Thursday 5 November 2015
Menai Bridge to Caernarfon
8 miles walked
Tegfan Guest House
I left late this morning as I was still trying to update my blog and dry out my boots, which have been constantly wet since last Friday. Still, time wasn’t an issue as I had booked accommodation in Caernarfon, a mere 9 miles walk away.
Studying my map I convinced myself that I could see a footpath across the Britannia Bridge so I thought I’d walk over that one. I walked along the main road to Llanfair P.G. and enjoyed the same views of the bridges as yesterday. One small problem when I got to the bridge: no footpath to be found. There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps back to Menai Bridge. This time, however, I did at least follow the coast path along the shoreline. I might have been cursing my misfortune (or poor map interpretation) but for the lovely views and discovering the large limestone lions That decorate the bridge and are not visible from the road (only from the railway). Also in my favour was that, in spite of the weather forecast, it was not yet raining.
After completing my 3 mile round-trip I crossed the Menai Bridge and said hywl fawr to Anglesey.
Back on the mainland the path followed the shore for a bit and passed Treborth Botanic Garden. It was here that I met an old couple walking their cat. They kept calling to it as they walked so I asked them, and yes, they were taking him for a walk. I’ve never seen that before! The old man asked me about my walk, was impressed I was doing the whole of Britain and, after asking my age, told me to enjoy the memories because in 10 years time my body will fall apart. Now there’s a happy thought to be going on with!
Fortunately I was distracted from suicidal thoughts by a section of Stephenson’s original tubular bridge. The present Britannia Bridge was rebuilt in the 1970s after a fire. Stephenson’s original bridge was a wrought iron tubular bridge to carry the train line; the 1970s build incorporated the A55. (Note: maybe I am an engineer at heart?)
At 11.45 am the forecast heavy rain arrived…in bucket-loads. It was too muggy to wear my waterproof trousers so I donned my gaiters to try and stop the water from running down my legs into my boots. At this point I was walking through the Glan Faenol National Trust woodland but I was soon pushed out onto the road. The rest of the way to Caernarfon was along a cycle route that followed the main road so I decided to get a bus.
I arrived in Caernarfon at lunchtime, soggy and cooling down. Time for a cafe lunch to warm up. I walked into the main square and picked a lovely caffi. After lunch I found my guesthouse, dumped my rucksack, and headed off to the Castle.
Caernarfon Castle was built in 1283 by Edward I and was the seat of power of the Welsh Princes, indeed it was the site of the investiture of the two most recent Princes of Wales. The outer walls of the castle have been well-preserved and would be great for a game of hide and seek.
I really enjoyed spending a couple of hours looking around. The history of Welsh rule was slowly starting to make some sense to me. Of the 4 main Welsh ‘principalities’, Gwynedd seems to have been the strongest. The original Princes of Wales were North Walians; in 1267 King Henry III granted the title to the Prince of Gwynedd, only for it to be taken away when Edward I invaded. One of the reasons Caernarfon Castle looks so spectacular is that Edward I possibly modelled it on Roman buildings, hence its bands of coloured stone.
Legend has it that the Roman Emperor, Macsen Wledig ruled from Caernarfon after marrying a local girl. So Edward I was not the first foreign ruler; his son was born at Caernarfon and was the first non-Welsh (even though born here) Prince of Wales.
I really liked Caernarfon. This town was an architectural gem. I walked along most of the narrow streets within the old, walled town and stopped for a pint of local beer at The Black Boy. This rather non-PC named pub dated from c. 1522. I also climbed Ben Twthill, the small hill that overlooks the town.
It was Bonfire Night and, along with the rest of the town, I headed to the waterfront at 7 pm to watch the town’s firework display. It had stopped raining and the excellent display was 17 minutes long over the water. The atmosphere was great on the sea-side of the old town and castle walls.
After the fireworks I wandered around the town again looking for somewhere to eat. I walked past a place that claims to be the smallest bar in Wales and ended up in Osteria, a Tuscan restaurant. I had a lovely meal and then, just as I was finishing, Eric and Janice arrived. They had eaten elsewhere because Janice doesn’t like the (excellent) Tuscan food, but they always pop in for some wine and a chat with the Italian staff. I was roped in. Two bottles of wine later (bought by Eric), conversation was in full flow and Eric was trying to marry me off to Sergio, the Italian waiter. It was a great evening (even though I didn’t marry Sergio, who was as bemused as me). I left with a full stomach, a spinning head and Janice’s phone number in case I need somewhere to stay. What a brilliant example of Welsh friendliness and hospitality. I also managed to get some guidance on pronunciation of Welsh place names.