I can’t touch type on the iPad, so writing anything substantial is not going to happen, so here it what I would have written if I’d had the druthers last week.
Friday – nipped into town to pick up trousers from M&S and bank cheque. Haircut, nice and short so it would survive multiple washes and hattage.
Set out about 12.20, via Pentrefolas and a stop at the Riverside Chocolate House for a lunchtime sandwich. http://www.riversidechocolatehouse.com/
. Drove to Porthmadog and purchased essential beer from the Purple Moose brewery shop, now conveniently on the high street, http://www.purplemoose.co.uk/
then over the Cob to my favourite right hand turn in the world; the entrance to PM.
Picked up the Dolphin key from The Castell, and nearly dropped the crate of beer I was carrying when I walked through the door of the cottage; Dolphin had had a complete (and long overdue) refurb. Shiny new kitchen with dishwasher and new oven, hob and microwave, both bedrooms now en-suite with fabulous showers and a bath in the double but the triumph was the new layout in the lounge. Gone was the huge and redundant downstairs loo and boiler in the middle of the house, the whole place opened up with room for a huge dining table as well as a new suite. All very designer with dozens of light switches and a glorious new stair case. Very well done and doubling the downstairs space. Twin bedroom is now a bit cramped (though that might just be because ‘travling light’ is not a phrase Clare or I have ever used) but the en-suite makes up for this.
Beat the bounds of the village to check it was all still there, it was, then an early night as we were all tired.
Saturday – The Intrepid Lady Explorers walked over the hill behind Portmeirion and across The Cob to Porthmadog, where we proceeded to buy most of the town via craft shops and clothing boutiques. Shopping in Port seems to be getting better, at least three boutiques, possibly a ripple effect from people going down Pen Llyn to Abersoch? We managed to whittle away a good two and a half hours, and considerable money (well, Clare and I did, Eileen was somewhat more restrained) the Portmeirion café in town does a lovely latte, but, sadly the charming little café and pizzeria on the quayside seems to have closed. We had planned to walk over the flank of Mole Y Gest to Borth but it chucked it down while we were in the shops and my walking notes for that particular decent say ‘DO NOT DO IN THE WET’ in big letters. So we bought lunch in the Big Rock bakery and ate it on the quay then strolled back across the Cob to PM.
The Festival, in September is a good source of extra income for The Village; the paths over the hill behind PM are much improved and they have built an anaerobic digester on the edge of the car parks to burn wood pellets from Y Gwillt and all the surrounding woodlands, which should make The Village self-sufficient for energy. They have also cleared and extended the paths beyond Bone’s View, you can get down to the beach but it’s still very steep and not suitable for everyone, again, a path I wouldn’t want to attempt in the wet. I gave up on getting to the beach when I tried it as I was wearing a long skirt, I’d have been fine in trousers, detoured through the Ghost Garden instead.
Sunday – Walked the Y Gwyllt again, astonishing how few of the day visitors stray away from The Village centre, ‘tis ever thus. Then a drive over the Golan heights (yes, really, look it up on a map) with Dave and Martin, we were aiming for Cwmystradllyn but missed so ended up driving down Cwmpennant instead, one of the most beautiful valleys in the area, we also passed The Marvelous Tower - http://www.menaiholidays.co.uk/cottages/details/brynkir_tower~overview
but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi so the chance of me convincing most of my friends to stay there with me is slim. We stopped for lunch at a café then they dropped me off in Port and I walked over the Cob again back to PM.
Sunday evening we went to Castell Deudraeth Brasserie for dinner. http://www.portmeirion-village.com/eat/castell-brasserie/
We all scrub up well, even if I do say so myself. I had Moules Marinière, which was wonderful, followed by lamb so tender that the steak knife wasn’t necessary, dessert was chocolate and Cointreau panacotta, poached pear and astonishingly light shortbread and then a cheese board, obviously. Copious amounts of wine, we very kindly helped finish some bin ends… a tough job but someone has to do it. Anwen is clearly fitting in well (and looks marvelous!), and her staff were attentive and pleasant. The view from the dining room is particularly fine in the evening and any meal which lasts 3 hours, starts with champagne and ends with mead is a good meal.
