Day 9. The Lleyn Peninsula

Ty Mawr, meaning Big House in Welsh, is a small family run hotel, bar and restaurant close to the sea but convenient for exploring Snowdonia.

The rooms were all full and despite only booking a single room I was given the twin; probably no difference in bed but possibly a slightly larger room. I arrived sore and weary and was greeted by Steve who told me to chain the bike to the fire escape around the back and come and have a drink and some food when I was ready. The shower was excellent and perked me up enormously. In these Covid times hotels seem to adopt different policies and both here and in Aberystwyth the usual shampoo and conditioner were not provided. Fortunately I had some soap.

I came down to find the bar busy with football being shown on the big screen and lots of small groups of people drinking at separate tables both inside and out. I elected to sit outside and ate a meal of duck liver pate followed by a chicken curry. The pate was good but the curry a bit disappointing. There were three ales on tap and I went, appropriately for these times, for Hancock’s which is now owned and brewed by Brains. I enjoyed a couple of pints before leaving the increasingly rowdy local drinkers to go up and write the blog. There had been a local football kick about and several of the players came over for a pint or three and were still at it at high volume until midnight.

Once the crowds had gone I slept well in a comfortable bed and breakfasted on cereal and yoghurt followed by scrambled egg and sausage. The egg was a bit dry but perfectly acceptable and I packed up and left at about 0920.

First stop en route was Harlech, involving a moderate climb up from Llanbedr on back roads. The castle sits high above the coastal plain and is the first Edward I castle that I have seen, having stupidly missing Aberystwyth. When built in the 13th century the sea came up to the base of the castle rock but is now more than a mile away with a golf course on the plain below. It featured in every major conflict from Welsh rebellion, The Wars of the Roses and the Civil war and is rightly considered one of the finest examples of military architecture in Europe. I’m sorry not to have explored it but my day was full.

On a clear day from the opposite side you can see Mount Snowdon but today has been misty and overcast and far from ideal for photography.

The long hill down from Harlech, through the trees, to the plain was a nice change from peddling and I made my way north crossing the Afon Dwyryd befire joining the main road for a short while before branching off to Portmeirion.

As a teenager of the 60s I remember The Prisoner and Patrick McGoohan’s attempts to escape and subvert the system in “The Village”, so the architecture is quite familiar. Portmeirion was designed and built by Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in Italianate style, to “show how a beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it”. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, arguably the natural state was superior to the development but it is an extraordinary place, worthy of much more time than I spent there. The grounds extend to about 70 acres and contain many specimen trees and shrubs

I had to stand in a queue for about half and hour before buying a ticket. As an oldie I got £2 off the full entrance fee of £13. The village is run by a Charitable Trust and the entrance fees go to the upkeep. It was evident that quite a lot of external painting had been neglected with peeling paintwork on walls and windows. By the time I left the queue had lengthened considerably and those at the back would have been waiting for well over an hour to get in. Incidentally Portmeirion pottery, though sold in a shop on site, has never been made there. It was the invention of Susan Williams-Ellis, the pottery designer daughter of Sir Clough and is made in Stoke-on-Trent.

I moved on to Porthmadog home to three Heritage railways and, having crossed the long causeway was able to see one of the Blaenau-Ffestiniog trains backing into the station.

The town was busy but I still had 48 miles to travel and had no more time to explore. I was heading out on the Lleyn Peninsula that looks like a giant salamander jutting about 30 miles out into the Irish Sea and home to the Lleyn sheep, of which I saw plenty. The first five miles to Criccieth had a rudimentary cycle way so I was able to stay off the carriageway but in places overhanging bushes pushed me into the road. Criccieth has a castle, remodelled by Edward I, built on a volcanic rock jutting out into the sea. I took a poor picture in the mist.

Criccieth Castle

I was now on fairly flat ground with little climbing but the terrain was uninteresting, not helped by the dank weather. Sand dunes prevented a sight of the sea but there was a much better cycle lane all the way to Pwllheli about 8 miles distant. The wind had now strengthened considerably and was blowing in my face which was tiring and my saddle sore was uncomfortable. I stopped in the town at Lidl and bought some lunch which I ate in the carpark. My only knowledge of Pwllheli was that it had a Butlins Holiday Camp and I was expecting to see a funfair but apparently all the fairground attractions have been demolished and the land is now used as static caravan accommodation, ubiquitous along the whole of the west Welsh coast.

Next stop was Abersoch which I remember was a favourite holiday destination for the wealthy middle classes of Lancashire: a sort of equivalent to Rock in Cornwall for Londoners.

Abersoch creek

It is a centre for dinghy sailing and has several upmarket shops in a busy High Street. Even on a grey day there were plenty of punters. I left the main roads and went out into the countryside, winding my way up and down, past lots of caravan parks, occasionally getting lost and having to retrace my steps, heading for the tip of the Lleyn peninsula. About 44 miles into the journey I knew that I had a fearsome climb to get me from sea level to the hamlet of Rhiw. I stopped and took a picture of the ground ahead, the buildings at top right being Rhiw,

and it proved every bit as bad as expected. I was soon off the bike pushing up slopes of 15% and more for the best part of a mile. The descent was a bit of a roller coaster until I came down to sea level at Aberdaron and the last major climb of the day, fortunately only about 100 metres of pushing.

There was still about 15 miles to travel, mainly about 200 feet above the sea but dropping down gradually to my destination at Edern at about 85 feet.

The weather has been disappointing. With sunshine it would have been much more pleasant. I’ve worn a wind jacket most of the day and there were occasional spits of rain. Tomorrow looks better after rain tonight but the following day on Anglesey strong winds will probably mean that I truncate my journey that day, heading more directly from Holyhead to Bangor than planned. I’ve got a hard climb to start the day tomorrow, but after that it should be fairly easy.

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