My B&B host kindly offers me a lift and drops me off on the A4080, close to Llanfair PG. Today I face yet more road walking, but the day gets off to a promising start with a tree-lined footpath running alongside the road. Much better than walking IN the road.
I’ve had another restless night with fever and a cough, and no appetite for breakfast this morning. In fact, I’m feeling rather sorry for myself. But then I spot a Postman Pat van at the entrance to a grand drive. Those little vans never fail to raise my spirits, and they really do get everywhere.
After a mile or so, the coast path leaves the road, and heads inland. Inland! Normally I would simply continue along the coastal road, but there are no pavements and frequent fast-moving traffic, so I decide it’s much safer to follow the official route.
[Later I discover the reason the path doesn’t hug the coast is due to the beautiful stately home I could see across the Menai Strait yesterday – Plas Newydd. The estate does not allow walkers through its grounds, despite the house being owned by the National Trust. Such a pity.]
I walk across fields and nearly stumble over this sleeping sheep. Welsh sheep certainly seem braver – and less easily spooked – compared to normal sheep.
The path takes a right-angled turn, and I’m struck by an intriguing home-made sign. ‘Monument’ and an arrow. What monument?
I check my map, but the footpaths are a little confusing and I suspect the farmer has put up the sign to divert walkers from following a genuine right-of-way close to the farmhouse, but I dutifully follow the signs. And, although it involves a short diversion of the official coast path, I find the ‘monument’.
At first glance it looks underwhelming. A bog-standard barrow. Just a heap of grassy earth covering an ancient burial mound.
But it turns out to be far more exciting than I anticipated. This is Bryn Celli Ddu and is around 5,000 years old, with an internal chamber that you can walk into. Or, rather, you have to bend down and shuffle into. Still, it’s wonderful to be able to go inside.
Around the mound are some standing stones. Before it was a burial chamber it was probably a free-standing henge, and the whole structure is carefully arranged to admit light into the passage at the time of the summer solstice.
I spend some time inside the chamber and am really glad I diverted from the path and discovered this wonderful place.
Leaving Bryn Celli Ddu, I retrace my steps to pick up the Wales Coast Path again and walk along roads for about 2 miles…
… before arriving back on the shore at a place called Moel-y-don. It’s a pretty collection of holiday cottages, with a little bay punctuated by the ribs of a sunken boat.
I spot a picnic bench, and head towards it. Today, because I’m unwell, I promised myself frequent stops for rests. But am bitterly disappointed when two gentlemen hop out of a nearby car and make for the bench, getting there ahead of me.
They see me looking at them, and mistake my hostile glare for a friendly glance! Anyway, we strike up conversation. They live on Anglesey and are making their way around the coastal path in stages. I can’t resist snapping a photo as they lace up their walking boots.
The two local walkers confirm what I already suspected: Moel-y-don is a dead-end. It’s not possible to walk along the shore at this point and I must go back up the road to pick up the coastal path where it heads off down a track following a ridge of higher ground.
I walk quickly, expecting the two walkers to catch up with me at any moment.
This area is a strange mix of posh houses and rural deprivation. I pass a smashed up shed where I spot an open-air toilet.
Then the track leads down through farmland towards the coast. I come across another sleeping sheep lying on the path…
… although when I get nearer I realise it’s not asleep. It’s dead. Quite recently.
The path runs alongside a stream and takes me down to the foreshore, giving wonderful views across the Menai Strait.
Here I sit on a large stone and eat my lunch, surprised to find my appetite has recovered. It’s always tempting to hurry these breaks, but I force myself to rest for half an hour. While I wait, I watch a lone figure stumbling along the shingle beach and, very slowly, making his way towards me.
As the figure draws nearer, I realise it is Trevor, the only other guest in my B&B and a fellow walker. He is also walking the Wales Coast, but in the opposite direction to me, and we realised our paths would cross today. He decides to stop for lunch too.
Unlike me, Trevor is a proper walker, carrying everything on his back as he hikes to the next B&B along the route. And he has a decent packed lunch – sandwiches and crisps, while I only carry nuts, fruit and chocolate bars.
I tell him not to miss visiting the ancient barrow, and warn him he will soon meet the two local walkers, who I’m still expecting to catch up with me at any moment. He seems surprised and asks if I talk to everyone I meet. (Trevor is a Londoner!)
He, in turn, tells me about some enormous stepping-stones ahead, which are quite tricky. And also warns me it’s difficult to find the linking footpath that leads back to our B&B. (Later, I realise I should have paid more attention to this advice and asked him for clear directions.)
