Our OE - Ireland and Wales                             
MARCH 2004
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  Wales

Thu 11-Mar 04	Dublin, Ireland - Barmouth, Wales   

After the scheduled 6:50 ferry was cancelled due to high winds I got on a later and slower ferry at 9am (on IrishFerries).  My time in Wales was limited and full up as it was, but now I was loosing about 4 hours before I even got there!  Some quick and re-planning and accommodation changes were needed while on the ferry journey across - which was quite rough in places across the Irish Sea! (walking a straight line was impossible, and no we hadn't been drinking at breakfast).

Upon arrival in Holyhead (on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales) I picked up a rental car and headed onto the Welsh mainland and west to Caernarfon to see the enormous castle there (building started in 1283).  Wow, this was impressive!  In addition to the large castle there were medieval town walls, a moat and narrow cobbles streets.  In 1969 the castle was the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales.

Had a quite wander around the outside of the castle and then got back on the road to do a loop through Snowdonia Mountain Park - south-east through Llanberis and Llanberis pass, past the pretty lakes of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris.  There were even little patches of snow along the sides of the road, although I'd see much more later this evening.

Map of Wales

Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon, Wales

Caernarfon Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Llyn Mymbyr, Snowdonia National Park

It was a nice drive on to the quaint town of Betws-y-Coed and then up the Conwy Valley.  We drove past Conwy and headed out onto Great Orme Head (with some nice but hazy views of the coast) where we were hoping to visit the Bronze Age Copper Mines, but unfortunately these were closed to a power fault.  I didn't even know they had power in the Bronze Age! ;-)

If we were disappointed at having less time in Wales today and the mines being closed, then our next stop made up for it.  Conwy is a very nice old Medieval town with a picturesque castle and nearly complete town walls going up the side of a hill, with great views over the town and surrounding countryside.  Conwy's circuit of walls are over a kilometre long and are guarded by 22 towers!

Conwy Castle, Conwy, Wales
(built 1283-1289)

Conwy, showing the Castle and medieval town walls

Conwy town walls

The sun was now starting to set so we started heading back through Snowdonia National Park towards Barmouth (on the coast) for the night, via Betws-y-coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Somewhere along the way it got dark and then started to snow - Snowdonia was living up to it's name!  It was really cool (in more ways than one) until it got heavier, darker and we started to wonder if we were lost!  Luckily we weren't lost however and eventually arrived in Barmouth, where it was still snowing down at sea level!  Our first real snow fall since Canada on the way to Ireland in February the previous year.  Stayed in 'Holme-Lea Guest House', Barmouth

Fri 12-Mar 04	Barmouth - Manorbier/Lydstep, Wales  

It had stopped snowing this morning (at least to start with) but all the hills around Barmouth were very pretty with a good covering of white!  There were nice views of the beach and sea with snow-covered mountains in the background.  Due to our lack of time yesterday, today we headed north up the coast, through Harlech with it's castle perched up on a volcanic rock above the town (similar to Stirling and Edinburgh but on a smaller scale), and on to Portmeirion Village.  There were lots of snow covered hills and mountains on the drive up - in Ireland they would all be called mountains though! 

Map of Wales

Beach at Barmouth, with snow on the distant hills

General scene - along coast between Barmouth and Harlech

Harlech Castle, Harlech

Harlech Castle

Portmeirion is an extremely picturesque village and gardens with lots of old stone statues and columns (incl. British stonework, Italian marble etc), brightly coloured buildings, ponds and fountains, all with amazing views of the harbour.  It is hard to explain, but a very quaint and almost magical feeling place - even when it is starting to rain! 

Inlet at Portmeirion, Tremadog Bay, Wales

House/Hotel at Portmeirion village

Portmeirion Village

After our visit to Portmeirion we started heading south towards the Pembrokeshire National Park, with a detour east through Snowdonia again first (via the inland road to Dolgellau) to see more of the snow.  Soon after entering the park it started snow again which was awesome - There was lots of snow on the ground (but not too much on the road), lots of snow-covered 'Christmas trees', etc.  We were very glad we'd decided to take this road instead of just down the coast again.

Snowdonia National Park
(inland between Porthmadog and Dolgellau)

Xmas Trees! - Snowdonia

This Way, That Way, or The Other Way?  Not much help if you're lost!

Next we drove down to Aberystwyth and up the north side of the Vale of Rheidol, stopping for about an hour at Devil's bridge for a bush walk to see the very impressive waterfall - a tough climb up and down a ridiculously steep track!  A very pretty little area.  For some reason there were also life-sized bronze deer statues hidden in the bush!  (You can also get there on the Vale of Rheidol Railway from Aberystwyth)

       

The three bridges at Devil's Bridge   /   Bushwalk to see Mynach Falls
(Lowest bridge = 11th Century, Middle bridge = 1708, Top bridge = 20th Century)

Mynach Falls, Devil's Bridge, Wales

After returning to Aberystwyth down the southern side of the valley we started down the coast and into the Pembrokeshire National Park.  We were expecting this part of the drive to be really spectacular but unfortunately it was very hazy and we couldn't see much others than a couple of cute small villages and harbours.  We'd had a really good day already anyway!

Pembroke has a very large castle that we decided we'd go back for another look (and take photos) tomorrow as it was now quite dark.  Popped into the cute little village of Manorbier while looking for our accommodation, which was actually back on the main road (Rosendale Park B&B).  Had a very tasty meal at the Lydstep Inn (in Lydstep) before calling it a day.


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