Friday 29 May 2015

Llŷn Peninsular

Thursday 21 May 2015
This was to be our first weekend on a slightly longer trip, as I booked the Friday off to tag onto the bank holiday weekend.  It was also the postponed birthday weekend that Cathy should have enjoyed last year, but we had no can and she was still in bits after her Mum died.  So we're going to make the most of it.

I picked up Nido on the way home from work and, after loading him up and strapping my bike to the rack, we headed off.  Our first stop was the Little Roodee car park in Chester, just £1.50 for the night. One motorhome was already parked up and another joined later - safety in numbers. Without any messing we walked up to our favourite tapas bar - Porta - on Northgate Street.  We were the first in but it soon started to fill up. We enjoyed calamares, gambas pil-pil, tomato bread, jamon croquetas, chicken wings and padron peppers, all washed down with some wine.  Cathy also had a Portugese custard tart with a glass of rich desert sherry.  Well fed and watered we walked back to the van in the warm evening.

Saturday 22 May 2015
After breakfast we put some new graphics on El Nido and had a chat with one of the guy in one of the motorhomes next door.  We needed a few items in town, so walked up as the shops opened.  Firstly Lakeland for a storage box, then Cathy needed a belt as she'd left hers at home.  Then it was on to Build a Bear to buy some cool gear for Tiglet!  He now has a cowboy hat with aviator sunglasses (ready for the Malvern Show!), a bright 'Bermuda' shirt and sun hat and a very smart sequin bow-tie for those more formal evenings!  I'm sure everyone thinks we're mad but it's only a bit of fun and we needed a mascot for the van.  He has his own hashtag - #tigletontour - via @N1DOA on Twitter.

We headed off down the A55 under cloudy skies and, after stopping at the Welsh Food Centre at Bodnant for some goodies, arrived at our first campsite at about 1300.  Tŷn y Coed campsite has about 40 pitches but is very well kept, with immaculate facilities.  We had a quick chat with one of the owners then pitched up in one of the fields - just us but 2 tents arrived later in the evening.

We had lunch sat outside, by which time the skies were clearing then grabbed our walking gear and went off to find the Wales Coastal Path.  Wales have now completed the path on every stretch of the coastline and it's well maintained and sign-posted.  We had a walk in one direction, then doubled back to drop down to the beach just below the NT car park at Porthdinllaen. This was the first time since my op that I'd been to a proper beach and for the first time for years I could smell the sea - it was wonderful!  We followed the beach around and finally reached the Tŷ Coch Inn, right on the beach with great views over the bay. We sat outside with a beer, relaxing with a great view over the bay, watching people come and go.

It started to rain on the walk back so on our return to the van Cathy had some hot chocolate and me coffee, then I prepared a chicken curry with naan, which we both enjoyed; the sea air had clearly given us an appetite. I think the chilled, free champagne from Ocado helped! Cathy went off to wash up and I tidied away and we had a cup of tea before heading off to bed.


Saturday 23 May 2015
Happy Birthday Cathy! xxx
We woke to clear blue skies, although some high cloud soon started to move in.  I made the tea while Cathy opened her cards and presents. Breakfast was some artisan bread toasted and eaten outside.  I tried one of the coffee sachets - good value.  With everything secured, we drove over to empty fluids and top up fresh water then drove off for the short hop to our next overnight stop.

We stopped at Porth Iago last July and loved the scenery and isolation.  Perched on top of a sandy, cliff, the stop,is basically a field with no facilities.  But the views are stunning and, if nobody else is there, you have a beautiful, white sandy cove all to yourself.  This time it took us a while to find it, but after a few false starts we pulled into the farm yard with the weird brothers staring at us.  I paid £3 to park for the day and we drove into the field.  There were a few cars and a couple of VW campers already parked up.  Cathy prepped the flask, fruit and cake (I'd ordered some birthday sponge in two flavours) and we walked East along the coastal path.  It was warm and sunny as we walked along the cliff top, enjoying the view and sound of the blue water.  The path took us to Porthor Beach, or Whistling Sands as it's better known.  This is caused by the sand particles rubbing together and making a squeaking sound. We had a quick paddle in the clear but very cold water, then sat and had our fruit, tea and cake.  After a sunbathe we walked along the beach to the little café and back again before walking back along the path.

