The bus driver does a double take when we get on the bus at Dinas Dille and ask for one way tickets to Saron – ” blink and you’ll miss it” he quips, I guess he doesn’t get many tourists coming here. This is the chapel and gives you an idea of what the rest of the village looks like.
So out of the bus we come and head down the very narrow minor road (I’m amazed there is even a bus service) towards the edge of Foryd Bay. This will be quite a short walk today – the last of our trip and if we’re lucky we’ll make it before the wonderful cafe in Dinas Dille stops serving lunch. Reaching the “coast” we walk for about a mile alongside the marshland of the bay and then back inland, heading south through some farm buildings where I hold my breath waiting for the sound of dogs barking and then north again up to a campsite.
Here again I am reminded of the Essex marshes but on a minor scale. ……
After walking through the campsite we start to see the buildings of Cærnarfon Airport and very soon the deafening roar of a helicopter landing. The red helicopter in the photo is for search and rescue but it’s not this one that’s making all the noise. A little way up the landing strip is a menacing looking military machine landing and getting ready to take off again – I assume it’s a refuelling stop. We watch as two men at a five minute interval come running across the field and clamber into the machine. Both of them attempt to close the door but fail. Eventually the helicopter takes off with the door wide open – I suppose they know what they’re doing.
After so much excitement we decide to go round the museum, which is curiously compelling with its stories of daring do from the Second World War and recent RAF rescue operations.
I like the lady providing tea and sympathy for the boys……….
Leaving the airport it’s a sharp left turn and a walk down the windy beech of Dinas Dille. The cafe is still open and we both have poached egg on toast accompanied by the freshest tastiest local grown greens I have ever tasted (from the local organic farmstead apparently).
We park the car behind Victoria Dock in Caernarfon and set off circling the harbour. The path is clearly marked.
From the dock we follow a tarmac lane which doubles up as a bike route, and we find ourselves jumping from right to left to the tune of bicycle bells behind us.
After a couple of miles the path merges with a main road which we cross over and then continue on a minor road until we reach the outskirts of Y Felinfeli.
Anglesey is just across the water but I made up my mind long ago that I would not walk around islands – maybe one day I’ll visit.
As we walk down into the village it becomes clear that there is some kind of celebration going on. A road block has been set up to keep the harbour pedestrian for what the official calls a carnival. We walk past stalls selling food, beer and trinkets and out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of the ubiquitous bouncy castle – no picture because I think it’s frowned upon to take photos of other people’s children. The unmistakable smell of hot dogs weighs heavily in the air.
We had thought about a quiet cup of coffee somewhere but it suddenly seems more appealing to catch the bus back to Cærnarfon – so that’s what we do.
In the square behind the castle we find a cafe with seats outside but we soon have some unwanted company. Aiming for the leftovers on the table next to us are two huge seagulls with dirty yellow beaks. Without further ado they land heavily on the table knocking over plates and glasses which smash to the ground and gobble anything edible before the waiter comes out and shoos them off. We leave hurriedly – I used to like seagulls!
After a coffee and a snack (inside) we get a taxi to drive us to Saron, a nondescript village about 3 miles south of Cærnarfon. We are dropped outside a row of weary council houses and start walking back up the narrow road until we branch off towards the marshes of Foryd Bay Nature Reserve.
On the way we walk past a charming restoration of some old stone farm buildings. I love the shape of the house and the small turrets which decorate the roof.
And later, another reminder of ongoing protest…………….painted on the sea wall.
It is here where the road turns right and follows the shore all the way to Cærnarfon. We jump down onto the stoney shore and walk until it gets difficult and at this point we come across this sorry sight. I wonder why……..
Gradually the ancient walls and towers of Cærarfon Castle come into view – a cloud hovers above the town like a mighty plume of smoke.
The white building in front of the castle is the Anglesey Arms Hotel where we sit on the harbour wall and have the first beer of the day – the best!
Today we are back to the good old A499 and two hours of trudging along beside it. It is times like these that I really begin to hate cars – the speed and noise of the engines is so stressful.
