What a week of weather! I walked almost the entire Lleyn Peninsula (except Criccieth to Porthmadog) wearing full waterproofs battling heavy rain and gale force winds. Because of the terrible weather I missed out walking the cliffs around the end of the peninsula and didn’t get the best views of Bardsey and St Tudwal’s Islands.
Lleyn Peninsula reminded me of Cornwall; its shape, the beautiful beaches and cliff tops, mining, small towns and Abersoch could be the area’s equivalent of Rock (money-ville). I shall have to visit again.
A little bit isolated, Lleyn Peninsula seems to have survived on farming and fishing. Herring was once plentiful off the coast and corn, butter, cheese, eggs, Welsh slate and Jasper were exported. To keep the fires burning and the farms fertile, coal and lime were imported via ships landing directly onto the beaches (hence the kilns and coal sheds).
I have to mention the people. I know it’s not a scientific measure, but, collectively, the people I have met around Llyn have been the friendliest of anywhere so far. From Caernarfon to Barmouth I have been inundated with offers of help and kindness from strangers. Some examples:
a. Eric and Janice in Caernarfon who bought me wine and tried to marry me off to the Italian waiter.
b. I stood still on the street in Pwllheli for too long and a man crossed the road to check I was ok. Michael then gave me his phone number in case I got stuck as I walked around Llyn because he worked from home so could probably come and rescue me.
c. Caroline at The Lion Hotel did my laundry, found me a B&B in Aberdaron, organised her mother to give me a lift and sat down and talked me through the best route in bad weather.
d. Jan and Steve in Aberdaron who fed me tea and biscuits when I was cold and wet, invited me to join them for dinner and gave me lifts to Abersoch.
It took me 8 hours to get back to Barmouth yesterday; not that I minded as these days travelling is much more relaxing when one has time. I stayed in the same guest house as my last night here, Môr Wyn. I asked Trevor if the storms had hit and he said a concrete slipway had been smashed and a huge tree had blown down. He reckoned it had been the windiest he’d experienced since he moved to Barmouth 10 years ago. I’m glad I hadn’t walked through that.
It wasn’t raining when I left but within 15 minutes I was fully suited up and getting soaked. The toll booth for pedestrians using the railway bridge to cross the Afon Mawdach was closed so I didn’t have to pay 30p to get across.
The wooden slatted bridge was very slippery. Despite the heavy rain I was able to enjoy the views back to Barmouth. From the estuary the town looks small and neat, with slate houses tucked into the hillside.
On the South side of the Afon Mawdach, Fairbourne sticks out further into the estuary than Barmouth. It looks like a bungalow town with a small gauge railway and is actually below sea level, protected by a large sea wall. I passed the RAF outdoor adventure centre – been there a couple of times before.
From Fairbourne the coast path climbed up the hill and I had a great vista of the head of the Mawdach valley and could even see the Lleyn Peninsula when the clouds parted.
Belts of rain kept coming, interspersed by mizzle. The ground was sodden and the views intermittent, but there were vivid colours and a couple of rainbows as compensation. There was also peace and tranquility; just me and hundreds of sheep.
After about 3 miles I dropped off the top of the hill into Llwyngwril.
Around here, all the settlements at the base of a hill have crystal clear, shallow rivers running through them. It looked like this village had its own graffiti knitter as Humpty Dumpty was climbing over the bridge.
The war memorial was also decorated with scores of knitted poppies.
Leaving Llwyngwril the path climbed up a hill again. I got a glimpse of the entrance to the Afon Dyfi through the gloom before I dropped down a bit to skirt around a hill that once held a fort on top.
Here the route became a bit more difficult to follow as I had to climb over and around 3 felled trees blocking the narrow path.
Eventually I made it to a disused quarry and dropped down onto the road by the broad water, a large shallow bulge of the Afon Dysynni. Aberdovey was too far so I headed for Tonfanau train station (in the middle of nowhere, no settlement of any kind nearby). I caught the train through Tywyn and on to Aberdovey.
Aberdovey/Aberdyfi is right on the corner of the entrance to the River Dovey/Afon Dyfi. It looks like a nice little town and I was staying at the Dovey Inn, “the heart of the town”. My room overlooked the estuary and I was amused to see a bunch of kids paddling a raft they had clearly made as part of a military-style team building exercise (done that before!). It was 4.20pm and nearly dark!
It was a quiet evening in the pub and an early night.
I watched the media reports from the comfort of home as storms Abigail and Barney touched the Welsh coast. I don’t think it was as bad as predicted but photos of waves crashing over the front at Aberystwyth, reports that Aberdaron suffered 85mph winds and the suspension of the coastal rail service from Machynlleth for a couple of days due to the sea battering the trains did make me feel happy with my decision to take a break.
