Wales Coast Path – Gyrn Goch to Porth y Nant

20180218-IMG_005318th February 2018 – 11.4 miles

Sunday morning with slight drizzle. We parked just off the road in Gyrn Goch then headed down the main road. Again, much of this was set back from the main road along the old route, so it didn’t feel too bad. We followed the path into the village of Trefor in the shadow of Eifl, then onto the coast by the harbour.

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Trefor harbour

The path then (at last!) led us up onto the headland with views across Caernarfon Bay to Anglesey. Lots of oystercatchers nearby with a few cormorants out at sea. We followed the headland round to these rather idyllic looking cottages.

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20180218-IMG_0057-3We headed slightly inland, under a bridge that lead up to the slate quarry (it was just a road – I climbed up the embankment hoping it might be an inclined  plane …) then headed uphill across fields then an old overgrown lane. Apparently the miners and quarrymen from Trefor used to walk this route daily to the works at Nant Gwytherin.

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At the top the route and the views opened out, and we were able to look back across Caernarfon Bay to Anglesey and Snowdonia, although the cloud was down and it wasn’t as impressive as it would have been on a clear day!

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It was quite a steep climb, but easy to follow up to where a rough road ran to the quarry from the south. We had considered going up to the peak of Eifl, but as it was now drizzly in the cloud, we decided not to. It was getting a bit wet to want to do more than we had to, plus there would have been absolutely no view to make it worthwhile!

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We followed the rough road down the hill, with views below of Nant Gwytherin and the zig-zag road down to it, and reached the small car park which we had designated as our turnaround point when we had done the Coast Path from the other direction.

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We returned in the rain via the same route, but going straight through Trefor rather than round the headland.

WCP Gyrn Goch to Nant Gwytherin

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Wales Coast Path – Caernarfon to Gyrn Goch

WCP Caernarfon17 February 2018 – 14.98 miles

February half-term so we had a few days in North Wales to join up part of the coast path from Caernarfon to the north of the Llŷn Peninsula, and then to carry on round the southern end. We stayed for the first couple of nights in the Black Boy in Caernarfon, busy, cosy and they fed us extremely well!

We walked down to the marina and across the footbridge, where we had finished our walk last summer. We followed a quiet road along the coast, with views across to Anglesey, meeting only a handful of locals out for a walk, cyclists and a few cars. It was a pleasant day, fairly clear and bright, with a bit of a breeze – a gloves-on/gloves-off sort of day! It was cloudier inland so we didn’t get the views of Snowdonia. We passed this lonely church (St Baglan’s) in a field, some way off from the village. Apparently, it’s quite an interesting unrestored medieval church so it might be one to return to for a visit some day.

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St Baglan’s Church

As we turned the corner we had a view in front of us of a sandy spit of land, where the airport is. It almost looked as if the sandbars met across to Anglesey. We headed slightly inland to get round the bay and across a small river, through some pleasant villages. It is good to see that a lot of work is being done on the houses and many have been renovated. They don’t all look like holiday homes either!

We had a short stretch along a grassy footpath, a bit muddy in places. I think this was pretty much the only non-tarmac stretch we did today. This led to a footbridge and a causeway alongside the salt marsh of Foryd Bay where we saw a couple of little egrets. There had been a grebe on the Menai strait earlier. It seems to be quite a good place for birdwatching.

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Foryd Bay

A long, straight road led past the airport – surprisingly busy and noisy. We had seen an occasional light aircraft earlier in the day, but as we got nearer we could see planes and helicopters much more frequently.

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Helicopter landing at Caernarfon airport

We stopped for lunch at Morfa Dinlle, with a new view of the hills of the Llŷn and the last views of Anglesey, with St. Dwynwen’s chapel standing out really clearly.