Monday – The Intrepid Lady Explorers (TILE, henceforth) were on the march again. Cnitch, as I have told many people, is my favourite of the Moelwyns, such a pretty mountain (doesn’t everyone have a favourite mountain? Oh, just me then...). There’s no formal path up the mountain so I’m a bit leery of scaling it, despite various webpages saying that it’s not as intimidating as it looks, they tend to use the words ‘scramble’ and ‘hands and knees’ in the descriptions of the ascent, and also ‘boggy’ and ‘not much of a path’. But I did find an interesting walk from the village of Croesor on the slopes of the mountain, down the valley to the main road and back up.http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/visiting/walking/leisure-walks/croesor-circular-walk
The weather forecast had been sunny, so I was slathered in factor 50 suncream, but it was overcast; not ideal for photos but definitely better for walking in. The drive up to Croesor is beautiful in itself, up a narrow green lane rising above the wide Glaslyn valley, we parked up and set out down, down, down from the village, past old slate mine workings down to the A road then back up again on the other side of the river. We had been worried by how far down we had gone, but the ascent was fine, short sharp wooded rise and heathland all very well signposted, very easy to follow. On the heath, with stunning views of Snowdon and its attendants, we found a large adder basking by the path. It must have been asleep, because it put up with four curious TILE watching it for several minutes before it woke up and slithered away. I believe Eileen managed to grab a photo of it. We got back to the village about ten to two, in time for TILE to drive back to Portmeirion listening to The Archers (Stabby, stabby, stabby, stab. Stabby, stabby, stab, stab…) and cursing R.Titcher esq loudly, much to the trauma of the local sheep.
Tuesday – I drove down to Aberdaron for a lovely walk on the beach (in the drizzle, warm but damp). I met the Spar shop heron, Bill, and bought Too Many Bready Comestibles from Islyn Bakery, which used to be in an old tin railway hut but now has its own rather splendid thatched cottage, http://www.aberdaronlink.co.uk/business-details.php?local_businesses_key=15
I also had fresh crab sandwiches at one of the cafés. Life is hard.
RPG run by Dave on Tuesday night, not many dead, indeed, no fatalities amongst the party, quite unheard of! But a set up for a new campaign was put in place. We have birds of our own, in Dolphin and Government, as well as Bill-the-heron. I had brought fat and meal worms and we fed them on the Dolphin balconies and in the new seating area in front of Government. Government has always been blessed by great outdoor space, it has The Lawn and The Campanile but, as the village faces east, the sun goes off the back of the house pretty early in the day. The new outdoor patio at the front is great, it was light out there until 21.00 some nights, and it’s the perfect place for feeding birds, reading books, drinking beer/wine/cocktails and socialising (better than the Government lounge which is a bit stuffy and oppressive, particularly in warm weather, it has a very low ceiling). So we did. One robin proved to be particularly friendly, small and skinny by PM standards, but full of robin cheek and charm, but we had various finches and blackbirds and hedge sparrows also in attendance. Blackbird wars ensued several times but our presence kept the big corvids and the tree rats (grey squirrels) from stealing the small birds food.
Wednesday – Two of TILE, that being myself and Clare, to be precise, went for my usual 5 mile walk at Criccieth, down to Llanystumdwy then down to the beach, along Ynysgain and back to Criccieth, we did it the opposite way to how I usually do it (and without the side walk down the Dwyfor, it had been rather wet overnight and the river path would have been very boggy) which I think is the better way to do the route, the climb (which is neither steep or long) out of the village is over at the start and it’s all downhill after that. We then met with Jaine and Dave and James and Robert for lunch at Dylan’s on the seafront in Criccieth. Dylan’s is a fabulous seafood restaurant in an old Clough Williams Ellis designed Art Deco building which has been lovingly restored. The food was superb. We all started with the seafood tacos, which were tasty and interesting, and then I won the lunch by having the fisherman’s sharing platter as my main. Four humungous prawns, pot of homemade mackerel pate, smoked salmon, trout fillet, homemade bread, seafood salsa, salad, it was utterly fabulous and, for once, I had Had Enough Fish, which doesn’t happen very often (I think the last time was when Stephen Davies bought too much sushi to a Plokta New Year) at £17 it was superb value for money too. We didn’t manage dessert but we did manage to drink rather a lot at lunchtime and a gelato in The Village when we got back. https://www.dylansrestaurant.co.uk/
Thursday – Ynys Llanddwyn, Anglesey. Dave very kindly dropped me off in the car park on the beach at Niwbwrch, then he and Trevor drove off, they were planning a visit to the Jam Factory http://www.jams.co.uk/
and bird reserve on the top of the island. I was aware that high tide was 14.30, though I need not have been concerned, I now found out that the island is only cut off at the highest tides. The view from the beach was breath-taking, miles of golden sand, blue, blue sea, the Snowdonia range across the Menai in the mist and the island itself to my right. I walked in the sea along the beach, nothing I love more than cool sea on my toes. The island itself is magical, with stunning views, wild life (Ponies! Stone chaffs! A tern on the beach!), sea pinks, daisies, bluebells, crushed shell paths and interesting buildings. I spent a good couple of hours taking photos and walking round the place, it was busier than the last time when Jaine and I last visited, but then, it was a warmer day. I walked back to the car park and then back through the cool pine woods to Newborough, which is a tiny village, only one road. The Red Squirrel Café was open and I had a fabulous cup of tea and waited for Dave and Trev, they were running late, but Anglesey is not very big, I didn’t have to sit for too long, in the glorious sun, eating an appl and watching the village life go by.
