Despite promising to go there we hadn’t been to Wales for such a long time and even then only once on a failed camping trip and for weekends or business. The only times I had been there for any length was as a child to the Lleyn and Anglesey and in my early teens teenager to Pembrokeshire. So as we were kicking our heels due to our big summer trip having been delayed a couple of months we decided to take the plunge.
Day 1 : Friday 16 June
The day started with a 4 hour drive around the M23 / M25 / M40. The weather didn’t look that hot and but as the day wore on it just got warmer. It might seem odd going to Wales from the South Coast via the Grand Union near Northampton but friends Lesley and Jeff have a Narrow boat moored there at Heyfields Marina and we had promised to pay a visit. Like all such places it was down narrow lanes so imagine our amusement when, after a mile or so, we came across an IKEA arctic on foreign plates stopped before a low height bridge – he wasn’t going anywhere except in reverse. As it was the marina owners were more than happy for us to pitch up there for a night. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening at the start of a very hot weekend with a picnic lunch and BBQ supper and several bottles of wine.
Day 2 : Saturday 17 June
The day dawned with a cloudless blue sky and already hot. After a bacon sandwich breakfast Fred managed to exhaust himself with just one “walk” around the site. We hadn’t decided where in Wales we were going but as it happens the marina in question lies just of the A5 so it was an easy decision to head to North Wales and save on the navigation. Some of the old A5 is a bit of a drag but other goes through some lovely countryside.
It took a while before we eventually got to Wales and we started looking for camp sites. I thought the A5 took us to Bala but when it didn’t we took a turning off signposted to Ffestiniog. The 13 mile road had a number so one might think it was ordinary however as it climbed to around 1500ft over the moor it became a narrow single track passing Lynn Conwy lake, the source of the river Conwy.
Once in Ffestiniog with a mobile signal we got onto the web and found a nice site back in Bala – I should have taken the turning there in the first place. Situated in remote countryside about 3 miles outside Bala this C&CC site was just what the doctor ordered, very peaceful with nice facilities.
Day 3 : Sunday 18th June
It was Sue’s birthday so a relaxed day was on the cards. One shortcoming of the site was a lack of walking possibilities without walking down the lanes so we opted to start in Bala where there is a great walk from the old station car park along the banks of the River Dee to Lake Bala. Fred had a great time in the long grass and the river and in the lake chasing the gulls. On the way back he got into the river and swam spontaneously for the first time.
Our walk was followed by a tour of Snowdonia to Dolgelau, Betsw-y-Coed and back to Bala. It was getting warmer and the breeze through the van was welcome. Stopping anywhere meant tangling with the many tourists but we found a nice picnic lay-by on the pass near Ffestiniog where we could watch the classic cars out for the day and loads of would be Joey Dunlops.
Day 4 : Monday 19 June
As I said I was a child when my parents took us to Anglesey and Sue has never been there so that is where we were going but not before Fred had another play in Lake Bala. The A5 took us through Betsw-y-Coed and up and through the pass at Pont Pen-y-Benglog where the lay-bys are full of campers and cars that belong to the guys hanging off the cliffs all along the lake.
A quick shopping trip to Asda in Bangor to buy lunch and stock up and we headed for Aglesey. There are two bridges across the Menai straights and I wanted to use the old Thomas Telford suspension bridge close to Bangor.
Once across the bridge we turned right looking for a lunch stop, a frustrating excessive and annoying when we got to Beaumaris where they crowd you onto the sea front and charge £5 for the day. Anyhow we found a nice lay-by with a view across the straight of the whole of Snowdonia.
Driving a short way around the north coast it was cold and drab and it didn’t take long to work out that we didn’t want to stay on Anglesey. On the way back to the “new” Britannia bridge we made a couple of calls and picked a C&CC site near Cricceth on the Lleyn Peninsula. The site was on a bit of a slope but the facilities were exactly the same as the last site so it would do us for a couple of nights.