My half-hour is up. I leave Trevor enjoying his lunch, and set off on my trek across the shingle. It’s hard work.
I’m actually pleased to pick up the path at the other end of the beach, even though – yet again – it takes me away from the shore. Still, there are great views across the Menai Straits to the mountains of Snowdonia. I think Snowdon is the twin-peaked hump on the left of the photograph below.
I join a road along the shore and have high expectations of coming across a café or a pub. In fact, despite my recent lunch-break, I’m still feeling poorly and finding the walk rather an effort. Another break would be fine!
I walk past an old tug – or is it a dredger – sitting in someone’s garden. I love the colours on its hull – blue-grey streaked with rust. And I love its name – UPHILL STRUGGLE CAERNARFON. Yes, that sums up my recent walking to and from Caernarfon. Exactly.
I come to the end of the road. Disappointingly, I haven’t passed any cafes. And the promising building at the end – called the Mermaid Inn on my map – turns out to have been converted from a pub into a private house.
Sitting on the beach, I have another snack and a drink, and look across the water to Caernarfon, where the castle towers are silhouetted against the mountains.
Now I must leave the shore – again – and turn inland along a road, passing through farmland.
I wave to these young heifers. I’m not fond of cattle, finding them scary, but this gang look quite friendly. Still, I’m glad they’re on the other side of the fence.
After a mile of road walking, the path heads off through fields. But I can’t open the first gate. Is it locked or just rusted shut? I don’t know. I consider climbing over, but decide to follow the road a little further and pick up another footpath, which seems to follow a track, and should be easier to access.
The detour turns out to be a mistake. The ‘track’ is a rutted tractor route through farmland, with wide puddles and thick mud.
And, yet again, the public footpath is obstructed with fastened gates. I suppose I could have untied this piece of string, but it was easier to climb over the rickety fence.
It’s a relief to meet the official coast path again, although the route remains muddy. Of course this section of the Wales Coast Path is also called the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path, and has rather a pretty logo on its signposts.
Now I’m keeping an eye out for the linking footpaths that should take me up to my B&B in Dwyran. There are two possible routes. The first one would take me across a field of cows with young calves. I decide not to risk it.
A short while later I think I find the second footpath, which seems to follow a raised bank. But there are no footpath signs and a fence bars the way. I could climb the fence, but someone has decorated it with an intimidating garland of barbed wire.
If I carry on a little further, I will reach the road and can walk back to my B&B. It’s a 2 mile diversion, but better than being trampled by furious cows or maimed by barbed wire.
I’d forgotten about the stepping-stones. They cross a river – the Afon Braint – at a place called Gatehouses Ford. The photo below doesn’t really do them justice…
… because they’re enormous. Each block is the size of a small car. Well, almost. And the tide is low, so the stones stand high above the water, with wide gaps between. Not so much a step to get across, more like giant strides.
According to my B&B host, these stones are 3,000 years old. Wow. They’re pretty impressive. And a significant injury awaits if you fall off one of them.
I cross the stones with some difficulty, but arrive safely on the other side. From here a pretty path takes me towards the road.
The path turns into a track and eventually I meet the main A4080. The coast path turns left at this point, but I turn right, heading towards Dwyran. Luckily traffic is sparse, as there are no pavements. I find this last stretch of my walk, although only a mile, long and tough. On the way I pass a garage-cum-village-shop.
Later I discover this garage is the only shop in Dwyran, and sells bottles of cold coke and large slabs of chocolate at excellent prices!
Back in my B&B, I drink a cup of tea while looking at the view from my window, where I can see the sunset turning the mountains of Snowdonia a dusky-pink. It’s been a tiring but interesting day. And I wonder what happened to the two local walkers, who never caught me up after all. Maybe they were heading in the other direction along the path? I forgot to ask.
The mystery of the stepping-stones! It’s surprisingly hard to discover good, factual information about these wonderful stones. Are they really 3,000 years old? Perhaps the variety of names doesn’t help.
- Gatehouses Ford and Stepping Stones on my OS map,
- locally known as the Giant Stepping Stones,
- or maybe the Rhuddgaer Stepping Stones,
- or even the Afon Braint Stepping Stones.
Eventually I find a post on ‘Afon Braint Stepping Stones’, by Graham Steven on his blog GeoTopoi. Someone in the comments says they can remember the stones being put in place only about 15 years ago (17 years now). But they are marked on an OS map from circa 1889. Perhaps the new stones replaced old stones that had been there for 3,000 years? You would have thought there would be some decent information provided about this striking feature on the path.
Miles walked today = 13 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 835.5 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,342.5 miles