Time Out in North Wales
A diary of a visit to the haven of Llyn Peninsula on bike and foot
Go to the Llyn Peninsula in Wales and plan to tramp along the Edge of Wales walking paths, which follow the coast in eight sections. Visit the National Park of Snowdonia, walk or bike its trails and climb the 1085 meters to the peak of Snowdon - the fourth highest mountain in Great Britain. During warm months, spend your afternoons on sandy beaches, evenings at somewhere like Tudweiliog’s pub and restaurant, Lions Inn, and consider spending a day in Ireland. It only takes three hours for the whole trip to Dublin by ferry, which leaves from Holyhead.
Jane at the Tudweiliog Post Office store had mentioned that the north and south sides of the Llyn peninsula propagate different flora and fauna, so we chose to begin the first day’s walk on the doorstep, and compare it with the south side’s scenery on the following day. Our route was four hours from Tudweiliog to the town of Nefyn. We were following- although in the reverse direction- an ancient pilgrimage trail, which had had its heyday in the Sixth Century. It skirts along the upper edge of the peninsula until St. Buenos’ church in Clynnog Fawr, where pilgrims gathered before going on to Aberdaron and ferrying to St. Mary’s Chapel on nearby Bardsey Island.
We hugged the coastline and passed through broad expanses dotted with noisy sheep; the wind blew in gusts. There were few stressful inclines or rapid descents, and the Irish Sea air invigorated. Under the temperate skies of summer, you could stop to bathe or picnic in any of the several sandy bays along the way. This pilgrims’ path rejuvenates the body, and leaves the soul to its own devices.
In Pwllheli (Welsh for Salt Pool) we asked our bus driver how to access the coastal path. His cheeky face looked benign but puzzled; we wanted to go where he, a native who had ploughed his trusty public vehicle over the same roads, had never dreamed of setting foot.
He turned towards the young Welshman with whom he had been chatting. That fellow, addressing the driver exclusively, answered with a pointing finger in Welsh. The driver laboriously translated, and the Welshman gifted us with an additional "past the high school."
Llyn peninsula is home to a host of golf clubs – Nefyn’s, Pwllheli’s , Abersoch’s and five others within 25 miles. The Nefyn Golf and District Club is closest to Tudweiliog, and its claim to providing "golf on the upper deck on an aircraft carrier" is no exaggeration. The course stretches the length of cliff promontories that comprise two fingers of Llyn peninsula. We had walked around its outer perimeter on our first walking day and had passed an intriguing abandoned coast guard tower, with an artificial green that is the fourteenth tee.
Leaving Aberdaron, the cliff path gave us a view of Bardsey Island. I was covered with goose bumps imagining the thousands of pilgrims who’d retired to die on it. A Brit we’d met sees the medieval exodus of the elderly from their homes to Bardsey in class terms. "After all, you had to be well off," he told me. The pilgrimage idea was intriguing, however. Imagine if we reinstated the tradition. We would walk out of Vienna and travel from Refugio to Refugio until arriving at the "porch" of heaven. There we would hand over our liquid wealth, which would buy us the kindness of modern monks who would provide medical care, sustenance, and a bed until we died. As in any insurance policy, if we died quickly, the monks would stand to gain.
Snowdonia National Park (Parc Cendelaethol Eryn) covers 2,142 square kilometers and has 60 kilometers of coastline. Snowdon Mountain Railway climbs from Llanberis to Snowdon’s summit, where a new café is opening this summer, but our objective was to walk. We parked the car at Nant Gwynant, next to the mountaineer’s hotel and restaurant called Pen Y Gwryd Hotel, with its display of paraphernalia from Mount Everest climbers who once held annual reunions there. It was easy to follow the yellow oxidized-stone road that marks the Pyg Trail. Since the skies darkened as the afternoon wore on, we chose to descend the col between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain at the Miner’s Trail, the two together forming a loop of about 10 kilometres, rather than continuing to Snowdon’s summit. It didn’t matter. The climb to over 900 meters was spectacular in itself. Looking forward, tectonic slabs of granite shot up, sometimes in clusters that made me think of the Italian Dolomites. The jagged rock outcrops, black with wet lichen, do not integrate into the heather-covered earth that surrounds. This was the impression looking forward. But when I turned to look where we had travelled from, it was the rolling hills and the steely-blue water of tarns and the dozens of creeks descending between cracks in the stone that I saw.
Snowdonia is home to badgers, hedgehogs, foxes and otters -- and we saw troops of feral mountain goats. But, more than anything I felt encircled by a rock landscape. No pebbles, nothing small and round like that. Jean-Paul Sartre always likened the existential individual to stone, something at heart hard and inert and uncompromised, and here indeed I felt like a stone among rocks. Despite the wind, I experienced no desire to fly, no sense of uplift- on the contrary, the wind’s power contained and held me; I rooted to the ground. The water that leaked out of the mountainside was gathered in lskes. I was contained by the rocky landscape; the sky contained the land.
Points of interest on Llyn Peninsula not reviewed here include several castles (Cricieth, Bodelwyddon Castle with a marble church, Caernarfon), Celtic ruins- especially the archaeological site Tre’r Ceiri, and the quaint, Disneyland-like resort village of Portmeirion.
www.llynholiday.co.uk/ firstname.lastname@example.org (The owners live in Luxembourg and will cater to any special needs you might have.)