Yesterday, the town of Criccieth shone with golden sunshine. Today the morning light is subdued and the air feels heavy, as though the place has been wrapped in layers of cotton gauze.
I was hoping to get a better photograph of the castle that dominates the sea front, but the light remains obstinately dull.
At the end of the esplanade, some young men appear to be making a film. One holds a microphone, another a camera, while a third walks endlessly up and down the sand with a book in his hand. I wonder what the film is about? A reader? A writer? A poet?
I’d like to ask, but don’t want to disturb the filming.
At the end of the esplanade I follow the Wales Coast Path, now also called the Llyn Coastal Path, as it winds along the shore. In the distance, out on the sands, I can see large machines at work. Diggers.
I’m still hoping for a decent shot of the castle. But, when I turn around, I see someone has lit a bonfire, adding a haze of smoke to the already murky atmosphere.
I meet a few strollers along the path. This elderly couple stop for frequent
rest-stops bird-watching pauses.
And somebody has erected a piece of sculpture made out of driftwood; using ropes and a feather, and incorporating a pair of odd shoes. (Yet another example of abandoned shoes turning up all over the place!)
I pass the section of shore where the diggers are at work. They seem to be dredging a river channel through the shingle. This is the mouth of the Afon Dwyfor, according to my map.
A man strides past me in a purposeful way and doesn’t acknowledge my greeting. I wonder who he is and where he’s going in such a hurry. Maybe one of the workmen has been sent to fetch something urgently. Coffee?
I look behind me. The smoky haze over Criccieth has grown even worse, obscuring the castle and the town.
The path’s progress along the shore is interrupted by the river, and begins to follow the bank as it runs roughly parallel with the sea. Now it’s boggy underfoot, my boots squelch through deep mud, and I wonder if dredging the river’s mouth is intended to rectify the situation.
Further along and a wooden walkway is helpfully provided, but has been damaged by the tide. Seaweed and debris are flung up against it, and several sections of planking are torn away.
The path leaves the river and heads inland across fields.
I love this time of year. Little lambs everywhere. This mother seems to have collected a nursery around her. They can’t all be hers.
And I see one of the lambs appears to have tangled itself up in a plastic bag. I debate climbing over the fence to free it, but don’t want to create panic among the flock.
Then I notice several other lambs are also wearing plastic bags. It must be deliberate.
Rain coats for baby lambs? How odd. I’ve never seen that before – but it seems like a good idea.
My path crosses the railway line, and turns into a track which leads through an estate, but I notice the old trees are dying. What a shame.
I join the A497 and this is one of those unfortunate sections where the Wales Coast Path follows the road. There is a proper pavement, and traffic is light, but it’s frustrating to be walking without view of the sea. And boring.
The only interesting thing I come across is a sign pointing to Bear Grylls’ Survival Academy. The poster features Mr Grylls’ mud-streaked face.
The road goes on. And on. Less than 3 miles in total, but it feels like more.
Finally I reach a roundabout and the Wales Coast Path is signed off to the left. Down a quiet lane, under a railway bridge, along a track, and then… finally… I’m back on the coast.
I stop for a breather and a quick snack, and to enjoy the scenery. Behind me the little train rumbles past and over the bridge.
Onwards, heading westwards, I pass in front of a holiday camp. I’m sure people enjoy staying in these places, but they do spoil the landscape. It’s not particularly scenic here anyway, with huge rocks piled up along the top of the beach to prevent erosion.
Beyond the holiday park and things suddenly improve.
The sky has cleared and, although the air is still hazy, the sun is shining. I’m climbing over a headland called Pen-ychain, above a bright blue sea and surrounded by fragrant gorse bushes, which are turning gold with flowers. I catch the first whiffs of their honey and coconut scent. I do love that smell!
Up here I find the remains of old gun emplacements, from WW2, with concrete footprints and rusty metal plates. And up by the trig point someone has constructed a bonfire. Or is it a wigwam?
I keep looking for Snowdon. It was so clear yesterday, with snow outlining its shape against the sky. But today everything is lost in a fuggy haze.
I pose for a self-portrait.
And then it’s time to head down and onto a long stretch of beach. It’s the last part of my walk, and will take me up to Pwllheli.
This end of the beach is deserted. I make the first footprints in the sand. Then double back on myself to take a photograph of my tracks.
The beach is 3 miles long, and all this glorious sand more than makes up for the road trudging I did earlier. I’m walking into the sinking sun, now bright in my eyes.
That’s the trouble with walking westwards – the sun is blinding and photography difficult. I feel suddenly tired and head towards the top of the beach to sit and rest on the rocks.
During my brief rest, I notice the many attempts made to control coastal erosion. These include a metal wall, piled rocks and wooden groynes.
The measures have obviously been successful as the problem is no longer erosion but too much sand!
Further along and I look back at the beach and the dunes. And I see Snowdon! There it is, just visible through the haze.
I walk right to the end of the beach and up along a low ridge of land, until I reach the entrance to Pwllheli harbour. Big machinery is at work here too. Diggers and huge dumper trucks. Are they dredging the harbour channel? Or just removing sand dunes?
The sun is low and I turn inland, walking along the inner edge of the spit of land, overlooking the marina. The footpath weaves in and out, through and around boatyards.
On my way around the harbour I pass a fine, modern building. Later I learn this is Plas Heli, a new Welsh sailing academy.
I’m very tired by the time I reach Pwllheli town centre, where my car is parked, and I’m delighted to see a Wetherspoon’s pub. Time for an early dinner. It’s only 5pm but Wetherspoon’s doesn’t mind what time you eat. I order a steak.
Back at home, I discover that Turner, the great English painter, made several sketches and paintings of Criccieth Castle. There is a great example in the Tate.
Miles walked today = 13 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 699 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,306 miles