Leaving Clynnog Fawr there is a bit of uncertainty as to where the sign post is pointing so we ask a local who says yes the path follows the coast for about a mile up to a small hamlet called Aberdesach and maybe further. Our spirits lift but on consulting the map it appears that the path peters out after a while and then nothing. We decide to go back to the road.
On reaching Aberdesach we make another attempt to reach the coast and end up in a caravan site near a stoney beach with no sign of a path. I suddenly realise that the path is up on the cliffs and access to it has been closed, probably by the caravan site owners grrrrrrrrrr………
So back we go to the road…………..
From here there has been some attempt to shield pedestrians in the form of treelined pathways beside the road but they are intermittent and by the time we get to Pontllyfni we are hot and bothered with sore feet – walking on tarmac for a long time is painful.
Just after the bridge in the village is another path off to the left – could this be our salvation? But no – the OS map is clear, this part of the Welsh Coast Path is pure tarmac.
So that is it for today – we come off the main road onto another minor road and arrive on the promenade of Dinas Dille. After a cup of tea in the cafe we catch the bus back to our AirBnb to nurse our feet. This has not been one of the most rewarding walks.
Once more we are lucky enough to get a lift from the community minibus who take us to Clynnog Mawr where we stop to have a look around St, Beuno’s, an impressive church for such a tiny hamlet.
We would have liked to look inside but we can hear the sounds of a service so we decide to come back another day.
It is hot today and I’m not looking forward to the long stretch of main road, which makes up the first few miles of our walk. I have studied the map closely and there doesn’t seem to be any way off the A499 so we just have to grit our teeth and do it. After a couple of miles I have another look at the map on my phone and there does seem to be a service road off to the right leading down to a campsite called Aberafon. On our way down the hill a wheezy old camper passes us, obviously struggling with the gradient, and at the wheel is an equally ancient lady with long wild grey hair -the two of them remind me of the film Nomadland. Set in the American West, Frances Mcdormand plays a woman in her sixties, who loses everything in the Great Recession, and embarks on a journey living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. It’s a great film.
The van below is a completely different creature, brand new and well equipped, it also has a trailer for extra storage. Damian stops to ask the owner if he knows whether we can walk along the beach to Trefor, which would save us the hell of the main road. Yes he says – if the tide’s out.
When we reach the beach it does look like we may be able to do it so we set off across the stones.
On our left there is a lot of bird activity – sand martins flitting in and out of their nests in the sandy cliffs.
Damian has a romantic moment………………..
The walk along the beach is wonderfully peaceful. This is what coastal walking is all about – sunshine, blue skies and the sound of waves breaking on the shore.
Unfortunately we are soon abruptly woken from our reverie by the realisation that we can go no further. The tide is going out but it will be roughly another two hours before it will clear the headland, allowing us to continue round to the pier at Trefor.
In a desperate attempt to find a path up on the cliffs, Damian disappears into the dense thicket of undergrowth from which I can hear sounds of thrashing and swearing until he appears slightly crestfallen with a tear in his beloved jeans. Oh well…..
All is not lost however as I do remember walking past a gravel path up on to the cliffs, which turns out to be a service road for a campsite. It takes us ten minutes to walk back. We then get lost trying to leave the campsite as all the footpaths marked on the map are either completely overgrown or fenced off by a farmer. – our progress is closely followed by an inquisitive llama.
Oh dear – back to the road.
Eventually we reach Trefor, a village with a small harbour and a beach, where we sit down to eat a well earned lunch. We are now well behind schedule and more than a little tired, and the sight of the three peaks of Yr Eifl rising steeply in front of us does nothing to raise our spirits.
These hills are the site of a large granite quarry which closed in 1960. Apparently the rare properties of the granite within the quarry made it the perfect material to produce curling stones for the winter Olympics. Trefor is one of only two locations where this particular granite is found, the other being Ailsa Craig in Scotland. The photo above is not mine – credit goes to the blogger Paul Shorrock who doesn’t mind as long as he is mentioned. https://hillcraftguidedwalking.com/2011/08/01/37-–-the-three-peaks-of-yr-eifl/
Anyway, off we go, into the foothills and I would like to add here that we are not aiming for the summits – the coast path takes us between the peaks up a dirt track which slowly and steadily gets steeper and steeper. At one point we run into a group of locals laying tarmac by hand so we are obliged to jump a few fences to get around them.
