What do you call it if you wait till winter to write a post for the amazing trip that happened in summer? Lazy, that’s it. Well its better that I write now than not at all, so here goes. I was looking for a good break around the summer bank holiday in UK in end August and zeroed in on Cornwall (in England) and Wales as the two possible destinations. The fact that Wales offered what Cornwall offered to an extent in terms of beaches and offered much more in terms of hills, is what set us up for Wales.
I had already done a semi-road trip of Scotland a couple of months earlier and knew how to better things up, so planned my itinerary meticulously. There was just going to be the two of us and all was set up for a nice romantic summer break. We had four days, so there was just enough time to include both South and
North Wales in our trip. The two parts are dramatically different and four days is the absolute minimum to visit both, better stick to one if you have any lesser amount of time.
Our itinerary looked like this –
First day – London to Cardiff by bus. Hire car in Cardiff and drive to Tenby in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Spend time in Tenby
Second day – Pembrokeshire coastline, Pembrokeshire towns, evening drive to Harlech in Snowdonia, North Wales
Third day – Explore towns in Snowdonia
Fourth day – Drive back to Cardiff in morning, spend time in Cardiff; take the bus back to London in evening.
The journey by bus from London Victoria to Cardiff Central was very comfortable and as fast as a train (much cheaper as well), we stopped at a highway café and clicked this pic there. It took us less than 3 hours.
We used National/Alamo car rental for our car hire and they provided us with a good option of returning it back to Cardiff airport after 3 days when it was a bank holiday and none of the city car rentals were open. Soon we were cruising along the M4 that ran all the way close to Tenby listening to my favorite CDs on the way, and within a couple of hours we were in Tenby. Pembrokeshire is in the south west of Wales and a hot favorite with the holiday tourists from across UK and elsewhere.
Being the holiday weekend, parking in Tenby was quite nightmarish, but we had been warned about that already and found a car park after a little hassle. Tenby is a quaint little town in South Wales that has been a favourite resort for the people of England and Wales for centuries. English influence is at its maximum in this part of Wales. We had booked a bed and breakfast right in the middle of the town and found it to be small but adequate. The Tenby harbour is absolutely gorgeous and we just spent a lot of time gazing at it from a vantage point we placed ourselves in, in the company of some winged friends of ours
The town itself is pedestrian only between 9 and 5 and that adds to its charm, there are no cars and no traffic on the cobblestone streets, just people.
And there are enough curio shops, and branded outlets and eateries and cafes to keep you occupied for as much time as you like.Tenby has gorgeous beaches. The North beach facing the harbour is popular but small. But the south beach wins hands down. It is a glorious expanse of golden sand overlooking a pristine blue sea. (see pic)
Off the coast, is an island where there is a monastery and monks live there to this day. Since they had pre-mature sleeping hours of 7 pm or something, we decided not to disturb them and just clicked a pic from a distance.
The night spent in Tenby was fun as well, mainly thanks to the local pub which was hosting a Karaoke night and all locals and tourists alike where happily singing one number after the other, some of the acts (although by drunk people) where particularly interesting. Late at night, we just strolled near the sea-shore and gazed contently at the sea shimmering under the moonlight, straight off the cover of a Mills and Boons many women may perhaps identify with.
The next day was going to be the “day of the trip”. We had planned to go to the remotest stretch of the Pembrokeshire coastline. The whole of Pembrokeshire coastline is designated as a preserved natural reserve and many a backpackers spend days walking the whole stretch, taking breaks only to jump off cliffs and swimming from one cliff to the other (that emerged as one of the popular adventure sports this year in the UK!). We, however, decided to do a limited stretch of the coastline, but obviously the most spectacular one, between St. Govan’s Chapel and Stack rocks. The best way for one to cover this more than an hour long walk is to park your car at one end (St. Govan’s) and take coastal bus service to stack rocks and then walk the way along the coastline. Mind you, on this stretch, you are walking right through a military range, and you have to confirm if the military range is open for people to walk through on that particular day, because if it is nor, a bullet fired during shooting practice can sail right through you as you make your little adventure trip. All this obviously added to the excitement.
St. Govan’s is a small deserted chapel right at the bottom of a cliff that one accessed through steep stairs. It was tough to imagine how humans can reach places like that and create structures there, I guess it is all about faith and nothing else.
When we reached the coastline, we were greeted by a thick coastal mist, that made the atmosphere truly eerie and mysterious, The sea was so close and yet, not visible over the cliff.
Gradually the mist lifted and by the time we reached stack rocks and the Green Bridge (the most photographed structure in Wales), I was greeted the views that I still think are the views of my lifetime so far. I guess its all about cliffs, I have had a fascination for them even as a kid. And here there were cliffs, as magnificent as I had imagined, challenged by a sea ever so vast and ever so helpless against the grandeur and magnitude of the landscape it was pitted against.
Blue, wild, with seagulls flying from the land emerging from the sea, to the cliff standing majestically against it and clouds in the distance over the shoreline providing a perfect ethereal backdrop. I could have sat there forever.
But we moved, we went discovering the rest of Pembrokeshire. We passed by towns and fabulous land and sea scapes. We visited St. David’s, the smallest “city” in Britain, granted the status of city by the Queen even though it is a really small town, in honour of the favourite saint of Britain, St. David. We visited the Cathedral there and had a most sumptious lunch, tea and cakes
Thereafter, it was time to head to Snowdonia, all the way up in North Wales and a good four hour drive. We had booked our hotel in Harlech, in the shadow of the stunning Harlech Castle, and so began our tour of the beautiful hilly North Wales and all its castles. Will post on that in the next post.