Sunday, 24 July 2011

Beddgelert, North Wales

Beddgelert is a village in the North Wales countryside that I have passed through on a number of occasions and have never stopped here before. I decided to do a post from here for three reasons ... it is unheard of by many, there are a variety and interesting features here and it shows a typical North west Wales countryside. Unfortunately the sun came out later in the day on my return from the location of the next post (which incidentally will be a major editing headache for me) and I didn't have time to repeat all of them (just two of the last three).

My main reason for stopping here was to visit the Sygun copper mine, something that has been on my "to see" list since the last time I was in the area many years ago. The visitor centre sits on the hillside amongst the surrounding vegetation and rhododendrons that seem to make the place look attractive in a rugged landscape.

Copper transport !!

"we're going in " !!
Although the mine closed back in 1903, extensive internal work was done to turn in into a tourist attraction opening in 1986.

The mine was presented with an award by the Prince of Wales in 1988 for "the sensitive development of facilities" !!! Let's hope that the wheels don't come off it !!

no turning back
For the tour, hard hats were given out in the visitor centre as some of the tunnels were not for the tall and the self directed tour led me to a serious of numbered exhibits .....

... caverns (smaller than what you think)
After climbing many internal steps and ladders, the tour ends about 140 feet higher up the hillside ....

Opposite the copper mine in the centre of the valley is a rounded hill (Dinas Emrys) where the Romans built a fort. Legend suggests that King Arthur and Merlin are supposed to have had a castle here. On digging foundations to such a place, two dragons (one white and one red) were disturbed and fought on this site with the red one claiming victory and the prize of being displayed on the Welsh flag.

Another legend regarding the birth of the village is the tombstone of Gelert under a tree in a nearby field. The tombstone reads....  ( bear with me, it's a long one !!!)

"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The faithful hound", who was unaccountably absent. On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The Prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry. Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again, He buried Gelert here "

They say that things always come in three's ... stories difficult to believe that is !!! A round trip in 2011 on the Welsh Highland Railway cost's  ... £32 (A price that I would expect to pay to go to London on the train or nearly 2 tickets to Glasgow). Another thing that is difficult to believe is that it is virtually an all day round trip from Caernarfon.

Commuter view ?!
Many of the narrow gauge railways in north & west Wales were originally designed for the transportation of slate from the hills to the coast. These days 7 or 8 of these railways have been transformed into preserved passenger tourist services. The Welsh Highland Railway is one of the most ambitious projects in recent times with the completion of over 20 miles of track in some of the most torturous hill country. I'm not up for giving a long history lesson on the line but more of a brief one ... the original track of 1863 was closed to passengers and goods in 1916 and 1922 respectively. A revived plan in the 1920's failed as the slate industry started to decline, buses were quicker and rolling stock was out of date. During the 1930's a tourist plan was hatched to travel to destinations unheard of (my fears for it today !!) with a second failure to it's name. The final nail in the coffin came in World War II when everything was sold off including the removal of the track.

letting steam off about the WHR !
Restoration was a long process that began in 1961 with difficulties and court cases over operating rights which involves disagreements and legal battles between the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railway. Just to complicate matters even further, I remember during my 1989/90 Welsh rail rover travels that there was another railway with the same name. This smaller railway has been re-named as the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

Amongst other unusual things, Beddgelert has been referred to as Alpine looking area and is the fictional setting for Rupert the Bear !!

Ty Isaf is a 17th century farmhouse now owned by the National Trust as it is the oldest house in the village and stands on the site of Llewelyn the Great, Prince of Wales's hunting lodge.

Lastly with a history confusing to the tourist, it seems ideal to have a shop in the country that looks remarkably like something one would find at the coast ... & not a Rupert Bear in sight ! ....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Carnedd Llewelyn (1062m) & Yr Elen (962m), Snowdonia, N Wales

The idea of this trip to North Wales was to incorporate some hillwalking into the week. As you can see from previous recent posts, the photographic touristic carrot dangling in front of me seemed greater than to risk no photos up on top of a cloud covered mountain.  This particular day, believe it or not was the best day available in the mountains.