Caernarfon Bay

Caernarfon Bay

A straight path above the beach ran parallel with the road down to the small resort of Dinas Dinlle. The route didn’t take us up to the hillfort, but instead up to the main road. This was part that I hadn’t been looking forward to – a long, straight slog along the main road! However, it wasn’t too bad. For a start the road wasn’t continuously busy, and also there were significant stretches of the path that were separated from the road, even if only by a few metres, either running through villages, or following what must have been the old road. On the plus side, the bus back to Caernarfon ran hourly along this road so we had plenty of options for our stopping point. We did check the bus stops and keep an eye on the passing buses as the hotel had warned us that some bus services had been significantly reduced, although they thought this one was unaffected (it was!).

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Llŷn sign

We passed through the village of Clynnog Fawr, with St Beuno’s church and the well just outside the village. Apparently, if you had a dip in the well, then slept overnight in the church on St Beuno’s tomb, you were cured. At least, you would say you were so you didn’t have to go through it all again! It is a very large church for such a small village, but was on the pilgrim route to Bardsey and is said to be where St Beuno is buried.

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St Beuno’s Church, Clynnog Fawr

We walked a little further, to the village of Gyrn Goch, where we decided to stop and wait for the bus. There looked to be few villages further along the road and we didn’t know where the next stop would be, plus we were just about ready to stop. It had been a much nicer day than expected, and I was glad that we had thought ahead to wear walking shoes rather than boots for a full day on tarmac.

WCP Caernarfon to Gyrn Goch

Pennine Way – Gunstone to Byrness

Gunstone to Byrness-624th October 2017 – 14.9 miles

We parked near the cattle grid on a minor road over the moors, where we had turned round yesterday, and headed straight uphill. Not nearly so boggy, but the weather was a little damp and misty. We followed the wall/fence line for a good way. I was taking note in case it got mistier on the return journey!Gunstone to Byrness-2

Once at the top of the hill, we turned north-west, still following the boundary and the edge of the forest. Now we were on a plateau, it did become boggier in places where it had been well trodden, but still not too bad. It is called Black Hill (again!) which is always a bad sign …

Further along, part of the forest alongside the Pennine Way had been felled and there were occasional fallen trees along the route. The roots loomed over us. Some trees had fallen across the path and we clambered over or under some. Others, we had to edge past as the soil under where the roots had been had turned to what can only be described as gloop! (I learned afterwards that this section has always had a bad reputation, even without the forestry works, and some avoid it, as we did on the return journey).

It was with some relief that we reached the forestry road and followed that for a short while, until the Pennine Way was signposted off to the left. “Good job I noticed that,” I remarked, as it had looked a straight route. Sure enough, the path ran parallel to the forestry road. It was difficult and overgrown and eventually led us back on to the forestry road, where other walkers had obviously also had enough and headed back to the gravel surface. There was one other loop like this which we avoided.Gunstone to Byrness-7

The weather had brightened up and it was good to be able to see the colours in the forest and the view to the hills in the north. The forestry road continued all the way to Blakhopeburnhaugh, where there was a small car park. We decided to carry on a bit longer, following the path along the river, turning round where the way met a road at a campsite on the edge of Byrness. Gunstone to Byrness-5

We returned along the forest road and actually met another person, walking the Pennine Way! That’s the only walker we met in 4 days!

We kept to the forest road, going cautiously past the forestry worker piling up logs, and followed the forest road down to the country road where we had parked the car. Gunstone to Byrness-8

Pennine Way: Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way23 October 2017 – 15.4 miles

We parked again in Bellingham near the bridge and followed the river into town. The Way was not signed at all from here and we initially headed up the wrong road before checking the map. Cycle routes are well signed here so why they couldn’t at least have added an acorn somewhere, I don’t know. Still, it gave us the chance to see this rather nice Harvest cross outside a church.Pennine Way-2

We headed uphill on a road for quite a way before heading off on a farm track then slightly uphill and onto moorland. There is a choice of route here – we went for the one further uphill, hoping it might be drier. It wasn’t too bad, certainly not compared with previous days, and was straightforward to follow. We followed the course of an old mining railway down to the road. It was a bit of an effort to get through the gate on the other side without mishap, but we managed.  Pennine Way-6

