Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where winter meets the spring - Snowdonia

The morning is full of mundane stuff like washing. With the weather a little warmer today and a top of 14 expected we headed off to Snowdonia. This region is some of Wales hilliest and highest and lies to the west of Caerwys between us and the Coast. Getting there took us through magnificent top-of-the-world scenery. But not flat and open as we experienced in Spain - more undulating, greener and much more vegetation. This really is a beautiful part of the world. And yes, I know I keep saying that!

At the suggestion of good friend Mick in Brisbane, who spent many of his childhood holidays in this area, we followed the route from Caerwys to Denbigh via St Asaph, then to Pentrefoelas, via Bylchau and Sportsmans Arms and Hafod Dinbych. We had wanted to see the 'Cathedral' at St Asaph but there was a school service on and seeing it is only 5 minutes down the road, we thought we would come back through here on Saturday.

The Sportman's Arms is the highest inn in Wales - we had guessed as much (at least the pub bit!). While Michael was taking photos of the pub he crossed the road at which point a whole flock of sheep came running up to see him - guess they are either lonely, or this is where they are given food! Was funny to watch though.

We then got onto the A5 (old Watling Street - built by the Romans on their way to conquer The Druids on the Island of Anglesey) but could not find any evidence of this earlier Roman road. It is signposted 'Historic Route' over a considerable distance though.

We were now well and truly in the Mountains of Snowdonia - the highest in Wales. The top country is wind-swept and bears no trees. The gorse bush is stumpy and the reedy weeds were bending furiously this way then that with the breeze. The highest peaks still bore the signs of winter with light trails of snow - but this was not a deterent for walkers - we saw quite a number of them on the trails. But the spring melt was well and truly underway and all the streams were racing along full to the brim within their banks. The water was crystal clear and I can imagine that over time there would have been a still or two tapping into this pristine source! And what I had thought were fishing rod holders strapped to a beam on the riverbank, turned out to be tubes for holding fireworks - what next!

We then travelled through Capel Curig and Betswy-Coed before bactracking slightly to take the Pen-y-Gwyrd Pass and the Pen-y-Pass down to Caernafon through places with names that are so easy to get wrong - Llanberis, Cwm-y-Glo and Llanrug. At the top, this is a harsh and rugged environment that is dominated by the outcrops of Shale that continue to be mined within the National Park. The passes are steep - at one point a 17% slope! Didn't stop a couple of keen cyclists though (they can have that). En-route we see quite a number of ruinous castles. We stopped at Dolbadarn Castle whose keep is pretty well intact and accessible for those who want to climb to the top up (yet another) spiral stairway - this one without any rails. Michael did it!

Then it was back on to the motorway along the coast to Caerwys. We didn't stop along here because we are going to come over and stay a few days from Saturday with the hope that one of the small railways that travel high into Snowdonia might be operating.

We were almost back to the road on which the holiday park is situated when we came across a Restaurant / Guesthouse called Pwll Gwyn that had been tantalising us since the first day we arrived here seeing their menu in the tourist literature provided in the bungalow. As we had not had kunch, we were ready for an early dinner at 5:45 pm and were in luck - the chef was ready for dinner service.

Our expectations were exceeded. The setting was warm and inviting - modern in an old time setting. We asked the waitress how to pronounce the establishment name and she replied Pthll Gooin. In Welsh it means White Pool and refers to the pool of water that collected at the back of the once-upon-a-time farmhouse as it cascaded off the slate rockface. The food was exceptional and really beautifully presented. Our menu choices tonight were:
Black Pudding with Pate topped with a poached egg (Michael)
Mushroom and Garlic Ragout with toasted baguette and dressed greens (Maria)
Slow Cooked Lamb Henry served with sticky red cabbage and roasted chat potatoes (Michael)
10oz local sirloin steak served with slow roasted tomato, mushrooms topped with blue cheese, crispy onion rings and hand cut chunky chips (Maria)
Desserts (to die for)
Apple and raspberry crumble served hot with vanilla bean ice cream and cinnamon crème anglais (Michael)
Belgian Waffle with honeycomb ice cream and home made butterscotch sauce (Maria)

They pride themselves on showcasing local produce and justly so - it was all really delicious.

And so back to the bungalow. Tomorrow we are trying for an early start to go and have a look at the Becon Beacons about 3 hours to the south.

No comments: