I’M A CELEBRITY COMES TO NORTH WALES | FEATURE
With 2020’s edition of the enduring reality show set to launch this weekend, having rerouted from the Australian bush to a north Wales castle, Tonicha Luffman sets up a head-to-head challenge between the locations with a wry eye…
At one point, we all thought our favourite TV programmes weren’t going to make it back onto our screens this year. Luckily that was not the case, but everything from various soap operas to Strictly Come Dancing and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! have all had to adapt during 2020.
Strictly have announced that for the first time since the show started, they will forego their episode from Blackpool Tower, and will have no live audience – while I’m A Celebrity is normally filmed on the Gold Coast of Queensland in Australia. But this year, thanks to COVID-19, this ITV mainstay show will be filmed at Gwrych Castle [top], Abergele, north Wales.
Let me tell you off the bat that Australia isn’t as superior as you may think: this WILL be the best series of I’m A Celebrity to date. Forget about the kangaroo testicles for the bushtucker trials, it’s all about the sheep parts this season.
The one part of I’m A Celeb I imagine contestants most look forward to is the ending. Not necessarily because it’s a bad show to be a part of, but the chance to spend time in a luxury five-star hotel near the beach. This year, meanwhile, the likes of Mo Farah and Beverley Callard will most likely go to the Travelodge in Colwyn Bay, just 14 minutes away from Abergele. But before you all jump to conclusions, this isn’t as bad as you may think. In the rooms, there will be flatscreen TVs, wi-fi, and tea and coffee machines. That’s all the celebrities really need after spending day and night on a cold castle floor.
I’m sure they won’t miss the experience of going to Palazzo Versace, which is the hotel that the celebrities usually go to when the competition is over. They won’t be able to experience the waterfront setting with its spectacular architecture, award-winning restaurants, Fitness, Spa & Wellbeing Centre, and have access to Australia’s first Water Salon on the poolside. That’s great and all, but I can almost guarantee they won’t have a tea and coffee machine (most likely from Argos) in one of those rooms. A cup of tea and coffee is just what you need when you wake up in the morning. Am I wrong? And the contestants will even be able to put on Good Morning Britain or This Morning and speak to Piers and Susanna and Holly and Phil without having a time difference. That’s a bonus.
What about activities? Abergele’s number one place on TripAdvisor is Manorafon Farm Park. Located along the north Wales coastline within the parkland of Gwrych Castle, there’s a possibility of some filming there – or even some animals used for this year’s bushtucker trials. All I hope is that they don’t use the baby animals for the eating trials. At least use the adults. I’m joking, obviously – think of the complaints. It would never work.
On the Gold Coast, you can spend an hour and a half sightseeing on the River Cruise from Surfers Paradise, and enjoy views of Chevron Island, Paradise Waters and Sea World. I’m sure all of the celebrities this year are already used to all of that – a regular occurrence which now bores them. Visiting Wales will therefore be an exciting adventure.
When it comes to food, you can’t go wrong with burgers, steaks and pizzas, and round here the best place to visit is the Abergele Pizza & Kebab House. One customer said, “Best kebab in north wales.” Need I say more? You’ve sold me! The Gold Coast puts up a fair challenge with an all you can eat Brazilian Flame Bar and Grill restaurant: “AMAZING BURGERS FOR LUNCH ON WEEKENDS.” Only on the weekends? They must be terrible throughout the week then. Probably best to give it a miss.
Who doesn’t love a good shopping spree when on holiday? When the celebrities are finished with the show, they can all spend all of the money that they made from it in the White Rose Shopping Centre. It has everybody’s favourite stores inside, including B&M Bargains and an Iceland – the celebrities are probably going to want some decent food when they leave the castle. It’s actually in Rhyl, a 15-minute drive away, but it’s the closest shopping centre Abergele has.
When it comes to Gold Coast retail, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre is the ultimate shopping & dining destination, according to their website. It has over 400 stores, including the best collection of Australian fashion, luxury and global mega brands – and a view of the beach. Surely that’s just showing off! As we all know, sand gets absolutely everywhere. I’m sure the idea sounds nice after doing some shopping, but stop and think about how much sand has been dragged through the centre… talk about messy.
Indeed, the Gold Coast can forget its golden beaches because Abergele has Pensarn Beach [above]. This beach is the best because it has pebbles, not sand. I also have to mention Abergele Library. Who doesn’t want to visit a library when they’re on holiday? This place is number eight on TripAdvisor’s things to do in Abergele and it has FREE parking. The Gold Coast does have a lot of water-related tourist attractions, such as Sea World and Tamborine Mountain, so you’d better like it aquatic. One customer actually commented that the Tamborine Mountains were “Boring with no Class” – their words, not mine.
All that being said, and casting aside any possibility that I may have brought a little pro-Wales bias to the table for this piece, I honestly do think that I’m A Celebrity being filmed in Abergele is incredible for the entire community. Most of all, I’m just glad we can still enjoy the show this year. Let’s hope that by this time in 2021, COVID-19 will be, if not eradicated completely, at a point where we can go out and mingle with people safely, or indeed fly to Australia to film reality television. Until then, let’s enjoy what we have…
I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! begins on Sun 15 Nov, ITV, 9pm. Info: here
words TONICHA LUFFMAN photos DEADMANJONES / Flickr