I did nothing (except get a haircut). Lots of sleep, I watched some films and rested my feet. After a week not only did I have a serious craving for exercise, but I felt ready to get a job and start working. I need to remember that feeling when I finish this walk!
I had planned to stay in Barmouth for 2 nights; however, the forecast was for two storms (Abigail and Barney) to hit the North West, including N Wales, within the next few days. Having spent the last week battling rain and high winds I decided if it was going to get worse I should take a break. I worked out I could get a cheap train ticket to my mum’s in Birmingham (no wonder Barmouth is full of Brummies) and get home from there. Plan made.
The owner of the guest house was sympathetic and didn’t charge me for the 2nd night that I had booked. I packed everything up and caught the 10.30 train back up the coast to Harlech. It wasn’t raining but it was very windy (50+ mph winds forecast again) and the wind was cold. Today was the first day of my trip that I walked in trousers (instead of shorts) and a jumper.
The path from Talsarnau to Harlech cuts across Morfa Harlech, the spit of dunes and low-lying land jutting out into the Afon Glaslyn estuary. Starting at Harlech meant I missed this bit out, saving myself slip-sliding across muddy fields and some exposure to a fierce headwind. Instead, I had a bit more time to admire Harlech Castle on the inland cliff overlooking Morfa Harlech and Tremadoc Bay. It was built by King Edward I around 1289 and still looks impressive.
I walked along Harlech’s wonderful sandy beach. I imagined I was walking in a cappuccino as the extreme wind had whipped up a sea foam that extended the tide line by about 20m.
At the end of the beach I crossed the railway line and headed up the cliff to the road to Llandanwg.
Once in Llandanwg I was a stone’s throw, across the Afon Artro estuary, from Shell Island (Mochras); a place where I have camped many times.
To get to Shell Island I still had to walk quite a way inland, through a field of cows, across a small bridge and then down the road from Llanbedr to the beach at Mochras.
I passed Britain’s possible future spaceport at what was once RAF Llanbedr and followed the man-made raised path across the reedy marshland that borders Mochras and can cut it off from traffic at high tide.
The wind was ripping across the large and magnificent sand dunes and I was forced to don my sunglasses in order to open my eyes. A lot of grass had disappeared under the blowing sand and it was painful trying to get to the beach; I was well and truly sand-whipped. Fortunately the sand on the beach was wet so I was spared further sand-blasting.
The tide was in and, unusually for this beach, I didn’t see many shells. I only saw one other person and she was fully clothed even though we were both traversing the naturist section of the beach. No strange looking naked men hiding in the dunes today thank goodness.
I have previously run all the way along the Morfa Dyffryn beach to Barmouth; however, the beach does run out in places and one is forced to scramble across sea defence rocks. Today I followed the coast path off the beach and in to the little town of Tal-y-bont, crossing the Afon Ysgethin. From here the path follows the main road into Barmouth so I decided to catch the early train from Tal-y-bont, which afforded better sea views than walking and would get me to my mum’s just after 7pm, two hours earlier than the next train.
The train took me through Barmouth and further down the coast, all in beautiful sunshine. The sun only came out after I boarded the train but I knew it was the calm before the storm.
Breakfast was a hideous affair; sandwiched in the dining room with all the old people on a coach trip who had enjoyed a fake Christmas, including nauseating party games led by an over-enthusiastic compere, the previous evening. Neither the old people nor the really friendly Eastern European staff (some of whom went above and beyond to be extra helpful with the older guests) were hideous, just the quality of the awful breakfast in an overheated room. I was glad to escape.
The sun was shining. It took me a minute to realise what it was! I retraced my steps of yesterday around Criccieth in order to see everything again in the sun. The castle looked beautiful.
The sea was rougher than 3 weeks earlier when I was playing tag rugby on Criccieth beach (and went for a dip in the sea) with my family. It was not inviting today, even in the sunshine.
At the end of the beach the path skirts around the small hillock, called Craig Ddu (black rock). A beautiful view along Black Rock Sands and across the Afon Glaslyn estuary to Morfa Harlech panned out in front of me.
I dropped down onto Black Rock Sands and walked along enjoying the sound of the sea. There were lots of beautiful shells on the beach.
The beach runs out as it rounds the corner alongside the Afon Glaslyn and the path takes to the (not very high) cliff top around to Borth-y-Gest. This section was stunning and I felt lucky to do it in good weather.
The views of Traeth Bach (the estuary low lying land) and the mountains beyond were beautiful.