Day 5 : Tuesday 20 June
We decided on a drive around the Lleyn Peninsula for the day. The forecast wasn’t so hot and indeed by the time we sopped for coffee just before Nefyn it was bright but chilly. The views from the hillside, more Snowdonia, were nothing if spectacular once again. Parking at Nefyn was limited so we carried on to Abedaron where at least this time the National Trust would let us park for an hour instead of all day and let Fred have a run on the beach. We set off to towards Abersoch, a well to do resort, in search of somewhere to park up for lunch and were disappointed again by rip off car parks. In the end we stopped by a boat yard in Pwllheli where as luck would have it we found a fresh fishmonger and bought a couple of filleted Mackerel for tea.
Returning to the camp site, that was actually in Llanystumdwy the birth and resting place of Lloyd George, we tried to take Fred for a walk and a dip in the nearby river but he wasn’t keen on the boulders. He kept slipping of and he couldn’t understand how deep it was. In the end we took a walk through the woods and past Lloyd George’s grave.
As I said the weather forecast had suggested it would be cooler – it was nothing of the sort with the temperature in the high 20s and still warm at night.
After the frustration of all the expensive car parks we took the decision to join the National Trust so from now on we should be able to find free parking as well as places to visit.
Day 6 : Wednesday 21 June
Today we decided to head south toward Pembrokeshire via some of the coast and Aberystwyth. A short supermarket stop in Porthmadog and back on to the A470 heading south. We stopped for coffee and a walk in the Kings Forest a spectacular wooded area full of giant Canadian spruce trees.
Once at Dolgelau we took the coast road consisting of beautiful country lanes and spectacular coastal views. We pulled over for lunch in a lay-by on the side of a hill that looked out over the Irish Sea to the north we could see all round to the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula. Below us the sea was turquoise and clear.
Today it was very hot and as we got to Aberystwyth the van’s outside thermometer read 31.5C. We stopped on the sea front for a stroll and an ice-cream and watched a large dolphin lazily swimming just off the beach. It started to shower but came to nothing.
Looking at the forecast for the coming days we decided to head inland for the night and a C&CC site at Rhandirmwyn. It was so far out of the way that it was impossible to find and there was no mobile access to call them and once there there was no radio either. It could have been a nice place were it not for the clouds of ferocious midges which, along with the mozzies and bitting flies, made a feast of Sue. So bad was it that we very soon locked ourselves away and cleared the van of the insects as best we could.
Day 7 : Thursday 22 June
We got up very early and there were just a few beasties about so we very quickly loaded the van and headed into Llandovery to find a cafe and some breakfast. We decided to go back along the A40 to south Pembrokeshire and ended up on Pendine Beach for coffee. Fred was so excited being let off on such a big beach that I am sure he set a new land speed record for Cocker Spaniels.
From here we worked our way through Saundersfoot and Tenby and on to the Stackpole Estate and the beach at Bosherston. We had lunch overlooking the sea and then took Fred down to the gorgeous sandy beach. The tide was out and the beach was empty and he had such a good time.
Although the weather was holding it was time to think about going home that afternoon and we headed east along the A40. We tried a couple of small C&CC certified sites that were poorly located and very expensive before we found a lovely little site at White Mill near Carmarthen Coincidentally there was a couple already there in an VW T4 van with a Westie called Fred and they came from Lancing just 30 miles away from us.
Day 8 : Friday 23 June
Today was set to be grey and damp and sure enough as we were packing it started spitting. I managed to get a short walk in with Fred after breakfast before we headed on up the road. The A40 was full of classic hot rods on their way to Pendine for the Vintage Hot Rod Association speed weekend – perhaps we should have stayed. We were heading to the Dolaucothi Gold Mines just by Llandovery. Gold was mined there since before the Romans until the 1960’s. They are a National Trust property so another bit of value for our recent membership. We took the walking tour and the history of the site is fascinating, it would be easy to spend a lot more time there one day.
From Dolaucothi I called my cousin Claire in Stroud and we spent the evening with her, Olie and Jade over an Indian Takeway.
Day 9 : Saturday 24 June
And that was about it. We had camped in Cirencester and were up early and on the road and home in time for lunch.
So we have done 1200 miles around Wales (where it always rains) and burned to a frazzle. Last time we tried to camp in Pembrokeshire, 45ish years ago we had to admit defeat to howling wind and rain. Lets try it again sometime…..
PS. please excuse the possibly clumsy use of the dash cam video. It is the first time I have tried it and I am sure I need to refine it a bit,