Back at the van we had a quick change before shuffling down the sandy cliff path to our favourite beach at Porth Iago, just above where the van was parked.  There were quite a few families on the beach with dogs also enjoying playing. It was lovely and warm so we crashed on picnic blanket.  I had a wander down to the water and walked around.  We both had a snooze and a brew and enjoyed feeling the sun on us.  At about 1600 we came back up to the van and I prepared dinner - marinated chicken, Greek salad and pitta bread.  We set up outside but it was windy and took a long time to cook the meat - by the time it was ready we were frozen! But we toughed it out, almost finishing our dinner before coming in to the van.  Cathy was enjoying her birthday champagne and after eating we put everything away, washed up and sat in the cab (with the gas heating on 21'C!) watching the sun sink. A couple of VW vans were next to us - two men with 3 boys and 3 dogs and a big BBQ!  After dinner I took some doggie treats out for them to share.  As it darkened we had a hot drink before turning in for the night. It's been a lovely day; sunny, quite warm (out of the wind) and very relaxing.  I think Cathy enjoyed her birthday and no doubt we'll sleep well again tonight.

Cool Tiglet!

Approaching Porthor beach (whistling sands)

Myrtle's Mug shot at Whistling Sands beach

Sunny but the wind was chilly

Late afternoon at Porth Iago

Sunday 24 May 2015
It rained in the night and we woke to a grey, though warm morning.  I cooked breakfast on the Cadac - bacon, eggs and bread and we ate in the van, with the side door open and a panoramic view of the cove and sea.  With everything washed up and secured, we left Porth Iago and drove the short distance to the National Trust car park at Porthor. We left the car park and walked along the coastal path heading west.  It gradually started to warm up and the cloud lifted and, by the time we returned to the van and flashed the kettle up for a brew, it was warm and sunny.  

Our next stop was a CL at Pant Gwyn, back up the coast.  This was easily found and I parked up to find the owner and our pitch.  This site comprises four separate camping fields, none of which meet the description of a CL - five pitches.  So although it was a good site with great sea views, we did feel a little seen off, as we were looking for a bit of seclusion and this site was very busy.  But it was still quiet and laid back, with good facilities and the obligatory welcoming working collie dog.  Once pitched up I prepped my bike and went off for a ride, while Cathy stayed behind to read and chill out.  I followed the B road heading NE and on the way found a small shop, so bought some fresh crab, red wine and some savoury snacks.  I carried on to Porthdinllaen, spending some time by the beach before reversing my route.

Back at the van, once everything was put away, we walked through a field of sheep and joined the coastal path, heading south.  There were some lovely rocky beaches, but we continued on to join a popular sandy beach.  The water was cold but we soon got used to it as we walked along the surf line.  After a sit in the sun, we returned along the path, stopping off at one of the rocky beaches for a sunbathe, before returning to the van.  The sun was still warm and strong, so we sat outside with a brew. Cathy had a shower while I topped up fresh water then we prepped dinner before I had my shower.  We were both glowing from the sun, but felt a little chilly despite sitting facing the setting sun. Dinner was cooked on the Cadac - new potatoes fried with chorizo, spring onions, garlic and green pepper, plus a leaf, tomato and cucumber salad.  Some pre-dinner Pringles accompanied the red wine.  As it was starting to get chilly, I went to wash up while Cathy put everything away.  We sat in the van to watch the sunset and finish our wine, before a hot drink and turning in for the night. As I type it's 2216 and there's still a thin band of red and purple light above the sea - lovely. Tomorrow we head back home after a really enjoyable and relaxing weekend.

Breakfast with a view - Porth Iago


Monday 25 May 2015
We woke to grey skies and drizzle.  After breakfast, tidying up and securing, we drove off to the National Trust house and garden at Plas Newydd, right on the Anglesey shore of the Menai Straits and with a view of the Britannia Road bridge.  We didn't bother with the house but had a walk around the gardens.   Driving back east we stopped off at Colwyn Bay for fish and chips overlooking the sea before getting hope early evening to unpack, clean and return Nido to storage.

So another good break in the van with lovely scenery and some decent weather.   

Friday 15 May 2015

A weekend in Betws y Coed

Friday 8 May 2015
Our good friends - Ray & Julie - had booked a cottage near Betws y Coed for a week's holiday.   So we arranged to stay on a campsite close-by, so we could meet up but also so Ray and I could go for a bike ride.  I booked us on to the Rynys Campsite from the Saturday, about 2 miles out of Betws y Coed, almost opposite the Conwy Falls Cafe.

