North Wales and Anglesey – 2nd to 18th August

Porthmadog


We’re continuing up the coast to the town of Porthmadog and the first really busy seaside resort we’ve found to be busy. Tyddyn Llwyn is located a 20 minute walk from the town centre (all uphill on the way back!) where there are plenty of shops and restaurants plus a station for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways which runs restored steam engines.

We walked alongside the rail tracks before turning off to Portmeirion which was about a 12 mile roundtrip in all. Portmeirion is a Mediterranean inspired village designed by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and is built on the slopes overlooking the large sandy estuary of the rivers Glaslyn and Dwyryd. Well worth a visit and they look to be building a decent motorhome facility to allow overnight parking.

Portmeirion

From Porthmadog it was on to the island of Anglesey in what is perceived to be typical Welsh weather, ie wind and rain! On our way on to the island we stopped at Hooton’s Farm Shop and Butchery and bought some local produce (sausages, lamb and yet more Welsh cakes!). It’s only a small shop but had more choice than the previous large shop we had stopped in.

The campsite is situated almost at the end of the runway for RAF Valley, a training airport for the RAF jet pilots amongst others. We were treated to regular flypasts from Texan and Hawk aircraft, including a couple of Red Arrows. The flights seemed to be within normal “office hours” so weren’t particularly bothersome.

The weather kept us in the van for most of the time we were there but that wasn’t really an issue as it’s a good opportunity to catch up on admin and do some cleaning.

Due to sites being busy, we’re jumping around a bit for these weeks. We had originally planned to stay near Dolgellau for a little low level walking but a throwaway comment from Bob led us to change our plans. “I’ve always fancied climbing Cadair Idris” he said…. “Let’s do it then” she said, having no idea as to what she was getting into! So, three nights were booked at Dol Einon and weather forecasts checked for the best day to go up. We scoped out the track a little when we arrived because the route we were looking at wasn’t marked on the OS map but a few walkers we spoke to said the path was definitely there.

Cadair Idris albeit in the cloud

The least wet day was selected and an early start saw us on our way before 8am. All we can say is that it was wet and windy and basically three miles of walking/scrambling uphill, a mile or two of flattish walking around the ridge and then another two/three miles of walking/scrambling downhill. At no point did we see the summit despite reaching it and to this day we don’t know what it looks like!

The vis was like this most of the hike.

For location, you can’t beat the campsite which is next to the Dol Idris car park/visitor centre and at the entrance to the Minffordd Path for the Cadair Idris loop. We will have to go back in the hope that we actually see the mountain top!

Dol Einon campsite

This was to be a week of mountains as our next stop was Beddgelert in the shadow of Snowdon at the campsite in the Beddgelert Forest. Although expensive (but we have to allow for it being peak summer holidays and we had chosen the flexible booking option) it’s a good site with everything you need. It has one of the lines of the Welsh Highland Railway running behind it so the steam trains came through a couple of times a day (there was a station just behind the site but the trains didn’t stop there). The Snowdon Sherpa bus stops at the front of the campsite providing easy and cheap (£3 per adult return) access to the mountain without having to worry about parking the van in one of the carparks. The 7km long Beddgelert/Rhyd Ddu footpath also passes the campsite to enable walking to either point avoiding the road. We did walk both directions on the path, walking one day into the town of Beddgelert and then back from Rhyd Ddu after Snowdon.

Beddgelert

Beddgelert is a picturesque village on the banks of the river Glaslyn nestled among the mountains of the Snowdonia National Park and named after a dog-related legend! There is a grave in the town said to contain the remains of Gelert, the faithful dog of Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales during the 13th century. Llywelyn killed his dog by mistake, thinking the dog had killed his son but he hadn’t. On discovering his son safe and well, he buried the dog and called the spot Beddgelert. The grave is marked by some old stones (and newish engraved ones telling the tale) and trees, all of which are now fenced off.

Gelert’s story

We had been watching the weather to decide the best day to climb Snowdon but again we were denied any view from the summit by the low cloud! We took the Sherpa Bus from right outside the campsite to the base of the Rhyd Ddu path – it is a fairly short distance by bus but 5km or so to walk the footpath which we didn’t really want to do before the upward walk. The lower slopes are fairly easy with a little bit of scrambling over rocks in places and it wasn’t raining nor too windy. As the path gets higher there is more scrambling and it is quite exposed in places along a ridge but still very doable.

The visibility reduced as we got closer to the top and as we climbed the last few steps to the summit (after queuing!) it was no more than 30 metres and the temperature was just above 0C – a couple more layers of clothing were on by that point but it was astonishing to see the number of people who obviously hadn’t checked the weather and were totally unprepared for the cold.

