Gwynedd Coast Path, day 16

July 14, 2017 0 Comments

We knew today’s trip wouldn’t be a popular choice – it’s just the two of us again.  The stretch from Trefor to Dinas Dinlle mainly follows the course of the busy A499 and must count as one of the Wales Coast Path planners’ biggest failures.  Presumably they were unable to engineer or negotiate either a coast-hugging route or a parallel path inland from the main road.  The guidebook suggests a way out: ‘some walkers may prefer to catch a bus or taxi’.  But for us completists that’s unacceptable advice and contrary to our basic principles.

At 9:00, when we set out from Trefor after taking an early bus from Pwllheli, the sun’s already hot.  We start by taking all the mountain photos, of Yr Eifl and the Trefor Quarry, that the mist censored yesterday.  Then we walk out of the village to the main road, and turn north-west.  New mountains accompany us to our right: Moel Pen-llechog, Gyrn Ddu, Gyrn Goch and Bwlch Mawr.  The last has an elegant profile slope up to an equally elegant conical peak.  All of them look impossible to climb in this temperature.

Traffic thunders past us.  Afon Wen lorries export clean clothes to the world, other lorries bring food to hungry Llŷn.  Everything moves at great speed.  Occasionally we’re able to distance ourselves by walking along the track of the old road, slightly to one side.  Here we study the changing technology of cats’ eyes – one of the greatest British inventions (by a Yorkshireman, Percy Shaw of Halifax).  Old types are smaller and planted at a slight angle, later ones are square-on and embedded in metal casings.  A few old milestones have also been preserved.  We notice that the ‘new’ road has been bounded by fresh drystone walls using the traditional Llŷn method of laying stones side-on, with a batter and capped by vegetation.  In our present philistine age such sensitive road engineering would be inconceivable.

With relief we reach the by-passed village of Clynnog Fawr, the home of St Beuno.  His Well sits by the side of the old road south of the village.  It was a destination, it seems, for medieval families whose members suffered from epilepsy: a quick dunk in the cold water was enough to cure them.  Today the water, in its walled enclosure, looks tepid and insect-infested and unlikely to cure any condition.  By the water is propped an ‘artwork’ and an invitation to buy it by sending a selfie to the artist.  We’re not tempted by this offer and move on to St Beuno’s church and alleged resting place – an enormous building, partly due to its significance as a staging post on the pilgrimage to Ynys Enlli, partly reflecting the saint’s fame throughout north Wales.  Beuno, a seventh century saint, was a specialist in resurrecting the dead.  His most spectacular case was that of his niece, Gwenfrewi (Winefride), which required sewing her detached head back on to her body.  More photos are taken, of the church and of the curious Irish sundial outside.  Clynnog also has a fine terrace of whitewashed cottages and one of the oldest post offices in north Wales – except that it closed over ten years ago.

We take the guidebook’s advice and make an unofficial detour from the main road down to the coast at Aberdesach, where a line of chalets faces the sea and a wooden bench has an apt quotation from R. Williams Parry’s sonnet (and song),

Mae hiraeth yn y môr a’r mynydd maith

We walk on along the shoreline, but the experiment ends in trouble when we leave it and get into a field that has no exit except a gate into someone’s private land.  No one seems to be in residence – it’s probably a holiday home – so we clamber clumsily over the gate, stride along the drive and march through a caravan park into a lane.  This act of blatant trespassing lifts our spirits, as we rejoin the main road and resume the noisy tramp north.  For what seems miles we walk in the shadow of the high wall surrounding the Glynllifon estate before reaching the junction for Dinas Dinlle.  This minor road is no refuge from the traffic and we have to walk with care and in single file all the way to the village.

Dinas Dinlle isn’t much, just a few cafes and other buildings by the shoreline – it reminded us of a mini-Borth – except for one thing, a huge prehistoric fortification to the south.  It sits on a natural drumlin but has massive ramparts on three sides (the fourth has been eroded by the sea) and an internal mound, which the Royal Commission , with wonderful indecision, thinks might be either a Bronze Age barrow or a Roman-age lighthouse base.  The place commands large vistas, south to Yr Eifl and beyond, north towards Caernarfon and Anglesey, and east to Snowdonia.  We sit on one of the ramparts, our legs dangling over the edge and our heads facing south, and eat the homemade sandwiches we bought in the garage shop at Clynnog.

A bus takes us on to Caernarfon, where we’ve time to wander the streets and buy a couple of Welsh books in the excellent Palas Print bookshop, before catching a second bus back to Pwllheli.  A three-bus day is a small compensation for all the route marching along the roads.  The Path planners really do need to revisit this section.

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