29
Aug 10

Beddgelert

Aberglaslyn pass

Our new (old) awesome North Wales guide book doesn’t have a picture of Beddgelert itself. It does, however, tear apart the great legend of the place:

It seems cruel to spoil a pretty story, but truth must be told. About fifty years ago a writer is Welsh magazine showed that the legend was not founded on fact, and the Rev. A. Elvet Lewis, in a work published in 1899, entitled Bedd Gelert: Its facts, Fairies, and Folk-lore, gives wider publicity to its origin. He shows that the story, so far as it has local colour, is a growth of the nineteenth century; that before 1798 it was unknown in the neighbourhood; and that it was, in all probability, imported from South Wales by a certain David Prichard, who migrated north and became the first landlord of the Royal Goat Hotel at Beddgelert. Prichard came stocked with good stories from the southand among them was that of ‘the man who killed his greyhound’. He it was who fitted this particular folk-tale to the scene, and the dog to the name of Gelert; he who told the story to Spencer, the author of the familiar ballad; and he who, with the artistic completeness of the born myth-maker, aided by the parish clerk and another, raised the stone now exhibited on the spot known as the grave.

So there it goes. Legend gone. The tomb stone is still there though.
And a charming walk from there still takes you to the Aberglaslyn pass, just as all those years ago, and it even looks quite the same, except the trees have grown a lot.

…looking back from the romantic Pont Aberglaslyn we have an uninterrupted view of naked brown precipices rising to the sky beyond the fir trees and the dashing stream at our feet. (Teas and refreshments may be obtained at the bridge.)


28
Aug 10

Menai Bridge

Menai Bridge

Tolls: Foot passengers, 1d.; motor-cycle and side-car, 6d.; motor-cars seating no more than 3 persons, 1s 2d., seating 3-6 persons 1s. 9d. All these tolls are for the double journey.

This bridge, which spans the strait at a point 1 1/2 miles from Bangor station, carries the road.

Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, ferries, five in number, afforded the only means of communication with Anglesey; but owing to the inconvenience and danger to which travellers were exposed, the attention of the Government was seriously directed to the matter, and, Telford’s plans for the bridge having been approved by Parliament, its construction was begun in 1818, and on January 30, 1826, it was opened. Its actual cost was £120,000, and the sum of £26,577 was awarded to the owners of the superseded ferries. The roadway is 100 feet above the surface of the water at the highest tides; the distance between the points of suspension is 560 feet, and the total length of the roadway is said to be 1,000 feet. Only four fatal accidents occurred among the workmen engaged in the erection of the bridge, and those who lost their lives represented the four nationalities included in the United Kingdom.

Coincidence? I don’t think so! In any case useful trivia in case this question ever came up in the Thursday pub quiz. Also, the house by the bridge looks totally awesome now!


27
Aug 10

Caernarfon

Caernarfon castle through ages

or Carnarvon, as per our awesome guide, had to be the first stop in our retro-project.

Caer-ar-fon “the fortress opposite Anglesey” stands just within the western entrance to the Menai Strait, at the mouth of the river Seiont. It is the ancient “metropolis of the hills” – the chief town in that mountainous stronghold known as Eryri, and the best view of the town (that from the path leading to the Baths) still shows the stout little fortress backed by the wild and rugged giants of Snowdonia. Carnarvon is the best modern representative of the British fortress Caer Seiont, and of the Roman military station, Segontium, and in position, beauty and historic associations there are few towns, if any, in Wales to compare with it.

Yes, yes, that’s quite right. In fact, there are few towns altogether, not only in Wales, that can compare to Caernarfon. Also, the seagulls. The guide doesn’t mention them, but we love them, and love to be woken up by their cries early in the morning. (Yes, we.) So what does the guide have to say about the castle?

Admission – sixpence; children 3d.; parties over 20, 3d each.
Open daily 10-8 or dusk, Sundays from 12 noon to 6 or dusk if earlier.
Entrance by King’s Gate, on north side.

