If you’ve been reading for the last couple of days you’ll no doubt know that I spent much of my weekend exploring Wales. In my first post (link) I was investigating the sublime and eccentric faux Italian village of Portmerion and in the second one I spent the day wandering aimlessly along the length and breadth of Criccieth (link).
All good things come to an end however, and on Sunday morning (after a hearty hotel breakfast) my companion and I made an early start back in the direction of home.
Warwick is around 3.5-4 hours journey away, particularly if (like me) you prefer to drive like a cautious pensioner.
In order to break up this rather bum (and bladder) numbing distance we had decided to have a look around the surrounding area of Betws-y-Coed, which is on the way home and around 50 minutes drive from Criccieth.
Like Portmerion on Friday I’ve been there before – but never to do anything that was exercise or walking related. Like most of my experiences in Snowdonia from my ‘past life’ – my view of this pretty little bolt hole came exclusively from the seat of a car or the window of a restaurant.
Not this time though.
I was going to go for a flipping good walk and no mistake!
After parking up (before putting on my rucksack) I headed to the nearby rest room. Here I was confronted with a London-esque 20p toll gate to enter the toilet.
I hate these.
Behind me a guy sounded like he did too and tutted whilst he looked for change in his pocket. He was about to turn around and find a tree when my inner samaritan took over. This element of my personality (which is almost universally absent when faced with extorting public conveniences) was feeling oddly generous and decided on the spur of the moment to fund both of our ablutions.
I placed a coin in the slot, grabbed the door, opened it and turned (with a smile on my face) to make a friendly invitation to join me. In a moment of lightning foresight I just stopped myself from saying ‘have a pee on me!‘ and retreated from my planned comment – realising that it could be completely misconstrued.
I resorted instead to ‘I’m feeling flush – help yourself‘ and opened the door wider to let him in.
After I’d avoided a potentially embarrassing public toilet scenario my companion and I checked the tourist information boards near the river. This picturesque setting was the starting point for all of the area’s formal circular walks.
It seemed that there were several routes. Three were listed as ‘strenuous’ and one as ‘easy’. The longest ‘yellow’ route totalled about 6.5 miles, but the projected time would take a little longer than we’d planned – so we instead decided upon the shorter 5 mile ‘blue’ route (info here if you fancy visiting yourself).
Almost immediately upon starting we were heading up a rapidly increasing incline into the treeline above Betws-y-Coed.
Sunday was (thankfully) a much cooler day than Friday and Saturday – and the path ahead was heavily shaded.
This was something of a godsend because (despite liberal application of suncream over the last couple of days) I’d got a mild case of sunburn on my forearms. I’d once more covered them up though and was wearing long sleeves just to be sure.
The weather was pretty warm even without the sunshine mind you and in next to no time (thanks in no small part to the steep slopes – it’s almost a mile of uphill walking to start with) both my companion and I were getting a bit sweaty.
We momentarily stopped for a breather and a drink.
The forest (like most places we visited whilst in Wales) was practically deserted – and all that we could hear around us was the sound of birds, leaves or water.
This part of the world is absolutely magical.
As we twalked time seemed to fly by – and almost without warning (thanks to the walk being really well signposted we didn’t have to worry about navigation at all and could just stroll and chat) we’d emerged from the woods into larger, more open tracks that led into picturesque (almost Swiss alpine-esque) views.
Since things are being born and growing everywhere at the moment it’s practically impossible to go anywhere in Wales without finding a place filled with our wooly Welsh brethren – and this day proved to be no exception.
These continually vocal residents of the surrounding hillsides were never shy when it came to instigating and continually engaging my companion in conversation – who for her part seemed quite adept at keeping them talking.
‘Baaaahhhhh.’ she said – directing her query to the largest of the nearby sheep, who was looking us in the eye whilst thoughtfully chewing grass.
‘Barrrrrrrrhhh.’ She continued, expanding upon her previous point.
The sheep continued to look at her, as some lambs approached.
‘Bahhhhhhbbbaaaarrr’ my friend said with matter of fact candour.
The chatty lambs joined in – and a longer, more in depth discussion began.
‘Barrrhhh’ They all concluded after some back and forth.
‘I speak sheep better than cow.’ She advised matter of factly as I laughed about her conversation – and speculated upon what she was had been saying without realising to the assembled congregations in the fields.
Once my friend had tired of explaining her motivations for enduring my company to the clearly intrigued sheep we carried on – and soon returned to a covered area of the woods.
We were now heading downhill again.
Everything here was covered in a deep green mossy coating – and the whole landscape looked as if someone had been brought in to re-carpet the area solely for the benefit of visitors.
Looking into the woods as we walked by one could be forgiven for thinking that with nothing more than a pillow and a warm night that it was possible to bed down amongst the trees and get a good night’s sleep.
It probably wasn’t though.
If nothing else the nearby waterfalls and rivers would keep you awake – and soon we found the source of the nearby noise as we once again found the river that we’d started our walk from.
At this point we took a slight wrong turn (elongating the walk by around half a mile) and instead of walking down the river bank ended up hearing along the road back to the village.
This was (it turned out) no bad thing however, as the roadside path took us past the Pont-y-Pair inn & hotel (it’s just on the right in this photo – link) which happened to be in the middle of serving Sunday lunch, so we popped in to have a look at the menu.
After being told about the (very very reasonable) cost of dinner by an absolutely lovely lady publican behind the bar we elected to stay, sit for a while and recuperate.
The walk had been quite an energetic one – and had (at least according to Apple Watch) burned an amount of calories that would allow me at least a few roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.
After ordering a drink I decided on the roast pork with apple sauce, whilst my companion elected to have the chicken.
Honestly – dinners rarely taste better than when you know you’ve worked for them, and I love nothing more than eating a (relatively) guilt free meal after a load of exercise.
If anyone is visiting this area, on the strength of the frankly excellent service, reasonable price and quality of food on offer I’d not hesitate to recommend this pub. It gets my thumbs up and no mistake.
Once we’d sat and relaxed for an hour it was finally (sadly) time to leave Wales and head back home – which we did.
By the time we’d reached home both of us were a bit tired but very happy at how the completely unplanned weekend had worked out. Almost everything had slotted neatly into place, and seemed to vindicate anyone with a belief that the best excursions are the once with zero structure.
All in all internet today I feel great!
I put a couple of pounds on in Wales though thanks to the fine dining I occasionally indulged in (I had loads of mayo in my coleslaw!!!) and the rest of the week will be all about me bringing that under control.
I’ll be eating lots of salad and doing lots of walking to get back into my target range for Saturday.
Fingers crossed it goes to plan!!!