November 11, 2020

I’m A Celeb fever takes hold in Abergele as locals prepare to welcome Ant & Dec


If you want a taste of the jungle fever gripping I’m A Celebrity’s new host town, call by Abergele’s Pen-y-Bont Inn for dinner – where you can sit beside lifesize cut-outs of hosts Ant and Dec while enjoying “home-cooked food by our very own Kiosk Keith”.

Bar manager Ethan Bright says their version of the ITV show’s Bushtucker Trials is a platter of Cricket Cocktail, Locust Burger, Crispy Chocolate Worm Cakes and Buffalo Worm Rice, for a fiver.

Swilled down, of course, with some Jungle Juice (featuring blended crickets). “If you eat and drink it all, you also get a free glass of wine,” Ethan says.

Step outside and there is plenty more evidence that Abergele is going wild for this year’s series, relocated from Australia’s Gold Coast amid the pandemic.



The Market Town of Abergele, in North Wales, which will host to the 2020 edition of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! is getting into the show’s spirit

The action kicks off on Sunday at Gwrych Castle on the western edge of the North Wales town. And in Abergele’s streets, murals and banners cover buildings, while virtually every shop window has an I’m A Celeb display or Ant and Dec cutouts.

Local bookies Corbett Sports is taking odds on who will be king or queen of the castle and at Gwalia House butchers, part-owner Paul Cumberlidge says: “We’ve been in touch and offered them eyeballs, tripe and tongue.”

Mayor Alan Hunter says I’m A Celebrity is the biggest thing to hit Abergele since the National Eisteddfod – a Welsh cultural celebration – in 1985.



Alan Hunter, the Mayor of Abergele, in North Wales, says “excitement is building” ahead of the show

“The excitement is building” he says. “Last night, the entire castle was lit up and locals were driving to the promenade to sit in their cars and watch.” For us locals – I live four miles away – the castle campmates will call home, perched on a hillside overlooking the Irish Sea, has always been a focal point.

There are many fond local memories of summer visits to Gwrych in the late 1970s when it was a mediaeval centre with jousting and busy markets – before it changed ownership and fell into ruin.



Pen-Y-Bont Inn, in the Market Town of Abergele, in North Wales, is ready to welcome TV stars Ant and Dec

It now belongs to a preservation trust run by locals and is being resorted.

The council has been sprucing up the town in anticipation of visiting fans and the Christmas lights will be lit up this Thursday too.

Alan says: “We thought it would be nice to give people a lift after the year we’ve had. The general consensus from people here is that it’s a real buzz.”

In recent weeks, while Wales has been on lockdown, there has been a flurry of activity at the castle. Trucks ferried in workers to build the set. And helicopters have buzzed overhead, likely flying in the stars to spend their last days with family in Covid bubbles in nearby luxury sites.



Julie Bright, the manager of the Pen-Y-Bont Inn, with their celebrity cocktail Jungle Juice with crickets


Rachel Williamson with her knitted artwork of ‘Ant & Dec’ on a red letterbox on the Rhyl waterfront

As security and Covid rules are tight, locals are more likely to see the celebs on TV than the High Street. But if any of them fancy a pint – or a cocktail – they are welcome at local hostelries. Barry Thomas, of microbrewery The Hoptomist, says: “There’s been no sightings of Ant and Dec yet but we’ll definitely offer them a free drink if they come in. We’ve created a Jungle Gin cocktail especially.

“It’s bright green, white rum and gin-based. The rest’s a secret but it’ll warm you up after those cold castle nights!”



Abergele locals can get a Bushtucker beer at their local

And the excitement has spread to nearby Rhyl, where retired police officer Rachel Williamson added Ant and Dec to the crochet creations she has
decorated the town’s postboxes with to help cheer people up during lockdown.

She says: “I’ve done 40 toppers. Someone asked, ‘Are you doing Ant and Dec?’ I work with my twin Ruth, so we studied pictures to get their likeness. We thought about putting it in Abergele but couldn’t cross the borders in lockdown.”

And as the celebs’ ordeal starts, us locals look forward to seeing Ant and Dec in stitches in our own backyard…





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