All things going well, today will be our penultimate day on Anglesey, which is kind of sad because I’ve really enjoyed all the coastal hiking. Harri, however, is now eager to reach the Welsh mainland and the mountains of Snowdonia.
We woke at around 6.15am to a much brighter day, which immediately lifted our spirits. The poor heartbroken cows and their calves were still creating a cacophony around us which made us reflect on the cruel farming practices which ultimately mean our supermarket shelves are filled, in this case with milk.
Keen to get going, we had a quick breakfast, packed up and quickly re-joined the coast path. Within the first few miles, we’d be passing through Benllech, a small town with a supermarket.
Harri was a little concerned he was getting behind with his notes. It was a beautiful sunny morning so we came up with a plan. Harri would settle himself down on a bench on the Benllech seafront, while I set off for the supermarket unencumbered by my rucksack.
Our plan sort of worked, except my quick trip to the supermarkets (I discovered there were three!) ended up being more like an hour’s solitary inland trek. While Harri rested his legs, I kept mine working hard as I strode uphill and down through Benllech’s leafy suburbs in search of food supplies. It’s a really pretty town, with a wide, crescent-shaped beach which keeps winning the European Blue Flag but, by the time I’d done the day’s shopping, the sun was hiding behind cloud again and it was time to push on. No paddling for me today!
By now the views towards north Wales were opening out and we could see one of my favourite places – Great Orme – stretching out into the distance.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the area, Great Orme is the limestone headland which towers above the equally wonderful Llandudno. I first visited Great Orme back in the late 1980s when I fell in love with this rugged mountain which rises straight from the sea. At 207 metres (679 feet), its diminutive in Welsh mountain terms, but that makes it far more accessible. For those who can’t manage the walk to the top (and don’t want to drive), there’s a cable car (the longest of its type in the UK) and a 112-year-old cable-hauled Great Orme Tramway to get there.
Our next challenge of the day was crossing the vast expanse of sand that is Red Wharf Bay. We arrived at low tide when almost ten square miles of sand is exposed; it would have been wonderful to wait until the tide turned and watch the waves rushing back into the bay but, as is always the way on these long-distance walks, we had to push on.
The path around Red Wharf Bay is mostly flat (after a brief climb) but you do get the feeling you’re never going to reach the far side. The terrain, too, changes frequently, ranging from being wet and muddy underfoot to a firm gravel track, sand and (my favourite) boardwalks. In one particularly vertiginous section, it follows the old sea wall – I was quite relieved I’d developed my ‘height legs’ on our various trips to Madeira but this unavoidable stretch of path surely poses problems for walkers who are afraid of heights.
It’s a really lovely stretch of coast path. At one point we passed the campsite where Harri once spent two weeks of one of the wettest Julys on record in an extremely leaky trailer tent.
The far end of Red Wharf Bay was also memorable for actually having public toilets. That’s right, open and functioning toilets which we felt obliged to stop and use for fear they too might disappear if they’re deemed to be unpopular; the cafe next door was closed, however, so no icecreams for us.
At the far end of Red Wharf Bay, we climbed steeply towards the flat-topped Bwrdd Arthur Fort. And then, as we came over the crest of the hill, we quite unexpectedly found ourselves gazing across the Menai Strait at the towering peaks of Snowdonia National Park. Nothing can prepare you for the sudden and breathtaking spectacle of Wales’s highest mountains.
The weather had been steadily improving all afternoon and by the time we reached the eastern tip of Anglesey which faces Puffin Island it was wonderfully clear and sunny. This is a popular spot with tourists, with car parking. Here, at last, we were able to indulge and buy ice creams.
From our vantage point, Puffin Island looked pretty small, however it still manages to be the ninth largest island off the coast of Wales. It’s privately owned and uninhabited, however landing is allowed with special permission and there are boat trips around the island. Like most small islands without human residents, Puffin Island attracts an abundance of birdlife alongside the puffins, namely guillemots, razorbills, terns, shags and gannets.
Slightly to the left of Puffin Island (from our perspective) stood the attractive Trwyn Du lighthouse on the low-lying Perch Rock. The circular stone lighthouse with its distinctive three black bands was built in the late 1830s at a cost of £11,589 to warn sailors not to pass between Puffin Island and the main island. Trwyn Du has been unmanned since 1922 and in 1996 it was converted to solar power.
Against the backdrop of the North Wales coastline, Puffin Island and the lighthouse create a stunning landscape that attracts lots of tourists. Seduced by the lovely scenery and late afternoon sunshine, Harri decided this was the ideal spot to set up camp for the night.
The headland itself was too busy but we managed to find a lovely little hillock just off the road, where charred grass suggested others had camped before.
I think I’d had too much sun (yes, it happens, even in Wales) because I was content to lie inside the tent dozing all evening, while Harri sat outside writing.
With clear skies over the sea, tonight’s sunset promised to be spectacular; I absolutely intended to photograph it – the perfect sunset – but, try as I would, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Snuggling up in my sleeping bag, I muttered my last words of the day to Harri. ‘I hate camping,’ I told him. ‘I really do hate it!’ And with that, I promptly fell asleep.
‘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.