On the other side of the roadworks the path gets narrower and narrower and seems to sink down between high hedges on both sides – I feel like I’m in a wartime trench.
After what seems an eternity we reach the flats of the ridge and throw ourselves down on the earth to rest and catch our breath – it takes a while before we can appreciate the stunning view.
Picking ourselves up we follow a dusty path over the top of the ridge and all the way down to the familiar standing stones of the carpark from where we started two days ago.
And from here we walk down the steep tarmac road to the pub at Llithfaen where we sit outside and drink cold beer watching the local children play football. It has been a long but exciting day.
Our Airbnb in Penygroes is part of a community enterprise scheme called Yr Orsaf https://www.yrorsaf.cymru/en/, which among other things includes a community bus. Introduced primarily as a vital supplement to limited public transport in the area it has no objection to walkers using it to get from one isolated spot to another. Brilliant!
Having booked a pick up we drive our car to Morfa Nefyn and hang around in a residential street trying hard to suspend our disbelief. It does not help that the gentleman working in his garden at the address has never heard of a community bus. But here it comes the bright yellow electric minibus, completely empty! And it takes us all the way to the village of Llithfaen (6 miles) for five pounds. Wonderful……..
From the centre of the village we walk up the narrow tarmac road which will give us access to the coast path. Half way up the steep hill we stop to catch our breath.
At the top is a carpark with a centrepiece of some majestic carved standing stones and off to the right the quarry scarred landscape of Yr Eifl where we will be walking tomorrow.
From the carpark the coast path takes us down a well maintained tarmac road with some very sharp bends. The gradient is so steep my toes are banging up against the toe of my boots – the cause of many a black toenail.
At the bottom of the hill we realise we have walked into a Welsh Heritage Centre called Nant Gwrtheyrn which offers courses in Welsh language and culture.
The centre consists of rows of quarryman cottages built in 1878, now restored and used as residences – there is also a museum and a cafe. A few of the cottages are open to the public so we take a look.
After all this history we think we deserve a cup of tea even though w have a long way to go and the forecast has warned of rain later on. The view from the balcony of the cafe is spectacular as is the piece of Bara Brith (Welsh Tea Bread) that comes with the tea.
Refreshed we head off down the path which leads almost down to the sea and then turns inland past the ruins of the old quarry workings and machinery. It then starts to climb steeply upwards into an area of what I think are twisted young oak trees.
The narrow path continues to get steeper and steeper and at one point we meet two middle aged mountain bikers walking their bikes very carefully downhill. I cannot think why they would have thought cycling down this steep stony path was a good idea, but it takes all sorts.
Finally we reach the top and are rewarded with flat open country until we reach the hamlet of Pistyll served by a charming little church with a great view out to the sea. The dark granite headstone in the picture marks the grave of Rupert Davies, a British actor best remembered for playing the title role in the BBC’s 1960s television adaptation of Maigret.
From Pistyll we follow the road a short while until the coast path turns off left across farm land with plenty of sheep for Damian to talk to.
At one point we realise that we are following part of the North Wales Pilgrims Way (The Welsh Camino) which stretches from Bardsey Island to Holywell but turns away from the coast in a few places only to come back to the coast path later on.
By the time we reach Nefyn it is raining quite heavily and it is with a great effort of will that we walk out to the tip of the headland Penrhyn Nefyn rather than skirt across. On a sunny day the view would be spectacular but today not quite so impressive.
Across the bay stretches the Porth Dinllaen headland with the beach houses of Morfa Nefyn below the cliffs. We are close to our car now and even closer to the pub where we stopped yesterday – I almost hope they serve hot chocolate!
