The morning is dull with a cold east wind. I stand on the beach at Dinas Dinlle and look back at the three peaks of Yr Eifl. Still so close. Despite walking for many hours yesterday I seem to have made little progress.
I’m not in a good mood. Really I should have started my walk from the bus stop on the A499, the spot where I ended my walk yesterday. But no buses run on a Sunday morning. I tried to organise a taxi, but the firm I contacted last night refused to come out early on a Sunday too. This meant I was forced to drive here this morning – and I couldn’t find anywhere safe to park my car until I reached the beach at Dinas Dinlle.
I’ve never done a stretch of my walk out of sequence before, so I debate walking back up the road to the bus stop on the A499, a distance of around 2 miles. But once I reach the bus stop I would immediately have to turn around and walk back to this spot again. Double walking. Even worse, because I must return by bus at the end of today’s walk, I would end up walking the same road again to get back to my parked car. Triple walking!
After a lengthy internal debate, I decide I can’t face all those extra miles of unnecessary road walking, and set off instead off along the deserted promenade which runs beside the shingled beach.
In places the walkway has been destroyed. I can imagine fierce winds whipping up strong waves, which pounded inland and tore up the concrete.
After a mile, I draw level with Caernarfon airport. It has a proper tower, but looks tiny. I wonder who uses it? Can’t imagine commercial flights flying in and out.
At this point the official coast path turns to the right, away from the sea, and runs along the road beside the airport’s boundary fence. But I can see a lovely dune area ahead, where a finger of land sticks out beyond the airport, and I would prefer to stick to the shore.
There is well-defined path, so others have been this way too, although it’s not marked as a public footpath on my map. Can I get around the far point or not? I meet a lady walking her dog and I ask if it’s possible to walk all the way around the finger of dunes. She doesn’t know.
I debate turning back, but I’ve come so far I decide to persevere. The shore curves gently round. Now I’m heading northeast, towards Snowdonia, the wind cold in my face.
Over a narrow strip of foaming water – wow, that sea is rough – I can see another stretch of dunes. That must be Anglesey! There are people standing on one of the higher dunes. Soon, one day, I’ll be standing over there too. I’m looking forward to it.
I come across a lone bush on the edge of the shingle, it’s branches skewered with shells. How odd! Did someone put them here deliberately? Or did the tide wash them up and dump them onto the bush? It’s a mystery.
Onwards, following the curve of the dunes, I reach the tip, where there is an old fort. Fort Belan. The fort is not accessible to the public because it’s been converted into holiday lets. Shame.
But, luckily, there is a path running around the perimeter of the fort, and this lead me to the access road. The entrance to the fort looks far from welcoming.
[Later I learn that Fort Belan was the only fort built in Britain as a result of the American War of Independence. Its job was to guard the Menai Straits against the threat of attack by American privateers – but its defences were never actually needed.]
From the fort, I follow a quiet road that leads me back, across a marshy patch of land, towards the airport.
I hear, and then see, a helicopter hovering above the runway. It doesn’t land. Circles. Then heads off again, before returning to hover. It’s all rather strange. I wonder if the helicopter is unable to land because of the wind, which is now blowing fiercely across from the east.
Somewhere to my left is a public footpath, running down the eastern side of the finger of dunes. I think I’ve found it. More a track than a footpath. Easy, pleasant walking.
About a mile along the track I come across a locked fence, and have to climb over it. On the other side is a sign: ‘PRIVATE. WARREN FARM’. Oops, not a footpath after all. I’ve been trespassing again!
All the while, to my right, the helicopter is circling and hovering.
Shortly after climbing over the gate, I meet an elderly couple walking along the track towards me. The woman has a limp and is using a stick. We stop for a chat. They tell me they are staying in a nearby caravan park and they come here regularly. They also explain the mystery of the hovering helicopter, which is still buzzing noisily in the background.
The Search and Rescue helicopter service is based at Caernarfon airport, having moved here from Anglesey. They are practicing their manoeuvres.
[Later I’m surprised to learn these two helicopters are operated by a civilian company on behalf of the coastguard service. It’s amazing how much of our national infrastructure has been quietly disposed of. I feel very uneasy about it.]
I rejoin the official coastal path, glad to have made my successful detour around the dune system and to have effectively complied with my number two rule by sticking as close to the shore as I can.
The coast path crosses a river (the Afon Carrog) by means of a footbridge and a ford. The tide is high and the water is running deep.
I was anticipating road walking later today, so I’m wearing my comfortable but leaky boots. Needless to say, I get very wet wading through the ford. Not only do the seams in my footwear leak like sieves, but the water is so deep it floods in over the top of my boots too.
Squelching, I continue onwards, as the footpath joins a road which meanders down to rejoin the shore.
My feet are still damp when, a mile or so later, I come across another flooded road. This time the water is filthy – full of farmland slurry. I try to inch my way through by walking close to the hedge, but end up pricking my hands on brambles before plunging into a hidden ditch – up to my knees in murky water.