As I was staying only a 10 minute drive from Bethesda, it seemed right to utilise this as a starting point for the walk. As this was the first and indeed the only walking I did in the week, I opted for something ... a bit gentle.
For the benefit of hillwalkers reading this ... if any ! ... I made a decision to avoid Carnedd Dafydd at the bottom of the map (a future target from Ogwen cottage to include Pen yr Ole Wen) in favour of Yr Elen which may seem isolated on it's own for another occasion. I have to plan these walks carefully as it's not often that I can come to this location .... with suitable weather ( I managed Elidir Fawr in 2002, Glyder Fach in 1997 and Snowdon in 1996, a poor return for the car mileage !!)

On leaving the edge of Bethesda (where incidentally I bought my sandwich every day at the Spar shop!!), I followed the road for a bit further past a few farms and out into the open countryside. The long gentle path down the valley reached was bordered by my targets for the day on the left and Carnedd Dafydd on the right.

At the end of the valley, the path somewhat disappears a little and becomes a faint track that goes off up the hill to the left. There was time to stare in awe at the imposing cliffs of Carnedd Dafydd.

.... and look back to the light shining on it's descending slopes to the right.

1950 air crash wreckage, Bethesda and Anglesey in the distance

A rescue helicopter on a training run up and down the valley. I was spotted and it turned to go back to base.

A bit more ascent and I had made it to the top of the second highest mountain in Wales for the first time. Notice the strip of water in the distance which is the Menai Strait.

From the safety of my lunch stop shelter. I noticed two walkers who had to shout at each other to make themselves heard as the wind was so bad.

Onwards towards the lesser summit, but by no means less spectacular of Yr Elen ...

... and the view under the cloud towards Menai and Anglesey

I took a slight de-tour without covering the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn again and re-joined the path at the aircraft wreckage to retrace my steps along the valley. There is a circular route back to Bethesda but didn't like the idea of getting my feet wet in the river today !!

Time for a last look at Yr Elen in the foreground, the dark shape of Carnedd Llewelen in the background and some other friends I met near the end ...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Caernarfon, North Wales

The royal town of Caernarfon is situated on the Welsh mainland at the south west end of the Menai Strait.
( I spent a day and a few evenings here having a look and eating dinner twice)

It seems that the origin of town is based on it's natural resources in the Menai Strait area with subsequent military history and proximity to the Island of Anglesey. The Romans felt that they had conquered the celtic tribes of Wales at this point and similarly William the Conquerer felt the same way when he arrived 1000 years later. Both built military enclosures of varying and progressive standards as a statement of this achievement.

Later in the 13th century, a local ruler decided that he was going to rebel against English authority and Edward I decided to retaliate by conquering the north west corner  of Wales and building the castle that is seen here today.

This was where Edward I ruled in North Wales and established his English style county name of Caernarfonshire in 1284, a name that lasted until 1974 when it reverted to the original name of Gwynedd.

The Castle became a bit neglected during the Middle ages when the Welsh were left to their own devices due to disagreements and battles to the more important matter of the English throne.

In more recent times of the 20th century, the historical town was defeated badly in a ballot to make it the capital of Wales.

Prince Charles had his investiture ceremony here on this plinth as the Prince of Wales in 1969

Throwing light on the subject !

The public house and the Island from the Castle

Way out

The town walls were built around the time of the Castle's construction at huge cost and seem to be in good order today

On one of my visits, I got mixed up in a photography group who were learning about light and processing taking photos of the sunset and floodlit buildings. I was past caring where my Bed and Breakfast host thought I was at 10:30 at night with 30 minutes drive back on top of that.

"No, I'd rather not look, I've seen it all before !!"

The Anglesey balcony and Island

A night in Harbour

The sun is setting on my amazing evening and it is time to make steps back to my accommodation .....

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