Thursday evening, everyone else in our party decamped to an Indian restaurant in Criccieth but I cried off, it was way too nice to be inside so I did a final walk of The Village and beach. I am by nature a solitary creature, it’s my default setting and I am much more energised by nature than company.
Friday – Leaving The Village is always hard… and leaving friends too, knowing it’s a full 10 weeks before I get back to Wales and furthermore, a full year before I see some of my friends again. We tided up the houses, packed the cars (in glorious sunshine, which makes it harder to leave but also easier to pack up – Dolphin and Government are a short walk from where you can park your car, it can be a bit soggy in the wet). Some of us decamped to Gelert Ices in Beddgelert for breakfast then we went our separate ways.
Or nearly so, Jaine, Dave and I had booked extra bonus holiday in Shropshire, so we made our separate ways to Hawkstone Follies for lunch and an afternoon of walking. http://www.hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk/
Hawkstone is, frankly, bonkers, which, given that we had been in Portmeirion for a week, is quite a statement. It’s a collection of follies and buildings laid up trails up a hill side on an old estate. We had a light lunch in the tea room and started out at about 14.00. It had gone overcast, which was a good thing in that it pulled the temperature down somewhat, there was quite a lot of walking going on, and quite a lot of UP. And down. And along. And UP again. The geology is sandstone, which is very familiar to me; the whole of Cheshire being part of the sandstone ridge, the look of the place very similar to Alderley or Lud’s Church, with outcrops of copper streaked sandstone and a huge, deep, stunning clefts in the rocks. Along with precarious bridges and mad caves (they sell torches in the gift shop) and the odd folly. The Cleft is absolutely jaw dropping in its scale and The Awful Precipice lives up to its name. We took the most strenuous way back (mostly so Jaine could be photographed by Fox’s Knob…) which was a lot of steps and a lot of up and down but all jolly good fun. I would recommend the place, particularly on a good day and particularly to those with kids about 7 and over with lots of energy to burn off, it’s just south of the A49 near Shrewsbury.We were back at our cars by 4.30 and set off for Clun.
Clun is a sleepy little village these days, with a couple of pubs, a Spar shop with a Post Office in it, a tiny museum, a pack horse bridge and the remains of a honking great Welsh borders castle, its history is somewhat more colourful than its present backwater status. We got to Clun just before six having driven down the Welsh/English border in the evening sun. Jaine and Dave were in the local hostelry and I was staying in a beautiful farmhouse, about 50m up the road. http://www.clunfarmhouse.co.uk/
The place was delightfully quirky and beautifully old, my room tiny but clean and neat with a bathroom next door, but again, as a single traveler, I missed out, I pay £5 a night more than someone in a double/twin for fewer facilities – the twins/doubles had a courtesy tray, en-suites and were, of course, much bigger. I’m used to this by now. single rooms - in all fairness to the B&B, this is far and away not the worse I've seen, I was looking at a hotel today where the twin room rate was £37.50per person per night, the single £55. Of course, it's different if you are booking a double for single occupancy, but paying more for fewer facilities ticks me off. It's one of the (many) reasons I love the Caerwylan in Criccieth; a single room is half the price of a standard double. http://caerwylan.co.uk/
We had dinner in The White Horse when J&D were lodging; it was a bit like being in a time warp back to the 70/80s, a lovely loud, boisterous pub with genuine un-reconstructed pub food and good, honest, real ale (okay, maybe the beer was better than in the 70s, wouldn’t be difficult). We were starving after our long drives and exertions at Hawkstone, I had bangers and mash with delicous local sausages and a couple of pints. J&D’s room was just up the stairs and the floor sloped alarmingly, due to the old building, it was also huge, but not as nice as my farmhouse.
