Last days in Wales

By this time we knew we would have to be heading back to the south west as we had a music festival to attend in just over a week’s time. We decided to head inland and then south through the borders to complete a circuit albeit a bit faster on the return leg.
Our next stop was Carrog Station campsite, yet another campsite next to a steam railway, where we shared the field with a 2CV club rally and a number of other families. The campsite was busy with people starting their summer holidays and a large group of children were playing football using jumpers for goalposts, until one group turned up with actual goalposts. They moved onto rugby later that evening and were still playing when the campsite was dark.
The next morning we moved on to Chirk Castle as early as possible. Here we parked the motorhome and got our bikes out for a ride along the Llangollen canal cycle route.

Long tunnel on the Llangollen Canal – barges and bikes alike needed lights for this one

We followed a pleasantly green and shady canal tow path to Thomas Telford’s impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct where canal boats can cross the Dee valley and feel on one side as if they are suspended in mid air.

Canal boats crossing the Pontcysyllte aqueduct


Not much room for bikes and pedestrians, but at least there were railings on this side

Then we carried on through Llangollen to the Llantysilio falls, a spot we often see from the A5 in passing but have never visited.
When we got back to Chirk Castle we spent the afternoon wandering around the National Trust property and gardens, enjoying the mixture of periods covered from medieval (and later attempts to create a medieval atmosphere) through to 20th century history.

Round towers at Chirk

We moved further south after Chirk to stay near Presteigne; we initially attempted to find a spot in the town’s car park which allows overnight parking, but it was a small car park and we were too big to fit into a space and allow other vehicles to get around us so we headed back to the edge of the town where a small picnic spot provided our overnight location plus the company of another couple in their Burstner who regaled us with stories and pictures of their travels across Europe.

In Presteigne it was the day of the summer fete which provided our evening’s entertainment, including some late night revellers waiting for their taxi. Their conversation was loud but amusing.

From Presteigne we did a circular walk to take a couple of sections of Offa’s Dyke. I know that the Dyke is just an earthwork, but we were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t more impressive. The hot and humid weather didn’t help and we returned to Bertie sweaty and grumpy (I’ll let you guess who was which).

Our final stop in Wales was in the Wye valley again near the village of Brockhampton, in fact it wasn’t really in Wales, as the drive down south meandered between Wales and England several times. But we counted it as Wales as we hadn’t yet crossed the Severn Bridge, which was really the mark that we had left the country.

Leaving via the Severn Bridge – it’s free in this direction!

We also had good news this week that we had received a full refund for Paul’s walking boots (see earlier post). Hats off to Millet Sports who were the retailer and dealt with our return very graciously and to Salomon who have a two year no quibble guarantee on their footwear, fingers crossed the current pair of boots will not have the same issues though. 

A new way up

After Anglesey we headed back into Snowdonia for a third and final time on this trip. The weather was glorious and a mountain walk was called for.

Now, we have been trying to do new stuff rather than old favourites on this trip, but I couldn’t resist a walk up Snowdon. Still by far my favourite mountain with it’s figure of eight ridges that provide exciting and exhilarating ways to the top and beautiful vistas once you get there. I know that lots of people don’t like the railway or the visitor centre, but for me they are all part of what makes Snowdon Snowdon, or perhaps I should say Yr Wyddfa.

In order to make this a new experience we decided to take routes up and down that we hadn’t done before. So a plan was hatched.

Overnight we stayed at Lookout Car Park. A small car park and viewpoint on the east side of Snowdon it had beautiful views into the Gwynant valley and up to Snowdon itself. We ate our dinner there and spent our time enjoying the view of the mountain in sunshine.

Bertie watching the sun set from the lookout car park

The next morning we took the Sherpa bus to Pen-Y-Pass car park. From here we were going to ascend, not by our usual route of Crib Goch, but via Y Lliwedd. Pen-Y-Pass carpark was already full at 9am, but we saw very few people once we left the miner’s track and started up the ridge to Y Liwedd. The beautiful sunshine, occasional puffy cloud and cooling breeze made perfect walking weather – not too hot and not too cold – and the visibility meant we could enjoy the views all the way to the summit. The ridge walk could be as easy as you wanted it to be, but you could also stick closer to the crest for a bit more scrambling excitement and exposure. As we looked across at the queues of people on Crib Goch we decided that this might become our new favourite route to the summit.

Looking up to the summit from the Glaslyn ampitheatre

By the time we reached the top the weather had become a little more cloudy – mist repeatedly rolled in over the summit and then rolled away again. We popped in to see the visitor’s centre and café – I haven’t been in since it was renovated some time ago – it all looked very smart, but busy, and we were quickly out again to eat our lunch near the summit. Here the seagulls were diving in to try and steal food from anyone who was eating, a sign of how busy the summit was as people queued to walk up from the station to the summit to get their picture. 

We made our way down via the start of the Rhyd-Ddu path before turning off and heading to Nant Gwynant. A pleasant descent that avoids a lot of the scree and worn pathways of the more popular routes. There was a lot of path construction going on here, making it feel as though the path was being laid as we walked.

Path building materials on the way down to Nant Gwynant

Finally we made it down to the car park and bus stop at Nant Gwynant. While we waited for the Sherpa bus back to our carpark we sat by the river and watched thousands of minnows swimming in the shallows as well as a couple of larger eels that relaxed in the deeper water.

Minnows in the shallows

Using the buses had extended our options for the walk and meant we could avoid trying to fit Bertie into one of the popular car parks. At £1.50 per person per ride it couldn’t be much cheaper, something we’ll do again even if we aren’t in a motorhome.

An awesome day on Snowdon was ended with a drive back to Betws-y-Coed for a pub dinner and a final overnight stop in the station car park before heading off and making our way south. 


Blogging Anxiety and our final days in Anglesey

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a week, this has caused me a little anxiety, but not quite enough to motivate me to blog. The reason for a lack of blog activity is that I am now back in Devon and enjoying time with family and friends and it’s left little room for sitting at a laptop tapping away about stuff that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

But I know that if I don’t get on with it I will have a month’s worth of blogging to catch up on and that sounds like hard work. So I’ve finally forced myself to hole up in the motorhome and get on with it.

It has been more than two weeks since we left Anglesey. Our final few days were spent in coastal locations to the North and South of the Island.


