Just when we thought we’d seen the worst of the weather we wake for our last full day in Wales to the news that there will be gale force winds for most of the day and through the evening. Shortly afterwards we get an email telling us that our ferry to Dublin is uncertain due to the storms.
Our few days in North Wales have been excellent.
The walled town of Conway provided a base to visit the castle and walk the city walls. We had our best fish and chips accompanied with a couple of local G&Ts, but the highlight was a couple with a dog that I thought looked a lot like ours – surely it couldn’t be as our dog is a kelpie cross. I had to ask its owners, who said that he’s a kelpie, and because he’s an Australian dog his name is Ozzie! It sparks a long conversation over dinner. Our ” new friends” are travelling nomads and seem to know all the good pubs. It’s a great chat and makes our dinner one of The many highlights of our trip.
We’ve found people so friendly. Siting down at dinner or at breakfast. most days we’ve chatted to someone. I’m glad we’ve opted for B&Bs and pubs rather than hotels and restaurants, although my waistline has definitely expanded with the cooked breakfasts.
We visited the impossible to pronounce, seaside town of Llandudno, arriving early on Saturday morning, making it easy to get a park. We took a stroll along the promenade and then the tram up the Great Orme. The tram is a finuncular but not like those we’ve experienced in other places, as it’s on a fixed line. We change at the station house halfway for the remainder of the journey. As we are becoming accustomed its windy at the top. Rather than taking the tram all the way back we walk to the halfway point and then catch the tram the rest of the way down. The station house in the middle is interesting telling the story of the finuncular. The views of the coast on the way down are breathtaking.
In need of coffee we decide on Providero a modern looking coffee shop. Their double espresso is sensational! The coffee shop is featured in a publication about best coffee in the North. I also notice that the place has been crowd funded. I hope those that contributed enjoy it as much as we did.
We decide that our afternoon will be spent at Portmerrion, an Italian seaside village in North Wales. It was the brainchild of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and built over a fifty year period between 1925-1975. We are told by a fairly bored tour guide that many of the structures come from purchases made by “Clough” during the depression where he was able to purchase porticos and other curios from owners of stately homes who just couldn’t afford the upkeep. Our guide tells us stories of visits by Brian Epstein, George Harrison and Jules Holland. There is a link between Portmerrion and the sixties program “The Prisoner” and apparently each year the chess game is re-enacted by the Prisoner fan club on what is now a permanent outside chess board. Apparently people play the part of the chess board with the players sitting on mounted on a high chair, like a tennis umpires chair calling the moves. I’d say it was bizarre but we are at Portmerrion which is certainly far from your normal place. We walked through the gardens taking in lovely coastal views to The Lighthouse, which like so much of Portmerion seems very much tongue-in-cheek. The gardens have some magnificent trees including an Australian Gum. Portmerrion is definitely fits in the unusual places we have visited and one. I wouldn’t t have visited without my favourite person having suggested it, I’m glad I did.
Our next stop is our B&B in Beddgelert. I have directions but no internet. Of course I turn left when I should have turned right, so miss
it completely. My favourite person’s phone works but mine with a UK SIM card doesn’t, won’t use that company again. After a quick call to our hosts, using her phone with its Australian SIM, we find that it is about 50 metres from where I turned left. We stop outside to drop off our belongings and then I hunt out a free car parking space a hundred or so metres away.
One of the challenges of these lovely little towns is that the are old and not designed for cars. Past travel had taught us this, so we organized our luggage so that we can travel between our major stops with what could be described as carry on, thereby avoiding having to lug heavy cases from the car and up stairs.
Beddgelert is a picturesque little village, in the heart of Snowdonia National Park. It’s the place to stay we are told if you are a walker. It is also a great place to catch the steam train, something I haven’t done a since I was a child. The train routes through Snowdonia are world famous.
Beddgelert is situated about mid-point between Caernarfon and Porthmadog and we opt for the shorter route to Porthmadog as Caernarfon is our next stop. It’s hard not to get excited as we hear the train whistle as it enters the station. On we hop with a few others for the 45 minute trip. It’s a delightful trip through the national park, past rushing rivers, paddocks full of sheep and skirting the mountains. If you aren’t a walker and to be honest we are not this is the way to see this magnificent national park.
The train pulls into Porthmadog and we get off and spend about 30 minutes watching the trains and carriages being shunted. From there we take the short walk to the museum. I spend most of the rest of our time at the museum trying to remember how to tie all those knots I learnt in Scouts. The Museum tells the story of the port town and is definitely worth an hour.
We wander back to the train station for a cup of tea at the station coffee shop, really it’s an excuse for us both to look at the trains before heading back to Beddlegert and to the scene of the “supposed” grave of Gelert the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great. Whether it is or just the concoction of the proprietor of the Goat Hotel in the late 18th century who knows, but it certainly is worth a visit before dinner at another of the many local pubs, all of which seem to serve good food.
The next morning as we are served breakfast looking over this delightful little town our B&B hosts suggest we head off early given the forecast of gale force winds. With that, out the window goes plans for a nice walk along one or two of the beaches on Anglesey and Holyhead. We make a decision on a visit to Caernarfon Castle and a drive across to Anglesey and the seaside town of Beaumaris, where we have afternoon tea in a pub overlooking the beach. The wind is whipping the sand up making it unpleasant even walking up the street. We decide it might be wise to head back to our B&B to be out of the weather, I definitely didn’t want to be stranded on Anglesey overnight. As we drive across the bridge we see road maintenance crews checking the wind speeds and note that high sided trucks and motorbikes are no longer able to cross.
We and a few other tourists brave the wind to get dinner at one of the local pubs. It’s eerie. Caernarfon is pretty much deserted and the wind is strong enough for us to decide on a pub near our accommodation.
As forecast the wind blows itself out overnight and we wake to a pleasant morning and use it to visit the South Stack Lighthouse on Holyhead. It’s still quite windy and I can only imagine what it would have been like the previous day. We’d have been blown to Dublin!
With that its back to Holyhead and the ferry for Dublin. Maybe not the one we’d originally booked but one that will get us to our next location.