Encountering the attractions of Harlech18th December 2006
Last Saturday, I took myself off to Harlech in Wales for a few hours of walking. Getting there and back was a rail-only affair with a change in Wolverhampton. The arrangements for the onward journey take a small bit of explaining: two car DMU from Wolverhampton (it starts out from Birmingham) to Shrewsbury, joined to another two car DMU at Shrewsbury, train splits at Machynlleth with one portion proceeding to Aberystwyth and the other continuing up the coast to places such as Barmouth, Harlech, Porthmadog and Pwllheli. It sounds complicated but it works well in practice; just make sure that you are in the right part of the train. The same sort of thing happened on the way back. In fact, the same sort of operation, again necessitated by a single track railway line, will be familiar to anyone has travelled on the West Highland railway in Scotland.
Apart from what I suspect was a miscommunication between the central control room and a helpful lady train conductor, which nearly led to my onward journey from Shrewsbury being delayed, everything went smoothly. Harlech is set on a steep hillside, around its famous castle built by King Edward I and dating from 1283. The site for the castle was an excellent choice: views up and down the coast and set on a steep hillside to slow the approach of any prospective attackers (if they got up the steep western approach, and it appears that water ran up to its foot in former times, they’d have to contend with the substantial fortifications).
There is more to Harlech than the castle, though. For instance, beyond the flats of Morfa Harlech lie beaches of some note and golfing facilities for those with that inclination. Views across Tremadog Bay toward the Lleyn peninsula and its hills, Yr Eifl included, are complemented by those across the Glaslyn estuary towards the Eifionydd and Moelwynion mountains; all making up a superb vista. Adding to all of these delights are the Rhinogs only a few miles east of Harlech itself. My walk, with its diversions intentional and otherwise, allowed me to sample the scenery of the area. Clag was inclined to accumulate on the higher tops but there was plenty of sunshine to enliven the aspects. On my outward journey, the sight of banks of cloud abounding over the hills of mid Wales had me thinking that I had come too far west and was going to be under cloud all day with sunshine in plentiful supply further east, a fear happily unrealised.
I have to admit that my walk allowed me only a brief reconnaissance of the area but it is more than worthy of further visits in the future. A weekend stay is definitely a proposition and I do hope to make a return.