We stopped in Amlwch at a car park near the harbour, where there is easy access to the coastpath leading eastwards. It was here that we had our first real NIMBY experience. I’ve always known that there would be people who don’t like motorhomes parking up, you only have to read the views of my home town Exmouth’s community facebook forum to know how vitriolic people get about ‘freeloaders’. And in Amlwch there are ‘No Overnight Camping’ signs on the carpark which did indicate that there may be a few disapproving people about. So it wasn’t a great surprise to be met with an individual who took exception to us having been there overnight. We had an interesting debate about the difference between overnight parking and overnight camping before he threatened us with a very personalised fine ‘because I’m on the council’. 

Anyway that was after we’d spent a very pleasant day and quiet evening (we were the only vehicle in the carpark until the dog walkers showed up in the morning) in the local area. So we were able to get in the motorhome and chug off to our next destination.

The coastline to the east of Amlwch is invitingly rocky – if you are a fisherman – the rocks step down to the sea, and the water is relatively deep directly off shore. So we had a walk along the coastpath and stopped a couple of times for Paul to do a spot of fishing. Along the way we watched some local gig racing between Porth Eilian and Amlwch. Not knowing who we were supporting we gave them all some encouragement. It looked like hard work. 

Gig racing across the bay

We walked out to the lighthouse on the headland just beyond Port Eilian where we spent an hour in the sun watching the dolphins (or possibly porpoises) frolicking in the sea, some of them came pretty close to shore and then seemed to follow us as we retraced our steps back to the motorhome. They were probably the reason that Paul had little luck fishing that afternoon, but later that evening we went back out for a spot of fishing on the high tide which was more successful.

Plas Newydd  

After Amlwch we popped to the National Trust ‘stately home’ at Plas Newydd. The house and estates had some interesting features. Particularly Rex Whistlers trompe-l’oeil mural in the dining room which was fascinating, with it’s clever use of perspective to make the scene change according to the viewers position, and the collection of military memorabilia, including the wooden leg of the first Marquess of Anglesey who lost his leg at the battle of Waterloo. Paul also provided some entertainment doing a bee’s ‘Waggle Dance’; we had stopped to listen to a talk about bees which was probably more aimed at children, but with only two teenagers available and a lot of interaction to get through the bee lady decided that Paul would take least persuading to wiggle his bottom in public. I laughed so hard I forgot to video it.

Beekeeper Paul

 Following this we had a quick overnight stopover on the south coast at a small parking space next to the Sea Zoo. Really it was too small for us but we were tired and not inclined to move again, so wedged ourselves in as tightly as possible and hoped that no one else wanted to join us. Another motorhome did turn up but they opted for a spot a couple of hundred yards up the road. Phew.


Beaumaris was our final stop on Anglesey. Here there is a large car park on the sea front which tolerates overnight parking (although yet again there are ‘no motorhomes, caravans etc’ signs at the entrance of the car park.

Beaumaris was busy – a sign of the impending school holidays. There were coach parties galore visiting this pretty and tourist friendly village with it’s impressive castle (we only saw it from the outside) and narrow streets. The seafront itself is long but not a beach for sitting and sunning yourself on.

From Beaumaris we cycled to Penmon point. The land here is privately owned and cars or motorhomes pay a toll to drive to the car park. Motorhomes are allowed to stay overnight but we decided to cycle here instead. On the way we took in a small ruined castle – Castell Aberlleiniog, he ruined priory at Penmon point; the immense dovecote near the priory and the lighthouse with it’s fog bell marking the channel between the point and Puffin Island.

Ruined castle
Inside the dovecote with spaces for 1000 birds




That evening we saw the most amazing cherry red sunset as the sun dropped behind the castle – hopefully the shepherds delight of fine weather the next day. 

Bertie in the sunset at Beaumaris

That was it for Anglesey – the following morning we drove through the – just wide enough – arches of Thomas Telford’s Menai bridge and headed back across to the mainland. 

Breathing in to get through the arches




Bald Rubber

One of the things we had to do while in Anglesey was replace our front tyres.

Paul had noticed that Bertie wasn’t driving quite as responsively as previously (if you can ever describe a motorhome as responsive) and when he took a look at the tyres we realised why. The tracking must have been out (in fact we discovered later that it was so badly out that it went off the scale) and the tyres we starting to become bald on the inside edges.

We had a little look at our options, and our research showed us that there were as many different opinions on the right tyres for Motorhomes as there were (often self-styled) experts. At least we knew we would be agreeing with someone, no matter what decision we made.

The key questions were; should we buy specialist motorhome tyres, should we buy Mud and Snow (M+S) tyres and should we buy premium tyres.

Specialist motorhome tyres are made with stronger sidewalls, the idea being that they are better (will prevent the sidewalls cracking) for heavy vehicles that spend a lot of time stationary. This is all very well for people who use their motorhome a few times a year and leave it stationary in storage for the majority of time, potentially less important for us as we will be moving frequently.

Mud and Snow tyres are usually ‘all season’ tyres intended for those mushy surfaces where it is difficult to get traction. They are not winter tyres. In some countries they are required over certain periods of time or in certain conditions, but these requirements would not impact our plans for the next twelve months. 

And as you might expect there are varying opinions about the need to spend money on a ‘quality’ tyre, with many people swearing by some of the cheaper manufacturers and other people only going for the named brands.    

In the end we opted to buy Michelin Agilis Motorhome tyres – so answered yes to all of the questions. With so many differing opinions, and little expertise ourselves, we had to rely on reviews and feedback. Michelin Agilis tyres had good reviews from both trade press and the general public and the only poor reviews we found were in relation to the cost rather than the performance, so we ended up spending the extra money on them. 

Of course if we were spending money on decent quality tyres then we needed to sort out our tracking/wheel alignment. This was harder work that we’d envisaged.

The best price we could find for our tyres was through Black Circles, so we ordered them to be delivered to ATS in Llangefni. However, despite asking in advance, ATS couldn’t do our tracking. So they fitted them and we then had to find someone else to sort out the tracking for us. It took driving around a few garages to eventually find somewhere willing and able to sort it out; it felt like some garages just couldn’t be bothered with anything out of the ordinary. In the end we found A&R tyres in Gaerwen, and wished we had gone to them in the first place, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. It had been a frustrating experience but at least it ended well.



