless ranks of prison-camp caravan parks standing in fields in the middle of a lonely, windbeaten nowhere, on the wrong side of the railway line and a merciless dual carriageway, with views over a boundless estuary of moist sand dotted with treacherous-looking sinkholes and, far off, a distant smear of sea. It seemed an odd type of holiday option to me, the idea of sleeping in a tin box in a lonesome field miles from anywhere in a climate like Britain's and emerging each morning with hundreds of other people from identical tin boxes, crossing the rail line and dual carriageway and hiking over a desert of sinkholes in order to dip your toes in a distant sea full of Liverpool turds. I can't put my finger on what exactly, but something about it didn't appeal to me." - Bill Bryson in "Notes from a Small Island"
"Anything you can do in Rhyl you can do better elsewhere"
- Rough Guide to Wales
Bill is a bit better travelled than most and although there is a ring of truth about his humour but to this reader at least his meanderings do seem a little harsh. The caravan parks between Rhyl and Abergele (at Towyn) dont look nice from the train and I know what he means but the sea air is fresh, the beaches are clean and not everyone has the option of living off the royalties of their rather good books.
"It has become a refuge for the unemployed, drop-outs and drug addicts. About a quarter of the town's 29,000 population are living in long-term bed and breakfast accommodation. Rumours abound that some prisons in the UK carry adverts on noticeboards encouraging inmates to head for the area when they are released. The west of town was classified as Wales's most deprived area last year, and holiday writers have been remorseless in their criticism. It is perhaps no surprise that in a 1996 survey the resort was rated Britain's least sexy holiday spot."
Rhyl is stuck in a timewarp, has made some bad planning decisions and is dominated in the the holiday season with what used to be called the "working class" and are now disparagingly called "chavs". Snobbery aside the beach is very fine, a fact ignored by the towns guardians. The thing perhaps Mr Bryson did not realise is that North Wales is best explored by car or bike as the train only hugs the coast line and takes you to the most impoverished parts. Rhyl has been voted worst place to live in Britain but I think this is by people who haven't been around Britain that much. Most of the housing in Rhyl is really nice.
"The seafront parade, in keeping with the conditions, proved comfortably more dreadful than any I had yet experienced. Some of it was shut down for the season, but most of it was shut down for ever.
In desperation I struck of down a side street. A mistake: it was worse. The pavement looked like it had been cluster bombed, and half the boarding house hulks that lined it were shedding roof tiles and had their door and windows sealed up behind drilled-metal shutters.
Rhyl's fall from grace was swift and dramatic. Between 1979 and 1988, the number of visitors nights fell by a quarter, and then by another third in the seven years that followed. Of the eighteen seperate seafront properties that were offering tourist accommodation in the 1977 season, just three were still doing so by 2000. By the mid 1980s the tabloids has dubbed it the "Costa Del Dole", and the town as a whole is burdened with the highest unemployment rate in Britain: 48.9% of the adult population is classed as economically inactive. A third of all Denbighshire's crimes are committed in Rhyl. The Scousers-and-smack reputation seems to date back to 1996, when local police discovered that most of Rhyl's heroin addicts were being supplied by a fourteen-year-old boy from Liverpool"
- Tim Moore, "Travels through unloved Britain"
Physically the topography of this area is quite flat up until the clywydian range which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Which make it seem ever so slightly dull.
Rhyl is a short distance from the A55, the main trunk road through North Wales. Driving time from Chester is about 30 minutes, from Manchester and Liverpool about 1 hour and from London about 4 hours.
Rhyl is served by the North Wales coastline. Services are regular and run towards Holyhead (or the Chester in the opposite direction). Travel time by train to London is a short three hours on a non-stop train (currently run by Virgin Trains).
Rhyl has a small harbour at it's Western side. There is a boatyard which allows boats to be docked. There is no passenger ferry, the nearest port is Holyhead.
The nearest major airport is Liverpool and Manchester. Small airfields for private charter planes are closer in Hawarden, Caernarfon and a private airfield in Rhuddlan.
