Part 2 of June Jaunt. Wales to Northumberland. Ceredigion, and Gwynedd plus Anglesey.
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
We awoke to a lovely sunny morning on Jubilee weekend, and headed north for an early walk along the cliffs at Penbryn. Our 6m van fitted onto the car park, but it was getting busy and these lanes would not suit larger vans. The walk starts through beautiful woodland, and there is an option of descending to an idyllic sandy beach, but we took the cliff path. This can be a good place to spot dolphins out in Cardigan bay, but no luck today.
From here we drove a few miles to unlikely location of the Internal Fire Museum of Power in the middle of nowhere at Tan-y-Groes. Only open at weekends it pays homage to combustion engines and has many working examples, particularly from industrial settings like mills, a steamship, irrigation systems etc. There is also an extensive display of telephone exchange equipment, and a new motorcycle section. Their 'In Steam' weekends in summer need to be booked ahead. In their cafe we discovered the most wonderful Welsh Icecream, made at Mary's Farmhouse in Crymych. If you go to Wales, find this Ice cream!
From here we looped back south, firstly to get fuel in Cardigan - 10p cheaper than anywhere else at 189.9 per litre!! Then onto Cilgerran Castle (Cadw) and the Teifi marshes where we enjoyed a walk around the lakes, although the best time of year for birds here is autumn and winter. Finally a lovely walk along the river and gentle waterfalls at Cenarth, but we were sad that the National Coracle Centre had closed early that day. Onto our campsite for the night at Bryngolau farm, a small site with ehu but no other facilities. Perfectly adequate for £18.
An early start next morning, and a quick drive through colourful Newquay before heading to the Vale of Rheidol Narrow Gauge Steam Railway in Aberystwyth. We had prebooked tickets, and car parking was easy at the station. Originally built in 1897 to carry lead and timber, it opened to passengers in 1902, and was still operated by British Rail until 1989! The journey up to Devil's Bridge was one of the prettiest steam journeys I have done, as you climb above the river valley into the hills. At Devil's bridge we had an hour so we opted for the short gorge walk and a cup of tea at the friendly station cafe! On our return we walked into Aberystwyth and saw the Knife Angel sculpture which is touring Britain with it's Police 'escort'. They were doing a great job explaining to youngsters the dangers of the weapons etc. Made from knives handed in during weapons amnesties, it sends a formidable message.
On the road again, we headed north out of Aberystwyth, and through Borth, reminding Chris of some Camping holidays many years ago, one of which was famous for it raining for 13 days out of 14! Fun in a tent! Those were the days. We are very grateful for the solid roof and sides of our campervan! We were heading for the glorious Ynys Hir RSPB nature reserve on the Dyfi river. We enjoyed a super walk around the reserve in the late afternoon sunshine, with the Snowdonia Mountains in the distance,and there was hardly anyone else there. Our campsite, Furnace Farm, was just a few miles away. A lovely CAMC certificated site with clean loos and shower and EHU for £16 per night. It was super for us, and just across the road from the remarkable Dyfi Furnace Mill. It is a restored 18th century charcoal fired blast furnace once used for smelting iron. The water wheel is quite striking, and the river EInion is very pretty here.
We slept really well, ready for our next day's adventures, but we woke to grey cloud and drizzle. Nothing daunted we headed just a few miles north to the Dyfi Osprey project. These beautiful birds have nested and were rearing 3 chicks, although, very sensibly, the female was well hunkered down sheltering her vulnerable chicks from the rain. We got some good views from the hide, despite the murky light, and the male flew in for a brief visit! Next we headed to the Centre for Alternative Energy Centre at Machynlleth. It has many interesting things to see, but we felt it has been overtaken by modern times. The information about recycling, alternative energy sources and sustainability which were novel in the 1970's when the centre opened, now seemed a bit outdated in the way they were presented. Which was a shame because it has some very important messages to share. This chaise longue from offcuts was a highlight!
Our drive continued north to Harlech Castle (CADW). Perched high above the road, the sea once came up to the foot of the walls, and, when under it's famous 7 year seige, it received lifesaving supplies through it's sea gate. This seige inspired the song 'Men of Harlech'. Nowadays half a mile of sand dunes and a golf course separate it from the waves. Well worth a visit, it was built between 1283 and 1290 by 1000 workers on the orders of King Edward I, as one of the iron ring of castles. Others in this area include Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris. Just below the castle and town is the sports centre, and for a donation of £8 into the box on the door you can spend the night on the car park, which we did, and enjoyed an evening walk through the dunes and the nature reserve to the beach. The money goes to fund the sports centre, so a win win.
Next morning we drove to Port Meirion, a place we last visited in the early 1980s! To make the most of the entrance fee you need to explore the estate, doing the lovely woodland walk, gardens and along the estuaryside. It was the dream and creation of an architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, who wanted to create an Italianate village and gardens in Wales, and fill it with colour and idiosyncratic sculpture and art. He certainly succeeded, and even on a grey day the vibrant buildings livened up the landscape. You cannot go inside most properties as they are rented, but there is a good guide which has pictures. Some of you will remember it as the Village in the cult 1960's TV series the Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. Spot the chess board! So, did Number 6 ever escape???
A 45 minute drive from here saw us crossing the Menai straights and onto Anglesey where we headed for RSPB South Stack and had a lovely walk, seeing more Chough, and seals on the rocks below. then onto Church Bay campsite, our favourite of the trip so far. Very friendly owners and nice views, it is 2 minutes walk from a great beach with sand and rock pools, and great cliff walks. The thatched 17th century Swtan heritage museum is next door. Site was £23 pn with loos, shower and ehu.
Next morning our whistlestop tour continued. We drove a few miles to the north coast of Anglesey to Cemlyn Bay where there is a super tern colony, and again, easy walks along the cliffs. Our final stop in Anglesey was at pretty Moelfre to visit the RNLI museum. As well as commemorating the amazing rescues carried out by the local crews - (all volunteers and relying on public support for funding), it highlights Robert Fitzroy. Once Captain of Darwin's ship the Beagle, and friends with Francis Beaufort who invented the scale for measuring wind speed, he was always fascinated by weather, and after a terrible shipwreck of the Royal Charter at Moelfre in 1859, he came up with the idea of charts to describe impending weather. He invented the word 'Forecast'. In 1861 he invented the Shipping Forecast, initially communicated by wireless telegraph, and still broadcast each day on the radio.
Leaving Anglesey we had 3 more stops to make. A picnic lunch at Aber Ogwyn nature reserve with some lovely views of a Kingfisher, which my photos did not do justice! Then, the gorgeous National Trust gardens at Bodnant, where our hopes that the amazing Laburnum Arch would still be in bloom were rewarded. It was stunning. Late May to early June is usually it's peak time. Our final stop was for a walk at RSPB Conwy before heading on out of Wales to begin our journey north to Northumberland! See you in the next episode!