The air felt and smelt different. When I sniffed a little harder, I could catch the fresh smell of the Bristol Channel and if I continued on, I could smell manure. The first thing I thought was going to hate being out here but I gave J the benefit of the doubt. I knew he hadn't brought me to Wales for nothing (and in turn given me the worst birthday present ever)
Our explorations of the great Welsh Lands began in the Gower Peninsula, which is in the South of Wales. By basing ourselves here, we were in the best place to walk to Three Cliffs Bay and drive away from Mumbles and Rhossili Bay. We walked down steep cliffs, over rocks and walked through sinking sands and but when we got up close to the Three Cliffs, it was all worth it.
We headed to Rhossili Bay, the weather was horrible(typical weather from this part of the world), but the Worm's head was clear and a joy to photograph. The Wreck of the Helvetica on the other hand was filled with so much sand it didn’t look as impressive as the images I have seen online. I am glad that I did manage to see it from up top.
Mumbles was my favourite because of the views it has. It overlooks Swansea Bay and if you go up the hill (see a pattern here) you'll get to Oyster Mouth Castle. According to the castle's sign, it has had an interesting history. It was built by a Lord, captured by a prince, visited by a king, rebuilt by a lady, restored by a duke and then given to the people. I think they Lord just liked walking out and see the sea, and the sea of colourful houses :)
After walking up Gower's hills, we took the train to Mid Wales and made our base in Llangamarch Wells. We stayed at The Lake and Country House Spa and our hike to the place made the jacuzzi a welcome treat. It helps that it's got some of the best views in the area too. I didn't take pictures of the facilities whilst we were there because I just wanted to rest, and enjoy the moment. The most memorable part for me was the service overall. The dining service was one that I can't match with anywhere else, the food was well prepared and presented and it was great for people watching (and trying to figure out if this guy was going to propose. He didn't.)
When morning came, we got ready to go to our next location, Bewts-y-Coed.J had planned our way there and everything was going to plan until the train announced board flashed our train as cancelled. To give you an idea of the disaster that was before us, there's only one train service per 4 hours. We were on our way to pick up a hire car to help us get to the next few locations and they closed at 1:30 and the train was supposed to come at 11:11. So by the train service cancelling that train, we were going to be stranded where we didn't really want to be. The next events folded out as follows :
10:59 - train flashes back to on time. At this point I was happy, but it was too good to be true.
11:11 - train didn't turn up
11:15 - train still not there, not showing as delayed or cancelled but "on time"
11:25 - J and I start looking for Plan B. Best option increased our travel time by 6 hours :|
11:30 - I called the train company to ask what happened to their train, they didn't have a record of it being a scheduled service, but they agreed to look into it and call me back
11:32 - train company called back. There were issues with the service and so a replacement bus service was being arranged. Hurrah ! All we had to do was go and stand outside of the train station and wait for it.
11:35 - J and I pick up our bags and walk towards the gate, J opens the gate and walks through, as I followed him, I heard the train, and ran back to stop it like my life depended on it.
11:36 - Two very happy people on the train... grateful for the small mercies.
We spent a little while in Shrewsbury before hitting the road to Betws-y-coed. We made a pit stop to see the famous Conwy Falls and I was amazed at the beauty of it. It reminded me of the time when I was in Norway ! Betws-y-coed is the perfect base if you are going to head up to Mount Snowdon, but make sure you book far in advance to keep the costs down and to make sure that you get a place to eat. Also if you go, make sure you go to the Stables Bar. Alcohol is sold at a good price, the service is great and the atmosphere is off the charts ! We will return to this part of Wales, so I can go and climb Mount Snowdon. I just need a few hiking sessions under my belt before I attempt it.
After another filling Welsh breakfast we went out and headed to Bonce below where fear and I had an encounter. We explored a little bit of Blaenau Ffestiniog that happens to be where slate is mined. It's also home to the Ffestiniog train which was first used to transport slate and is now used to transport people from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog and beyond. For J this was heaven because he loves trains, and this being a steam train was even more exciting.
We drove to Porthmadog as opposed to getting the train because that seemed more cost effective, but as we pulled into Porthmadog, I realised our mistake. The view of the train pulling in was breathtaking. The steam of the train with the mountains and the village as a backdrop was something out of a picture book yet here it was in front of me.
After lunch, we went out and explored the train station, where we saw a train pull in, another pulling out with the small steam engines and then a bigger steam engine train pulled in and when I saw what was written I jumped up and down like a little girl. It was a South African Railways Engine. Seeing that reminded me of my granddad who used to be a train driver back in the day. It was a moment of connecting my past and my future. That's the effect that travel can have, making connections in ways we least expect.
We took a pit stop at Caernarfon which is probably the first place I have visited which has a town that's still living within castle walls. The weather wasn't inviting so we didn't spend a lot of time there. Besides, Abergele was calling.
Out of all the places we went to, Abergele was the most beautiful. I know it sounds cliche but hear me out. All the other places were more populated, a lot of people taking walks with their friends and family and their dogs but I didn't see any of that there and I liked that. I liked that for a little while all there was were the rolling hills that stretched far and wide, our thoughts, the sheep and us. It was serene and I wanted bottle that feeling up to keep it forever. But my tummy started growling so we went on the hunt for some food.
We had a lot of food during our trip, all of it good, but none of it until now was worthy of a mention. We were disappointed that our bed and breakfast for the night didn't provide dinner (well they do but you have to tell them in advance. They were helpful as they did give us some recommendations to where we could go to so we headed to The Old Stag. This homey pub didn't look amazing on the outside. We weren't sure about how to order or any of those little details so J went and got us some menus. I've started liking having a roast dinner on a Sunday because I guess that's the English way ( still not a big fan of tea) and so when J came back and told me that there was no roast beef or chicken my heart sank. When the waitress came over to get our orders, she recommended the lamb instead which we gladly took. When I took the first bite, I couldn't speak. It was the best meal I have ever had. The whole way through I couldn't stop talking about how amazing it was I'm sure J got a lot tired of me talking. So if you do end up in that part of Wales, please go to The Old Stag. You can thank me later.
Abergavenny welcomed us to the end of our journey. After 6 days, I had a new appreciation for Welsh full breakfasts, coffee, and a good bed and breakfast. I enjoyed walking up hills, didn’t enjoy getting lost much and almost being stranded was an eye opener. Most importantly, I worked on my fears and that was one thing I did not anticipate happening when I was away. It’s funny how the experiences that shape us, are those we least expect.
So like these stallions, I’m going to work on being free in the wild :P. Wales took me on the best adventure since I’ve started travelling and I’m so grateful for J for booking this trip for us. Have you been to Wales ? Are you planning to go ? Tell me in the comments below :)
Till next time