This time we drive our car to Porth Colmon, leaving it in the tiny carpark. Our direction is north with the sea on our left, but before we even take the first few steps, we come up against our first hurdle. We do think it strange that the coast path sign is covered over but decide to carry on anyway only to be stopped in our tracks a little later by a sign saying the path is closed. Of course the effect on Damian is like that of a red flag on a bull so against my better judgement we decide to plough on (the alternative would be a long detour inland). Eventually we reach a gate with another warning sign and beyond this we can see a minor landslide which used to be a path.
I take a few hesitant steps down over the large chunks of rock and sand but end up on my bum to make sure I land safely on the beach. An exciting start to the day I could have done without!
The next section of the walk is along Penllach Beach – there are a few dog walkers around but otherwise it is deserted. From here we climb up onto the cliffs again, and walk along narrow paths where I worry about twisting my ankle. In some places the path, once muddy, has been churned up by sheep and then dried out to form hard strangely shaped clumps of soil topped with tufts of grass – we make slow progress.
At one point we look down on a beautiful secluded cove – Porth Gwylan – and think about stopping for lunch but it is a bit early.
Further on the path is so overgrown that it is difficult to see it, which makes me think that this part of the coast path has not been used for a while. It reminds me of the “paths” around the salt marshes and estuaries of Essex which I walked some years ago.
A little later we reach Porth Ysgaden, where the ruins of a small stone built house stands on the headland. I walk off the path to go and investigate, while Damian talks to cows. I later discover that the sole wall standing is the gable end of the old coastguard’s house. On one side a carved wooden bench has been placed and on the other side the blackened stones point to the position of the old fireplace.
On the other side of the headland is another pretty beach – Porth Towyn where we stop for a sandwich and a cup of coffee from the much loved thermos.
Onwards ever onwards we navigate a steep climb down and a scramble up the other side of Aber Geirch before finding ourselves on the outer reaches of a golf course – magic!
We skirt around the golf course and up a tarmac track to the clubhouse. Off to the left are people feeding in from a walk out to the pub on the isthmus of Porth Dinllaen which can only be reached on foot. Sadly we decide we are too tired to investigate and head down the road to Morfa Nefyn for a pint before getting a taxi back to our car.
We wake to a glorious day in our wonderful hotel in Aberdaron – the plan is to walk from Porth Colmon to Mynydd Mawr, where we finished back in March. There are no buses and no taxis and we are resigned to a circular walk which is always a little frustrating. However, overhearing our conversation about the dearth of public transport on the Llyn Peninsula, our friendly landlord jumps up and offers to drive us to the start of our walk – lovely man.
Porth Colmon is a quiet little cove with one summer house, outside of which a middle aged couple are eating their breakfast and reading newspapers. It almost feels like an intrusion when we arrive in the car – we start to walk up the path (quietly). Up onto the cliffs we walk briskly south, past a handful of small coves, through clouds of wild flowers that my photos never do justice to so most of the time I don’t bother.
Porth Wen Bach, Porth Ty Mawr, Porth Widin and Porth Ferin fall beneath our boots until we are brought to a halt by this unusual signpost – I wonder if anybody was ever caught on the close circuit camera scribbling this particular witticism.
Just around the headland lies Porth Iago, a beautiful sandy beach and crystal clear water.
By now it is very hot and we are both hungry, so after great deliberation we find somewhere to spread out and eat our lunch. To my dismay, just around the corner is the loveliest beach cafe with toilets! The beach is called Porthor, otherwise known as Whistling Sands and as we approach it I suddenly hear whistling. No, it can’t be and no it wasn’t – the whistling was coming from a gentleman out to sea, relaxing on his rubber ring.
Apparently, the beach got its name from a phenomenon that occurs during very dry spells when the sand makes a distinct squeaking noise as you walk over it. This is caused by the unusual shape of the sand grains and there are only one of two beaches in Europe where this effect can be observed.
On we go, following the coast path which now wends its way inland through wide stretches of fern and heather only to twist back again to the coast. We are now tired and not relishing the thought of the last stretch of this walk which will be on a tarmac road back to the hotel.
Our point of reference is the stargazing spot where we finished a walk in this area two months ago – it’s on the top of the last headland and it looks very very far away.