Being Certified

Yet again we needed water and so we looked around for a campsite to fulfil our needs. It just happened to be the weekend, and the weather was predicted to be good, so all of the coastal campsites we tried were booked. I expect we’ll find this more as we head into July and August.

In the end we found a CL site inland which had availability and so we plumped for that one – we could always get on our bikes and go to the coast, it’s not like Anglesey is that  big an island.

CL stands for Certified Location, and indicates a small campsite that is certified for a maximum of 5 pitches by the Caravan and Motorhome club, the landowner doesn’t require planning permission as they can be ‘Certified’ by the club. They are typically on farms or other private businesses that have a bit of spare land, and sometimes have grown to have more pitches that are not associated with the club. The  idea of these sites is that you use the facilities in your van and so the cost of running the site is lower for the owner who doesn’t have to provide toilets, showers etc, so they usually offer little in the way of services apart from the basics; water, effluent disposal and sometimes electricity. The Caravanning and Camping club also have a similar scheme of Certified Sites (CS), as do some other clubs. 

The site we found was Bodnolwyn Wen, a pretty little field at the back of the owners house with pitches for 5 units and also three cute wooden self catering units. Because this was a cheaper site at £12 we decided to stay for a couple of nights to give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the good weather. The problem with wild camping is that you don’t tend to indulge in ‘camping behaviour’ ie winding out the awning, getting the chairs and table out, and having a BBQ. And when the sun is shining it’s nice to do all of those things. So the awning was deployed and we indulged ourselves with a BBQ for tea. The owners dogs even helped with the washing up, the BBQ grill has never been so clean! 

Pitched up on the campsite

While there, in between mooching around enjoying the sunshine, we cycled out to Church Bay on the west coast of Anglesey. This was a lovely little cove where I paddled, but sadly I hadn’t taken my swimming costume for a dip.

Church Bay – the sea was invitingly clear

On the way there we visited Melin Llynnon, Anglesey’s last working windmill. Anglesey is a fairly flat island, exposed to strong coastal winds, so it’s no surprise that there were windmills here – you can see the buildings in various states of repair across the island. This one has been restored and also has a nice little cafe. Sadly there was no wind that weekend so the sails weren’t turning Then we followed the coast southwards past more small coves before turning inland again back to the campsite.  

Working windmill at Llynnon


Puffin Watching

Anglesey has it’s own adjacent island in the north west corner, a smaller fractal image of the relationship between Wales and Anglesey; this island is Holy Island and in it’s north west corner, repeating the pattern again, is South Stack island.

South Stack island and lighthouse

South Stack and the cliffs of the coastline in it’s immediate vicinity are home to massive colonies of seabirds. We parked at the first RSPB carpark on the road up to the cliffs and walked the rest of the way. Near the top is a café and a separate RSPB centre with helpful staff, live cameras watching the birds and telescopes that can be used to view the cliffs. As soon as you breast the final curve of the hill on the approach to the island you can hear the birds. Their cacophony is such that you wonder why you couldn’t hear it from miles away. Thousands of – mostly – guillemots sitting on the cliff faces opposite you create a wall of noise as they jostle for their position on the ledges. You soon realise that what looks like rock in the distance is just more birds, closely packed in ranks along every crack and crevice that will hold them.

Seabird Covered Cliffs

This is a place where you can spend hours just watching and listening to the birds. When they aren’t sitting on the rocks they are the myriad specks you can see washing backwards and forwards on the sea, or the birds flying around and diving into the water. Although the guillemots for the larges group there are also razorbills, terns, gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars and the cutest member of the Auk family – the puffin.

Puffins are hard to spot, but there is one thing that helps, most of the other birds here are monochrome, black, white or grey. But the puffins give themselves away, initially with their brilliant orange feet and then, less noticeably at a distance, with their iconic multi hued beaks.

We spent ages trying to spot them on the cliffs, only finally being successful after overhearing another group talking about where they had seen them – on the cliffs facing south stack island. So that evening we walked down the steps to the bridge that crosses to the island and it’s lighthouse. From there we could see cliffs that had been hidden from view and finally we saw the tell tale splash of orange – only for that puffin to decide that it was time to retire for the evening (it did this by turning round and shoving it’s face into a crack in the rock – the fact that it’s backside was still completely exposed obviously wasn’t an issue). But now we had our eye in and we finally started to see more of them. It’s the first time we’ve seen them without having to go on a boat trip and it made me very happy. Who doesn’t love puffins?

Sadly my Camera isn’t good enough to get a great picture – but you might just see those splashes of orange

We spent two nights at the carpark near South Stack. It was a good atmosphere with campervans and motorhomes parking in various spots, and one chap who turned up on his bicycle and bivvyed overnight. We walked north and east on the first day which took us to North Stack island, and we walked south on the second day to the other area of RSPB reserve.

The view south from South Stack – with Snowdonia in the distance

While we were out walking we spotted a girl with a google camera who was filming the trail for Google Trekker, a new (ish) endeavour that allows you to follow pathways as well as roads through google maps.

Google mapping along the Anglesey coastpath

North Stack wasn’t as spectacular as South Stack, there were a lot less birds, but the walk there did have it’s moments – particularly the point at which we decided to do an ad-hoc scramble up the cliffs. This looked like a nice little route at first, a small stepped chimney between the rocks that went nearly to the top of the cliffs from our starting point which was already a good distance above the sea. When we got to the top of the chimney though there was an exposed slab that was canted at a slight angle, enough to make it feel like it would tip you back down into the waves a long way below. And beyond that slab was the final ascent of heather covered jumbled rocks that looked unpleasantly slippery without any nice handholds. Paul had already gone past the slab and didn’t want to come down, I didn’t want to go up the slab! There was a moment when I thought we were going to be the stupid people that have to call out the coastguard because we had chosen to do something we were completely unprepared for. However I managed to get my nerve up and cross the slab in a very ungainly way, and we’re still here and didn’t need to call the coastguard. Phew!     

Seal resting on North Stack island


Squirrel Attack

In the spirit of going to new places, our next stop was Anglesey. This island – off the north west corner of mainland Wales – is a popular tourist destination, but I’ve only ever been there once to get the ferry to Dublin, and Paul hasn’t been there at all.

One of the things that Anglesey is known for is it’s thriving colony of Red Squirrels, in fact they have now started to appear on the mainland too. So our first parking spot was next to the Cefni reservoir where we knew there was a good chance of seeing them.