However, I think the adventure of getting round the puddle distracted us from the map and we headed off along the track until we came to a fork, where we checked the map and retraced our steps! The correct path was not obvious from the gateway, but became clearer once we were on it. The guidebook says to head towards grouse butts, but we didn’t see any. Pennine Way-8

The path through the moorland heather was narrow but clearly defined – so unlike the heavily-used and eroded paths further south on the Pennine Way. It was wet in places, but solid.  Strangely, the 1:50000 OS map shows a public footpath routed to the west of where it shows the diamonds of the Pennine Way, whereas the 1:25000 map shows the Pennine Way being contiguous with the footpath! Our GPS track shows us following the diamonds of the 1:50000 version and it was the only path visible on the ground.Pennine Way-9

We continued on to where the Way meets a minor road across the moors at a cattle grid, marked on some maps as ‘Gunstone’. From here we could follow tracks and roads back into Bellingham. It felt like a bit of a slog on the road but preferable (and twice the speed) of returning by the same route over the hills. PW Bellingham to Gunstone

Pennine Way: Bellingham to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-822 October 2017 – 12.2 miles

We parked on the outskirts of Bellingham on a clear, bright Sunday morning, admiring the bridge over the River North Tyne and this building, which must once have been a bridge-keeper’s lodge.

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We walked along the road for a while, until the Way headed uphill over fields of sheep. It was rough and a bit wet, but nothing like as boggy as yesterday had been. However, on top of the hill – flat and peaty – bog! There were waymarkers and a few boards across the worst part. Of course, the trouble with boards is that everyone gets on and off at similar points so that in turn becomes bog!

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We then turned along a more solid track, past a radio mast on the ridge which we had been able to see from a long way off yesterday. Again, from this vantage point, it looked like we had the map spread out in front of us. We came down off the ridge through a rocky path, and past some old farms, one of which rejoiced in the name of Shitlington Hall, where we said hello to a cheery farmer. We were surprised to have to ford a small stream as there is no mention of this in the guidebook.

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We headed down to a stream (the Houxty Burn – another great name)and followed this a short way, catching a brief blue flash of a kingfisher. Across the bridge, we headed steeply uphill, and had lunch sitting on a fallen tree.

Today was far less boggy than yesterday, and seemed to have more variety which helped. It was still nice to have the next section along a quiet country lane, up to a house, Lowstead, where the Way has been slightly deviated to go around the newly renovated garden which, presumably, it used to go through! Who can blame them for that? We didn’t have a rest on their garden seat though!Pennine Way-3

A few more fields brought us to the footbridge over Warks Burn, our turnaround point.

On the way back, we saw a mother and small son sitting on another seat outside Lowstead, the only “walkers” (we assumed they had been!) we met all day. We deviated slightly on the way back to walk further along the road and have it easier underfoot.PW-Bellingham-to-Warks-Burn

Pennine Way: Hadrian’s Wall to Warks Burn

Pennine Way-321st October 2017 – 14.8 miles

We stayed at a hotel in Chollerford, having been booked in there on Thursday evening when we were told our cottage in Bellingham was double booked! At least the letting agent sorted it out before we left home …

We started out planning to park at Housesteads, but then worked out how much it would cost for the full day (priced at 3 hours, then every additional hour! It would have been well over £10). We found a lay-by further along the road, conveniently opposite Rapishaw Gap where the Pennine Way heads north away from Hadrian’s Wall. It was hard work heading uphill, as I am just about recovered from a cough/virus  but it was a steep hill!

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Rapishaw Gap – the Pennine Way heads north

The view from Hadrian’s Wall is impressive as you could see the landscape and our route laid out in front of us. We headed downhill, past some noisy cows, and across a muddy field, picking our way around the wettest parts. We realised we had headed a bit to the west and corrected a little to meet the farm track at the right place. (On the way back, we managed to follow the route across this part and it was better)

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Boggy underfoot

We headed into the woods, pleased that it would be drier underfoot – how wrong can you be? A short way into the woods and the ground became a quagmire. It was worse than out on the fields and common land as you were hemmed in by close-growing conifers with hardly any room for an alternative route. I used my trekking pole to test the ground in front of me – I poked one firm looking piece of green grass and it wobbled! It was a relief to get out onto the boggy moorland again.

