Travel & Holidays in later life
GO WALKING AROUND THE EDGE OF WALES
After innumerable visits to Wales Reg Butler finally made it to the Lleyn Peninsula. That's the bit of the Welsh northwest coast which points a finger of land towards Southern Ireland.
And courtesy of Gwynedd County Council there are signs and routing for an extended Lleyn Coastal Path which goes right around the coast from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. You can download a free map and walking guide for the various sections.
That makes 95 miles of beach and cliff walk, ideal for a one-week circuit for anyone keen on hiking. The northern half of the trail follows the route taken by medieval pilgrims to Bardsey Island, at the toe of the peninsula.
In these more modern times, a local non-profit cooperative called The Edge of Wales has organised a set of short-break walking packages, with accommodation and minibus luggage service to link the overnight stops.
They have also mapped a network of cycling lanes, routed along very quiet lanes where grass grows down the middle. Bikes can be hired.
For less able visitors, the co-op also rents out all-terrain 'Tramper' buggies with a range of 30 miles by electric battery. You can zoom at
5 mph along country tracks and cope with 25% gradients, but cannot do stiles.
Like in most of North Wales, self-catering is much more widespread than serviced accommodation, though there is good supply of charming hotels and guest-houses.
Many farmers have diversified into holiday business, converting granite barns and stables into well-furnished cottages, ideal for families.
We looked at a 100-acre dairy farm which features 40 cows and 13 converted cottages, of which two are Grade 5 and the rest Grade 4.
The farmer's wife started up Gwynfryn Farm Holidays 15 years ago, and they've been upgrading ever since. "The self-catering business has become very competitive. So extras are installed to keep us ahead of the pack."
The facilities include attractions for children, like feeding spring lambs, collecting the hens' eggs or watching morning or evening milking.
A well-equipped gym and a heated under-cover swimming pool can match the standards of a four-star hotel.
For traditional bucket-and-spade holidays, the prime south-facing resorts are Cricieth, Pwllheli, Abersoch and Aberdaron. They all offer wide golden-sand beaches.
On the northern shore, sandy coves and long beaches have only limited accommodation.
Cricieth is overlooked by an early 13th-century hilltop castle, while a neighbouring village was boyhood home to 1st- World-War Prime Minister Lloyd George.
Pwllheli doubles as a boating centre, with a flourishing marina and many excellent restaurants, catering for all the holiday mariners and self-caterers.
Anglers can haul in mackerel galore from June until the end of summer. The early summer fish are the best. Then the mackerel get too big, and are not so tasty.
We took a scenic coastal cruise aboard a 12-passenger catamaran called Shearwater. It visited the seal and seabird colonies of St Tudwal's Islands, with dolphins keeping us company.
Guillemots lined up along a ledge above a spectacular sea cave, while shags perched along the cliff-top. With necks outstretched they surveyed everything from their grandstand watch-towers.
The cruise turned back at Hell's Mouth, a bay with a four-mile sandy beach reached only by tricky footpaths. It's highly popular with surfers who know the area, but is not safe for children or poor swimmers.
At the sharp end of the peninsula is Aberdaron, where we had afternoon tea at the Y Gegin Fawr cafe. This was once a communal kitchen where 13th-century pilgrims could claim a free meal on their last lap to Bardsey Island.
The island was a 5th-century refuge for persecuted Christians. Legend claims that 20,000 saints are buried there. Hence the medieval stream of pilgrims.
Two or three miles north of Aberdaron is the crescent-shaped beach of Porthor, where the sands whistle or squeak underfoot on a dry and warm summer's day.
Continuing northwards along the B4417 coastal road, it's worth walking down to the beach of Porth Dinllaen, near Nefyn. A popular red-brick pub called Ty Coch Inn makes a welcome refreshment and lunch stop for hikers along this Heritage Coast.
For the most dramatic cliff scenery, turn off the main highway at Llithfaen towards Nant Gwrtheyrn, where hair-raising hairpin bends lead down to the Welsh Language and Heritage Centre.
About half the population of the Lleyn Peninsula speak Welsh, and all the road signs are bilingual. If you want to learn what they are saying, you can stay in a restored terrace of slate-miners' cottages and take a language course lasting 3, 5 or 12 days.
But you can stay there anyway, renting one of the self-catering homes for a secluded short break or a full holiday. The cottages sleep between 3 and 8 people. For passing
visitors, entry to the Centre is free, and you can eat in the licensed restaurant with the accent on real Welsh home-cooked food.
For a totally different holiday attraction, visit the Glasfryn Activity Park, which features quad trekking, karting, archery, clay pigeon shooting and ten pin bowling. It's one of the biggest activity centres in North Wales, with the busiest go-cart circuits in the country.
Here are more ideas on where to go in Wales
CARDIFF - great
to visit any time
CARDIGAN - Self-catering along
the Heritage Coast
SWANSEA - On the
Dylan Thomas trail around the Gower peninsula
TENBY - along Pembroke's
WALES - Steam up for North
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
Peninsula West (Explorer Maps) - The Ordnance Survey map,
essential if you plan to do some serious walking.
Peninsula East (Explorer Maps) - You'll also need this
one, to complete your circuit around the Edge of Wales.
Anglesea and the Lleyn Peninsula Walks - an Ordnance Survey
Pathfinder Guide, covering the whole northwest corner of Wales.
Tea Shop Walks on Lleyn and Anglesey by Dorothy Hamilton - all the
routes range from 3 to 8 miles, with the prospect of being restored by a
properly-served Welsh tea.
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