I can tell you now – never park your motorhome under trees used by Red Squirrels (or probably any kind of squirrel). We were woken up at sunrise with a steady patter as discarded seed kernels from the conifers above us started to hit us. Every now and again we heard a large thunk as a whole cone was discarded. I swear we could hear them laughing at us for our stupidity. It did mean that it was easy to spot the red squirrels, we just had to wait for the noise to start and then to look up into the trees. They are very cute, but we will be more careful about our parking choices next time. Also in this parking spot were a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers who busily made their way up and down the tree trunks opposite us, as well as a good selection of other birds, so we had plenty of nature watching opportunities.

From the Cefni reservoir we could access the Lon Las Cefni bicycle track. This bike trail is very flat, which was a blessing after a couple of hard days cycling and walking. We took it as far as the Newborough forest and then struck off on forest tracks to the coast where we walked out to the lighthouse on Ynys Llanddwyn. Along the way we passed the shores of the reservoir before heading into the Dingle, a lovely area of woodland with boardwalks that can be explored for more opportunities to see birds and squirrels. On the other side of the Dingle was Llangefni, one of the main towns on Anglesey, and from here we followed the Afon Cefni across wetlands to the village of Malltraeth. The wetlands must have been true ‘twitcher’ territory as we saw lots of people dressed in camouflage clothing with very large optical devices. 

Viaduct over the Cefni estuary

From Malltraeth we went through the Newborough forest which is also meant to be home to a large population of red squirrels, but we didn’t have our squirrel sensing device (aka Bertie) with us and didn’t manage to see anything there. This forest was mostly coniferous, but unlike the usual densely planted evergreen forests where only moss can grow beneath the trees, the trees were more widely spaced with plenty of plants growing beneath them and all the wild flowers made it very beautiful.

The beach on the other side of the Newborough forest was a wide expanse of sand and rocks with views of the mountains of Snowdonia across the Menai Straits ,emerging from this beach is Ynys Llanddwyn, a small peninsular  or occasionally (at the highest tides) island. Here is the ruined church of St Dwynwen – the Welsh patron saint of lovers – a light house, an older beacon and several cottages which are now used as a information centre. There were seals on the rocks and plenty of sea birds.

Lighthouse on Ynys Llanddwyn


The chapel of St Dwynwen

On the way down, the route may have been flat but the wind was in our faces and made it all feel like it was uphill. On the way back we were pushed by the wind and managed to do twice the speed to get back to Bertie and those pesky squirrels.       


Carneddau climb

We had decided to walk the Carneddau horseshoe from the Ogwen valley. The Carneddau mountains can be found on the north side of the A5 as you leave Capel Curig heading north and every previous time we had attempted to climb them we had to turn back due to poor weather and fog. This was our fault, they have always been a second choice mountain for us with the more exciting Glyderau on the other side of the valley taking first place.

We could have wild camped in one of the many laybys, but we needed to empty and refill and so we stayed at the campsite at Gwern Gof Isaf. This is a good value campsite ideally located for mountain walks direct from the campsite and it has a great atmosphere with so many walkers on site. We had stayed here before in Bertie last October for my Birthday so we knew there was hardstanding for motorhomes even though the site is mostly aimed at tents. In fact there were a number of campervans, a small caravan and another motorhome who also used the site over the couple of nights we were there, so we didn’t feel too out of place.

Returning to Gwern Gof Isaf campsite after our walk – Bertie can be seen between the trees

Our walk up the Carneddau was really pleasant and we didn’t miss the excitement of scrambling on Tryfan too much, although it was always in sight across the valley and we did end up taking a lot of pictures of it and discussing the different routes up that we had done previously, so we must have missed it a little.

View to Tryfan from the slopes of Pen Yr Ole Wen

The rains of the previous 48 hours had swollen the streams that rushed down from the lake in Cwm Lloer and added interest to the initial stages of the walk as we followed the path backwards and forwards over the water. There was a short scramble up the east ridge of the first summit – Pen Yr Ole Wen – we tried to make it more exciting but there wasn’t much opportunity amongst the jumbled rock and heather. After overheating in the sun on the way uphill the cloud started to roll over us. As we meandered along across grass and boulders to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd we enjoyed the moments that the views opened up between each line of cloud, one minute we could see for miles across to the Menai Straits and the broad estuaries at Caernarfon and Bangor, the next minute a peek at the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn, the next minute nothing but grey fog and the most immediate grass and rock.

Views from the Carneddau

Then as we started across to Carnedd Llewelyn – the highest point of the walk – the cloud cover lifted and we were back in sunshine again.

On the ridge between Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewelyn

On the slopes between Carnedd Llewelyn and Yr Elen we spotted what seemed like a strange shaped and coloured sheep, but it was a dun coloured foal. As we watched it we then saw a grey mare who was joined by the foal, the two ambled along the side of the mountain, occasionally stopping to allow the foal to nurse, it was lovely to see these wild Carneddau ponies.

After Carnedd Llewelyn we just had the downhill path that would take us down to the campsite. There was a short scrambling section but otherwise it was all straight forward paths via Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir and back to Bertie.       


New boots and tired legs

The forecast was for two days of rain, but then some improvement. We decided to sit out the rain in Snowdonia, and chose to stay in Betws-Y-Coed, tourist hot spot and home to many outdoor gear shops. One of Paul’s walking boots was letting in water and on inspection the upper had come away from the sole, so a new pair were needed.

A hole in Paul’s shoe – it was letting in water

Paul is a big fan of Salomon shoes and boots, they seem to fit him really well and don’t require much breaking in, so it was no surprise that he chose to buy a new pair that were pretty much the same as the old ones. Hopefully they will last a bit longer. I’m also hoping that we will get some money back for the old boots. Salomon have a two year warranty and these boots were a couple of months short of that. So the boots have been returned to the retailer and my fingers are crossed.

It did rain pretty persistently over the next couple of days, but our nice level parking spot in the Station car park was sheltered from the wind and central to town which was ideal for when we wanted to get out. It also meant we had good internet access, so more online shopping was done.

Parking on ‘grass-crete’ in Betws-y-Coed

To while away the wet hours, apart from shopping, we went out for a few drinks and a meal and downloaded some more TV using the pub wifi. I also did a bit more baking and made some chocolate chip shortbread.


