Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Shipwreck in Aberdaron

Had a bad weekend? Spare a thought for the owner of this yacht who decided to lend it to a friend to be sailed from the Lake District to Bristol. The threat of high winds from the south west lead him to seek shelter in Aberdaron Bay at the weekend. Had he done so at the western end of the beach he might have been OK. However the allure if the bright lights of Aberdaron and the quality local ale at the Ty Newydd Hotel led him to anchor in the soft sand in the middle of the bay. High winds late in the evening caused the anchor to be dragged and the ship to be blown right up the beach at high tide, damaging the rudder in the process.

The local rallied round and a temporary rudder was installed. However, the tide, now that the wind has dropped, never made it far enough up the beach. The boat has to be stabilised with ropes at every high tide day or night as it suffers the full force of the breakers.
The plan now is to use the biggest JCB on the peninsula to lift the yacht out of the sand and drive it down to the sea. In the meantime we have 2 new residents in Aberdaron and we have an addition to the seascape - all adding to the interest on the Wales Coast Path.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Legend of Dic Aberdaron

One of North Wales' most colourful historical characters was the amateur linguist Richard Jones, who lived from 1780 to 1843 and was known as "Dic Aberdaron". Dic was a self-taught polyglot, who claimed to be fluent in fourteen languages. He had a cottage in Aberdaron, the site of which is marked by a plaque, but he is buried in St Asaph.

The quiet lane just north of Aberdaron where Dic's cottage used to be.

As talented as he was Dic could never settle in one place for long and died in poverty. The author Jan Morris discusses his legacy in this extract from her book "A matter of Wales".

"Richard Jones was in all respects a complete failure. He is famous not so much for what he did, as for what he might have done, not for his triumphs over adversities, like most national heroes, but for his patrician refusal to adjust to them. He was born in 1780 the son of a fisherman, and for a time took to the sea too, but early discovered in himself a precocious gift for languages, and this was the end of him. He gave up gainful employment for the rest of his life, and instead took to wandering around the country learning new languages, translating foreign books and working upon ephemeral literary projects.

He was the very image of a tramp. Thickly-bearded, floppy-hatted, often wearing a brilliantly bright blue Dragoon’s jacket with silver epaulettes, generally bare-footed, nearly always filthy, accompanied more than likely by an adopted stray cat, with a harp and a horn slung over his back and every pocket of his raggety coat bulging with books - accoutred thus, he was a familiar figure in the lanes of North Wales, at the houses of country gentlemen or parsons where he stopped for sustenance and intellectual encouragement, on the waterfront at Liverpool, where he liked to practice his languages on foreign sailors, in the drawing-rooms of London Welshmen and even in Dover, where he enjoyed expressing horrifyingly subversive views to the soldiers of the garrison.

Dic was described by a contemporary as “innocent as a child, but cunning as a serpent”. He is said to have mastered fourteen languages, and to have had a smattering of many more, and he was greatly respected in his own lifetime for his prodigious self-taught intellect, but he was also a sponger, a squabbler, and a distinctly unreliable protégé. Time and time again, he was befriended by men of substance, who often put him up for a time, lent him books or money, or commissioned translations from one language or another. He let most of them down, in one way or another, and was engaged almost all his life in quarrels and recriminations.

It is often impossible, even now, to disentangle his truth from his fiction. Could he really speak all those languages? If he knew their words, did he always understand their meanings? Possibly not, but now as then people prefer to give him the benefit of most doubts, so that to this day Welsh schoolchildren are taught to view him with respectful regard. Dic’s only lasting creation was a mammoth Welsh-Greek-Hebrew Lexicon, never alas to be published, but there are young Welshmen still who see this way of life as admirable - a life full of aspiration and private satisfaction, but utterly outside the usual canons of success. Dic owned nothing at all but his books, his harps and his horn, and he lost most of them at one time or another. He died in 1843, and despite his atheist beliefs was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s church at Llanelwy [St. Asaph] in Denbighshire, where admirers who go to shed a gentle tear and wish Dic’s vagrant spirit well, will find this englyn, by Ellis Owen, carved upon his tombstone:

Ieithydd uwch ieithwyr wythwaith - gwir ydoedd
Geiriadur pob talaith.
Aeth angau a’i bymthegiaith,
Obry’n awr mae heb ’r un iaith.

A linguist eight times above other linguists - truly he was
A dictionary of every province.
Death took away his fifteen languages,
Below he is without a language at all."

Speaking of multiple languages, Peter has been having to brush up on his French and German recently as we have had customers from Europe completing the Edge of Wales Walk in Aberdaron. Visitors from other countries might like to look at our overseas operators page, for companies that can organise holidays in Wales.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Guardian praises Foodie Walk

The Observer has been to Aberdaron and is recommending a foodie walk from Aberdaron to Mynydd Mawr.

"In a nutshell it is a tour of the idyllic Llŷn peninsula in north Wales. This beautiful area is becoming famous for its fish, lobster and crab. You will pass Bardsey Island, a site of medieval pilgrimage, and should see plenty of rare bird life. Some of the route is restricted at high tide and the cliff paths are narrow so wear good boots and take extra care with children.

Aberdaron's seafood, and the area's cooking generally, is gaining a national reputation. Steve Harrison, a local fisherman, won the Fine Farm Produce award, recognising his dressed brown crab to be the best produce to come from any National Trust estate in 2011. You won't be short of tasting opportunities.

There is fish everywhere in Aberdaron - in the 2 cafes the 2 inns, even in the river! And a new fish and chip shop has also now opened on the river bank. 
On the first coastal section of the walk you should see two islands which are home to breeding guillemots and puffins. Shortly afterwards, on the climb to Pen y Cil, you could even spy a chough, a rare crow with a red beak and a distinctive "kee-aw" call. From Pen y Cil you can spot Bardsey Island where St Cadfan founded a monastery in 516. The waters separating it from the mainland offer regular sightings of grey seals and dolphins."

