Mawddach Trail and Dolgellau

Having stayed in the Dolgellau area a couple of times we had never managed to book onto Abergwynant Farm CL in the past, this time we booked several months ago to make sure we could stay on what is a very popular site. As its the theme this year in North Wales we arrived in glorious sunshine and were settled in on the site within minutes. A very peaceful site on a working farm with several holiday cottages dotted around the farm. The only slight downside we could see was the toilets and showers were a good walk away from the pitches, not a few yards more a gentle hike – so as long as we planned that side in advance it was going to be a good weekend. The site is a couple of minutes from the estuary and the view from our pitch was of Cader Idris, over 2900  ft high so a little too much for us to stroll over, we made do with sitting in the sun and looking at it.

Sunday morning was time for our bike ride, the main reason for wanting to use the campsite was its literally minutes through the woods onto the Mawddach Trail. Another former railway line converted to a bike and walking path which runs from Dolgellau right into Barmouth alongside the estuary. No traffic at all, dead flat and the perfect bike ride, totalling around 25 miles.

We rode from camp towards Barmouth and when we reach the station at Morfa Mawddach we spotted cyclists over the other side of the railway tracks. There was a new crossing over the line and at the other side a new path that had recently opened as part of the Wales Coastal path.  We followed this down into Fairbourne and along the promenade, wondering slightly at the sheep knee deep in the sea? Fairbourne appears very much the village that time forgot in 1950. Lots of small bungalows dotted around and unmade roads with a couple of tourist shops. The promenade is just that, a promenade without any tea shops or amusement arcades very tranquil with a few walkers enjoying the calm just down the coast from Barmouth.

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Welsh wading sheep?

From there the path followed a lane up to the headland where it ran out and we faced the sea. Rather than cycle back we decided to take the ferry over to Barmouth – for ferry read incredibly small fishing boat. The boat owners slung our bikes on the front of the boat where they hung precariously over the 10 minute trip to Barmouth. On arrival the boatman slung the bikes to us front the front of the boat – we pictured our bikes sinking down to the depths but luckily we manged to haul them up the harbour steps without too much problem.

A rest break on Barmouth front followed with a small butty stop  for refreshments and we headed towards the the 136 year–old railway viaduct across the Mawddach Estuary. Its half a mile in length with a wooden promenade for pedestrians or cyclists and now forms part of the Wales Coast Path and the Lon Las Cymru Cycle Network. Usually there is a toll to cycle across but the toll booth was closed – result saving us £1 each. Back on the Mawddach we headed back along the estuary and into Dolgellau, completing the 25 miles back at camp in time to sit out and watch hiker after hiker coming through the campsite on the public footpaths through the site.

Fairbourne Promenade

Fairbourne Promenade

Fairbourne Promenade

Fairbourne Promenade

Monday and we left the bikes on the rack and took the camper for a run down to Tywyn, location of a stone cross with the earliest known example of written Welsh and the home of the Talyllyn Railway. We plumped for the Monday market in a field on the edge of town, good for a walk round for an hour and very unlike us we came away with no bargain essentials for the campervan.  We took the scenic route up the valley past Llyn Mwyngil and stopped on one of the large parking spaces to make lunch and marvel at the views before heading back to camp. Slight problem in that the lady at the campsite hadn’t got us booked in for the night and had book another unit in so had no room for us. She kindly offered to let us park up on some hardstanding at the side of the farm buildings and the river so we took her up on the offer and spent a peaceful evening listening to the water and swatting away the mosquitos (they got us anyway!).

North Wales coast – aka home

This weekend we travelled a little closer to home, well as close as we could get really without being at home. Destination Penmaenmawr and a plan to bike on Cycle 5 up to Bangor.

Campsite booked at Tyddyn Du, one we have driven past a thousand times and thought it looked worth trying out. Set out on tiers up the side of the hill the views were amazing. Its adults only so even though it was mad busy it was very peaceful. We arrived on site less than 30 minutes from leaving home and had the chairs out soaking up the sunshine within minutes of arrival. The site is very popular and we had only booked two nights but they were fully booked so we couldn’t extend for an extra night, even with 90 pitches most people apparently book a year in advance, within minutes of being there we could tell why – the views from the pitches were worth every penny of what was for us a fairly expensive site.

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From the site there were loads of walks, we opted for a shortish couple of miles up to Capelulo, through Dwygyfylchi and back, with the sun shining down its a stunning area to walk in with incredible views up to the hill in one direction and down over the coast in the other. Only minutes from the Expressway but felt like the middle of nowhere, and we heard our first cuckoo of the year so that is summer confirmed as arrived for us.

Sunday morning was a bit overcast but we stuck with the plan and headed out onto the cycle path. Only a few minutes from the campsite but first obstacle is crossing the A55 expressway. We could see a footbridge so headed for that, only to find we were carrying the bikes up over a stepped footbridge, not easy but do-able. Once we got over the obstacle we were on the bike path and feeling well able for a ride up to Bangor. The bike path here is not as flat as the rest of the coastal route, in fact its very hilly in places. The sun came out, not such a blessing when the going gets tough, but we hit the lowest ‘granny gears’ and managed the climbs over the quarries and up through the lanes around Abergwyngregyn until we reached the descents to Tal-y-bont. The cycle path skirts the roads and took us on a long winding route around tiny lanes and pointed us down to Llandygai ford, whilst we didn’t need to cross the ford it looked like fun. Iain went first and pedalled as fast as he could through it, result one very wet cyclist with shoes full of water. I took my turn but aimed for speed from the coast downhill and kept my legs high circus style.

