North Wales, October 2016

When I announce that I’m heading North that often means I’m heading off to the Arctic Circle, or at very least to Shetland.  This time my ‘North Weekend’ wasn’t quite so far away, only to 53N.  My excuse was a John Muir Trust meeting in the Snowdonia National Park, and a chance to spend a couple of days on the North Wales coast.

At one time I used to visit Snowdonia quite regularly - it was an ideal mountain location for weekend trips from Bristol in my student days (the Lakes were good too, but it took a bit longer to get there, and Scotland really only worked for longer trips).  I’ve got clear (nay, vivid) memories of being in North Wales, and in almost every case the memories involve getting wet and being wet.  The one exception was getting burnt to a crisp walking the Snowdon Horseshoe over a Bank Holiday weekend.  My other recollection of weekend walking in Wales (in the early 80s) involved trying to figure out which places were dry on Sunday (and I’m not talking about rain).

So back to North Wales it was.  This time no tent or youth hostel involved, just a little hotel with a seaview in Llandudno.  I suspect that if I went in search of a meteorologist s/he would tell me that it rains on something like one day in three in North Wales. I’ll dispense with the science, and confirm that based on my recent observation it does indeed rain on one day in three in North Wales.  In my experiment, this meant one day of almost continuous rain from just after dawn to just before dusk sandwiched between two days of cloudless blue skies.

The first sunny day lured me up onto the Great Orme just outside Llandudno - visitors are lured to the top by tram, cable car, road and foot.  I opted for the foot option and climbed the 200 metres to the top of the Orme - splendid views, with the Isle of Man just visible on the horizon (there’s an island I’ve not yet visited).  Having climbed up (and down) 200 metres, the next stop was out to sea (and back) by 700 metres along the Llandudno Pier.

Top of Great Orme - looking down towards Llandudno
Llandudno Pier
On the rain day, the sun did put in a very brief appearance as it crept about the top of the Little Orme at the eastern  end of Llandudno Bay. And having popped above the headland it promptly disappeared behind thick cloud and the rain started.  Fortunately I got to spend the entire day (inside) at the Plas y Brenin mountain centre talking about rewilding in Wales, and it was (as our hosts pointed out) a very good day to be inside.

Early Light over Llandudno Bay
Plas y Brenin in the Rain
Having got the rain out of its system, the weather returned to summer.  I took this as a prompt to add a new entry to my list of visited islands, and headed along the coast road and across the Menai Strait onto Anglesey.  Anglesey is connected to mainland Wales by two bridges - an older one built by Telford in the 19th Century and a much newer one rebuilt in the 1970s to carry traffic to the port at Holyhead.  I spent a little bit of time exploring Menai Bridge (the town at the Anglesey end of the old bridge), and around Beaumaris.  

Sunny Sunday Morning in Llandudno, with the Clouds clearing from Snowdon
Menai Bridge
Beaumaris Castle
Having spent long enough there to be able to add Anglesey to my list, I heading back along the A5 across the old bridge and through into the Snowdonia National Park.  

Through the Mountains, Snowdonia National Park
It was a beautiful autumn day to be in the mountains, and an awful lot of people had came to the same conclusion, and I suddenly recalled one of the challenges of being in North Wales.  The scenery is fantastic but it is very accessible to a huge population - and the paths and parking spaces all fill up very early on good days.  So with the occasional roadside stop I wound my way through the mountains surrounded by caravans, motorbikes, cyclists and classic cars. I’m sure the roads would have been quieter if if had been raining, but I guess the views wouldn’t have been as good.

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