But for the first night away I was at work during the day, so we wouldn't be leaving until later. Given that I picked up the campervan from storage the night before, which allowed Cathy to load him up ready for a quick getaway.  Back home after work, the rain was very heavy and I got soaked putting my bike on the rack for the first time.  But all was soon secured and after drying off we drove into the rain.  Our first stop was planned to be a Britstop on the car park of a farm shop about 15 miles away from Betws.  On arrival we took a look; the stop was fine and the shop looked great for stocking up in the morning, but there was also  Britstop at a pub just a few miles up the road.  Given it was late and we hadn't eaten, we thought it would be good to take a look and see if we could eat there.  We arrived at the pub, parked up at the far end of the car park and popped down to the pub - by now the rain had finally stopped.  It was a basic but friendly local pub and the food menu was standard fare but reasonably priced.  Cathy ordered a steak and I had ribs and, after a beer, the food quickly arrived.  Well fed and watered, we turned in for the night.

Saturday 9 May 2015
It was quite blowy in the night and we were parked under a tree; only in the morning did I look out and realise it was three-parts dead, but luckily nothing fell on the van.  After breakfast we headed back to the farm shop to do some shopping. We brought some great bread, wild boar pate, organic red wine and some welsh cakes.  I also bought a couple of OS maps.  We then decided to drive to Bala lake.  We hadn't been here since 1984, when Cathy was expecting Chris!  I drove around the southern edge and back around the opposite side, parking in the main car park close to Bala village.  We had a great view of the weather coming in from the west and sat for a while with a brew, watching the squalls come over.  Once this blew over we went out for a walk in a brisk wind, but at least it stayed dry. We walked around the lake edge as far as the sailing club, then returned to the van to enjoy our lunch.

The campsite was about a 25 minutes drive away, just off the A5 and up a steep track.  On arrival I parked up near the entrance and walked up to the house to pay and sort out a pitch. The owner was very helpful & friendly and showed me three possible pitches, including one close to the house on hardstanding, as many of the pitches were water-logged due to 5 days of rain.  I decided to take one higher up which, despite being soggy underfoot, had a picnic table right next to the pitch and great views of the hills and valleys.  With EHU on, Cathy made a brew and we had a bit of a sort out.  

There were some lovely walks from the campsite so we decided to visit Fairy Glen, a lovely area of boulders and white water from the River Conwy, in a deep valley.  The walk down was beautiful and the sun shone which, in the shelter of the valley, was very warm.  

We'd already planned for Ray & Julie to come to us for a BBQ, once they had settled into their holiday cottage. They arrived at about 6pm and we enjoyed a good catch up over burgers, sausages, salad and wine.  It was too chilly to sit out but we all fitted inside Nido and, with the heating on, he kept us toasty warm.  They headed off at about 10pm and after washing up we settled down for the night.

Sunday 10 May 2015
The next morning I was up early, breakfasted and heading out on the bike by 0930.  I'd already researched a bike ride - a 13 mile circular route but with the ride to and from the start point, it would be about 17 miles.  The ride down the A5 was great - 2 miles of downhill - and I waited for Ray at the bottom.  Once we'd RV'd we rode off through Betws y Coed, across a river bridge and immediately headed up a very steep minor road, a bit of a shock to the system! We stopped a few times to *ahem* admire the view (and catch our breath!) and finally made it to the top, before descending to ride alongside Llyn Geirionydd, a long, narrow lake.  After this we had a very steep descent into the village of Trefriw.  To say my brakes were almost smoking would be no exaggeration and even Ray was looking a little worried!  Having survived that we rode through the market town of Llanrwst, finishing with an undulating 3 mile ride, with a headwind, back in to Betws y Coed.  We stopped for our obligatory Latte at the Stables Inn in the heart of the village before heading back to our respective 'homes'.  Having enjoyed the 2-mile freewheel down at the start of my ride, I of course then had a slog back up the hill, but it was a steady climb on a busy but smooth A5, although on turning off for the campsite I did have to walk part of the hill!

After lunch, a shower and a snooze, Ray & Julie collected us and we headed back down for dinner at the Stables Lodge.  The food was basic but hot and filling and we again enjoyed a good catch up with the oldsters.  They dropped us back at the site and headed off to enjoy the rest of their week's holiday.  It was great to see them and we'll be catching up again next month in Gosport.

Monday 11 May 2015
It rained hard in the night and blew a hooley, so again the pitch was a bit waterlogged in the morning.  After breakfast, we packed a flask, Cathy's pizza doggy-bag from last night and some fruit cake and walked to an ancient burial chamber - Capel Garmon.  We carried on walking through the village before returning via a different route to the burial chamber, where we had a brew and some food.  The sun was shining with a stiff, cool breeze, but the views were great.

Back at the van we packed up, emptied fluids and headed off back home, cleaning the van before I took him back to the storage site. We enjoyed our trip and will certainly return to that part of Wales at some point.