I stopped at the only open cafe on the front in Borth-y-Gest. The clouds were fast approaching but I was desperate for the loo so ordering a coffee was the best option. This small outpost on the edge of Porthmadog was once a shipbuilding port; building the ships that transported slate from the local mines (Blaenau Ffestiniog is just down the road) to the UK and Europe. It was only after William Alexander Maddocks built the cob embankment (similar to the one at Malltraeth, Anglesey) in 1811 that shipbuilding moved to Porthmadog. From 1839-1890 Porthmadog was the shipbuilding capital of N Wales and was known as the ‘Tyneside’ of N Wales with >1000 ships using the harbour each year. In the 1830s it vied with Holyhead to become the main port to Ireland; it lost and now the harbour seems quite small. On the plus side, the area is much more beautiful without the big ships. I stopped at Dinllaen Harbour, Porthmadog, to admire all the slate houses before walking across the cob. Porthmadog is the start of the Ffestiniog narrow gauge heritage railway (built 1830s) and the footpath across the cob is next to the track, overlooking the road and Traeth Mawr (the low land containing the Afon Glaslyn that the cob has rescued from tidal flooding).
The sky had darkened and it started to rain so I had to break out the waterproofs.
The path climbed the hill on the small headland at the mouth of the Glaslyn and Dwyryd rivers.
I skirted around Portmeirion, the village made famous by “The Prisoner” tv series, and on to Minffordd and Penrhyndeudraeth before crossing the new road bridge spanning the Afon Dwyryd.
The wind had picked up and the last section of my walk, along the sea defences separating the tidal marshland from the farmland, was hard work. I was almost blown into the barbed wire fence; thank goodness for walking poles to keep me upright! I gave up the fight at Talsarnau and caught the train to Barmouth (trains are 2hrs apart so
I didn’t want to walk further and wait until around 5pm, when it’s dark, for the next one). Barmouth looked closed. I think the old town looks lovely with its 3, 4 and 5 storey slate buildings. Conversely, I think the part that caters to the tourists is pretty awful with its tacky shops and fairground; a real juxtaposition.
My guest house was at the end of Marine Drive: a row of guest houses by the sea front. It was clean but very jaded, fitting in with the town. I walked through the town to The Last Inn for a pint and some dinner. The old, stone beer-cooling pool has been turned into a fish pond. The majority of the customers had a familiar brummie accent so I felt right at home.
Another lovely breakfast and another rainy and windy day. Steve and Jan drove me back to Abersoch.
I walked along the other of the town’s beaches, along The Warren. This was a really beautiful beach, with lovely golden sand, and behind it was the poshest caravan park I have seen.
Some of the abodes were actually lodges and most had posh garden furniture and huge, tainted windows (and often a jet ski or motorboat parked outside). The development also had a health and fitness club and a couple of cafes.
At the end of the beach I climbed the 132m high Mynydd Tîr-y-cwmwd. In good weather the views would be outstanding; today they were barely visible.
The walk down into Llanbedrog first passes The Tin Man on the cliff top. This is the 3rd statue in this place overlooking the town.
I headed down through the woods and grounds belonging to the Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, a dower house built in 1857 for Lady Love Jones Parry of Madryn.
It is now an art gallery and cafe. I stopped to admire the paintings and get a coffee.
It was an easy walk into Pwllheli along the path that skirted Y Gamlas bay.
From Pwllheli the coast path mostly follows the road to Criccieth so, because I didn’t fancy a 2nd night in Pwllheli, I caught a bus to Criccieth.
It hadn’t rained much all day, although the air was wetter than damp and there was a fair bit of mizzle (mist/drizzle). I arrived at my hotel, dumped my rucksack, and headed straight out to walk around Criccieth. The heavens opened and I got soaked! At least I got a quick look at the castle (which was closed) and the nice town. I liked the architecture and the cobbled footpaths opposite the castle.
Criccieth Castle is perched on a small headland and was built by Llywelyn the Great. Fifty years after it was built King Edward I took the castle by force and later improved it. The town grew up around it.
No sooner had I got back to my hotel than the sun came out in order to provide a sunset. I had to go out again to admire it!
Steve and Jan had recommended The Spice Bank (an old bank turned into a restaurant) so I had a nice curry for dinner.
Guess what…it was pouring with rain and very windy. Jan cooked a nice breakfast and then drove me to Abersoch so I could walk back to Aberdaron. This seemed like the best plan based on the lack of sensibly priced accommodation in Abersoch. The town has pretentions. As a result, all guest houses seemed to be double the price of everywhere else.
Jan dropped me off on the small headland at Abersoch and I walked around it and back to the main street. This town has an upper middle class air about it – large houses, nice parks and shops like Fatface and Crew Clothing Company.
I walked along the golf course, next to the Southern beach, to Machroes. Here were some more large houses with huge windows to maximise the beautiful views. This is a lovely spot.
Due to the high winds and driving rain I didn’t brave the coast path around the cliffs opposite St Tudwal’s islands (at the ‘heel’ of Llyn), but walked the minor roads. I did walk down to Porth Ceiriad: a beautiful, south-facing beach at the base of the cliffs. The waves were big and the roar of the foaming water was loud.
