Surveying castles and coastline on either side of the Menai Strait24th December 2011
The third weekend in July brought plenty of bright sunshine. It was enough to get heading to north-west Wales, albeit with a later start that got delayed further thanks to a problem on the West Coast Mainline around its Trent valley section. Nevertheless, my plan to revisit Caernarfon after an absence for quite a few years was far from stymied. Then, I based myself there on a weekend that took in some of the countryside around Llanberis and some of that surrounding Beddgelert. Both took the form of reconnaissance trips and I do recall enjoying the latter more than the former. Maybe it had something to do with my poking around slate mine workings near Llanberis instead of seeing less scarred parts. While I cannot be certain of that being how that weekend’s trip there went, such can be the format of first visits that you end up looking at the wrong side first. Since then, I have explored the more appealing sides of the hills surrounding Llanberis and neglected those around Beddgelert. It’s amazing what turns things can take and it would be no bad idea to return to Beddgelert again.
The next morning saw me head to Anglesey to gain a flavour of its coastal path after spending a night in Bangor. My starting point was Beaumaris so I took advantage of the morning sunshine for making some photos of its castle, one of the famed antiquities of North Wales. With possibilities well used, I left after me those planning on spending more time around there to continue north-westwards along the coastal path, all the while looking across towards the hills of Snowdonia.
The path first crossed fields before taking me along a roadside footway. All at this point felt like light work and Beaumaris and its attendant day trippers seemed a world away. However, the course of the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path eventually drew me onto a stony beach and passage along there was both slower and required much more effort. At the time, it seemed more like drudgery and I welcomed the brief return to tarmac when it finally come. In fact, there was one more beach crossing before I finally was on the minor road headed for Trwyn Penmon, Penmon Point in English.
With only a few cars passing the way, this road walking wasn’t lacking in pleasure. The remains of Penmon’s ruined priory looked modest though there was a nearby dovecote too. Also, I was tempted to explore a path leading away from the road but left it in favour of ensuring my making a bus back from the end of my walk. As it happened, I would have had the time but preferred to be sure than sorry.
A man was out collecting tolls from any passing cars for this was private land. Penmon Point would be a lure and there were a good few folk about when I got there. Before then, there was more peaceful road walking. When I got there, I was to find that public convenience marked on my O.S. map wasn’t as publicly available as I had hoped it to be; it was for patrons of the cafe only. Another feature of the cafe was that it seemed best set up for sit down customers and not those who wanted any sort of take away service. Even picking an ice cream from the freezer and taking it to the till for payment wasn’t been encouraged. With a journey ahead of me, I kept going and the place lost a customer, unlike its counterpart near the Calf Sound on the Isle of Man.
From Penmon Point, I had earth underfoot and not tarmac. That more usual state of affairs was more amenable to me as good progress was made under blue skies and strong sunshine. Though not far from the sea, the warmth of the day was unmissable too. Glan-yr-Afon was where I was going to take my leave of the coastal path and a search and rescue helicopter was to be seen as I weaved my way there. Sirens could be heard too so it appeared that a rescue was ongoing though I learnt no more about it since then.
Dropping into Glan-yr-Afon, I picked up a right of way that was leading to the right and towards Llandona. Due to bus connections, I was wondering if ending my walk would be practical and it was in Glan-yr-Afon that I finally decided that it was. Going through inland fields instead of coastal ones was a departure yet the hills of Snowdonia and the sea that came between them and me both returned to my line of sight. The heat of the day was more noticeable at this point as well and especially so when I returned to tarmac again.
The last stretch of the hike took me through Llandona’s common land. It was unusual to again glimpse heathery moorland after all the travel through pasture. While another time might have seen me explore a little of it, this wasn’t to be one of them. On the last stretch of the way into Llandona, I saw a bus turning while on its way to Beaumaris and this was the one that would return to take me to Menai Bridge. While awaiting its return, I pottered about the village to if it had a shop but, finding it with none, I returned to the bus stop again. The wait there was the cause of reddening my hands due to the strength of the sun but another would be passenger join me, providing reassurance if I needed it.
My initial intentions might have been to go all of the way from Llandona to Bangor but visions of the azure waters of the Menai Strait had me get off at Menai Bridge instead. There followed a short but slightly unsettling trot over the bridge after which the village got its name. Before leaving for the bridge, there was a chance to to top up on refreshments that was very welcome. The bridge crossing allowed for a photography session of sorts and the whole venture usefully tied in with a convenient passing bus to Bangor’s train station.
The weekend had been one of many contrasts and I suppose that it shows that a few little visits pulled together can become a satisfying whole. That is not to say that I haven’t left without an excuse to return sometime because I’d like to see the hills of Snowdonia from Anglesey in pleasing evening light. There’s only so much that can be done with light from earlier in the day and I have the efforts of others. That they turned so superb makes the lure of making my own images all the stronger.
Train journey from Macclesfield to Bangor with changes at Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe and Chester. Bus services: 5 between Bangor and Caernarfon; 58 from Bangor to Beaumaris; 58 from Llandona to Menai Bridge; 44A from Menai Bridge to Bangor. Train from Bangor to Macclesfield.