Finally the rain eased and so we decided to go for a bike ride. After the fun we’d had on the single track in Coed-Y-Brenin we decided we’d take on another official mountain biking route and headed to the forest north-west of Betws-Y-Coed. The trail, once called the Marin trail but now called Gwydir Bach, officially started in LLanwrst but passed within a couple of miles of our parking spot so we picked it up half way round and then completed most of the circuit.

We had been warned that the ride from Betws-Y-Coed to the trail was ‘short and steep’ and boy was it steep. We were shattered by the time we reached the trail, and that set the tone of the ride, it was 25k of forest track and single track and included about 800m of ascent. The route was lovely, with some great views and some fun single track but it really tested our cycling endurance to the limit. It also tested my ability to do steep downhill sections. I’m not great at anything which requires me to go straight downhill, steep ski slopes and walking down scree both test my nerve and this ride also tested me with some of the downhill sections being pretty steep. Although I managed to go for it on most sections I had to get off a couple of times and walk down the worst of it. In the end we bailed out just before the last section of single track and followed the road back instead, we’d just had enough. Plus we needed to conserve a bit of strength for a good mountain walk the next day.    

Hafna mine – relics of lead mining in the forest


Last day on the Lleyn

Our last stop on the Lleyn peninsula was at Nant Gwrtheyrn on the north coast. This heritage centre is home to the National Welsh Language Centre as well as having some installations relating to the history of granite quarrying in the area.

We arrived at a large carpark, helpfully split into sections by wooden bollards which we assume was to stop the boy racers from using it as their personal skid pan, and although we could still see a few tell tale tyre tracks we didn’t have any late night disturbances here. From here you could see the quarry scars to the north of the village.

From the carpark there was a plunging switchback road to the heritage centre itself and although it was a good road we didn’t fancy taking Bertie down there, or back up again. As we walked down we could imagine the how isolated it would have felt for the inhabitants. The village is nestled in a deep valley on the coast with quarries to north and south making the walls of the valley seem even steeper. Leaving the village would have been a significant effort.

In it’s heyday at the end of the 19th century the village had more than 200 inhabitants living in cottages or dormitories with all of the necessary services, chapel, school and shop, but it was largely abandoned by the 1950s. Some of the buildings have been renovated and house the language school, a café and historical information. Other buildings are still ruins and once you get down to the beach you can see the old workings that would have been used to transport the quarried stone ‘setts’ from the top of the slopes down to the waiting boats. There are twisted rusted remnants of iron all along the beach. I don’t think I’d be that keen on swimming there as you don’t know what might be under the water.

Remains of quarry workings

We walked along to the quarry at the southern end of the beach where sheep and goats were now perched on the quarry ledges. It felt really remote and there were hundreds of guillemots flying around the cliffs and sitting out on the waves. Paul did a spot of fishing (caught a mackerel for our tea – but just the one) until the rain started, then we made our way up through the quarry and across the top of the cliffs, getting gradually more and more damp as the rain set in.

Goats near the quarry

As a sleeping spot it was lovely and peaceful, but quite spooky in the morning when we were shrouded in cloud and fog and could barely see anything. As this was our last day on the Lleyn it was time to move on, but not until we could see where we were going.   

Bertie in the mist


A Parcel of Pinnipeds

Pinniped means ‘winged feet’ and is the name applied to animals with flippers, such as walruses, sea lions and seals. Our next stop gave us multiple opportunities to watch common seals (aka harbour seals) along the north coast of the Lleyn.

We needed to check into a campsite after a few days wild camping as our water supplies were low. There are a few campsites along the stretch of coast between our last stop and Morfa Nefyn. We chose Hirdre Fawr because it boasted a track linking to the coast path and a nearby beach with seals. We certainly didn’t chose it for it’s price, but then prices along that coast were much of a muchness, I think that it’s quite normal for cartels to operate so that charges are fairly uniform between all campsites in an area. At £23 per night plus 50p for a shower it was definitely a ‘one night only’ stop. We managed to save 50p though by sharing a shower in a family shower room – eight minutes of hot water is a luxury when you’ve been used to showering in a motorhome.

The campsite did live up to it’s promise, so at least we weren’t disappointed. The weather that afternoon was dry and so we could explore the coast. There was a level track that took us straight to a series of small coves, and when we walked down at high tide we could see seals bobbing around in the water, with just their heads showing. There were at least six of them (it’s difficult to count when they keep appearing and disappearing) ranging in colour between creamy white and dark grey.

We walked north along the coast to the point at Morfa Nefyn. Paul did a bit of fishing but no joy (again – but it was on the outgoing tide – or is that just an excuse?). The coastline here is low and rocky, creating many interesting and inviting coves that you can spend a lot of time exploring. At one cove a pair of Shelducks and their chicks took to the sea as we approached and did the same again when we walked through on our way back.

Rocky coves along the coast

By the time we were on our way back the tide was getting much lower and the seals had found themselves spots on the rocks to rest. We saw two groups of seals sunning themselves on pretty uncomfortable looking outcrops along the coast, constantly jiggling themselves around in the clumsy looking way they have when they are out of the water. We heard them too, both their soft exhaling barks and the higher pitched keening sounds they were making. We spent a bit of time exploring the rockpools – one tip for bringing a rockpool alive (if you’ve got the stomach for it) is to squish a couple of limpets and drop them in. The crabs, shrimps and little fish like to come and scavenge what they can. We whiled away a half hour or so watching all of the sea life, but the majority of our attention was definitely on the seals.

Seals basking on the rocks


Strong Currents

Next it was back to the original plan, and so we headed back down to the northernmost ‘toe’ of the peninsula. Mynydd Mawr (literally Big Mountain) overlooks Bardsey Island and there is a National Trust car park which was our camping spot for the next couple of nights. It was difficult to find a level spot on the grassy carpark, but we did the best we could.

Bardsey Island in the mists

Bardsey Island’s welsh name ‘Ynys Enlli’ means Island of the Currents and you can see why it got it’s name at high tide when the currents race through the sound between the mainland and the island. Even when the sea is relatively calm it produces white water. Paul went down to the nearby beach to do some fishing (while I had an early night due to some unpleasant consequences of the Food Slam) and found it quite unnerving to see how fierce the currents were so close to shore.         

We went for a walk around the headland on the first day, finishing on the top of the headland where there were long views across the Lleyn peninsular. The second day we took a bike ride following regional cycle trail 43 which used country lanes (not that there is any other type of road round here) – no off roading for us on this ride.

