My husband came to visit me this weekend and brought bad weather with him from Lincolnshire.
He drops me off on the road above The Gazelle Hotel, where I snap a photograph of Bangor pier across the straits. Although the rain has washed much of the murk out of the atmosphere, the air is far from clear and clouds hang low over the mountains of Snowdonia.
This morning, first thing, we rode in convoy to leave my car in a tiny place on the North Wales coast with the unpronounceable name of Abergwyngregyn. It’s a 13 mile hike back there, the longest walk I will have done all week. Hopefully my leg will behave itself.
I’m sad to see my husband leave, and part of me wants to go home with him, but the other part wants to do as much walking as possible before other commitments catch up with me.
The first section of the walk is pretty dismal. I follow the A545, which now has pavements, all the way to Menai Bridge. It’s a busy road and with very little view of the sea. (The official coastal route actually follows a quieter road on the ridge above, but I’m sticking to my Rule Number Two and keeping as close to the shore as is possible.)
After two miles, on the outskirts of Menai Bridge, I can leave the main road and follow side roads down to the shoreline, where I see a procession of sailing boats sliding gracefully along the straights.
The Menai Suspension Bridge comes into sight.
It takes me a while to find my way up to the top of the bridge. And, then, I begin my transition from Anglesey back to the mainland of North Wales.
I love bridges, partly because they look so elegant (usually) and partly because you get great views while you cross over. Here’s an excellent view of the second bridge across the straits, The Pont Britannia…
… and, on the other side, a great view looking towards the north-west, with the town of Menai Straits below and then the long stretch of water going all the way back to the open sea.
The sad fact about bridges is that they are often magnets for despondent souls. I haven’t got very far before I see the familiar Samaritan’s sign. This one is bilingual.
And further along is a sad memorial to a young man who fell from the bridge. [Later I discover this is Chris Evans, who died last year. It was the first year anniversary of his death last month, a fact that probably explains the recent flowers.]
The pillar at the far end of the bridge is a business-like affair. The sign confirms I have left the magical world of Anglesey behind. I’m now entering Gwynedd, North Wales.
Having spent a total of 17 days walking around Anglesey, I’m about to romp through 4 different Welsh counties in the next few days as I make my way to Chester.
I take a last look at the bridge. Goodbye Anglesey.
The official Wales Coast Path follows the road – the busy A5 – towards Bangor, but my map suggests I might be able to take a footpath running beside the water instead. A sign says it’s closed… but I decide to give it a try.
Unfortunately, the footpath really is closed due to landslips, and I’m forced to turn back.
Luckily walking along the A5 isn’t as bad as I expected. A pedestrian track runs parallel and along the edge of an area of rough woodland. The path rises to run high above the road and is pleasantly screened from the traffic below by trees and bushes.
A plaque tells me that the woodland was donated to the city of Bangor by Sir Michael Duff, to commemorate the coronation of our Queen in 1953. He sounds like a nice man and an example to other landowners. [Later, I discover his history is somewhat complicated and he made have had less noble motives for disposing of his estate!]
Coming down out of the woodland, I find the place where the official path turns off the road, but all I can see is a derelict and fenced off site. Maybe that section of path has been closed? It isn’t clear.
I continue along the road and soon come across a bright meadow, where I spot a stone circle.
The stones are not weathered enough to be ancient and, later, I learn this was the site of the 1931 Eisteddfod festival. The stone circle has an altar in the centre and, according to Wikipedia, would have been the focus of druidic ceremonies. I must say it all sounds a little weird.
On the other side of the meadow is a small patch of woodland with a path running through it. I have no idea if I’m back on the coastal path or not, but I seem to be heading in the right direction.
My path joins a cycle trail. Yes, this is definitely the official coast path. I think. Maybe. The cycle trail is, as always, rather boring to walk along and I’m relieved when it turns into a proper lane and pleased to finally get a sea view.
Ahead is Bangor’s pier. And over the water is my hotel with the fabulous views, The Gazelle. Funny how it seemed an isolated spot when I was over there, but from this viewing point I can see plenty of buildings dotted among the trees.
I had planned to walk along the pier. Apparently there is a tiny café at the end. But I soon realise you have to pay an entrance fee, and so I don’t bother.
Now it’s time to turn my back on the view of Anglesey. The North Wales Coast stretches ahead. It doesn’t look particularly friendly today, glowering darkly under a smother of low cloud.
I stop for lunch in a nearby pub. Staple pub grub. Cheap, greasy and filling. And I think about Bangor. By following the path I seem to have missed out seeing the town. In my imagination it was a seaside resort. But, just as fellow walker Jon Combe has commented before me, there’s no sign of a beach. Not even a seaside promenade. Strange.
Onwards. The next section is an odd mix of decaying houses, old wharves, new housing estates and, finally, a short stretch of empty promenade. A pretty park seems to offer a shortcut down to the shore, but leads to a dead-end and forces me back to the road again.
I reach an area called Porth Penrhyn. It doesn’t seem to know what it is. An old industrial wharf? A new industrial estate? A tourist centre?
The coast path takes me over a bridge and into Porth Penrhyn. And then does a disappearing act. Where’s that path got to? I wander around and finally track it down, hidden behind some trucks in a car park. It leads under an archway.
I must say at this point I’m feeling a little downhearted. The day is dull, my calf still aches, my husband has abandoned me, my car is still miles away, and now the path is heading inland because yet another block of privately owned land is driving me away from the coast. And this archway cum tunnel looks far from appealing.
But, although I don’t know it at the time, things are just about to improve
… [to be continued]