Tuesday 13 May 2014
Thinking that our first day in Wales would get increasingly scenic, I regret now that we did not stay longer at Port Eynon, as I think that this was my favorite retreat during the entire week. Nor would the Gower Peninsula easily release its magnetic attraction to us.
Retracing our route through the Gower Peninsula proved a mite challenging, and we ended up at a dead end on the far northwest point, enjoying the pastoral scene and pausing to view fertile fields over tall hedgerows. After this experience, we pulled out the compass to reorient whenever we were uncertain of our direction.
Returning to the ample motorways for some distance west to St Clears, we bypassed Llanelli (Thlanethli) and continued cruising through scenic Pembrokeshire, then turned off onto narrow coastal roads to reach Tenby, from which some of Susan’s ancestors hailed.
Before we realized we had missed the turn into the Tenby City Center, we were already bound up the narrow coastal road bound by rock walls and hedgerows.
Pausing at Manorbier Castle guarding an inlet to the sea, a careful rider approached on a huge horse with long hairy footlocks, an ancient steed out of some Arthurian legend.
Continuing on towards Pembroke, the roads eventually widened and sped up over mighty headlands that drew us ever onward towards impressive bays and harbors that boasted sandy shorelines. Sand schooners were plying the windy shore at one beachhead and small oil tankers anchored offshore in the distance.
Multiple photo stops at other hamlets and ports, some well inland, featured a flotilla of sailing vessels stranded on the sand at low tide.
Rejoining ample two-lane highways past Haverfordwest’s prominent clock tower, the Welsh towns and countryside were becoming commonplace, stone houses lining narrow streets.
Beyond each town, views opened to broad green fields spotted with sheep and newborn lambs tugging at and cuddling up to their ewes, often obscured behind dense hedgerows until a rise or a hill afforded a view over the top.
Our stop in St David’s was spent briefly exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park visitor center and sitting down to a lunch of soup and sandwich and meat pies.
As the roads generally stayed a few miles inland, we took only one more detour down to the shoreline along another narrow lane to Porthgain, pausing briefly to take pictures of this unique old slate-shipping port that was full of tourists like most other places we paused.
Cruising through the verdant countryside, we marveled at headlands plunging past pastoral views down to the Irish Sea and the sweeping rise of highlands rising to the east across the width of Wales. Frequent footpaths marked right-of-way trails passing from one field into another past Fishguard, Cardigan, Aberaeron, and into Aberyswyth.
Turning inland towards Machynlleth (Mackinthleth), we pressed on into the rising crest of Snowdonia National Park through scenic Dolgellau, then down to Porthmadog, where we stopped for gas and shopping at Tesco to purchase the makings of dinner and breakfast. Our final passage bypassed Caernarfon (Care-nare-von) and dropped us into the narrow vale of Llanberis, where it took a little exploring at dusk to find the hostel sign, but we managed to settle in by 8:00pm and enjoyed our microwave meals and crusty bread while attacking a load of laundry that had to dry in a hot radiator filled drying room.
This was a long 230 mile drive today, but rewarding, traversing the entire western coast of Wales from south to north and crossing through the lower elevations of Snowdonia where a mixed forest contrasted with the fields and hedges of the coastal plain.