We retired early and on Saturday I started the day with a marvellous home cooked breakfast at the farm house, local bacon, sausage, free range egg from their own hens, toast off the Aga, before we met up to explore Clun, which didn’t take very long, there was a small gallery, a gift shop, where Jaine and I bought matching silly sunhats, a local museum, very local, for local people, with some incredibly detailed smocks, farm implements and the odd Sumerian tablet, no, we had no idea either. We also explored the castle ruins, it must have been quite something in its day, the huge 3 story tower was abandoned by the family who built it as it was too remote, their seat was down south somewhere, it’s enough of a drag in a car on modern roads, I can only imagine how long it took 500 years ago.
I drove us the 5 miles up to Bishop’s Castle, in search of lunch and a walk, it was a gloriously sunny day. Another pretty village, almost a town, with lots of shops, we had lunch at a café and left Dave at another café cum brew pub (http://www.sixbellsbrewery.com/
) while Jaine and I went for a little walk, across lovely rolling downs. We saw a couple of buzzards circling and commented on them, turned out to be a recently deceased ewe that they were planning to have for their dinner. Our path back to Bishop’s Castle was through a steep dell, Cwmmawr Dingle, alive with the last of the bluebells, fragrant in the sun. The Welsh/English border here is petty porous; lots of Welsh place names on the English Border and visa versa, such as Church Stoke and Hurdley (in Wales) and Llanblodwel and Porth Y Waen (in England).
Back in the village, we picked up Dave and did a little retail therapy in a shoe shop – new walking sandals, mine are at least six years old and falling to bits, the new ones are black and rainbow coloured, win! Of course, after a few wears, they will be a uniform muddy brown, same as all my other walking kit. Just look at these beauties - http://www.rieker.co.uk/rieker-ladies-c2/rieker-ladies-sandals-c83/rieker-68863-91-p5106
they do them as shoes as well, but I couldn’t afford both and I have too many shoes and not enough walking sandals.
We then had another lovely drive up the borders to the stone circle, Mitchel’s Fold. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/mitchells-fold-stone-circle/
This is on the top of a moor, which gave astonishing views across the countryside and deep into Powys, we could see a huge mountain, almost lost in the haze to the northwest, after perusing the map, Jaine and I decided it must be Cader Idris, 40+ miles away, there was absolutely nothing else that tall in that direction, a quick google when we got back to civilisation confirmed our mad map reading skills.
Sadly, I didn’t get to drive south of Clun, I really wanted to go through the village of New Invention, four houses on a cross roads, but I just wanted to say I’d been there. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Invention,_Shropshire
We tried the other pub in Clun for our dinner, with mixed results, the beer was very fine, particularly the mild, having only traveled from Bishop’s Castle, it came from the oldest UK brewery we had passed earlier in the day, established 1642. http://www.threetunsbrewery.co.uk/
The food was a bit hit and miss, Dave and I had fish and chips which was great but Jaine’s ‘fish of the day’ wasn’t very inspired. They had a very large booking of the local firemen and their families in, which seemed to be stressing the landlord and kitchen staff out. We left at nine, being both tired and not really wanting to stay for the evening entertainment (a bongo drum player… yes, you read that right) we walked down to the pack horse bridge and saw bats swooping in the twilight, then said our goodbyes and went our separate ways (it’s a whole 3 weeks until we meet up again!).
We very much liked Shropshire and will be visiting again, there’s a lot of places still to see, we barely scratched the surface.I came home Sunday morning to a very grumpy cat after 9 days away from him and a mound of washing which felt never ending. I love holidays but I slept like a log in my own bed again. Jury is still out on if Max will forgive me. ( Read more... )