Thursday 12 November 2015
Criccieth to Talsarnau
Môr Wyn Guest House, Barmouth
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.