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Travel & Holidays in later life


The beach at Aberporth, which features a range of self-catering accommodation

Reg Butler enjoys a self catering break in a caravan by the Welsh Coastline.

We awoke at 6 a.m. to the sound of sea-gulls, jogging on our holiday roof. One or two seemed very heavy-footed. 

We were staying in a mid-Wales caravan park, handy to the sea at Aberporth. The word "caravan" may give the wrong impression. The business has come a long way since caravan holidays meant roughing it in a crowded tin box in the middle of a muddy field. 

Our 4-berth mobile home measured 26 ft by 10 ft - double the cat-swinging space you get in the average touring caravan. 

There were two separate single bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen with 'fridge and full-size oven, a dining area, complete bathroom with running h. & c. and flush toilet, and a roomy lounge that comfortably seated four to watch the telly.

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Many stretches of the coastal path are hard going for anyone of limited mobility.

Cardigan Tourist Information Centre, Theatr Mwldan, Bath House Road, Cardigan Ceredigion, SA43 2JY. Tel: 01239 613230.  
Email: cardigantic@ 

Wales Tourist Board    Tel: 08708 300 306

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Night-time, the lounge wall pulled down and it was a double bed, very springy. Electric light and heat was included in the price. Our caravan or mobile home featured everything you'd expect from a small self-contained holiday flat, with all the home-from-home comforts. 

Our morning routine, while waiting for tea to brew, was to switch on the telly for the news and weather, and lay up the table for a regular home-style breakfast. 

Then we'd have the usual argument on where to go, which attractions to visit, in the light of what the weather programme promised. The mobile home included a folder of brochures, so there was no lack of ideas. The site office worked like a mini Tourist Information Centre, with still more leaflets. 

Should we go for museums and steam trains in between the showers, with lunch at Cardigan, New Quay or Aberystwyth? Or should we do an all-day hike along a section of the Heritage Coast Path, with picnic bags to prepare? 

During our week, we ticked off a couple of coastal instalments that offered superb cliff walks, uphill and down, for breathtaking views. Jagged pinnacles of rock gave perching places for thousands of sea birds, including cormorants. 

It's a favourite coastline for grey seals, porpoises and a family of bottle-nose dolphins.

From nearby Aberporth, the path led to an idyllic little beach at Tresaith: a tiny haven of white houses, roofed with Welsh slates. Catamarans were drawn up on the shingle above a golden-sand beach. It looked perfect for bucket-and-spade business. Further along was Llangranog and a delightful bay called Cwmtudu.

This region with friendly pubs and self-catering Welsh cottages was a favourite retreat of the poet and drinker, Dylan Thomas. He was inspired by the countryside and villages to produce some of his best work. 

A popular guide-book is "The Dylan Thomas Trail" - available from the local bookshops and Tourist Information Centres. He frequently stayed at New Quay, a popular family seaside resort, with several holiday parks close by. 

A few miles north is Aberaeron - another Dylan Thomas hang-out for social and drinking time. The small harbour was developed with elegant Georgian streets, built and town-planned by a wealthy parson in early 19th century.

The harbour at AberaeronOne day we drove along the coast to Aberystwyth for a trip on the Vale of Rheidol steam railway which runs to Devil's Bridge. We enjoyed the glamour of steam, the pleasure of smuts in the hair, and the beauty of the Valley scenery. 

Rain is not unknown on a Welsh holiday. It's the price you pay for some of the greenest landscape in Britain - rushing streams, trout lakes and waterfalls. Rain helps support six million sheep, grazing on the hillsides. 

The Welsh streams powered the woollen industry which kept our ancestors warm in flannel petticoats and patterned blankets. Several textile mills still survive on a cottage-industry basis, and are open to visitors. The National Woollen Museum is located at Felindre, near Llandysul. 

Hooked on this "Industrial Heritage" theme, we also visited the Llywernog Silver-lead Mine, inland from Aberystwyth, with a well-documented Mining Heritage Trail to illustrate how the mine was operated by water power. 

At Cenarth Falls, beside the River Teifi, the National Coracle Centre features a unique collection of coracles from around the world. This museum stands in the grounds of a 17th-century working mill which is also open to the public. The local stretch of river is known for salmon and sea trout.

For shopping, our best local potential was either in Cardigan or New Quay - both of them very pleasant, and full of 'characters'. Most of the locals were Welsh-speaking, but kindly switched to English for us foreigners.

Visiting off-season, our evenings at the holiday park were very quiet, with just a few people in the club-house, which also served bar food. During summer, there'd be more activity around the heated swimming pool, and in the children's one-acre play area. The 14-acre site was licensed for 65 pitches.

A typical cottage available for holiday rentalWales is very deep into the caravan holiday market, and the Tourist Board takes it very seriously. Site facilities are graded on a star system. Each park is re-inspected every year, to ensure that high standards are maintained - pleasantly landscaped and with good amenities on site. Likewise other self-catering accommodation is graded, including apartments and traditional Welsh cottages.

Here are more ideas on where to go in Wales

CARDIFF - great to visit any time

LLEYN PENINSULA - Go walking around the Edge of Wales

SWANSEA - On the Dylan Thomas trail around the Gower peninsula 

TENBY - along  Pembroke's coastline

WALES - Steam up for North Wales

WALES ALONG THE A5 - Follow the historic highway for great sightseeing

WELSH RAREBITS - for a taster of Wales

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Dylan Thomas Trail by David Thomas - In the footsteps of Dylan Thomas - walks with photographs and maps of the area around Aberaeron and New Quay where Dylan Thomas wrote some of his classics. Anecdotes about the poet are also included. 

Cardigan and Mynydd Preseli (Landranger Maps)  - The ideal Ordnance Survey map for those who want to explore the region in depth, complete with tourist information, recommended viewpoints and picnic sites, and camping and caravan sites. 

The Hidden Places of Wales (Hidden Places Travel Guides) - Covering the entire principality, this book will encourage you to return and discover more of the "Hidden Places" besides those in Cardiganshire.

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