Rest Day, 10th May: Rhiw
Miles to date: 1,373 Total Ascent: 233,835 ft
In truth, I wasn’t stopping that close to Rhiw as Aled’s base camp at Crugan Farm near Llanbedrog was still home for another night. My last night at Stable Cottage was spent trying to catch up with bits and pieces as Aled departed with more well-earned thanks for a very calm and relaxed week of his company. That afternoon cousin Mike rejoined me from his week of holiday nearby and a third week in the close confines of Snickers. His first thought of my cottage stopover was that I was selling out by living in such luxury, but I think even he enjoyed an evening on the sofa, supping a beer and watching the overtly camp farce that is Eurovision. Indeed, maybe I have identified my next project if this one doesn’t work out. Maybe I should consider buying a sparkly dress, take some singing lessons and have a sex change to see if I can bring back the title for Britain.
Stage 69, 11th May: Rhiw to Towyn (nr Tudweiliog)
After a couple of generous donations from Crugan Farm and with rain and a staunch wind in my face I made my way westwards to the end of the Lleyn Peninsula, getting my route wrong as three farm dogs enthusiastically welcomed me to their patch and in doing so distracted me from the right turn I should have taken as I blindly followed the path down to a dead-end.
By the time I had made my way back up the hill through long wet grass my feet were soggy so I took to a bit of road walking to see if the gentle squeezing action of each step would push some of the water away from my toes. It didn’t work, but with the rain easing off I was beginning to generally dry out anyway.
On reaching Aberdaron my eyes narrowed with scrutiny and a little nerdy pleasure as I came across pieces of bright blood-red Jasper lying on the beach, presumably remnants left behind from when it was mined in the area. I could have taken some huge chunks, but I didn’t fancy carrying the weight another 15 miles, so elected for a piece to fit in the palm of my hand to add to my growing collection of little keepsakes sitting in a cupboard on board Snickers.
The going was slow as the wind continued to push me back but the rain cleared completely as I rounded the end of the peninsula at Braich y Pwll for a brief glimpse of Bardsey Island. With three decent climbs taking me over Mynydd Mawr I then dropped down for a series of low cliff walks with lots of pretty inlets and beaches, including the aptly named Whistling Sands which genuinely squeaks a little strangely as you walk across it. The wind was now over my shoulder, so progress was a little faster as I listened in to Lewis Hamilton winning the Spanish Grand Prix and Man City winning the premiership with only a brief conversation with five friendly and chatty women walking in the opposite direction to break my stride.
At this point I received a text from my mobile phone network provider. “Welcome to Ireland.” Luckily my GPS is a little more accurate even if I am now a little scared of the charges on my next bill.
Stage 70, 12th May: Towyn (nr Tudweiliog) to Pontllyfni
The weather was much kinder today. Cool, breezy but with plenty of sunny spells and those lovely white puffy clouds again. The walk was very much a continuation of yesterdays low cliffs and inlets but now with added mud and standing water from heavy rain which had battered the van roof inches above my nose all night.
Our hosts at the overnight pitch at Towyn were again very generous and welcoming and even very kindly insisted on providing both Mike and I with packed lunches for the day, including one of the finest chocolate brownies I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
On reaching the Nefyn and District golf course I nearly decided to cut across the headland of Trwyn Porth Dinllaen as the return path was no more than about 50 yards across a closely cut fairway. But it was a wise choice not to as the views from the end were great in both directions and I would have missed the pretty hamlet of Porth Dinllaen, tucked neatly away under the cliffs next to the lifeboat station.
From the hamlet I was able to skirt the beach and climb back onto the path via the slipway at Morfa Nefyn for more low cliffs and a little inland detour before crossing lush pasture for a climb up Mount Pleasant and further upwards to the highest point of my entire walk to date as I took the track over the pass at Bwlch yr Eifi (1200ft) and rapidly descended into the town of Trefor guarded by the huge disused quarry buildings looming over it from the hillside.
Here I decided to grab the opportunity to relive my childhood and enjoy a FAB from the freezer cabinet of the local shop. I didn’t even know they still made them. It made a worthy treat.
Infact, the whole day was a treat. Stunning views, clear skies and a varied terrain had made this one of my welsh highlights and it was only spoilt by the last three miles of roadside walking from Trefor into Pontllyfni. But in reality, three miles wasn’t going to really spoil a good day.
Stage 71, 13th May: Pontllyfni to Menai Bridge
I was expecting lots of road walking today, but I had forgotten how unforgiving and tedious tarmac can be. So when Amy joined me for a day of trudging the black stuff, it was great to have company. From Swansea University, Amy is researching the Wales Coast Path for her PhD and wanted my thoughts and impressions so far. I happily chatted away the hours as she diligently questioned me and recorded her answers into a dictaphone. I hadn’t talked like this for months and my throat got sore after all the silence of my usual walking routine.
We stopped at a waterside bench in Caernarfon for our packed lunches with my Marmite and Dairylea wedges more befitting of a school dinner than Amy’s adult ham rolls. I completed the schoolboy picture by signing a consent form allowing Amy to use my decidedly rubbish answers and we headed off around the castle walls.
To add to the excess of tarmac we also didn’t get particularly close to the sea that much. I was also disappointed for Amy that we didn’t meet any other walkers for a chat, other than two whingers complaining about the lack of signage close to the Menai Bridge. But at least she got to appreciate that the coast path isn’t all cliffs, crashing waves and happy chatty hikers. Amy’s parents were waiting to meet her at Y Felinheli and after 16 miles we said our farewells and I was left to trudge a few more miles of tarmac.
Eventually the whingers proved to be partly right. The Coast Path signage around Parc Menai just vanished completely, but not where they said it would. Nevertheless I stayed on course and actually followed the best bit of path I’d had all day as it wandered its way through deep woods and down to the waterfront by the Britannia Bridge. In doing so I almost missed the discovery of the day in possibly the spookiest mausoleum you could possibly find tucked away in near darkness behind tall trees and complete with broken windows, crumbling masonry and heavy rusted railings. Nearby Vaynol Hall is well-known for its supposed hauntings and I can vouch that its mausoleum isn’t a place I’d be happy visiting after dark.