Walking round the coast path to Aberdaron

The weather had turned out better than expected, so we stopped a couple of times to take in what sunshine was on offer. Once at Porth Towyn, a lovely deserted sandy beach, and once at Aberdaron. Aberdaron is a bustling little village all set up for the tourist trade. For us the main excitement was the free beach WiFi, we’d been without a reliable internet connection for a few days and this let us catch up with the outside world. Plus we downloaded a few TV programmes to help us while away the rainy days we knew were coming.

Views from Mynydd Mawr

On our final morning here we woke up to grey drizzle, the only thing that seemed to be enjoying this were the choughs who were busy pulling up worms from the damp grass. These red beaked, red legged members of the crow family are quite rare in many parts of the UK but we’ve seen plenty of them round the coast of wales.

Even the sheep were trying to get away from the rain – by taking refuge under our van. When we woke up to strange sounds we couldn’t work out what it was, but when we opened our door and the sheep all scattered we realised that they must have been scratching themselves against the chassis.

A police car drove up to the carpark that morning, we wondered if this was going to be our first experience of being moved on, but this was obviously just part of their rounds as they drove up through the carpark to the view point at the top, and then a few minutes later drove back out again without a second glance. 


Food Slamming

We needed to make a decision for the next stage of our journey – stick to the coast on the Lleyn Peninsula or spend some time in the mountains of Snowdonia. The weather forecast was for overcast and cool weather and so the mountains were likely to be shrouded in mist and cloud, whereas on the coast there was the possibility of an onshore breeze to push the cloud back inland and provide some clearer skies. The weather made the decision for us and so off to the Lleyn we went.

We decided to start at the end of the peninsula and then work our way back, but this plan was slightly overturned when we passed Criccieth on the A497 and saw signs for the Criccieth festival. A bit of research indicated that one of the festival events was a ‘Food Slam’, we’re not completely ruled by our stomachs, but if it has the word food in the title…

We had a couple of nights to kill before the Food Slam so we stuck with our original destination and headed for Abersoch, a small village on the southernmost ‘toe’ of the peninsula and from there to Hells Mouth beach (aka Porth Neigwl) where there was a small parking area. From here we took a walk around the headland. Paul took his fishing gear and we stopped at a couple of fishing spots and finally caught something worth eating. One mackerel doesn’t make a meal, but it made a starter for that evening.

Finally – an edible fish

What is a food slam? Well, I think the idea is that it is a combination of street food and music, not quite a music festival and not quite a food festival. I’m sure that the intention is that it is quite ‘street’ but this was Criccieth so instead the feeling was local and regional, which wasn’t a bad thing. There was a good selection of food and drink, and a variety of music from brass bands, to jazz; I particularly enjoyed Patrobas, a folk influenced band with some strong fiddle lines. There was also a young indie style band I enjoyed whose name I didn’t get – here Welsh is definitely the first language and I didn’t manage to hear all of the announcements.  

Criccieth Food Slam

We had tried to find a campsite within walking distance of Criccieth so that we could watch the fireworks at the end of the evening, have a couple of drinks and stumble back to the motorhome, but there wasn’t anything close enough. In the end we parked up along the seafront. It took us a few tries to find a spot that would work for us. The carpark and the seafront east of the castle only had car sized spaces and no easy place to squeeze in. The parking along the beach to the west of the castle was in front of homes, hotels and holiday lets; we don’t like to feel we’re blocking anyone’s view or parking spot. In the end we found a corner which wasn’t in front of anyone’s house. I don’t think it would have worked in high season but it just about worked for this weekend.

Sea wall at Criccieth

Shell Island

It’s been a week since we were in Shell Island, but we’ve had limited 3G/4G signal so it’s been difficult to post. This was also the last day of the mini heatwave, so if – as it is for us – the weather is currently drizzly and cold, hopefully this post will remind you that sometimes the sun did shine in June.

Shell Island is a sandy promontory on the coast west of Snowdonia and is reached by a causeway across tidal marshes. The causeway is closed for certain high tides but luckily for us the high tide was early in the morning so we didn’t have any hold ups. The campsite here covers a large area and is very busy and popular even in low season. It offers reasonable value pitches without any electric hook-ups but with a good selection of facilities on site, including very good showers, happy days.

We used the last of the hot weather to wash some clothes and get them dried. Paul sorted out a few odd jobs on the van. One of the jobs was to try and sort out the fridge, as we’d reported before it hadn’t been working consistently when on electric hook up. Paul had noticed some poor and unnecessary connections when he’d been doing some poking around in the van and he wanted to sort them out. Happy to report that since then the fridge and the electrical system in general have been much better behaved. 

One thing that I wanted to do while the weather was so warm was have a swim in the sea, so we walked down to the beach. The beach around Shell Island is extensive but quite rocky in places so there are a couple of main swimming areas (the pitches with easy access to these areas tend to be the busiest). The tide was coming in and the water was pleasantly warm where it was washing over the hot sand, it felt very Mediterranean. Swimming might be a bit of an overstatement, but I bobbed around in the waves for half an hour or so.

Overnight the temperature started dropping and a breeze started up, for which we were quite thankful. The next morning was bright and cheerful and much more suited to us.

For some reason we didn’t take any pictures while were here, so here is a picture of our fridge.


Downhill in Coed y Brenin

The weather was still very warm, but we decided we wanted something to do other than sit under our awning, so we took advantage of the campsite facilities for one last time before moving back the way we had come.

We didn’t go all the way back to Fairbourne, but stopped at the car park in Penmaenpool. From here we could easily cycle to Dolgellau and from there pick up one of a number of cycle routes.

View to the toll bridge from Penmaenpool. The bridge wouldn’t take Bertie’s weight.

Because of the heat we decided to head north from Dolgellau which would give us some cycling opportunities in the Coed-y-Brenin forest. What we didn’t realise was that Coed-y-Brenin is also home to a mountain biking centre with an extensive network of mountain bike trails and single-track.

Now when we set off on our travels Paul made me choose which bike to take with me, my mountain bike or the bike I had been using for commuting. And when I say he made me choose, what I mean is that he strongly suggested that I was only allowed to bring one bike and that should be my mountain bike.