Even if I’d managed to negotiate this patch successfully, it wouldn’t have done me much good. Around the corner I discover another flood across the road. It, too, is deeper than it looks.
While passing the garden of a cottage (in the photo above) I witness a nasty accident. A man’s voice shouts ‘Look out!’ But the warning comes too late because, through a gap in the hedge, I see a metal ladder tilt and fall, and hit a woman on the head. The wind must have blown it down.
She doesn’t know I’m just on the other side of the hedge, but I hear the woman wailing with pain and shock, and find myself torn between offering to help, and wanting to get on with my walk. After a few seconds of dithering, I realise she has fled into the house and I also realise she was making too much noise to be badly hurt, so I continue onwards.
The next few miles involve road walking, but I keep stopping to take photographs of Snowdon in the distance. At least, I think that bi-humped mountain is Snowdon.
I reach the coast, and the road takes a right-angled turn to follow the shore. This quiet lane should take me all the way to Caernarfon.
Half a mile along the road I come to a parking area. There is one car parked, but the occupant is sitting inside, no doubt sheltering from the wind. I see a nearby picnic area with a fake ship…
… and I sit just inside the wooden bows to avoid the worst of the wind. I need a rest and a quick lunchtime snack.
Having only planned to be in Wales for 4 days, I extended my stay and have ended up walking further than I planned when I packed my maps for the trip. Now I’m about to walk off the edge of my current map. Hopefully I won’t get lost. I think I’m only a couple of miles away from Caernarfon.
Onwards, along the coastal road. I enjoy the view of the sea and Anglesey to my left. While to my right are farmlands and the mountains of Snowdonia.
I begin to meet strollers. Family groups. And a few slow-moving cars with people out on Sunday drives.
Round a bend and Caernarfon comes into view. There are the old walls and the towers of the castle. It’s a lovely vista and the best way to approach the town. Even better, the last of the clouds clear away and I feel positively warm in the sunshine.
Caernarfon castle is quite magnificent and very well-preserved. Everyone said I should take a tour. In fact, I’ve been staying in a B&B just inside the walls of the town, and kept meaning to visit the castle but never got round to it.
But I realise I’ve managed to finish my walk earlier than anticipated. There are only 3 buses along the A499 this afternoon, and I have almost hour to wait for the next one at 3:30pm. Do I have time to tour the castle in 45 minutes?
It’s been a day of dithering. Now I dither again. I mustn’t miss the bus. There’s a two-hour wait until the next one (which is also the last one) and I still have to walk back to my car from the Llandwrog bus stop, then face a 5 hour drive back to Lincolnshire.
Ah. There’s a pub just next to the castle. Decision made! I cross over the river via the pedestrian bridge and enjoy a cool glass of cider in the afternoon sunshine.
I catch the bus and the Welsh bus driver doesn’t seem to understand a word I say. I have to spell out the name of the village served by the bus stop I need: Llandwrog. He nods eventually. (I’ll never get the hang of Welsh pronunciation!)
I manage to get off the bus at the right stop, and follow the road. Although the turnoff I need is grandly signed to Caernarfon Airport, the road is very narrow and single track in many places. In fact, the narrowness of the road is the reason I couldn’t park any nearer to the bus stop this morning. And now the little lane is pretty busy because a lot of people seem to be enjoying a Sunday afternoon visit to Dinas Dinlle. Every time a car comes by, I have to jump onto the verges.
When I reach the beach car park, the place looks much prettier in the sunshine, and I can’t bear to end the day. So I have a cream tea in the little café, before I climb the nearby hill. From the top I enjoy the view and look down on the car park, the café and the beginning of my walk this morning.
Looking to the southwest, I can see the humps of familiar hills. Those were my companions yesterday, as I trudged along the A499. I wonder if it really is possible to walk most of the way along the shore, after all. Too late now.
I climb down the other side of the hill and walk back along the beach towards the car park. The sun is low and the afternoon light is fading, but the tide is out and I enjoy walking along the sands. These were covered in water this morning.
Some children are enjoying an outing with their dads.
The idyllic scene is somewhat shattered when I get closer and realise the fathers are walking with beer cans in their fists.
I take my boots for a paddle in the sea, washing off the last of the mud from this morning. They leak, of course. I hadn’t forgotten. The cold water seeps around my toes.
Back at the car park I remove my boots and change into dry socks and shoes.
I’ve had this pair of boots for 2 years and should have thrown them away months ago. They even went into the bin once, but I suffered a change of heart and fished them out.
Now it’s time to say goodbye. Shame. They’ve served me well and, after a wash in sea water, look in almost perfect condition. But leaky boots, no matter how comfortable, must go in the end.
I take a farewell photo on the pebbles, and place them, carefully, in a nearby litter bin. Then I drive away quickly – before I change my mind.
High points: reaching Caernarfon and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine at Dinlle beach.
Low point: sinking into a mud filled ditch.
Miles walked today = 12 miles initially, followed by another 3 miles to bridge the gap = 15 miles in total.
Wales Coast Path so far = 806.5 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,313.5 miles