Walking Holiday based at Bangor University, North Wales - August 2016
Written by Graham with reference to pictures in the Photo Gallery and short video clips.
Monday 1st August at 7.30 am, 53 C&B members boarded the coach at Sandon Village Hall for the long journey to Bangor. After a lunch stop near Llangollen, our driver took the scenic route along the A5, passing through Betws-y-Coed and along the Ogwen valley giving us views of Snowdonian mountains like Tryfan and the Glyders, whose tops were hidden under cloud.
After arriving at our hall of residence and allowing a short time to unpack, Malcolm (a former student at Bangor) took us on a guided tour around the town. The highlight for me was the promenade along the Pier which stretches nearly half way out into the Menai Strait and gave us great views all around. Malcolm pointed to the house where Thomas Telford stayed while constructing the Menai Bridge. We walked back in good time for our first evening meal.
Tuesday: The coach left us at Capel Curig, where we ascended a path skirting along the edge of Glogwyn Mawr. The path eventually descended to a large forestry area but remained undulating to Swallow Falls, a tourist attraction on the Afon Llugwy. A bit further on we had lunch sitting on the rocky bank at Miner’s Bridge, another popular spot.
For the afternoon there was a choice of reaching Betws-y-Coed either by a short direct path along the river or by taking a very hilly path to the Lyn Els reservoir and Monument and a steep path down again. I chose the former option to enjoy a casual look around, tea in the local church, a view of the miniature steam railway and watch a very interesting film about Snowdonia in the Information Centre. Later when we met the coach to go home, we learnt that one of our ladies had taken a tumble on the hill coming down and unfortunately broke her wrist.
Wednesday: The coach took a road via Caernafon to Tanygrisiau to start a long walk following the Festiniog railway to Porthmadog. There were options to take a train ride at various points. We started out in two groups; with the front one intending to walk the full route and the rear one taking time to meet the train after lunch at Tan-y-Bwlch Station. After a short rainburst the weather was to be fine but windy all day. We passed the hydro-electric power station by the reservoir and the former Moelwyn slate mine onto fairly open moorland. Soon we saw our first steam train passing into a tunnel. While having a drinks break at the Dduallt railway halt, two of our ladies hailed the next train to take a full ride on the circuit. Later they visited nearby Portmeirion.
The path toward Tan-y-Bwlch became very up and down and indistinct in places. I was in the front group which made it through to the lunch stop on time, while the second group took a wrong turn and turned up a bit late. After that we regrouped into three, with some taking the train, another walking the full route and the third intending to walk as far as Penrhyn for a short train ride to Porthmadog. I chose the latter, which initially took us through undulating forestry tracks and then to part of the Wales Coastal Path, coming someway inland from the estuary. Although we got to Penryn with time in hand, the crowded train was over 20 min. late. It was a pleasant and picturesque ride into Porthmadog Harbour station, where the other two groups were waiting for us.
The coach journey back passed by Snowdon again which was still under cloud. We recognised the Youth Hostel at the start of the Ranger Path, which some of us had used to climb Snowdon as few years before.
Thursday: There were two similar hilly walk options of different lengths from Beddgelert, which just over 30 of our Group decided to try. Others took independent bus trips to Caernafon and some of those decided to walk part of the Wales Coastal Path back to Bangor.
We all started from Beddgelert along a fairly flat path to the Sygun Copper Mine which is a tourist attraction. We stopped for a break at the lower end of Llyn Dinas before splitting evenly into two groups for walks of 6 or 10 miles. I was in the latter group which carried on along the lake for while before turning eastward over fairly wild and uneven ground with the path a little unclear in places. We found an attractive spot for lunch near Coed Llewelyn giving all round views of the mountains and valley.
After following a quiet riverside road in the Nantmor Valley, we then picked up a good path all the way to Nantmor and the Pont Aberglaslyn. Walking from here to Beddgelert through the Pass of Aberglaslyn along the rocky riverside path was a real delight; and for me one of the best experiences of the week!
With nearly an hour to spare at the end, we relaxed outside with tea and cake in Beddgelert before catching the coach.
Friday: The long walk was to climb up and down a little mountain called Drum. I was one of 16 who chose to do this, while most others decided on the lower level option, walking from Conwy to Llandudno and around the Great Orme.
The coach left us at Abergwyngregyn which at first sight seemed a bit rundown with a scruffy disused pine furniture warehouse and the wreck of an old East German Trabant car outside. But as we walked up through the village it appeared to be very quaint and a nice place to live. At the end of a fairly long and steep road to a car park, we eventually started on the mountain path to the top.
It turned out to be a fairly relentless climb with most of us needing to stop regularly to take breathers. It was well worth it though for the seascape views across to Anglesey and Puffin Island; back to Bangor and the Pier; and forward to Llandudno and the Great Orme.
Eventually we got to the summit of Drum just as the wind increased and dark clouds came over. We thought it best to descend towards the Llyn Anafon reservoir and find a bit of shelter near large stones for lunch. Stepping (or bouncing) down the sponge like heathery slope felt very strange, but at least no one fell over. From the reservoir we followed a long easy path down the Anafon valley passing sheep, cattle and ponies peacefully grazing. Interestingly we saw a couple of ancient but very substantial hut circles built by earlier inhabitants of the valley. The steep road was reached again before coming back to the Village, With plenty of time to spare before meeting the coach, some of us detoured to view the Afon waterfalls, while the rest sought out the excellent local tea shop.
Saturday: We packed up ready to return to Essex but not before a final morning walk on Anglesey. Crossing on the Menai Bridge we went to the south corner of the island to be dropped off near Newborough.
A very flat and sandy path along the edge of forestry took us to sand dunes and a beach. The views across the Strait to the mountains were impressive. From there a walk back through the woods brought us to a campsite where holiday makers were arriving for the weekend. Another longer woodland path brought us out to a road leading to Newborough, where we caught the coach to take us to Llandudno for a fish and chip lunch. The town was bustling as usual and while eating we were intrigued by a loud clattering noise and the sight of the local lifeboat being paraded through the street!
Leaving Llandudno at 2 pm we returned to Sandon around 8.30pm.The coach service had been excellent all week and we learned a few Welsh phrases from Keith the driver. I thought the rooms and catering at Bangor University were of a good standard.
Most of all we have to thank our members: Andrew, Vivian, Geoff, Malcolm and Wendy for organising a very enjoyable walking week.