With the exception of that in Alnwick, in Northumberland, Carnarvon Castle is “the finest in Great Britain”. Dr. Johnson, who visited in 1774, observed in his diary: “The Castle is an edifice of stupendous magnitude and strength. To survey this place would take much time – I did not think there had been such buildings; it surpassed my ideas.”

Seriously, a sixpence? The prices have gone horribly up, haven’t they? They made me pay like a fiver. Worth it though. Specially up the towers – everybody should do that. And who ever heard of Alnwick?


10
Aug 10

Glen Lyon → Wales

The weather forecast for the remaining couple of days was a bit rainy, so we decided to go to Wales, and spend the rest of time there. (Plus, I really wanted a Welsh dragon key-ring, which at the end proved to be more of a hassle than I would ever expected in a profoundly Welsh-proud place like Caernarfon, so it was good there was enough time for that. Caernarfon failed completely (all they sell is plastic kitschy stuff), and Beddgelert had to come to rescue.)

We visited Edinburgh, which was hosting it’s famous Fringe Festival, so it was full of people, but also nice and sunny, and also it was the place of the best find of the trip – an old North Wales guidebook from early 1930s. Yey! It was in a tiny little second-hand book shop for £4 (well, originally, it was for £5, but it wasn’t quite clear whether the 5 was a 5 or a 3, so we settled on a fair price of £4). For the record, it is also important to state that it was me who found it, and it’s mine mine mine, no matter what Iestyn says (and no matter that he actually paid for it, as they didn’t take cards and I didn’t have change).

The guide is awesome, and it is much fun to read the description of our favorite Welsh places, and see what they looked like ages ago. The book also contains fold-out maps, and generally it is beautiful all over. For our next project, we decided to try and re-take the pictures from the book, to see how the places look today. Taking those pictures also kept us entertained for a couple of days in Wales, until we had to go home to London, and our epic trip was over.


09
Aug 10

Skye → Glen Lyon

Gina and Glen Coe

Iestyn and Glen Coe

Out of rainy Skye (is there ever sunny at that place?), down to the beautiful Loch Tay area, very very scenic (and yes, sunny). Awesome glen around Ben Lowers and of course, Glen Lyon. Very relaxed day with some awesome views. Castle Menzies. The area is a little bit posh though, one campsite replaced by holiday condos, so we had to go to another one. It was good anyway, as it had lots of cute ducks around.

Glen Lyon

Glen Lyon

Glen Lyon Panorama

 

Wildlife sightings:
mole
deer
ducks

 


08
Aug 10

Ullapool → Skye

Port of Ullapool

Properly sunny! Just the day to finally do the An Teallach route, yes, the UK # 1 route by Trail magazine. We wasted no time in Ullapool, and soon we were on the trailhead. The weather was exquisite indeed, and after a bit of a strenuous rocky uphill hiking we got to enjoy the beautiful views we came for. Of course, due to the weather and popularity of the route, it was a bit of a bloody tourist highway that day, but still very worth it.

We started the ridge with Sail Liath, continued over Stob Cadha Gobhlach, Corrag Bhuidhe, Sgurr Fiona, Bidein a Ghlas Thuill and Glas Mheall Mor. The final descent through the valley was very beautiful, along waterfalls and rhododendron bushes towards the end, but proved to be a bit too long and strenuous after what we had already done on the ridge, and we arrived to the car very exhausted. A little bit over 7 hours in total.


After nice Chinese dinner in Inverness, we wanted to camp in Tokavaig on Skye, but that proved too spooky for this time, and since it started to rain heavily, we just decided to sleep in the car for once.

Wildlife sightings:
mountain goats
frogettes
butterflies


07
Aug 10

Mellon Udrigle → Ullapool

Wild Deer!

The weather didn’t look too good for An Teallach route; low clouds wouldn’t permit the stunning views the route is known for. We went for a huge big breakfast, but clouds hadn’t moved anywhere in the meantime, and Iestyn just couldn’t be asked to go do it. So we decided to do the Ben Eighe route instead.