I took the roads back through the small villages of Bwlchtocyn and Llanengan and headed onto the 3.5 mile long beach at Porth Neigwl.
Porth Neigwl’s long beach is known as Hell’s Mouth as it is South-West facing and consequently receives the full brunt of the Atlantic gales. Many ships have been wrecked here but the 1898 wrecking of the schooner, The Twelve Apostles, at Hell’s Mouth, had a touch of sardonic wit.
The beach was desolate and flanked by an unclimbable clay cliff. There were lots of clay ‘rocks’ strewn across the shingle.
At the Western end of the beach is a steep hillside below the village of Rhiw. This time I followed the coast path around the hill and onto the road back to Aberdaron.
Unfortunately I missed the waterfall onto the beach at Porth Ysgo – I was too wet and the grass too slippery to bother trekking down to this beach.
I arrived back at the B&B dripping wet again. Thank goodness for Jan providing tea and biscuits. She also very kindly invited me to join her and Steve for dinner and she cooks a good lasagne. I had a really nice evening comparing notes and swapping stories with Steve as he is a retired policeman. It was a late night.
Another bad weather day. Winds were 50+ mph and lots of rain was forecast.
Caroline’s mum cooked me breakfast and then gave me a lift down the road. She drove me to see Porth Colmon and then dropped me off at the Pen-y-graig crossroads. She was lovely to chat to and it was very kind of her to give me a lift.
After much discussion yesterday with Caroline, Nicola and other locals in the pub I had decided that walking the coast path would not be a sensible idea. Based on Saturday’s walk I knew that the paths would be in a bad state and negotiating my way around the edge of the coast in gale force winds, on my own, was too risky. I would have to walk the minor roads instead. I took advice on the route and which bays I should walk to before I set off.
There aren’t many cars on the road this far along the Lleyn Peninsula; only half a dozen passed me all day (not including the postman, who passed me 4 times and stopped to check I was ok).
Initially it was hardly raining, just incredibly windy. After about an hour the rain became harder and I got soaked to the skin, again. The weather did seem to be adding to the fun of the whirling, twirling, dancing seagulls.
I walked down to Porth Oer, to admire the Whistling Sands beach. Just like when I went to Eigg, there would be no whistling of the sands today, in this weather. I did see surfers in the sea. It was a lovely beach and had a cafe (closed for Winter) called The Cole Hole, so named because it was originally a coal shed.
On the headland at Carreg, just above Porth Oer, was a Jasper quarry. It had been opened in 1904 to extract the red stone for decorative building purposes and, according to the information board, was still mined by 3 local farmers.
I walked up to the top of the hill where there was a stone walled corral.
Every step was a fight against the wind and when I reached the top I found I could not admire the windward view because rods of rain stung my eyes and forced them shut.
The rain seemed to be getting worse as walked along the roads, first to Anelog and then to the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula at Gwyddel. I climbed my 2nd hill of the day to see if I could see Bardsey Island across the Bardsey Sound. Just about, through the gloom and the driving rain while trying to balance at an acute angle against the wind.
I was now officially heading down the West coast of Wales. Aberdaron is nestled into hillside where the Afon Daron flows into Aberdaron Bay. It has 3 roads into it, all are steep descents to the heart of the village.
I arrived at Steve and Jan’s house quite early but soaked through. Jan immediately produced a pot of tea and biscuits while I tried not to drop everywhere. Their boiler had just packed up so there was no heating, but it didn’t affect the shower so it was all fine.
I walked down the hill to the local pub for dinner. The food was nice and I listened to the weather coming across the beach and battering the windows.
This week appears to have been a turning point in the weather as suddenly the rain came.
The relatively low mileage this week felt hard-earned as the going seemed to get slower. The paths were certainly muddier and slippier. So far North Wales has been full of incredibly friendly people and that has helped me no end. Even just stood on the street in Pwllheli I must have looked lost as a man came over and asked if I needed help. When he found out what I was doing he gave me his phone number in case I got into difficulty as he works from home so could easily come and help me. Michael typified my experience of North Walians so far. Diolch.
This week I have mostly been in the heart of Welsh-language country. Welsh has been the default language and I have often had to ask people to speak English. The stereotypical English view of North Wales, that people here are reluctant to speak English, has not been borne out in my case. I have had a great time in N Wales and plan to return.
I have been suffering from a sore foot for a couple of weeks now. It’s not affecting my gait, but my left foot, just in front of the heel, feels bruised. I also think my big oaf of a little brother broke some metatarsals in my right foot when he stamped on it during a family game of tag rugby on Criccieth beach almost 3 weeks ago. It is still painful. Apart from my feet, I’m fine.