In Wales, they love the consonants. All words and names seem to contain too many of them. We are in the north, sniffing around a bit while getting the first miles on our Land Rover.
We’re off! In a sort of a beta version of what will become our Grand Journey. The Land Rover is being tested (brakes working fine!), we are running in the engine, fixing small things, see what works and what does not.
North Wales is our first destination. We follow the A55 for a little while before we take off to smaller roads and more exciting things to see. We spend our first night in a lay-by under some trees that make sure it drips a little extra on the vehicle when the rain is pouring down. It does not disrupt our sleep though. Both of us tucked down in our own sleeping bags on mattresses that came with the Land Rover.
We wake up to a new day, right in the Snowdonia National Park, where the weather is as unstable as the scenery is beautiful. A little further west we pull in, happily in our Norwegian clothing (my god, we are so happy for that!) and go out to take a closer look at Llyn Ogwen.
-“It’s like ‘Game of Thrones’ this place”, Joe says. Kind of expecting that anytime a pale blond girl will appear calling for her dragons. Wales has in fact a dragon on their flag, which is also linked to the Arthur legend. The King’s name is after all, Arthur Pendragon.
It’s sunny, it’s raining, it’s grey and then the sun comes out again. We’re counting sheep and breathing in the air. It’s very fresh here in the west.
We take the Land Rover on the small roads, passing waterfalls and quiver over cattle grids. Small farms are located where no one would believe that anyone would like to live. Here and there old ruins peak up from the landscape. A castle here and there. Some in better condition than others, and in between it all grow wild rhododendron.
We stop in Harlech where another castle sits on a hill. Gazing down at the beaches where the Irish Sea rumbles toward land, where mobile homes shiver together. It is definitely not tempting to spend your vacation down there today.
We find a new hiding place under the trees for the next night. Share space with a campervan, where we seem to hear that the family name is Lee. Inspired by Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, we fantasize about their errands (they look a bit scary, we think). We shall be happy to be alive the next morning actually.
Then we turn our noses up north again. We skip the tourist center at the lake ‘Llyn Brenig’ and park further away where fishermen are standing in the water throwing their flies. The lake is not that big, but big enough that you can sail here too. We think is a really nice place for some lunch, so we open the rear doors wide and bring some water to boil for a cuppa. The sun feels warm, but the fishermen give up and go home. The fish do not bite today. We sip our tea, while Joe checks that everything is as it should be under the car and the bonnet.
Top: Apparently, this sign says “the little card shop by the bridge over the river Dee in Llangollen”
We get some more fuel in Denbigh before we turn south towards Llangollen. We want to take at look at the old steam locomotive and the old train carriages giving us a glimpse of a bygone time. Old suitcases on the platform add to the whole appearance of yesteryear. The city is on the UNESCO list, and is very popular.
On the bridge over the River Dee we look down on people rafting in the river. Give up trying to read the nameplate on the wall above one of the shops on the other side (or count how many letters it has!) then do some shopping.
From Llangollen we end up on some small and narrow rural roads that take us high and low. The Land Rover and its breaks truly get their test here. This driving also uses a lot of fuel and when we stop for the night at Lake Vyrnwy there is not that much left in the tank. We did not get a full tank in Denbigh and now we cross our fingers that the little gas station we saw on the way here is open on Sundays too.
Lake Vyrnwy is proving to be quite a gem! The lake is “held up” by an old bridge/dam from the 1880s. As we cross this bridge the next day, we look over at The Straining Tower. Located about 30 meters out into the lake its purpose is to strain water passing through it. With its gothic style it sure stands out. Another Game of Thrones vision comes to mind.
People are cycling or jogging around the lake. Some choose to rent a canoe. The birds are chirping and singing while we are strolling down the road to look at it all. Here you could clearly spend the rest of the day; there are plenty of trails to walk here too.
But we must leave Wales and it feels a little sad going back to England again. The weird names disappear from the road signs. For our part a sort of a good feeling vanishes too – it really feels good being in Wales. A bit like Norway but still different. We will focus on the south next time.