Today I’m walking with my friend, Lynne, who lives on Anglesey. Last time I walked with Lynne, I ended up falling into a ditch and up to my armpits in stagnant water. Let’s see if I manage to stay out of trouble this time.
No buses to worry about today. Lynne’s husband drops us off in Glan-yr-Afon and, immediately, Lynne wants to divert off the coast path and take me to her favourite beach.
It’s called White Beach and, although my OS map shows no beach with that name, it does show an isolated patch of open access land called Fedw Fawr abutting the coast. That must be it.
But there is a practical problem with Lynne’s plan. Sadly, most of the 5 mile stretch of shore between Llandonna and Penmon Point is privately owned and inaccessible. When we find Lynne’s lovely beach we will have reached a dead-end.
We abandon the idea of White Beach, and set off along the official coast path. It takes us along the road for a while, before cutting away through farmland. We discover that neither of us like cattle. This one – a young bullock – appears to be drooling.
The path struggles to find a way through enclaves of private property. It runs between houses and beside walls, and makes the odd diversion along a road.
Finally, while crossing a meadow of sheep, we come over the brow of a low hill and can see our immediate destination in front of us. Penmon Point, with Puffin Island sitting just beyond it.
Unfortunately the weather is still murky. The low-lying mist appears to be lifting from the hills…
… but it never clears completely and we never get decent views across the sea. Shame. Lynne says you can see the Isle of Mann from here on a clear day.
Lynne takes photos of Penmon Point and the lighthouse on her Samsung device, while I take photos of her taking photos.
The Trwyn Du lighthouse is impressive and an important waymark, as it marks the north entrance to the Menai Strait. I don’t see the light flash, but I do hear the bell tolling. It’s a weird and eerie sound.
Down by the lighthouse we sit on the rocks and take photos of each other. Lynne tells me how she brought her children here when they were younger and they spent hours playing in the rock pools.
I take a rather poor timed photographs of the two of us. It’s out of focus. Lynne manages a much better ‘selfie’.
Unfortunately we can’t continue along the coast and have to head back down a road again.
[Anglesey really should do something about all these access-denied areas. I haven’t come across a more privately owned and walker-unfriendly stretch of coastline since the New Forest.]
We reach the old Augustinian abbey and, although we don’t pay to go into the abbey ruins, we do spend time looking around the impressive dovecote. It’s enormous.
In reality the dovecote isn’t a dovecote but a pigeon house, because it was used for breeding pigeons, not doves, for their meat and eggs. We’re just leaving when it begins to rain.
Nearby is a holy well. We take shelter inside.
It turns out to be the most impressive well I’ve seen so far, with a good stone surround and clear water inside. Perhaps someone cleans it regularly?
We can’t stay here forever, so we don our waterproofs and step out into the rain.
Lynne points out a couple of yellow flowers. ‘Welsh poppies,’ she tells me. They’re beautiful. I risk taking my camera out and snapping a few photographs.
The rain soon stops, although the sky remains dull and threatening. We continue to follow the road down to the shore.
This is Porth Penmon. Camper vans are congregating in a lay-by. I think of their owners being able to retreat into a dry space and brewing cups of tea. I think I want one too. A van, I mean.
The map says the beach is mud and sand. It doesn’t mention the rocks and stones. I look across to Snowdonia, where the clouds are still misting the mountains and dropping their rain, and decide the view is both dismal and uplifting at the same time.
Anglesey has just emerged from a relentlessly wet winter, one of the wettest on record, and this area was the victim of flash flooding. Along the shore the low cliff is crumbling.
We come to a little river. Lynne tells me this quiet stream – Afon Lleiniog – turned into a raging torrent a few months ago, cutting off the coastal road and creating giant lakes across the fields just inland. Hard to believe today.
We decide to walk along the beach. Lynne thinks we can make it… as long as the tide doesn’t cut us off. It’s a hard but invigorating walk along the shingle.
Further along we pass an isolated house owned by an artist, who turns out to be a friend of Lynne’s, and we stop for a brief chat.
Later we join the road again and meet a man in a high vis jacket who seems to be taking measurements with an instrument on a pole.
‘What are you doing?’
He doesn’t seem to know why he is doing the survey, but when Lynne suggests it might have something to do with the recent flooding, he seems to agree it might.
We soon reach Beaumaris. There is a good view of the castle from this approach. Shame the weather is dull and the photographs lack sparkle.
Down by the shore there is a regatta going on. Sailing boats are milling around, waiting for the starting gun. Unfortunately, with hardly any wind, it’s going to be a slow race.
Beaumaris is busy with tourists. It has a pier with a rather ugly addition on the end. Although it looks like a mini industrial zone with tall, white tanks, it is in fact a floating pontoon from where boats leave for trips to Puffin Island.
We eat ice creams and watch two misguided young men hand-feeding seagulls with chips. They’re doing it because they want to take photographs of the incoming birds. But what they’re really doing is teaching the gulls to steal chips out of people’s hands.
After leaving Beaumaris, the coast path does another one of its inland trips. This time to avoid walking along the busy A545, which has no pavements. Reluctantly we climb a very steep hill (‘Ooooh,’ my leg says) and I take one last look down at the town.
With its pretty pastel coloured house, and its impressive castle, Beaumaris has been the most touristy place I’ve visited on Anglesey so far.
The road we’re following takes us under a bridge. A railway bridge? We climb up to see.
No. The bridge carries an old lane, unpaved and overgrown with weeds. It leads to a ruined house, Lynne thinks, and is keen to go off and explore. I have to keep her on track. We’re supposed to be walking the coast path.
We go back to the road and continue climbing until we’re walking along a high ridge. To the left must be the sea, obscured by vegetation, while to our right is farmland and cattle.
This road is called Allt Goch Bach on my map, meaning small red hill. We pass a golf course and more farmland, before the path turns off into what appears to be someone’s back garden.
‘Are you sure this is right?’ asks Lynne.
‘My Garmin never lies,’ I say, with more confidence than I feel.
We skulk around the perimeter of the property until we find the continuation of the path.
I don’t take many photos from here onwards. The path is pleasant, but the light is dull and there are no views. After a mile we rejoin another road, dotted with expensive looking houses. And then we come to our turnoff. It’s time to leave the official route and head down towards the shore.
It’s good to see the sea again. On the other side of the water is Bangor.
Further along and we get a better view of the Menai Strait and Bangor’s pier. Tomorrow I hope to be walking over there.
We walk down to the main road, cross over, and I take Lynne for a well-earned drink at the Gazelle Hotel. I stayed here for a few nights and the views across the water are fantastic.
[The photo above was taken from my hotel room a few days ago. Sadly, I’ve moved on to stay in a B&B on the mainland, being further behind in my walking than I planned!]
I’m pleased with my progress today. I’ve managed 10 miles with a walking speed of 2.4 mph and, although I still have a limp, my leg only really aches when I go uphill. Hooray! It’s on the mend.
Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 984 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,491 miles