See the full article and route maps on If you want a slightly longer route around the whole peninsula then look on

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Countryfile in Snowdonia

Countryfile Presenter - Julia Bradbury
If you weren't lucky enough to catch last Sunday's episode of Countryfile from Snowdonia, then for the next few days you can still catch it here on the BBC iPlayer. There was a lot of relevant information for anyone interested in walking in North Wales, including a report on the safety initiative to put grid reference markers on prominent stiles and gates that I blogged about previously. On the subject of safety there was a segment concerning maps reading and navigation, which can be a vital skill when the weather closes in.

Another very interesting segment was on the Celtic rain forest in Cwm Mynach (Monk's Valley). This is a region of Snowdonia that receives around 200 days of rain a year, and consequently is carpeted with a rich variety of mosses, lichens and liverworts. Cwm Mynach was bought recently by the Woodland Trust with the proceeds of an appeal to preserve this rare habitat for future generations.

For more adventurous types, there was a feature on Scrambling. Half way between rock climbing and walking, this is increasingly popular, but don't try this on your own. You need to have instruction. Contact one of our walking operators listed on the main Walking North Wales Site.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

What's happening to the weather?

You can't have failed to notice the horrendous weather and flooding we experienced last Friday, which comes after a very dry spring with drought conditions.
Beaumaris harbour in the rain
A very swollen river Conwy
The weather forecasts always seem to err on the side of caution and rarely predict good weather if poor conditions have been prevalent for some time. Is it an art or a science? It was while mulling this over that I happened to come across this poem called "Weather" by Ambrose Pierce which I thought was very apt.


Once I dipt into the future far as human eye could see,
And I saw the Chief Forecaster, dead as any one can be--
Dead and damned and shut in Hades as a liar from his birth,
With a record of unreason seldome paralleled on earth.
While I looked he reared him solemnly, that incandescent youth,
From the coals that he'd preferred to the advantages of truth.
He cast his eyes about him and above him; then he wrote
On a slab of thin asbestos what I venture here to quote--
For I read it in the rose-light of the everlasting glow:
'Cloudy; variable winds, with local showers; cooler; snow.'

Ambrose Bierce

Hedgerows alive again

Foxgloves surrounded by the blue flowers of sheep's bit.
The Llyn is famous for its wild flowers, and as the summer continues the cow parsley and blue bells of spring give way to these magnificent foxgloves. As beautiful as they are, foxgloves contain a powerful poison called digitoxin which can be fatal in even small amounts. In former times it was used as a heart medicine, but it's use is declining now in favour of safer drugs because of the ease of delivering a fatal overdose.

Another unusual plant often seen at this time of year is the navelwort. This plant has water-storing succulent leaves that enable it to survive in dry conditions such as stone walls.
The pale green flowers of navelwort with red campion in the background

Red Lion at Llanasa

If you are looking for a good inn as a base for your waking holiday on the coast near Prestatyn or on Offa’s Dyke North then do consider the Red Lion at Llanasa. The accommodation is in converted outbuildings in the attached yard. Though not spacious, they are quite modern with ensuites and a good heating system. The Inn itself has a large restaurant area with a fairly typical Pub menu. It is well patronised and both the food and the accommodation were excellent value.

The walking routes directly from the Inn were across fields in every direction

Llanasa has an award winning pond

The Church was full of interest with a double nave arrangement
The church contains the tombstone of Lord Gruffydd Fychan, the father of Owain Glyndwr.

The church has close links with Basingwerk abbey and contains this interesting model of the abbey as it was in its heyday
The stained glass above the altar came from Basingwerk Abbey
But the window space was not large enough-so the remaining glass went in the end window of the adjacent nave

Pen y Dyffryn - a retreat and a hotel.

I was invited to a lunch party in the Pen-y-Dyffryn Hotel on 2nd July and found it to be an oasis of calm and a great place to relax amidst beautiful border scenery. This former Georgian Rectory is 100 yards from the Welsh border. It has 5 acres of grounds and no passing traffic.

A great place to explore Offa’s Dyke-but make sure you don’t miss any of the meals!

The standard of cuisine was first class.

The country in this border region is pasture and woodland-and well watered at that! By no means flat. 

Sheep Shearing Time

A lot of you have taken an interest in sheep shearing following my visit to Hafod y Llam. I ran across this unit out in the fields on my travels near Llithfaen. It is quite an operation and a huge physical effort is required to hold the sheep in place.

360 degree views of the Llyn

Whilst climbing Carnguwch I was able to take a 360 degree series from the very top of the burial cairn. All of Llŷn was before me. How lucky we are to be able to enjoy such unspoilt country “Castaways upon a sea of grass” RS Thomas.

Looking North to Yr Eifl
Looking south to Pwllheli
Looking west to the Morfa Nefyn Promontory

1000 Years BC

Everyone knows that the Bronze Age comes between the Stone Age and the Iron Age and that it is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. But how many places have Bronze Age monuments all around the local landscape? Step forward the Llŷn Peninsula!

We have many Standing Stones and also a very prominent Bronze Age burial cairn in excellent condition considering that it is at least 3000 years old.

This is Carngwuch-just to the south of the Yr Eifl hills near to Llanaelhaearn
It is fine hilltop cairn 6metres high and 30 metres across. It is no casual heap of stones. It is founded on a large boss of natural rock, and added stone has been revetted with a well built wall.
It is situated on Open Access land and is best approached from a lane leading around the mountain from the B4417 just East of Llithfaen.