It transpired that as well as running Y Gwydyr, our landlord also worked as a guide at a nearby tourist attraction, oh and took his children to school. His mornings involved more juggling than a circus act but he was very amiable and determined we were going to eat before he left the premises… and eat well.
Enormous plates of cooked breakfast were placed in front us – each one brimming with sausages (three), fried eggs (two), bacon (lots), tomatoes, mushrooms , beans; there were also ample rounds of toast. There was enough food on the table to feed a family of four with leftovers for the dog. We tried to do our feast justice, but even though I managed to eat two of my sausages (the first time in years I’ve touched them), I just couldn’t face the fried eggs and even Harri wasn’t up to four.
If you find yourself in Dolwyddelan anytime soon, we can’t recommend the friendly Y Gwydyr highly enough; the landlord definitely takes feeding his guests very seriously. Just don’t try to stick to the diet plan while you’re there!
We weren’t too keen about setting off in rain but it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon so there was no point in postponing the inevitable (although the landlord had kindly said we could stay in our room as long as we wished).
We’ve been on the road for one whole week now and we haven’t toughened up as much as we thought we would. So far… four nights in bed and breakfast, one night on a campsite and two nights of wild camping – not quite the four nights camping/one night bed and breakfast ratio we envisaged!
Much of our clothing was still damp from last night’s laundry session; however, we reasoned we were going to get soaked within minutes so gritted our teeth and struggled into it all again.
We walked out of a rather grim Dolwyddelan, following a low level route along the hillside. The valley we’d thought so pretty yesterday now looked bleak and unappealing. Some brave souls were exploring the castle but I suppose you have to find something to do when you’re on holiday, no matter how grim the weather.
Every now and then it stopped raining and the sun would gallantly struggle to break through the clouds. At moments like these, our spirits would soar briefly only to be cruelly dashed when the heavens inevitably opened.
As we climbed and the rain showed no sign of abating, the stony tracks became brooks and we found ourselves getting wet from the bottom up as well as the top down. I really love hiking in the mountains in this type of weather… NOT!
Then, as we started to descend into the Nant Gwynant valley, the weather finally started to improve and hours after dawn, the sun made its first appearance of the day.
While we’d been meandering around the Anglesey Coast Path, Snowdonia’s mountains had been attracting the worst of the rain and the ground underfoot was still awash with water. I’d heaved a sigh of relief when we reached a rough track, anticipating that the remainder of the walk into Beddgelert would be on solid ground.
Unfortunately, Harri had other ideas and had earmarked a footpath on the far side of Llyn Gwynant for us to follow… not that there was any sign of an actual path, just a field full of those distinctive bog-loving grasses which seemed to scream at passing hikers, ‘Come near me and you’re going to wish you hadn’t!’ and a stile into a pond (if there was a field it was submerged).
I’m afraid at this point we had a minor altercation. We’d been wet all day. And when a solid surface finally presented itself, I was being asked to ignore it and plough straight into a lake.
I won’t go into the gory details here, but after a reasonably heated spat, Harri saw sense and agreed to change the route to follow the road, which really wasn’t too busy and, most importantly, was DRY!!
There was still no mobile signal, so Harri suggested we pitch our tent at Cae Du Campsite, freshen up and then go in search of Shane.
The weather had suddenly taken a surprising change for the better and the views up the valley towards Snowdon were magnificent.
We still hadn’t made contact with Shane, however we were confident we’d find him easily in a place as small as Beddgelert.
We did find Shane… eventually… but it wasn’t quite as straightforward as we’d anticipated. Our over-reliance on mobile phones and internet access had made us remiss about making proper arrangements as we were to discover. In Beddgelert, we quickly established Shane was looking for us too, however it was another hour before we actually found him and the search involved a friendly post mistress, two receptionists (one friendly, one not), two jolly chip shop staff and a Dutchman (don’t ask!).
Beddgelert is a tiny little village which is on the tourist trail as much for its proximity to Wales’s highest mountain as its own considerable appeal. There’s really not a lot there but what there is, is about as picturesque and scenic as it comes. Beddgelert’s stone terraces are the Snowdonia equivalent of Devon’s thatched cottages and the cold gurgling rivers passing within a stone’s throw of many a garden complete the picture.
We stayed in one of these little cottages back in April 2011 when attempting to walk the Cambrian Way (suffice to say, the weather was mainly against us). To say they are tiny is an understatement; ours had just one bedroom and the washing machine/drier was in an outhouse (the kitchen was too small to house them). Perfect for a holiday perhaps, but people used to raise families in these tiny abodes.
Despite the allure of nearby Snowdon, Harri decided not to take the main O Fon i Fynwy route to the summit because he believes weather conditions (and not an arbitrary and inflexible route) should determine whether an ascent to the summit is feasible (and safe) or otherwise. Instead, he outlines an optional detour, which we both feel is the sensible given the landscape and its propensity for extreme weather.
It was just after 6.30pm when Shane finally joined us in the bar of the Tanronnen (amazingly one of his texts had finally reached me and we were able to tell him where we were).
Despite some concerns to the contrary, I recognised him the moment I saw him striding across the bridge. Reunions can go one way or the other so I was relieved that, after the first few minutes of polite questioning about what we’d each done with our lives (thirty years… eeek!), we soon fell into an easy rapport and (hopefully) didn’t bore Harri too much with talk of our madcap Scilly years.
Shane treated us to a delicious meal at Hebog, a cafe by day and candlelit bistro by night. Afterwards, we ‘retired’ to a table outside the Prince Llewellyn Hotel until we were driven inside by the relentless midges.
Walking back to the campsite, with the last glimmers of daylight just about to disappear behind the nearest hill, the bad weather seemed like a distant memory.
What a shame then, that everything was about to change again…
‘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.