The day after a birthday is always a bit depressing. Another year older and all that… it was just as well I didn’t have time to mope.
Today’s schedule didn’t look too bad on paper; we were aiming to reach Moelfre, a former fishing village with a campsite marked on the map. We have to take these little tent symbols on Harri’s OS maps with a leap of faith – they could mean anything from a Caravan Club standard site with luxury toilets, a shop and all mod cons to something pretty basic, i.e. a field with a toilet.
We’d started playing a game called ‘Spot the house where Will and Kate lived’. It was actually more difficult than we imagined; we passed rather a lot of contenders: detached properties set right back from the road/lane and obscured from (close) view by large gardens. My ‘favourite’ was the house with sweeping lawns that we could see in the distance yesterday. We later learned, the Royal couple’s first home was located inland at Bodorgan (and was far more modest than the houses we’d been identifying).
Over breakfast, we chatted to two fellow hikers who considered 8-10 miles to be a reasonable day’s walking and thought our 31 miles since Monday afternoon sounded like very tough going, even without heavy rucksacks.
Still today’s walk didn’t look too challenging. Moelfre was around 14 miles away and the campsite just past the village; there was little point in pushing on beyond that, or we’d find ourselves wild camping.
This section of coastline doesn’t have the endless sandy beaches enjoyed by more southern parts of Anglesey but is full of little rocky coves with the sort of natural pools that kids love poking around for crabs in.
We arrived at Amlwch just after 10am. The main town is set back from the coastline but the historic port and harbour area is interesting and well worth a look around.
Amlwch enjoyed its heyday in the 18th century as a result of its proximity to Parys Mountain, at that time the world’s biggest copper mine. The harbour was extended and a shipbuilding industry developed. It’s hard to imagine now, but back them Amlwch had a population of around 10,000 (more than three times its current population) and was the second largest town in Wales.
We passed Copper Kingdom where the staff were putting out billboards; the man seemed keen to engage us in conversation – and we were equally keen for an excuse to stop walking. It turned out he was an ex-military man who’d done many a long-distance hike in his day. His advice for preventing blisters? Talc and tights.
As we passed Point Lynas we spotted a For Sale sign – it seemed the lighthouse itself was on the market (we later learned the price tag was a cool £1.37m). I could imagine myself living in a lighthouse and this one was better suited to a permanent home than many because it’s located on the mainland. Interestingly, the lighthouse itself is still in operation and is leased back to Trinity House; the 1,000-watt lamp shines for nine seconds out of every ten, 24 hours a day.
When you consider the price tag includes three keepers’ cottages, the freehold of the lighthouse and 17 acres of grazing land, that price tag doesn’t sound so bad. As I write, it’s still on the market so, if you’re interested, check out the details on Rightmove.
Dreaming about living in a lighthouse kept us occupied for the next few miles until, at Traeth Dulas, we found ourselves with a wide tidal lagoon to cross starting with an inland detour around the Llys Dulas Estate (the owners of the estate haven’t granted access rights to walkers).
After traipsing uphill through several steep fields, we eventually joined a lane and made our way back to the rather wet path alongside the lagoon (we were a little bit perplexed about how the route works at high tide). It was actually easier for us to abandon the path and walk on the solid surface of the sea bed (clearly not an option at high tide).
The lagoon marked a change in the coastal landscape. When we rejoined the main Anglesey coastline we were greeted with the sweeping, white sand beaches that make the island such a popular holiday destination for families.
Sadly, this stretch of coast has seen its own large-scale tragedies, most infamously the wrecking of the Royal Charter in the mid-nineteenth century off rocks at Porth Alerth,
The ship, with her large consignment of gold, was on the final leg of her voyage from Australia to Britain in October 1859 when she found herself at the mercy of the one of the biggest storms ever to hit the Irish Sea that century (it was subsequently named the Royal Charter Storm).
The passenger list was lost in the tragedy but it’s believed that around 450 lives were lost that night, the highest number of deaths for any shipwreck on the Welsh coast. The hero of the day was a Maltese sailor called Giuseppi Ruggier (subsequently known as Joe Rogers) who, when the ship was in distress, showed great courage in volunteering to swim to the shore with a rope. His efforts undoubtedly saved many lives, although the ship sank shortly afterwards taking hundreds with it.
A memorial stone stands above the cliff tops where the Royal Charter was lost, and the ‘Hither and Thither’ sculpture by Sam Holland was commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the accident in 2009..
We arrived at Moelfre too early to head straight for the campsite, so stopped in the Pilot Boat Inn for a drink or two and later enjoyed curry and chips in a nearby cafe.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stall the inevitable for much longer, and just after 7pm we arrived at our overnight destination… a huge sloping field of long,wet grass. Not quite the standard of accommodation we’d grown accustomed to over the past two nights! We would, however, have survived the night a lot better had we not been kept awake for hours by the distressed hollering of several calves and their mothers, separated at birth. Distressing for the animals and for us, because their frequent calls to one another kept us awake long into the night (and explained why other tent and caravans at the site had opted to locate at the farthest end of the field!).
‘Never too old to backpack: O Fôn i Fynwy: a 364-mile walk through Wales’ by Tracy Burton is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store and other online bookstores priced at £2.99.