Plas yn Rhiw to Abersoch 10.3.22

It is important on these walks to end up in a place where there is a cafe or pub to rest while waiting for the bus or a taxi. This is why we are walking in the opposite direction today as the National Trust house, gardens and cafe are closed for the winter. Having been quoted £40 for a 15 minute taxi drive (in areas like this they have to come from miles away), our wonderful host steps in and offers to drive us. She lets us out in the carpark of Plas yn Rhiw and we start walking back up the road for a couple of miles before turning off to follow the Welsh Coast Path signs back to the coast.

The first primroses of spring line the road……………

At first it’s pretty easy to follow the signs through spanking new kissing gates (yes I did get one) but soon they peter out and we find ourselves wandering around in muddy fields trying to find the path.

Our progress is followed with interest by pairs of delightful little lambs, trembling with anxiety as they respond to their mothers’ urgent cries. I swear never to eat lamb again………

Eventually we arrive at Towyn, which seems to be made up of a farmhouse, a caravan site and a bridge.

…….and from here it’s a nice uncomplicated tarmac road down to the carpark at the eastern end of Porth Neigwl beach. Known to the locals as “Hell’s Mouth” this is a long curving, almost semi-circular bay which the Welsh Coast Path avoids, perhaps because it is known for its ferocious winds and dangerous swimming conditions. The label “Hells Mouth” either derives from the physical relief of the bay, which can look like an open mouth, or the fact that this area is thought to have been the scene of as many as 30 shipwrecks over the last 180 years. 

We walk parallel to the end of the beach along a track through the dunes – coming down onto the beach for a short while and then up onto the cliffs.

Half way up we stop for lunch by a ruined house which protects us from the wind – this is not supposed to be a video, my finger slipped.To our delight there is a bench to sit on with an inscription which makes me laugh.

By now we have realised that we still have a long way to go before we reach Abersoch – another 6 miles to be exact, which is not a lot on flat land but I can see from my OS map that there will be quite a few steep ascents and descents.

Anyway, onwards ever onwards, it is encouraging that we are now following a wide grassy path through the heath and heather and we make good progress.

……….but very soon we’re back to narrow rocky paths following the cliff and then we start to count headlands – will we see Abersoch around the next headland? I’m afraid not……….

There are also other “situations” to deal with – this sign prompted a useful bit of acceleration.

Relief at coming out the other side intact………………………..

After a couple more miles we turn the corner at Trwyn yr Wylfa and celebrate with a sort of selfie, making use of the long shadows of late afternoon. The two islands are St.Tudwal’s East and West, named after St. Tudwal who travelled to Ireland to learn the scriptures, and then became a hermit on the Eastern island, where remains of a priory can still be seen.

Very, very tired we reach the stony beach at Machroes and walk alongside the golf course into Abersoch. I have just enough energy to stop and take a photo of this wonderful tree house.

It has been a strenuous walk and the pint in St.Tudwal’s Inn is divine………….even the loud music doesn’t bother me.

Distance: 14 miles

Pwllheli to Abersoch 9.3.22

Leaving our car parked alongside the harbour we walk down to the sea and along the promenade. There is a fierce wind coming off the sea so we decide not to walk along the beach. Before setting off we take a minute to read some of the small epitaphs written on pebbles which are firmly glued onto a circular stone wall with benches.

The path continues behind the dunes for about 2 miles – we meet a few dog walkers, heads bent against the wind. A few derelict houses line the path and I wonder why they haven’t been snapped up to rebuild as holiday homes but maybe this one would be too much of a project.

After a while the path climbs higher up on to the cliffs and we can see the spread of houses which make up Llanbedrog in the distance.

The path leads us down to the beach where we head for a pretty white washed building which looks like a chapel but on closer inspection turns out to be a house.

At the end of the beach are a set of rickety wooden steps that lead us up past a shuttered beach cafe and up into a very welcome patch of woodland which bears the brunt of most of the wind.

Up past the church the road leads us into the grounds of a Victorian Gothic mansion, Plas Glyn Y Weddw, which now houses an art gallery, shop and cafe. Built in 1879 the house has been through two or three reincarnations but in 1979 the artist Gwyneth ap Tomos and her husband Dafydd bought it and through their hard work saved the house and grounds from becoming a ruin. On a large granite boulder in front of the house sits a beautiful bronze sculpture of a young girl. Like the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen she has apparently suffered at the hands of vandals when in 2003 she was sawn off the boulder and stolen. Fortunately she was found again and reinstated.

And beside the house is another vision of womanhood…………..

After a browse around the gallery we come out of the house and walk through the grounds, past the little open air theatre and up a flight of stone steps into woodland.

This is a lovely peaceful stretch, the woods full of birdsong. At one point we have to make a decision on direction as the signposts had fallen over, but after a quick consultation of the map we plumb for the very steep crumbling set of steps up to the right.

Soon we are out of the woods (so to speak) and up on to a headland looking back at Llanbedrog. A strange metal statue/sculpture marks the spot – I really can’t work out what it is – maybe a woman holding a baby?

After a couple of miles we are looking down on a long row of what look like holiday homes. This is the Warren, a holiday park just outside Abersoch with owner occupied lodges costing upwards of 800 thousand pounds. The houses themselves are not particularly interesting but what a location!

Anyway, we are now very tired having not stopped for lunch and the soft sand is difficult to walk on. Up ahead is Abersoch but as we trudge wearily along it never seems to get any closer. Eventually we see a track through the dunes, up past the lifeboat station and into the village.

Diving into the post office for some sandwiches we discover that the bus back to Pwllheli is due any minute – and here it comes only 2 minutes late. We are soon reunited with our car to drive back to LLanbedrog where we are staying the night.

Distance: 10 miles

Penychain to Pwllheli 8.3.22

From our hotel in Cricceth we take the train to Penychain, where we started last time on our walk to Porthmadog – this time we are walking in the opposite direction. I am amazed that the train actually stops here because as far as I can see there is nothing but a lone farmhouse, which we pass by a few minutes later. However, on closer examination of the map I realise that there is a camping site close by so I guess all those happy campers are grateful for this service.

Anyway, after getting a bit lost we find ourselves back on a wide grassy path which leads down to the sea.

…………………a single post points us in the right direction.

……and soon we are back on the beach with a straight run into Pwllheli.

Up behind the sand dunes we can see signs of habitation – wooden lodges protected from any rogue tides by heavy granite boulders.

After a couple of miles we are directed off the beach and up into the sand dunes and soon we can see Pwllheli harbour. Presiding over the harbour is an interesting looking building which turns out to be Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy.

This is a non-profit community enterprise with facilities for fund raising events, storage for local sailing clubs and boating experiences for children.

As we walk along the rather bleak seafront to the station it starts to rain and I am glad we are going no further today. Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow.

Distance: 4 miles

Glan yr Afon to Porthmadog 21.1.22

Damian drops me off at the bus stop where we stopped last night and I head down a track running along the edge of Porthmadog golf course. It is early and there is no-one out – golf buggies stand waiting expectantly.

Ten minutes later I am back to one of the meandering courses of the River Afon. It is a peaceful morning with no wind – I suddenly feel a surge of morning joy as I look over the tranquil water.

To the right is the headland we planned to walk around yesterday – I can see the path winding through the scrub.

To the left the path climbs away from the beach through low woodland – at one point it rises steeply and when I get to the top I take one last look at the bay beneath me.

A mile on the trees thin out and I walk into the pretty little village of Borth-y-Gest just outside Porthmadog.

And from here it’s just a hop and a skip into Porthmadog Harbour…………………………….

I ring Damian and we arrange to meet for a coffee in Porthmadog’s Hard Rock Cafe (yes really) before driving back to London.

Distance: 3 miles

Penychain to Glan yr afon 21.1.22

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

Harlech to Porthmadog 20.1.22

For some reason I do not appear to have many photos of this walk and the first one I have is very strange indeed – captions very welcome…….

Anyway, after leaving the car in the station car park at Porthmadog we take the coast train to Harlech and start walking northwards. The terrain is pretty featureless, one flat field after another until we hit the concrete service road for the recycling centre at Morfa Harlech – yahoo!

From here the path winds up through scrubby heath which then gradually turns into marshland the nearer we get to the coast. It’s not that clear but you can see Portmeirion across the estuary (the white buildings in the distance).

Trudging along with heads down we miss the turning over the footbridge and have to retrace our steps (it’s at this point I realise how tired I am from yesterday’s walk).

At one point we climb over a stile and are directed onto a narrow, uneven path. I decide to take it very slowly as I do not want to twist my ankle again. We follow this path for about 2 miles and half way along I see two women and their dogs coming towards us in the opposite direction. They are walking briskly and quickly and to my dismay I realise that on the other side of the fence is a wide flat track going in exactly the same direction…..ah well, too late now.

Eventually we cross the railway line and head up to a minor road where we turn left. We are both faint with hunger but there hasn’t really been a good place to stop for lunch. About half a mile up the road we spy a shelter on the platform at Llandecwyn station but it is a modern structure with very little shelter from the cold wind – we walk on.

Just around the corner is the shiny new road bridge over the River Dwyryd and on the other side a sheltered little picnic spot with tables and benches – yippee!

The view over the river is beautiful………..all the more so on a full stomach.

Refreshed, we follow the road though a town with the impossible to pronounce name of Penrhyndeudraeth where we find somewhere for a cup of tea. Everyone in the cafe is speaking Welsh apart from a young girl with a baby who is sitting at a table full of Welsh speakers who intermittently break into English to keep her in the loop. I am fascinated and listen hard to see if I can recognise any words – I get thank you and goodbye. I think it is the first time in my life that I have been surrounded by Welsh speakers, since although I was brought up in Wales, practically nobody spoke it in my part of the country.

After that little interlude we have some main road walking to do. The cars whizz by at what seems like a devilish speed, but they’re probably only doing 40 mph. I take a break to photograph these unlikely beasts.