The ford crosses cycle route 84, Lon Las Ogwen and heads into Bangor, or turn right up the old railway line towards Bethesda, So, right turn it was and up hill all the way. Another fabulous North Wales cycle path that is little used, we saw only one cyclist and a couple of walkers. Again, all off road and a tarmac path through the woods, crossing a viaduct and a stunning bridge over the main road we cycled for 5 miles until we were just outside Bethesda. At this stage we were calculating that a) we were starving and there was nowhere open to buy food and b) we had done 20 miles which would mean a similar distance to get back. So we turned around and free-wheeled down hill back to the ford, making the initial climb seem very worthwhile. As our original destination had been Bangor we decided to carry on into town to find a cafe. We stopped off at Porth Penrhyn, no cafe there so onwards into town. Bangor on a Sunday is at best a little quiet, only a couple of places open so we opted for a shared Subway and sat on a bench in town for a rest and a refuel.

On the way back we decided to cut route on cycle 5 and take a few short cuts straight past Penrhyn to cycle 5. Not sure what had happened but the hills had got steeper, we had got slower and it all seemed like hard work. A good few cyclists out passing us at speed, we reckoned they were just starting out and would probably be as slow as us after 30 odd miles. We ambled back and just short of 35 miles and 5 hours after leaving camp we collapsed on our chairs to plan our next weekend away.

Corwen, Criccieth & the long way home

As spring has sprung its time to start making more use of the van for weekends. With this in mind we thought a jaunt to Corwen would be in order as less than an hour from home. Booked a couple of nights on Gaer Hyfryd campsite which is a mile or so outside Corwen but only a short walk from the Rhug Estate Farm shop.  Lovely site with 20 or so pitches, only opened for the season this weekend so very quiet with 6 or 7 vans.

At this stage spring decided that it was time to step back and allow a bit more winter in – the heavens opened on our arrival and continued for the afternoon. Not too much of a problem as resulted in plenty of time for a good read of the Kindle. Time to wash up after tea and found out we had come away without washing up liquid. A quick glance at the rain and decided we could do without – shampoo does the job and leaves the plates smelling of a spring day even when the weather isn’t obliging.

Sunday dawned with a bit of sunshine peaking through the clouds so it seemed like a plan to head out for a walk. The camp warden gave us some directions and we headed up the hill looking for a footpath that lead down to the River Dee. Down through a farm, crossing over what can best be described as a bog and we meet head on with a large herd of cattle – not my favourite things to meet so we made a sharp exit over a gate and into the field along side the river. Managed to follow the footpath to a great extent but a couple of  wrong turns and we ended up on a scramble along a river bank which lead us into Cynwydd village and a much needed stop on a bus stop bench where we sat and grumbled about the rain for a bit before moving on.

From there it was an easy walk along a disused railway path to Corwen village, well easy with the exception of a couple of very heavy showers and trying to side step puddles the size of small lakes. Lunch was a picnic on a bench on Corwen High Street in the rain – yup as always living the high life when we go out and about. From there it was a short detour behind Rhug on a path running between a couple of fields of bison – not quite what you expect to see on a field in Wales but made a change from sheep. When we reached Rhug Farm Shop we stopped for a well earned latte, only when we had sat down in the cafe did we notice everyone else dressed in their Sunday best for lunch and us caked in mud were standing out just a bit like the village hobos, so a quick stop and we made our exit resplendent with mud and water dripping behind us.

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We moved on Monday and over to Porthmadog and a stroll around the new outdoor shop, a must for gadgets we never knew we needed for the campervan until we saw them, then we overnighted at Criccieth on top of the hill at Eisteddfa Campsite. A really big site set out on tiers with 120 pitches. Nearly every pitch taken with seasonals but only a couple of people around. The sun decided to shine and we had fabulous views out over to the sea, very tranquil if you ignored the small child with a mallet bashing the ground with all the determination of someone needing to kill every blade of grass available.

Today we headed home and detoured over to Beaumaris for a mid morning coffee stop at Beaus Tea Shop. A lovely twee little shop with an eclectic mix of plates, cups and teapots with every pattern under the sun. It was like stepping back 50 years with knitted tea cosy’s and doilies everywhere – loved it. As we set off for home the skies cleared completely and the sun came out – typical- so to make the most of the day we headed for a lunch stop on Penmaenmawr promenade before heading home to plan another weekend trip very soon.

 

Unbeatable Barmouth

The weekend was without a doubt incredible. Weather – fantastic, bike rides – brilliant, bbq’s – scrumptious, company – the best.

Two days and three nights at Bwlchgwyn Campsite above Fairbourne just outside Barmouth. This is an occasion when the picture say so much more than I could ever write….

Trench Farm fisheries – weekender

So now the van has successfully completed its first tour we decide we have withdrawal symptoms and need a weekend away. After a quick scan of the internet we find a likely looking candidate in Trench Farm less than an hour away.

Very nicely set out camp with brilliant toilet / shower block. Far from the madding crowd with no road noise. Loads of lovely walks on paths around the site and we do attempt a couple before retiring to the van and a good coffee (for me) and a beer (for him).

We popped down to Ellesmere for a quick look around but didn’t make the meres this time.

Really good peaceful weekend, found a few more items for our tick list on the van – that should keep himself busy when we get home.