Snowdon Summit

The walk up took around three hours and after some refreshments, we headed back down via the same route. The weather had begun to clear so we were able to see the stunning scenery we had missed on the way up, as well as finally being able to the actual summit! After the climb up the walk back down always feels a long slog and having found another footpath (we didn’t want to hang around for a couple of hours for the bus), we were able to cross country back to the campsite. The total walk was almost 10 miles and it was safe to say, we were both pleasantly exhausted by the time we got home!

The Rhyd Ddu Path

An old school trip was the reason for the next stop. June had vague memories of a visit to Llandudno and had wanted to see the Great Orme again. We found a café, the Rest and Be Thankful, on the road that goes around the edge of the peninsula where we could stay overnight – amazing views but boy, was it windy and after a couple of tries, we got the van into the best position to avoid being battered all night!

A cracking, if be windy, park up at Rest and Be Thankful

A nice surprise for the next morning was an unexpected meet up with an old friend and her daughter (June’s god-daughter). Lovely to see Julie and Lydia after so long!

Our penultimate Welsh stay was a free overnight car park at the Rhug Estate Farm Shop where we picked up a couple of bits including, yes, more Welsh cakes. We had parked as far away from the road as possible to reduce the noise not knowing we’d have the farm dogs barking until long past our bedtime, but the parking is free with no obligation to buy anything so we really can’t complain.

The last stop was the Plas Newydd CL, a short drive from the town of Llangollen over the stunning Horseshoe Pass, well when you can see the scenery that is! We were met at the gate of the CL by Alison, the owner, who gave us a packet of leaflets with details of the surrounding towns and sites to see. The CL is quiet and immaculately maintained with the grass pitches rotated to rest the grass between visitors, water and electric to all pitches plus a shower and toilet block.

The only downside was the sloping pitch, which is only an issue for longer vans and becomes most apparent when you try to bake a cake, and that there was no way to drain the grey tank directly from the van – we observed the request not to drain directly on to the pitch or the hedge behind us. Neither of these would stop us from visiting again though.

Pontcysyllte Viaduct

We visited the Pontcysyllte Viaduct on the day we arrived and despite it being a Sunday, the car park was almost empty so plenty of space for the van (cost £3). After a short walk from the car park we were on the canal towpath which heads across the viaduct over the Dee valley. There are railings on the footpath side but nothing on the otherside but the drop down to the river. An amazing piece of engineering and even more so, given its age!

The weather is beginning to feel almost autumnal and for the first day in months, trousers have replaced shorts! This has also led to a few more van days but that does mean we can keep on top of admin, housework and start making plans for the rest of the year.

We spent one day in Llangollen, parking in the Pavillion car park, just a short walk along the canal from the town centre. One of the leaflets we had been given showed a walk around the town so we decided to follow that route. We passed the Llangollen-Corwen Heritage Railway station which runs through the Dee valley (that’s the Welsh River Dee!) as we entered the town and finally came to Plas Newydd, the former home of the Ladies of Llangollen, two Irish aristocrats who escaped the expectations of society to set up home together and welcome visitors including William Wordsworth and the Duke of Wellington to their home. It’s quite a story and somewhere different to visit.

Plas Newydd

We also followed the canal to the Horseshoe Falls, following the horse-drawn canal boats to the weir and pumping station where water is drawn from the River Dee to feed the Shropshire Union Canal.

Horseshoe Falls

Having found more to do than expected in the area and not having visited any of the bars or restaurants in Llangollen, of which there are plenty, we would go back.

Sites used:

Tyddn Llywn Holiday Park, Porthmadog: £34 per night. All pitches are hard-standing and fully serviced. The park has a shop, restaurant (closed for remainder of 2021 season) and laundry facilities.

Bodfan Farm, Rhosneigr, Anglesey: £10 per person per night. No EHU (available on other pitches at additional cost) and at time of visit, only self-contained units were permitted due to COVID. Water and dumping facilities available. Large grass field, some of which is sloping.

Dol Einion CS, Tal-y-llyn, near Cadair Idris: £10 per person per night. No EHU (available on other pitches at additional cost). Toilets and showers (coin operated) available. Grass field with some hardstanding areas.

Beddgelert Campsite: £166.97 in total for 4 nights but at different rates (3 nights booked with flexible cancellation option). Pitch with EHU. Full campsite services available including laundry, shop, restaurant and bike hire.

Rest and Be Thankful, Great Orme, Llandudno: £10 per night. Café car park so no facilities. Need to arrive before café closes to register.

Rhug Estate Farm Shop, near Corwen: Free. Large car park attached to farm shop and café. Need to arrive before the shop closes to register.

Plas Newydd CL, Bryneglwys: £17 per night. Water and EHU to each pitch. Service block with showers and toilets and for grey and black water disposal. Grass, slightly sloping pitches.

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