- Sky Tower - Don't expect anything on par with Seattle's Space Needle, Rhyl's own Sky Tower used to provide excellent views over the North Wales coast. Though now defunct, it is an instantly recognisable landmark of Rhyl.
- Sun Center - Run down and much berated indoor water park and swimming pool with facilities for children.
Traditionally in the UK, tourists buy rock (a sugar cylinder) to eat, with the name of the town (or the donee's own name) written into the middle. These are available along most of the sea front.
Traditional Welsh goods are available, but these are usually in heavily tourist shops, which are very cheap. Alternatively, there is a Welsh goods shop in the High Street, which is a little old in style, but offers a glimpse of pseudo-Welsh culture thriving in the middle of an English dominated environment.
There are limited places to eat in Rhyl.
- Chilli Pink. A brand new city centre chic Indian restaraunt positioned not far from the centre of town and the promenade. Good deals on Sundays and at lunchtimes. edit
- Kareems. Another Indian restaraunt that has not long opened. This one is positioned right next door to Chilli Pink and does tasty, if slightly expensive, indian food. edit
- The Sussex. A standard Wetherspoons in the town centre. Gets a bit rowdy on weekends but standard pub food including beer and a burger for less than a fiver. edit
- Annums Peri Peri Chicken. Nando's rip off situated by the train station. edit
Other less notable places include most chain fast food outlets (McDonalds/KFC/Subway etc), kebab shops and numerous pubs selling standard pub grub. However nothing stands out as worth recommended above any of the others.
Rhyl is known locally for its nightlife and entertainment. The town center acts as a magnet for locals living in the valley and the town itself. Drinking is a popular social, recreational and everyday activity in Rhyl.
There are a range of pubs and a few clubs which are mentioned here.
The J D Wetherspoons chain has a bar which is located in Sussex Street, just off the High Street. Nearby along Sussex Street, there is a bar called Rain, which tends not to be busy, it has a false rain effect along its back wall, however the bar itself often isn't clean and does not always seem a safe place to drink.
Further along Sussex Street there is a bar called Shooters, which is famous for it's broad selection of shots, although the furniture in the bar is old. Next door to Shooters is a small place called 'The Barrel'. This is a tiny bar, watch out tall people, you'll need to duck. The bar has a permanent Karaoke dance floor. Opposite 'The Barrel' is Rhyl's longest standing nightclub, "Ellis", which two dancefloors, one of which has a multi colour changing dancefloor. This club has cheap drinks, but is not high brow.
The younger 18-25 crowd prefer the new club "Honey's" which offers semi-famous DJ's who play dance and some pop tunes. The nightclub has a large dance floor and wide spaces for standing and drinking. The feel isn't perfect as so much of it is carpeted in a bed and breakfast style. The drinks are pricey as well as the extortionate entry fee, which just doesn't compare to similar clubs in Liverpool, Manchester or London. The club formerly known as Scruples has reopened under the somewhat fitting name "Zu Bar" and is a short walk along with promendade from the high street. As tends to be the case in Rhyl, this club will probably take the place of the Honey Club until the next new club opens up.
Despite its small size Rhyl is notorious for its crime rate, due mainly to the influx of migrant residents and cheap, low-quality drugs from the cities. Though hardly a warzone, the same rules of common sense apply when travelling to any of Britain's more deprived inner cities: keep all valuable items such as wallets/purses and mobile phones out of sight, and all hand luggage (bags etc) securely attached to your person. When you can, avoid carrying valuables at all. Before drawing cash from ATMs, check the card slot for tracking devices and make sure the keypad is not a fake (the fake ones can be prised up with a fingernail). Most are now designed to disable if tampered with, but you can never be too careful. Make sure that people do not get too close while you are using cashpoints.
Rhyl has a broad selection of Bed and Breakfast accommodation. These are usually family run places to say, which are clean, cheap and centrally located. Occasionally there are low quality bed and breakfast establishments, so be careful to check for reviews before you book your stay. There are some hotels which are only a few stars and not high quality.