Sunday, 8 July 2018

Wales 2018, Part Two

Thanks to a flat tyre en route, we arrived at YHA Pwll Deri just as the sun was beginning to set and the landscape was draped in a beautiful golden light. The hostel sits on the edge of a cliff on the Pembrokeshire coast and has one of the most stunning views of any I’ve stayed in. We spent a serene evening watching the sun gradually descend below the horizon and the sky transform into a pink and orange vision above the water. Other guests joined us in the experience, bringing to the fore the joy of youth hostels – community.
 

The next morning we eagerly set out to explore some of the walking routes shooting off from the front door. First we headed upwards, enjoying the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline. Following this we took the coastal path, a route that eventually leads to a lighthouse, a popular area with seals. We had to cut our walk shortly unfortunately as Snowdonia was calling to us.

The next day held the biggest challenge – reaching the peak of Snowdon. A task that has evaded me on multiple occasions due either to ill health or dangerous weather conditions (even as a child attempting to reach the top via the mountain railway the fog was so dense it would not ascend fully). We chose the Snowdon Ranger Path as it is heralded as a good route for your first attempt, quiet and picturesque. Thought to be the oldest route to the summit, it rises swiftly to begin before a gentle section leading to the start of the steep climb, a relentless hour or so of ascent on loose grave before joining the Llanberis Path in a more gentle climb to the summit. It was 27 degrees on the day and with no relief of shade we were thankful for the presence of the café and the ability to purchase cold drinks. The railway and café do somewhat ruin the peacefulness that you find at other peaks however. Every half an hour or so a new train load of tourists unload and climb the few steps leading to the summit. Thankfully, we arrived between trains and so had a few moments of relative peace before the onslaught of tourists.

Once we were safely back at the base our next challenge was to find somewhere to refuel. All of the pubs we passed had stopped serving food and we had begun to think we’d have to go without when we found Y Sgwar, a lovely restaurant in Tremadog. I felt out of place in my dust covered boots and walking gear when all the other diners had clearly dressed up for their evening date. The staff didn’t bat an eyelid however and with good food and excellent service it was a lucky find.

It was with a heavy heart that we began the journey home the following day. There was one stop still to make however, Cardiff CastlePart Norman castle, part Georgian mansion, it made a fascinating break on a long drive. We enjoyed a tour of the areas once inhabited by the Marquess of Bute and his family with a knowledgable, friendly tour guide. The interior is lavish with no expense spared. The rooms are themed with inspiration taken from different countries, periods of history, and children’s stories. With the nationalization of the coal industry the Marquess decided to pass the castle to the people of the city of Cardiff after being in the family for two centuries.

The Norman castle still stands although it was damaged badly in the Civil War. The tower provides excellent views across the city. Furthermore, the walls of the castle were used during the Second World War as an air raid shelter. Visitors are able to walk the length of the tunnels, dark and unsettling with recorded air raid warnings playing.

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