After a mile or so we pass through the town of Minffordd, one of the stops on the Blaenau Ffestiniog railway. This is a narrow gauge heritage railway which stretches for 40 miles within Snowdonia National Park – it seems to be closed for the winter.

And now it’s time to turn off to take a look at the fantasy village of Portmeirion.

Well known as the location for the 1960s cult TV series The Prisoner, Portmeirion was designed by the architect Sir Clough Williams Ellis and stands on its own private peninsula, surrounded by acres of parkland. Here is the link:

Alas, the village is closed so we consult the map and decide on a footpath that looks like it may take us back to the road a mile further up. I am slightly worried about the path as the little dots seem to peter out when they come up against the railway line but we decide to take our chances. We end up in a field behind someone’s house nervously expecting a yappy dog to come shooting out of the hedge, hell bent on taking a bite out of our ankles.

We wander around the field a few times, really not wanting to retrace our steps, until I spy a path on the other side of a stone wall and there is a gate which we climb. Gratefully we tumble down on to the gravel path which takes us through a pleasant patch of woodland, over the railway line and back to the road.

It is now getting late but we have only the bridge over the estuary to cross before we reach Porthmadoc. The bridge has a cycle path, a road for cars and a footpath which runs alongside the narrow gauge railway.

I apologise for these two videos – they were meant to be photos but my finger must have slipped.

After our reunion with the car we drive off to our BnB, tug very muddy boots off our tired feet and nip across the road to the pub. The Union Inn has an open fire and everybody is speaking Welsh – wonderful!

Distance: 13 miles

Dyffryn Ardudwy to Harlech 17.1.22

A huge help for our walks in this area is a lovely little train line that runs along a section of the West Wales coast from Aberystwyth to Pwllheli. This means that 15 minutes after getting on the train at Harlech we roll into Dyffryn Adudwy station, and 5 mins later we’re back on the beach where we stopped last October.

A long stretch of golden sand beckons and it is a beautiful day. The beach is fringed with sand dunes and as we walk they get higher and higher.

After a while, signs of civilisation appear and a quick look at the map tells me we are approaching Shell Island, which since the 1950’s has become one of the largest camping sites in Europe. Before this development the land was used for farming and going further back, the story goes that it was from here that King Charles 1st secretly fled the country for France in 1640. The old farmhouse is believed to be haunted and sightings of the ghost of a young female have been reported. (looking for the toilets perhaps?)

All is quiet today however as we wander around past the camping store and through a barrier onto a narrow tarmac road. The sign at the start alerts me to the fact that the road is a causeway and not always accessible. Further research reveals that the island is what is called a barrier island – here’s the link for those who are interested.

This very well kept road twists and turns through the marshes past Llanbedr Airfield where we turn right and head down a minor road, over the railway tracks at Llanbedr and then left back onto the Welsh Coast Path.

At one point we climb over a stile (getting more and more difficult as the years go by) and I am pulled up by the sight of the stream below. Who knows what has caused this but I don’t think it’s anything good.

A little later a movement in the hedge catches my eye …………he keeps us entertained for a few minutes until he gets bored and scampers off.

We are now walking along the bank of a small river and eventually come to a footbridge. There is a pretty gate to open and close.

Closing the gate we turn left which we quickly realise is the wrong way, and on retracing our steps I manage to twist my ankle on a hump of grass – not badly but enough to make me fall over and enough to make it very difficult to get up on my feet again. I have now lost count of how many times my ankle has given way underneath me right from when I was a young thing Grrrr……

Anyway, my walking boot has enough ankle support for me to carry on walking so………on we go. After a short stretch along a main road the path turns left down to Pensarn Station and down to the harbour.

We walk through a group of enthusiastic young people gearing up to some water sport or other, into a soggy field overlooking the harbour. There are some large rocks marking the small slope down to the water so we decide to avail ourselves of these and stop for lunch. The sandwiches are as soggy as the landscape but we wolf them down – there’s nothing better than eating in the open air when you’re hungry after a morning of walking.

But we have still a long way to go so refreshed we hit the road and march smartly up the minor road for a couple of miles, down a path, across the railway line (again) and through a gate which takes us on to the beach. From here it is a 2 mile walk back to Harlech.

The sand is hard and slightly damp – perfect for walking.

As we approach Harlech the path skirts the golf course and coming off the beach we are met by this quirky structure …….no idea and nor does Google.

Harlech Castle towers above the lower part of the town and as we still have some daylight we decide to pay it a visit and maybe find a cup of coffee somewhere. Alas it is Sunday and the castle and cafe are closed.

Before heading for our BnB I am struck by a ghastly statue outside the castle walls of a weary, battle worn man on a horse. The man seems to have no arms and his legs are missing from the knee down. Slung behind him with his feet sticking out, is what looks like a dead child.

This is what I discovered – the Two Kings statue at Harlech Castle in northwestern Wales was sculpted by Ivor Roberts-Jones and unveiled in 1984.The sculpture depicts the Mabinogion story of Branwen, a lament of the folly and carnage of war.

Fair put me off me dinner………..

Distance: 12 miles