It felt fairly empty and bleak, with not much to look at, apart from this old tree-filled sheep fold. It was quite nice to look back and see the ridge that Hadrian’s Wall runs along. We did say it was no wonder the Romans hadn’t come this far north, especially in those sandals (yes, I know …).

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Group of trees in a sheepfold – a landmark in bare moorland

The next section of wood wasn’t nearly as bad as the first, and we stopped here for lunch. It had quite a creepy feel about it though, and I was rather glad not be alone. That’s not like me, but I really didn’t enjoy today at all! What a relief to get to the road, by a house rejoicing in the name of ‘Willowbog‘, which was a bonsai nursery. The next section of wood had a tarmac byway. Normally, this would look rather boring, but it was dry and solid.

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Byway near Broadpool Common

We got to the bridge over Warks Burn and turned around as it was 2:30 p.m. which was our cut off time. We were only a little short of our target which was the farm and road about half a mile away, but it had been slow and heavy going.

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Warks Burn

Unfortunately, there was no alternative route back. It didn’t seem quite as bad returning – perhaps knowing what was coming helped – and we didn’t pick our way round but just trudged through the mud! It was just getting dark when we reached the car.

PW Hadrian's Wall to Warks Burn

 

Wales Coast Path: Cemaes to Amlwch

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View to Porth Padrig

13th August 2017 – 14.5 miles

Today was a circular walk – we didn’t even think about buses on a Sunday! – so we decided to start and finish in Cemaes, being a rather prettier spot to return to then Amlwch (sorry, Amlwch).

We paid to stay in the car park down by the beach where we were given what is claimed to be ‘the biggest parking ticket in the world’ and noticed that Cemaes, like Moelfre yesterday, was having a Lifeboat Day. We didn’t detour into the village to see it, but we heard the drum group. We wondered if they were the group from Liverpool – they certainly looked and sounded very similar.

WCP Cemaes to Amlwch

Cemaes

The path skirted the bay, with views across to Wylfa Power Station as we gained height. We stopped for a break at Llanbadrig Point and realised we had not come very far and it might be slow going today! Soon after this we came upon Llanbadrig (St Patrick’s) Church, perched on the cliff top, which is meant to date from the 5th century.

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Llanbadrig church

The coastline from here was very rugged, on high cliffs with clear views across to the Skerries. There were also quite a few ups and downs over the headlands and into bays. The first major bay was Llanlleiana, with industrial remains and a chimney. I assumed this had something to do with the copper industry but it turns out to have been porcelain works.

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Llanlleiana porcelain works

We chatted a while to another walker who told us that the next headland was the most northerly point in Wales, so we continued there for our lunch. There is a small, rocky islet, Middle Mouse, which is a bit further north but this is the furthest north you can get without a boat! There were views across to the Isle of Man on the horizon. The headland had a strange structure which we thought was a WW2 lookout post but turns out to have been built to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. I’m surprised it is in such a poor state of repair.

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The northernmost point of Wales

At this point, the battery in my camera gave up …

The bay at Porth Wen also had some impressive industrial archaeology, this time the remains of brick works. A few people had come to the bay on boats and were diving into the harbour.

After this, the path got easier and less rugged. A wide, level path through heather led to Bull Bay – we sat down for a drink in field of black bulls – or maybe they were cows, I didn’t look – and were very glad to see Amlwch in the near distance. I was very tired with feet like lead. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to get much closer for a while and even when we were almost there, the coast path veered off hugging the coastline, for which, I suppose, we should be grateful!

We returned to Cemaes by the A-road to Bull Bay (that was quick and easy!), then the Coast Path to Porth Wen, and finally along a lane into Cemaes only to find that the chippy is shut on a Sunday – and I had so been looking forward to eating fish and chips looking out to sea. Never mind, we had fish and chips in the hotel restaurant before heading back home. The return journey had taken us half the time of the outward and felt a lot less tiring.WCP Cemaes to Amlwch