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Review: Llyn Peninsula

City/Town/Region/Island

Gwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom

A nostalgic trip to the Llyn Peninsula

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2320 reviews

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  • 2013
  • Husband

49 people found this review helpful

We love the Llyn Peninsula and for 25 years used to spend two weeks there every Easter, self catering on a farm near Nefyn. It was a great place for a family holiday with castles, narrow gauge railways, beaches and plenty of walking. It is about 10 years since we were last there. Withdrawal symptoms were setting in and knowing we had nearly four days free of Grandparenting responsibilities, it seemed too good a chance to miss. We booked three nights at the Travelodge Porthmadog, found out the maps and began to plan.

We decided to visit the Rug Chapel near Corwen with its glorious painted and carved interior, on the way across and Bodnant Gardens near Llandudno on the way home. Both of these have been on the ‘todo’ list for many years and were rewarding visits. It had been a late spring in Wales and the laburnum arch at Bodnant was still in its full glory with hanging yellow flowers forming a canopy above our heads. It was worth a visit for this alone.

Top of the list was a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway followed by the Welsh Highland Railway.

We also wanted to spend a day revisiting old haunts in the peninsula. Porthmadog would be a good base.

This is a quick summary of what we did and some of our thoughts.

Porthmadog has benefitted from having a by pass which keeps through traffic out of the town centre. The arrival of Tesco, Lidl and Aldi on the edge of town doesn’t seem to have had much effect on the high street which is busy and many old names are still trading. Harbour Station is the terminus for both the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. The sight of the Welsh Highland trains running along the Main Street and over Britannia Bridge is still a novelty and popular photo shoot.

Criccieth has hardly changed at all and many of the family run shops have been there for fifty years. It has retained its ambience as a Victorian holiday town with its castle high above on a hill. We had forgotten how steep the climb was up to it. The views were as good as ever. And this can be followed by an ice cream from Cadwaladers on the road just below Aberdaron at the end of the peninsula looks unchanged although the church has had a lot of money spent on it and although it may be more comfortable for worshippers, has lost a lot of its character. The soft boulder clay cliffs are subject to erosion and the sea wall has been strengthened. To our delight the small bakers on the road into the village was still there although they had sold out of scones and we had to make do with Welsh Cakes. We couldn’t sit on the church wall to eat them either as this now has railings along the top.

The National Trust now owns part of Aberdaron and runs the village car park. It also owns much of the surrounding land, acquired over the years. We drove up to the coastguard hut on Mynydd Mawr for the views across to Bardsey Island. There is glorious walking here but my dodgy knees and a strong wind meant that walking along the cliff path and over Anelog to Porth Oer were out, especially after a particularly strong gust of wind blew Michael over into a gorse bush….

Porth Oer is still my favourite beach with its rock pools at low tide and National Trust Cafe.

Nefyn on the other hand has been hit badly by the years. The garage and petrol station have gone and Spar and the chemist have moved in here. The only shops left in the village are the electrical shop, Post Office and Fish and Chip shop. There are many empty shops which give it a run down feel. Morfa Nefyn has managed to retain its shop as has Edern and the butcher in Chwilog is still there.

Over the years many of the small family farms have disappeared and field boundaries have been grubbed out. Some have been bought by in-comers with horses. Others are now holiday accommodation. We were struck by the increase in number of caravan sites throughout the peninsula. Many farmers are finding this a valuable source of income. There are fewer sheep and cows in the fields although South Caernarfonshire Dairies at Y Ffor has grown in size.

We had forgotten how narrow some of the sunken lanes were and how slow they were to drive with their blind corners and poor visibility. The verges of some of them are getting quite damaged with vehicles trying to pass. It was also strange to see the trees in full leaf and they did restrict views in places. At Easter the leaves were only just beginning to appear. Bluebells were still flowering on the banks, although there was less gorse around than we remembered.

We visited the old Medieval hall of Penarth Fawr, now licensed for weddings and followed the pilgrim route to Bardsey Island visiting St Beuno’s churches at Pistyll, Llangwynnadl and Aberdaron as well as the tiny church at Llanfealrhys.

All were open. The redundant church at Penllech is now cared for by the Friends of Friendless Churches and it was nice to see it has been sympathetically restored.

We didn’t have time to visit Portmeirion but did go to Plas Brodanw Gardens which were designed by Clough Williams Ellis using the same architectural gimmicks used at Portmeirion but with trees rather than buildings. This gets few visitors and we enjoyed wandering the gardens.

We also visited to Plas Yn Rhiw, a small 17thC manor house lovingly restored by the Keating Sisters and untouched since their death. Set high on the hillside it has delightful secret gardens. The only sounds were the crows in the tall trees.

The weather wasn’t as kind as it could have been and low mist often obscured the tops of the hills. We had to sit out a couple of heavy rain storms but the sun did manage to appear at times. In Early June it was still relatively quiet with mainly older visitors although there were a few families with children.

It was a nostalgic visit to old haunts. The Ffestiniog Railway is still my all time favourite although I have to admit that the newly reopened Welsh Highland Railway does run it a close second. Some places were as evocative as ever. Others hadn’t changed for the better. Over the years we have climbed all the hills and walked much of the cliff footpath. Now we sat and remembered previous holidays and happy days.

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