Anyway, there is no way out but through so up we go, passing the last Porth for today and eventually the concrete road that leads up to Mynydd Mawr, our destination.
Turning away from the coast we follow the road down for two painful miles until we reach Aberdaron and a pint or two of cold lager. A bit of light relief is provided by this “tim’rous beastie” (well a small rabbit) that hopped out of the hedgerow to say hello.
Yes it’s raining as we step out of the bus from Bangor on to the bleak high street of Y Felinheli, a small town halfway between Caernarfon and Bangor. Turning right at the post office we head down to the Marina and get our first view of the Menai Straits.
This is the second time in two days that we have walked past massive wooden locks like these. The first was in Manchester, where we waved goodbye to my daughter and family who had come from Denmark for my niece’s wedding. That time we stopped to watch from a canal bridge as two beautifully decorated long boats slowly made their way through the gates, with the help of a couple of people on the wharf using ropes and pulleys.
From the Marina we follow the Welsh Coast Path signs through a long stretch of woodland and through gaps in the foliage I get glimpses of the Straits to our left.
At one such viewpoint an unusual bench has been placed – built to allow for a clear view over the wall in front. It reminds me of a few of the most recent benches in Copenhagen which have impossibly high seats in an attempt to highlight rising sea levels due to climate change.
A while later we walk under the bulky undercarriage of the Britannia Bridge. Built in 1850, some 20 years after the Menai Straits Bridge, this bridge was specifically for rail rather than road traffic over the Straits. Originally designed and built by the noted railway engineer Robert Stephenson, its importance was to enable trains to directly travel between London and the port of Holyhead, thus facilitating a sea link to Dublin. In the early 70s it was destroyed by fire and almost completely rebuilt as both a rail and road bridge.
The path now leads us down into Treborth Botanical Gardens where we are met by this amenable chap holding a “Torch of Peace”. This is one of two identical bronze statues, the other is 10 miles away in Llanberis, both of which were inaugurated in 2019 to celebrate an ongoing commitment to world peace.
On the edge of the gardens stands two or three of these majestic oak trees which according to the information board are Lucombe Oaks. Apparently the first Lucombe oak was planted in Exeter around 1763 by a nurseryman called William Lucombe. All true Lucombe oaks today are clones of that original tree, grown in some way from grafts or cuttings. Lucombe himself cut down the original tree but kept the planks under his bed, to make his own coffin. But according to Wikipedia he lived to be 102 and by then the wood had rotted, so timber from one of his younger Lucombe oak clones was used.
Pretty soon the Menai Straits Suspension Bridge emerges from the trees and bushes – far prettier than the Pont Britannia. Built in 1826 by Thomas Telford this was the first iron suspension bridge in the world and proved to be a valuable alternative to ferries that were forced to navigate four different tides in both directions. We stand and marvel for a couple of minutes.
From the bridge we follow the signs down through Nantporth Nature Reserve and down to an area of parkland which, along with some university buildings and houses of affluence, makes up Upper Bangor.
Soon the cast iron columns of Garth Pier come into view through the grey mist of early evening. Threatened with demolition in 1971 Bangor Council managed to secure a Grade II listing for the pier which is free to access although there is an honesty box at the entrance. The second photo is from Google and shows the pier in more detail. The small kiosks have been occupied by a cafe, artists studios and a fishing tackle shop none of which are open when we visit.
This has been an interesting walk but I can also feel that I haven’t walked for a few months and discovered that my dear old boots have sprung a leak!
Another windy day dawns on the Llyn Peninsula, our last day in fact, before we drive back to London. It will also be a shortish walk as there is no public transport from here on and the taxis cost a fortune. This means that we will be following the coast for a while and then turning inland to make it a circular walk. Anyway, it’s a lovely morning as we walk through the village and down to the beach.
At this point Damian and have a quick disagreement on the best way to go and we part company as I don’t like the look of the steep steps from the beach up onto the cliff. So I turn off right up a tarmac lane, turn left on to the cliff path and negotiate a few muddy puddles before realising that the path is taking me down to the beach and up the very same steep steps. Fortunately I cannot see a trace of triumph in Damian’s face. I am also quite glad I had chosen this route because at the top of the tarmac lane I spy some graffiti in Welsh that I plan to investigate.