The route starts with a bit if a loser trail through the valley, so there was a lot of people with kids, short-legged dogs, umbrellas etc. Even though the views were already really nice, we were still quite happy to reach the natural amphitheatre around the lake, where the loser trail ended, and to go up some real hills. We started with the highest one, Ben Eighe itself, and continued the ridge over Spidean Coire nan Clach, Sgurr Ban, and Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe. Towards the end the clouds were finally lifting, offering some pretty dramatic views over the valleys. Altogether a little bit under 7 hours.

We camped in Ullapool, with a shower, and a tv show style drama before sleeping.

Wild life sightings:
Plenty of deer! Got really close to some on Ben Eige


06
Aug 10

Glen Shiel → Mellon Udrigle

We started the Glen Shiel trail, but Iestyn didn’t feel too well, so we gave up, and went to Eilean Donan castle instead. There we decided to do our beach day today, and started by going to our favorite Isle of Skye.

Well, it’s mostly Iestyn’s favorite place, I am yet to see it in good weather to really start liking it. This time we made it to Elgol, but due to low clouds did not enjoy its views of Cuillin ridge. The place was still really magical, with bulls as big as houses and beautiful coast.

Passing by Big Sand beach that turned out to be too touristy and camp-y, we made it all the way to Mellon Udrigle, one of the prettiest Scottish beaches. It was warm and pleasant, and turned into an amazing romantic sunset. We camped there for the night, while unwisely throwing away the rest of our evening pasta too close to our tent, so we got seagulls crying right by our heads real loud.

Wildlife sightings:
seagulls


05
Aug 10

Ardnamurchan peninsula → Glen Shiel

Iest's Birthday morning :)

Iestyn’s birthday! I totally let Iestyn sleep as long as he pleased (no ‘unintentional’ nudging, twisting and turning or anything), and after he woke up (from completely natural causes) he got all his cards and presents. He got a whole big box of hazelnut Tatranky (I think that was a winner) but also a very cool and sleek Apple remote, so we can finally watch stuff from our bed without getting up!

After that we got up, packed everything in the car, only to find out that we can’t get out of the campsite back to the road because the ground got wet and soggy overnight. So we had to take everything out of the car again to make it lighter, and it didn’t help either. That didn’t look good at all, and Iest was getting pretty un-birthday-y pissed. We gave up our combined efforts and decided to get help. Luckily, the first car to drive by was a 4×4, with a guy in a nice shirt and a tie going to work, still offering to help. So, after a little confusion with where the hell does our car have a hook for a rope (turns out it has it in the boot :)), we were rescued and back on the road.

That gave us a little bit of a delay for the day, but soon we were in Mallaig having breakfast including a proper birthday cake for Iest. After that there was no holding us back from sea kayaking for the rest of the day! (Except may be that we couldn’t find the guy with the kayaks for a while, until he actually put a red kayak by the road next to his house so we wouldn’t pass it again.)

Kayaking was fun though, the water was surprisingly warm (not that either of us would care to turn the kayak over), and after a couple of showers we even got sun for the rest of the afternoon. The coolest thing were seals playing in the water right around us, lots of them. We also got to see some big sea birds and a nice part of the coast.

For dinner I took Iestyn to our favorite Indian restaurant in Fort William, which once again served us some awesome grub in abundance. Camped in Glen Shiel.

Thanks to Mike at http://www.seakayakhighlands.co.uk/ for renting us the Kayaks, and being super patient with us! :)

Wildlife sightings:
Seals

Little bunny rabbits in the campsite


04
Aug 10

Fort William → Ardnamurchan peninsula

Iestyn is actually proud of this picture

Oh no, Iestyn’s knee hurt in the morning, and got swollen and red from yesterday’s slip on the rocks, so we couldn’t go do Ring of Steall trail. We decided to do a nice scenic drive up North instead, tuning into the smooth sounds of radio Nevis (really :)).

We dropped in the award-winning information centre near Fort William, which hosted a beautiful exhibition of wildlife photographs. Other than that, the award-not-winning information centre was equally as nice, and we got our postcards there.

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