Glen yr afon consists of a knot of houses and a bus stop, roughly two miles west of Porthmadog – but more on that later.
We alight from the train at Penychain which, as you may have guessed, is pronounced completely differently from the way you might imagine – the last syllable sounds like you’re clearing your throat. From here we walk down a track which then peters out into fields until we manage to locate the Welsh coast path going east.
From here follows a lovely quiet walk along a beach………………….
……………………….until the path takes us upwards and onwards past another of the many caravan parks along this coast. All of these static caravans are green, which may be an attempt to blend in, who knows.
Right next to the holiday park is the sewage works (I bet they didn’t put that in the brochure) and it is here that the path turns away from the coast and up to a busy main road at Afon Wen.
There now follows about 2 miles of walking along a road which has no redeeming features whatsoever and in desperation I try to find some energising music on my phone which may make it a little more bearable. It works for a while and then the noise of the traffic takes over.
Finally we reach Llanystumdwy (another mouthful) where we are directed off down to the coast again.
The path now continues on boardwalks over marshland until we arrive at a spot overlooking Cricceth Beach which is not an inspiring sight.
I am assuming the caves described by the Welsh poet Robert Graves (thank you Sharon) must be on the other side of the headland…….
…………….but we are so desperate for a cup of tea and something to eat, that we head straight for the nearest cafe.
Past some colourful houses and the castle, which looks to be in far worse shape than the one at Harlech but then maybe it looks better from the other side.
This catches my eye on the roof of a hotel nearby – I have no idea whether it’s an English or a Welsh knight and indeed the castle has fallen into the hands of both nations through time, but it does seem to me to be a strange thing to put on the roof of a hotel and isn’t his spear pointing backwards?
Coming out of the cafe, where we have spent far too much time, we realise with sinking hearts that we may not manage to get to Porthmadog before nightfall. After a lot of deliberation and consultation of the map, we decide to give it a go and set off at a spanking pace up the road, over a little stone bridge to follow the railway line.
The golden late afternoon light casts long shadows and it’s a pity we have to rush… Damian looks like he’s practically sprinting.
The path winds up around the left hand flank of Graig Ddu (Black Rock) which has given its name to the wonderful two mile long beach on the other side.
Following a meandering narrow road down to the beach seems to take forever but finally we are there, along with a cluster of cars all out for cruising along the sand and a few screeching handbrake turns.
It is very strange walking along a beach with a car coming towards you……
About a mile up the beach we start thinking we’ll have to stop, as the last part of the walk is through woodland where there won’t be much light and we are also very tired. As it happens the decision is taken out of hands when we come up against a wide, fairly deep ribbon of water running across the beach and out to sea.
Turning left up into another holiday park we spend 20 minutes trying to get out and up onto the main road into Porthmadog. Like a bad dream we go round and round the silent empty caravan park, coming up against high metal fences at every turn. It is dark and I can feel hysteria rising. Eventually, Damian finds a missing link in the fence where we can crawl through, pick our way over some brambles and finally hit a gravel track which will take us up to the main road. Once back on track we now have a choice – we can either walk along the road in the dark (which I’m not keen on) or call a taxi (which feels like failure). Suddenly a green metal structure which looks very much like a bus stop, looms out of the darkness – and there’s a bus in five minutes – yes!!!
True to form the bus is only 5 mins late and drops us off very close to our car. Over a pint in the local pub it is decided that I would finish the walk the following morning, while Damian takes his car for a wash and brush up. To be continued……….
Distance: 11 miles