Last Friday we packed up our little car with far too many clothes, towels, swimming costumes, things to do, wines, Welsh whiskey, wellies and the dog, and trundled off to Wales for a weekend away! Read on to hear our experiences of our first Welsh trip…
It all began on the Thursday actually. When the house was in the usual haze of packing chaos which seems to go on forever, which was compounded by the fact that I knew my mother-in-law was coming to cat sit, and that consequently the whole house had to be completely deep cleaned. Last time my dear MIL came to cat sit she pointedly left us some toilet cleaner. I got the hint. We fell in to bed late on Thursday with grand dreams of leaving the house early and the sun rising around us as we drove happily across the border before the rest of the world had started their day.
We left at 10am.
It turned out that weeks of hard work and a late night did not mix well with the best-intentioned early start, but in the end we decided that leaving just after the Friday morning commuter traffic was a good idea anyway. We got as far as Leigh Delamere and had to stop, largely because we had forgotten to purchase car snacks and I (the driver) declared I couldn’t drive without them. But the rest of the journey up through apple country in Hereford and on into the rolling Welsh countryside went without hitch and we found ourselves pulling into Brynowen Holiday Park at 4pm, exactly when our caravan was due to be ready.
Tom went into reception and came back with the obligatory welcome pack and ‘little map’ of the site, on which the receptionist had drawn our route through the park to our caravan. “You’re going to love this”, said Tom. He pointed out the route, and I discovered that our caravan was in the furthest corner of site, bordered by one other van and some fields full of sheep.
We drove somewhat confusedly through the site despite the map, found the van (its position couldn’t have been better if we’d picked it ourselves) and nervously unlocked the door.
It had been some time since I’d been caravanning (let’s just say the last time was probably in the 90s and leave it at that) and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A huge van with an ensuite main bedroom, flat screen telly, fireplace and central heating was definitely not it! I busied myself with unpacking and we enjoyed a few cups of tea before heading out for an evening walk along Borth beach. A first outing for my new yellow wellies! The tide was in so it was very shingley, but we enjoyed the fresh air and Skye had a great time dashing in and out of the sea.
We walked back through Borth as it got dark and the late evening light and out of season atmosphere didn’t lend itself to first impressions – the town seemed sad and in many places in a state of disrepair. The only place with any life in it was the local pub, The Railway Inn, but it looked a bit too busy for us so we passed it by. After a hot shower simple pasta dinner – enjoyed in front of Gardeners’ World of course – we hit the sack, and, it being a holiday, Tom allowed Skye in the bed too! Both of his ladies were happy about that, even if I did wake to find my slippers in the bed in the morning!
The following day had been forecast to rain but it miraculously dawned sunny, and after a long, lazy cooked breakfast I donned my yellow wellies again and out we went. This time the tide was out and we walked for hours across what emerged as a lovely, quiet, dog-friendly beach. One of the most interesting features was the underwater forest, which I had initially thought were oddly shaped rocks until trunks and branches revealed themselves. We found some sand dunes and climbed them, before turning back and arriving back at our van as it got dark. Another hot shower (Skye was distinctly unimpressed!), a simple dinner and early bed provided a much needed tonic to our usually overbusy lives. I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting old!
Sunday was a lazy day for us after our huge walk. We curled up inside by the fire and enjoyed endless cups of tea, as I took my first tentative steps in crochet and Tom played games on his laptop. It was hard to contemplate that it was already time to pack and go home!
We checked out the following morning at 10am and drove the scenic route into Aberystrwyth itself for a bit of an explore. Aber itself had a better atmosphere than Borth, and we enjoyed a promenade along the sea front, walking under the flags of all the districts of the world which had their own dialect (Welsh, of course, being the primary one!). The streets of Aber were full of little bars and coffee shops, I learned about the origins of the university in the town (older than you might think!) and we enjoyed climbing about in the crumbling walls of the old castle and posing astride cannons for photos. Next to the ruined castle was a beautifully placed memorial to the victims of the First and Second world wars, a tall pillar with a woman atop it. I was struck by the timelessness of the location, overlooking both the town and a with a wide view looking down over the sea from above.
From there we made our way back to the car and journeyed home through the beautiful open Welsh countryside, a highlight of which was my first drive over the Severn Bridge! We’d not driven over the bridge on the way into Wales, since we’re too cheap to pay unnecessary fees and it wouldn’t have shortened our journey. I hear that next year the fees will no longer apply in both directions, so maybe driving into Wales over the bridge is something I will do in future – we will certainly be back to Wales as it’s everything I love. Time to get planning our next break…