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Postcard from Wales: Alla fine!

30 May

30 May 2019.

Alla fine! At last, we come to our time in Wales and what a wonderful place it is! Why do so few Americans make their way to Wales? Perhaps it is the lack of big sights. There’s no Uffizi Museum, Tower of London, nor Louvre; no Colosseum, Big Ben, nor Eiffel Tower. What Wales has is beautiful countryside, unspoiled coastline, friendly people, charming pubs, and historical castles.

It does take significant effort to ferret out information and construct an itinerary. Rick Steves does not have the best bead on Wales, in my opinion, and maybe that’s because much of his audience does not have the time to devote to this rural corner of Britain.

Penny Lane Sign

We started our time together with a short Beatles Tour in Liverpool. Paul autographed this sign. From left, me, Ric, Jane & Rick.

Maybe Americans don’t go to Wales because of right-hand drive cars. My brother, the intrepid driver, has experience with “wrong side” driving and we take advantage of his willingness to be the driver when in the UK or even in other European areas where having a car is advantageous (Scotland, Puglia, Croatia, rural Emilia-Romagna). With brother Rick at the wheel and husband Ric in the navigator’s seat, Jane and I could relax and enjoy the scenery from the back seat of the Range Rover.

We all met in Liverpool coming from our various directions. After taking a private “Magical Mystery Tour,” we headed to Caernarfon in North Wales. It is lovely country here, dominated by Snowdonia National Park, but it does take a bit of effort to get around: a lot of windshield time as the going is slow. Without a car, one can use some buses and scenic trains to aid hiking, but a car is quite useful. Easy hikes are not too hard to find with the help of the tourist office. We did find getting detailed walk info in advance of the trip a little challenging but once on site we were happy with walks that included a good pub lunch at the end. We stayed in the Gatekeepers’ Lodge at Plas Dinas Country House. Quite charming and we slept well, ate well, and drank fine whiskey.

Please click on any picture for a slide show and captions.

From Caernarfon, a drive down the coast allowed us a stop in Aberystwyth where the TV drama Hinterland is based. It was a bit dark and brooding on this gray day which is fitting for the show. Watch it if you can. Netflix has it.

By the way, our luck with the weather was amazing. Brother Rick says he always brings the sun to the UK and we only had rain on days we were changing cities, i.e., during car time. Ric and I got wet once since leaving France, and that was in London after Rick flew home. Go figure!

On to St. David’s, Britain’s smallest city. St. David’s is a cathedral city of some historical religious importance and we were drawn to this remote section of Wales for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Once in the city, you can just about get around without a car thanks to a bus network, the Celtic Coaster, but having a vehicle and a willing driver makes it easier and faster. The walks were just what I expected of country walking in the UK. We hiked across meadows of sheep and buttercups, along hedgerows, through small copses, past lovely gardens, through kissing gates, and along narrow shoreline paths: all in one walk! In the evenings, dinner was a 10-minute walk from our homey B&B, the Ramsey House. Thank goodness we were walking so much! Big breakfasts then chips and beer at lunch became a habit we need to break.

Click on any photo for a slideshow and captions.

The Welsh language is a major factor in the culture of this part of Wales, separated from the more English-speaking section by the Landsker Line. In Caernarfon and the villages of Snowdonia we heard Welsh spoken often and still heard it a bit in St. David’s. Once we got to the city of Pembroke and on to the Brecon Beacons, the only Welsh we encountered was on the bilingual signs that are required everywhere.

Welsh sign

From menus to road signs and waymarkers, almost everything is presented in both Welsh and English.

Map

Pembroke Castle is very important in Welsh history, indeed in the history of the UK. We took a very informative tour. There is a giant map of Wales in the courtyard which Rick and Jane are shown touring.

One night in a pub in the Brecon Beacons village of Pontsticill, I overheard a table of 30-something men discussing the language with their 60-something waitress.

“Do you have the Welsh then?” asked one of the men.

“Nah, but me grandkids have it at school,” she responded.

Guffaw from the lads. “I could never when I were at school!” said another.

Speaking of the Brecon Beacons, what an extraordinary area! So vast! Although it carries the title National Park, this is nothing like a national park in the United States. These are lands set aside to preserve the way of life as much as to prevent development, so one finds villages and estates right inside the parks, and grazing lands abound as well as farming in sectors. There are no big hotels nor resorts but there are campgrounds and facilities available along with guesthouses, holiday houses, and B&Bs.

It was challenging to find detailed information about walking in Brecon Beacons until we arrived there. We had a faint notion to try a short, local segment of the Offa’s Dyke Path and did a couple of small sections but learned too late about supporting transportation options that would facilitate one-way half-day hikes. A return trip could be more focused. There was a fine walk through sheep pastures to an Iron Age hill fort in the Brecon Beacons. That was pretty darn cool.

We had a very nice house on the edge of Brecon Beacons, at the southern edge of the park, but close to some cute villages with nice options for dining.

Once again, please click for captions and larger photos.

Alle fine (in the end), we had a great trip through Wales and Liverpool was worth exploring as well although our time there was short. We could have extended any location by a night or two and gone deeper and hiked more. Leaves something for “next time.”

We wrapped up our trip in Salisbury, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog to hear about that fine city!

 

 

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15 Responses to “Postcard from Wales: Alla fine!”

  1. kathyfromhouston May 31, 2019 at 15:59 #

    Thank you for sharing your travels with us, Laurel. I always enjoy reading of your adventures and seeing your pictures!

    Like

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 17:00 #

      I appreciate your kind words, Kathy. Nice to know I have readers out there!

      Like

  2. Gina Ward King May 30, 2019 at 18:41 #

    Looks like you all had a wonderful time in Wales. It looks so inviting. The rolling hills, pubs at the end of every hike :), history, cooler climate – which I prefer to the hot tropics. You’re right, a place most of us don’t consider visiting but we should!

    Like

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 16:59 #

      I so agree with you about the cooler climate! It is one reason we live where we do and why we travel offseason.

      Like

  3. Lori Veloski May 30, 2019 at 15:41 #

    I enjoyed hearing about your journey. I have been to Wales, but didn’t get to enjoy as much hiking as you did. It has some beautiful castles and quaint villages and b&bs. One of my favorite historical fiction novels is based on Llewelyn the Great “prince of wales”. It is called Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. Highly recommend! You can still visit the ruins of Dolwyddelan Castle that belonged to Llewelyn.

    Like

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 17:02 #

      Hi Lori. My sister-in-law just told me about Sharon Kay Penman while we were traveling! As soon as I re-read “Sarum” and “Pillars of the Earth” (inspired by visiting Salisbury) I plan to read Penman. Thanks for the endorsement!

      Like

  4. Marcia Kakiuchi May 30, 2019 at 14:45 #

    I so loved the picture of that giant map and the descriptions and pictures of your walking through sun-kissed meadows with buttercups, sheep, gorgeous scenery. It looked and sounded story-book perfect. You’re so right that you just don’t hear of people visiting Wales. The only thing I know is Catherine Zeta Jones is from there! But a big NO THANK YOU to me for that very English meal of pork ‘n beans and sausage. Not for me! HAHA

    Like

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 17:03 #

      Luckily Ric only ate that ONCE! But we all ate way too many chips and crisps! I’d go back there and explore more now that we know more about Wales. It really is important historically!

      Like

  5. jonnietootling May 30, 2019 at 14:23 #

    Lovely – just lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 17:05 #

      Thanks, Jonnie. It was amazingly beautiful and peaceful.

      Like

  6. Grier May 30, 2019 at 12:48 #

    What a fun trip and such lovely scenery! Thanks for taking us along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel June 1, 2019 at 17:05 #

      I know you had some nice stops in Wales, too. We must compare notes soon and in person!

      Like

  7. jono51 May 30, 2019 at 10:00 #

    What a lovely journey!

    Liked by 1 person

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    […] From Wales we headed to Wiltshire, home to Stonehenge and the Avebury Circle as well as the city of Bath and the ancient city of Salisbury, where we made base our for four nights. Should have made it five nights.This is a rich, full area with much to see and mileage required to see it. […]

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