June 29, 2007

Up at the usual time for breakfast; this morning we were leaving the Snowdon Ranger hostel and moving down to the Kings hostel near Dolgellau. But that was only a few miles away, so our plan was to visit the Lleyn Peninsula. It was still raining, but the weather forecast called for the rain to stop and be replaced by sunny weather.

By the time we finished breakfast, the weather was looking promising. We had found the forecasts to be quite good over the last few days, so we checked out and set off towards Lleyn. First we stopped off at a beach by the Caernarfon airport, just for a walk along the rocky beach. It was still cloudy and windy and almost nobody else was there, but we did see one intrepid soul plunging into the water.

Then off we went to our first walk. In one of our guidebooks we had read about a Roman-era hill fort on Tre’r Ceiri, which is one of the three hills called Yr Eifl. After a bit we managed to locate the start of the path, which is near a lay-by on the B4417 near Llanaelhaearn. (Yes, we are in the heartland of Welsh-speaking here.) Leaving the car we walked along the road a bit, then went through the gate and climbed steeply up through the field full of sheep. It took us a half hour of climbing to reach the top, where there was a stone wall encircling about 150 hut rings. It was absolutely amazing to see the remains of the fort. In their day, which would have been about 2000 years ago, the walls were four metres high and the hut rings roofed with thatch or heather. How they supplied 500 people with food and water on top of the rocky hill is hard to imagine.

Back at the car we drove down to Aberdaron, the last town at the end of the peninsula. The roads on the peninsula were not too narrow, so driving was not that difficult. We did find that following a bus was a good strategy, as meeting a bus would force oncoming vehicles to slow down and move over.

In Aberdaron we found the car park in the town centre and paid the ₤3 to park there for the next few hours. First of all we walked up the hill to the bakery and stocked up with Welsh currant buns for lunch. Our walk began by climbing up the steep road out of the town, eating the buns as we climbed. Then we branched onto the Lleyn Peninsula coastal path and headed west. The first thing we saw on the path was a large snake, pale green with a pale chevron on its back. (Later we found out that this was a common, and harmless, grass snake.) It quickly slithered out of our way and we carried on.

The path was a typical coastal path, undulating along the cliff edge. At one point we dropped down to the sea, where there was a place for launching boats, and then climbed up again. The weather was cooperating and we got quite hot, but it still wasn’t sunny. But luckily the grey clouds overhead didn’t produce any rain. We came to the place where our AA book said we should leave the coast and go inland towards a building, but there were only fences with no gates and we couldn’t find the way. We thought perhaps we had gone too far so we turned around, but still couldn’t find any path inland. We met another couple with an Ordnance Survey map of the area; they confirmed we were where we thought we were, but also couldn’t find this path. So instead of returning to Aberdaron, we carried on along the path to Pen-y-Cil, the last point of land. From here there was a view towards the nearby Bardsey Island, and also all around the Welsh coast and over to Ireland.

Now we were on our own. The couple with the map had given us instructions which were supposed to get us to the road back to Aberdaron. We weren’t really convinced that we were following those instructions correctly, but we followed the National Trust signs around the fences for what seemed like miles until finally we did meet a road. So we followed that road, ignoring all side roads and standing aside whenever a car passed. One car stopped and the driver asked us for directions, but we had to say we didn’t know where anything was.

It only took us about half an hour to get back to town. We celebrated by having an ice cream bar, then got into the car to drive to Dolgellau. Getting to Dolgellau was straightforward, but locating the hostel was difficult because we hadn’t done our homework. It turned out to be one mile up a precipitous one-lane road in the forest some distance west of the town.

We checked in and found there were only seven people registered for tonight; school groups don’t come on weekends. We also found out that the hostel didn’t do dinners, so we went back down the one-lane road to the George III hotel/pub for dinner. The food was a bit more expensive than pub food, but maybe it was a bit better. At any rate there was plenty of it. Back at the hostel we had showers then sat in the lounge talking to two of the other guests. One was a woman from Ohio who was cycling around, and the other a British man who had done a lot of cycling, including racing. After finishing our journals we went to bed about 11 pm.

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