Talking to staff at the hotel later on I discover that these two words can be found at numerous sites throughout Wales but that they originated in the valleys of South Wales. A Wiki search reveals that the slogan appeared in the early 60’s on the site of a ruined cottage and was painted by Meic Stephens, a Welsh writer, in response to the flooding of the Tryweryn valley by the Liverpool City Council. The move was made without consulting the Welsh authorities. Since then it has been associated with Welsh nationalism and in particular Plaid Cymru (the militant group responsible for burning English owned holiday cottages in Wales).
History lesson over – we are now looking down on Aberdaron before continuing along the cliff path.
Our first landmark is Porth Simdde followed by Porth Meudwy, Porth Cloch and Porth Pistyll – all small inlets along the way. At the first of these we look down on two substantial boats pulled up onto the sand. There is a little stone cottage, a tractor and piles of lobster pots but no-one around.
We carry on along the stony path until we reach Pen y Cil, the very tip of the peninsula – hurray!
Just off the coast is the island of Carreg Ddu (Black Stone) and here’s Damian, waiting for me to catch up.
By now the landscape has opened up into an wide open area called Mynedd y Gwyddel and this is where we will join the road to take us back to Aberdaron. The sweep of land is wild and beautiful – there is a weighted silence in the air which cuts through the wind somehow. In the distance there are people walking………
After wandering around in this wilderness we eventually find a concrete path and some stone steps, remains of some military installation, to take us up to the spot where we can join the road. Apparently, this is where people come star gazing as there is very little interference from artificial light.
We start walking down the road – Damian gets involved in talking to the animals again.
A couple of miles later we are back in the village…………………..
So here we are back at Plas yn Rhiw to walk west this time – and the house and gardens are still closed.
We leave the car in the carpark and walk up the road a short while until we reach the turn off left into the woods. The path is relatively dry but the fallen trees, the stone wall and rocks are covered with a firm layer of moss – it feels ancient.
Through the trees we catch sight of the coast where we walked yesterday – Hell’s Mouth is over there in the distance.
After a while we reach a kissing gate that takes us out to the wild country – a large area of unspoilt heath owned by the National Trust.
And this is where we take a wrong turn and end up tramping alongside a stone wall on a very muddy path. I have been thinking about getting some new boots for a while and this is where I finalise the decision – a trickle of muddy water starts seeping in to my left boot. Oh well, what to do …….
The area we are walking through now is marked on the map as Mynydd Penarfynydd and it is here that the Welsh Coast Path signs bring us right down to the tip of a small headland, where the path seems to stop and the only way onwards is, well, back.
Battling the wind we retrace our footsteps only to discover that the path is directing us through a farmyard with two dogs that bark every time we make a move to go through the gate.
I consult the map again but it only confirms my fears. There is a car parked in the yard and I try shouting for attention to no avail. Eventually after trying to find other ways of getting to the other side, Damian decides to go for it and grabbing my walking pole he opens the gate, strides purposefully down the grassy slope and across the yard. I scuttle after him keeping my eyes averted and pretending all this is not happening, a bit like the rabbits in Watershed Down. The dogs are completely disinterested, not a peep…………………..I spend the next 5 minutes muttering about irresponsible farmers but we are now on a DRY track leading to a DRY tarmac road so all is well in the world.
After that little adventure the path is straightforward, twisting its way along the top of the cliffs, past small coves and headlands until we can see a long beach and Aberdaron in the distance.
Just before the beach the path goes inland crossing a minor road to Aberdaron where we decide to take the road because it is in fact closer to the coast. Just before we do we are directed through a field of young bullocks and Damian decides to say hello.
The road down into the village goes past the church and graveyard – it is close to sunset and I notice that all the headstones are in fact facing west – a nice idea.
After a quick pint in our hotel a taxi takes us back to pick up the car and half an hour later we are shown into a lovely hotel room with a view of the bay and hills beyond.