I couldn’t fault his logic really, although a mountain bike isn’t as fast as a road bike it gives more flexibility. We can use them on terrain which would be challenging for a road bike or hybrid and that opens up more of the off-road routes that we (mostly) enjoy. However we haven’t used our mountain bikes for technical downhill trails for years, and when compared to modern mountain bikes they look pretty backwards, I haven’t even got disk brakes.

The cycle route followed the Afon Mawddach from Penmaenpool, through Dolgellau and then up into the forest where it eventually crosses a footbridge over the river. We stopped here to take in the view and have a quick refuel, the river runs through a steep sided gorge with multiple pools and waterfalls at this point, it was so warm it would have been nice to just dive in.

Cooling off by the river

Next to the bridge was a map of the downhill trails and we realised that we could pick up a number of trails that would take us back downhill without needing to retrace our steps. After a bit of a discussion about whether we were to old or too chicken to do it and whether our bikes would fall apart on the way down, we decided to go for it. So we bounced up and down 4 miles of red graded single track and had a great time. We may have looked a little odd, I’m not sure that many people go down these tracks with Panniers on their bikes and I know I made some strange noises on the way down, but we made it with nothing broken on us or the bikes.

The rest of the route back seemed very tame in comparison, we stopped for a bit of shopping in Dolgellau and them made it back to the carpark where we were going to stay overnight. Another motorhome joined us and then an extremely large bus sized German motorhome drove in, we looked at it with incredulity – how on earth did they expect to get parked? – and awe – how on earth had they managed the roads? – but they obviously decided that this wasn’t the parking spot for them, executed a 37 point turn and exited the car park. We saw them parked in a much more manageable layby the next morning.

While driving through Dolgellau we chanced upon a film crew who were filming a new TV series called Requiem. This was a bit of a pain as Dolgellau’s streets are quite narrow and the diversion was ‘interesting’. However it did allow us to do a bit of ogling of actors. Paul recognised Joel Fry straight away, the poor chap is always going to be the nice but dim Leighton from Trollied in Paul’s head, but we had to come back and google the rest.


If you cant stand the heat…get up a mountain

The weather was settling into heatwave territory, even Snowdonia expecting temperatures of 27 degrees, so we decided we needed to find a campsite where we could stretch out the awning and make the most of the shade it would offer.

So we stopped at a campsite in the village of Llanuwchllyn A pleasant campsite, we pitched ourselves in the top field where we could see the station for the Bala lake railway and watch the steam trains going backwards and forwards.

All alone in the campsite



Steam train ready to go

The location also gave us access to a walk up the Aran ridge in case we felt like it – which we did. One day of lazing in the shade is enough.

Our objective for Snowdonia is to tackle some hills that we haven’t climbed before. We have become creatures of habit in Snowdonia with Tryfan and Snowdon featuring in almost every trip we’ve done to date. To meet this objective I’d been studying the map, and Aran Fawddwy popped up as a good candidate for a substantial walk in southern Snowdonia.

We walked directly from the campsite and followed the well marked path all the way along the ridge as far as Aran Fawddwy before dropping down across featureless bog, through pleasant woodland and across fields to the village of Rhydymain. There was nothing particularly technically challenging about the walk, the most challenging thing was working out how to say Llanuwchllyn so that I could get the bus without too much embarrassment, but I was worried about two things – dehydration and thunderstorms.

Taking shelter from the sun

The temperature was still in the mid twenties so we took as much water as possible, our Camelbak reservoirs are ideal for this as you can drink while on the move without having to stop and find a water bottle. But we also had water bottles and our flasks (it might sound odd to take hot drinks on a walk in such high temperatures, but it’s all liquid), all of which were dry by the time we got back. The thunderstorms didn’t materialise in the end, although each passing aircraft sounded like a potential rumble of thunder. There is a cairn on the mountain in memory of a mountain rescue member who was killed by lightening, which hi-lights the risk especially when you’re the tallest point on a mountain ridge.

View along the Aran ridge

We nearly adopted a dog on the way back when we passed a farmhouse, but luckily a helpful lady we met near Rhydymain offered to take him back to his owners, he was known for going AWOL. IF we’d had to return him to the farmhouse we would have missed our bus and it would have been a long walk back.

That evening we were exhausted and too hot to cook for ourselves so took ourselves to the local pub Yr Eagles where we had a very nice meal. Standard pub meal choices but done well, including an exceptional Chocolate Torte for dessert. Just what we needed.


Up the Estuary

As we headed for our next stop – Fairbourne, just across the estuary from Barmouth – we had to pass through the lower slopes of the mountains of Snowdonia. Beautiful scenery, but all of that rock around means that instead of hedges the roadsides are mostly walled – slightly less forgiving if you need to pull in tight to let another vehicle pass. We had a few ‘breathe in Bertie’ moments but only one point where we met another motorhome and kissed wing mirrors, not too bad. 

Fairbourne, like Borth, is a seaside village with long sandy beaches, dunes and a golf course, but the Mawddach estuary has a cycle trail and kayaking and that’s why we were there.

View up the Mawddach estuary from Bertie’s parking spot

The parking spot at Fairbourne has a no Motorhome sign up, which we were assured we could ignore so long as we weren’t the type of person who leaves litter behind and dumps their toilet waste on the side of the road (who would?). It was also the busiest motorhome parking spot we had stayed at.

Bertie amongst many other motorhomes at Fairbourne

The weather had been very windy for the past couple of days – so much so that it was starting to drive us slightly nuts, one of many reasons why I could never be a lighthouse keeper. But we knew that the forecast was for the winds to drop and a spell of very warm weather to arrive. Plus the tides were ideal for kayaking with high tide in the early afternoon.

The plan was to head up the estuary a couple of hours in advance of the high tide, stop at the pub in Penmaenpool and then turn around and head back down to Fairbourne on the outgoing tide. The estuary is very shallow with numerous sandbanks and dead end channels so trying to navigate at low tide is pretty difficult.

We set off at 11:30 from our launch point, nice and close to our overnight parking spot so we didn’t have to carry the Kayak far, and navigated our way up the estuary. Behind us were three other paddlers – two Canadian style canoes and one sit-on-top kayak like ours. The paddle up was mostly easy – with only one Laurence of Arabia moment where we had to get out of the kayak and find our way across the dry and arid sandbar that seemed to stretch on forever in order to find the channel that we should have taken. 

‘Resting’ on a sandbar

We stopped for our pint at the George III inn before heading back. Route finding on the way back was easy, but fighting the strong breeze that was pushing us back up the estuary was a lot harder – we both had achy shoulders by the time we got back. 

We didn’t get round to cycling the estuary trail  the next day because it became really hot, too hot to do much except for escaping to a campsite where we could put the awning out and escape from the sun.    


Morrissey once sang about the ‘Seaside town they forgot to shut down’, and that’s what came to mind when we arrived in Borth, a town on the coast of Wales north of Aberystwyth. The long stretched out seafront, with closed shops and boarded up tourist attractions felt like it was being slowly, reluctantly mothballed. Only the golfers keeping it going.

The long crescent of Welsh coast between Pembrokeshire and the Lleyn peninsular looks as if someone has taken a bite out of it, and they are still nibbling away at the edges. In fact there are legends of medieval land that has been lost beneath the sea – the Cantref Gwaelod.

Whatever the truth of the legends, Borth has a fine example of a submerged forest, the stumps and roots of which can be seen at low tide. Originally preserved by being submerged under layers of peat, storm action has now uncovered sections of the (possibly)  6000 year old forest that will slowly start to decompose.

Submerged forest at low tide
Ancient tree roots looking eerily like a woman trying to drag herself up the sand

Borth’s other draw, in common with a lot of beaches around this area, is the expanse of sand dunes. We spent some time climbing and descending the dunes until rising winds drove us back to Bertie.

Playing in the dunes

It’s a place where you could spend a day or two, so maybe my first impression was a little unfair. 

Sunset from Borth



Midge Attack

Never let it be said that midges are a Scottish phenomenon.

Our next stopping point was the reservoir of Nant-y-Moch, by the head of the dam was a wide parking spot with a view down the valley where we chose to stay for a couple of nights. It was strangely busy during the day with passing vehicles using the small road between the A44 and A487 and double articulated logging lorries managing the single track lanes with far more confidence than we managed.

Maybe we should have expected the midges, as we headed up the road to the reservoir we commented on the way it felt like the nighlands – long stretches of single track road, but with long views as well, so you could usually see what was coming. On the final approach to the parking spot there were highland cattle grazing by the road. The weather was mild and damp. Of course there were midges. Thousands of the blighters.

After a quick walk we decided to hole up for the rest of the afternoon and evening and shut down the van – even so a few managed to find a way in, every vent was fair game, and it was pointless using the flyscreens as they could get through the mesh.

Bertie’s parking spot seen through the mist

At one point we thought we were going to have company as a VW van pulled up across the parking space, opened his doors and put out cycling gear to dry. Less than half an hour later he was off, doors slammed in disgust and top still popped up as he raced away to escape the midges. When we saw him round the next bend he had thankfully stopped to put his roof down.

The next day dawned brighter and midge free, Bertie was covered in rivulets of dead midges who must have all decided that Bertie made the ideal final resting place.

We thought we would go for a bike ride round the reservoir, the OS map showed roads, tracks and bridleways that went all of the way around so off we trundled.

We fell at the first hurdle, where the landowner obviously didn’t care that the track was marked as a public right of way and had padlocked his gates. After looking at the map we realised we’d be spending a lot of time lifting our bikes over gates if we continued down this route – so we retraced our steps and took a slightly longer route. There were a few exciting sections with a number of rivers to ford (the trick is just to go for it and keep peddling – we got wet but it was a nice day so no harm done) and some very rocky sections of track that had to be walked. We saw lots of kites and buzzards and fighter jets passing overhead. All in all it was going well until we hit a point where the track ended and the bridleway ahead passed over some boggy ground.

It’s always a bit of a gamble when planning a bike ride using bridleways. Horses can manage far more varied terrain than a bike (especially a bike powered by me) so generally we avoid anything that looks too steep, I now know to avoid bogs and marshes too. We tried to keep to the line of the path – but there was no path and we ended up having to push and carry our bikes through about a mile of grassy tussocks and boggy ditches, by the end we walked down the river as it was the path of least resistance. To top it off a herd of cows decided to make a combined run towards us which scared the living daylights out of me. Paul made some farmerish noises at them though and they begrudgingly stopped and watched us like a bunch of surly teenagers as we struggled past. It wasn’t fun, the only upside was that we could see where the track started again and after that it was a short two and half miles back to the van. In hindsight though I’d rather have turned around and retraced my steps! 

Trainers drying on Bertie’s dash after a soggy bike ride


Ystwyth yomp

We fancied doing the cycle trail alongside the Ystwyth river so scouted round for a parking spot, something that we could access easily with Bertie and would place us on the cycle path at a reasonable distance from Aberystwyth.

As an aside, I think I knew that the ‘Aber’ in welsh place names meant river mouth and preceded the name of the river, just like the suffix ‘mouth’ in Exmouth, but it still managed to surprise me that there was a river called the Ystwyth.

The parking spot we found was a picnic area near Trawscoed (translated quite literally on some maps as Crosswood – it wasn’t angry, just on a crossroads), a lovely spot with plenty of parking and picnic benches by the river. Although we hadn’t been planning to stay overnight we decided that we would be missing out if we moved on, it was a very quiet spot mostly used by dog walkers although we did see one suspicious transaction (man drove in, looked around and then left, second man arrives and gets out his phone, first man comes back, exchanges something with second man and then leaves, second man walks his dogs…hmmm. First man could have at least pretended to be making use of the car park – his undercover operations skills need some work I think), and there were a couple of pleasant short walks along the river banks.

Trawscoed parking spot, the only problem with parking under the trees is that the solar panels don’t charge as quickly.


Now it was only ten miles into Aberystwyth, so not a long cycle ride by any stretch, and on a cycle route that promised to be very flat as it followed the river nearly all the way and the only gradient was where it met the coast. But this wasn’t going to be about pushing ourselves, we just wanted to enjoy more of the lovely scenery we had walked through the day before, that mixture of deciduous woodland, river and coast.

It didn’t disappoint, the sun shone sporadically through the clouds, bringing summer warmth whenever it managed to break through. We had a pleasant meander through Aberystwyth, going round in circles as we tried to break out of the one way system. On the way back we stopped to have a picnic on the pebbled river bank where Paul saw a kingfisher, his second of this trip, yet again I missed it – I’m beginning to think he makes these sightings up! 

View across Aberystwyth from the castle
Springy suspension bridge across the Ystwyth
View down the Ystwyth river