Point of View

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Viewpoint: Welsh Mountains

OFMARIAANTONIA‘s 2020 photo challenge includes a prompt for “Point of View.”  The viewpoint I have gone with is the view of the surrounding peaks as seen from my cousin’s home in the Welsh mountains.  The viewpoint shows the progression from the tree line, to the moor-like uplands, and then to the snowline.

 

Timber to grass, grass to snow

It all changes quickly as up you go

I sit and observe it, dry and warm

Unconcerned by the passing storm

Such is my point of view

As I read a book, and sip a brew

 

Padre

With much appreciation to Tess and Hugh for their hospitality.

 

 

The Scoop on Scoops

Ice cream is a great “holiday” food.  It has on our past travels been associated with seaside trips, and other getaways.  As far as beach fare, my childhood had been limited to Feast bars,  Cornettos, and if really lucky a Mr. Whippy soft cone.  It was my wife that introduced me to the wonders of seaside Italian style treats.

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The first introduction, however, was not at the sea front but in the Welsh valleys.  Mr Creemy, Tonypandy, Wales is one of the best ice cream experiences I have had.  While ihe atmosphere of this little venue may not amount to much,  it being a small ice cream parlour in a small Welsh valley town/village. The ice cream, however, is wonderful. So much so, that we make a point of visiting whenever we are in (or even near) the Valleys.

On the latest visit I had a peanut butter ice cream in an excellent quality waffle cone with a rich cherry sauce and really good whipped cream. The portions are good-sized, the scoops tasty, and the overall feel is of luxury.  Its a place to really spoil yourself!

Image ©Padre’s Ramblings

Don Gelato’s, Aberyswtyh, Wales is on the town;’s sea front.  We stopped for a few scoops while visiting the beach for the day. The ice cream parlour is part of the Royal Pier complex and is adjoined to the Inn on the Pier.

There are multiple cone types, but ice cream/gelato flavours are the real choices to make. We had Turkish delight, strawberry, and chocolate. They were flavourful, and had a really great texture. The scoops were relatively large compared to some seafront cones we have had, and while not cheap, they are good value for money considering the quality.

There was some queuing to be served, but the quality of the ice cream was worth it, and the staff were doing their best to accommodate everyone. This really has to be the place to get your seaside cone on a summer’s day.

Cadwaladers ice cream flavours

image: Cadwaladers’ own site

Cadwaladers in Criccieth, Wales is another quality seaside venue.  We stopped in to try a few scoops and were glad we did. After all what is the beach without ice cream? But this is no ordinary ice cream. We had a scoop of custard which was the flavour of true custard, not just a hint. The Turkish Delight was bursting with yumminess as well. The pistachio was also goo, but lacked the explosive good flavour of the other two, but was still one of the better ones I have had.

Image ©Padre’s Ramblings

Candy ‘N’ Cream, Hunstanton, Norfolk is a ice cream and general sweets venue.  We have stopped there while visiting Hunstanton on several occasions.  It is convenient to the car park by the Information Centre, and is next door to Fisher’s fish shop. We have also had good experiences with the Pavilion Ice Cream Parlour in the town, but found parking closer to Candy ‘N’ Cream.

The shop is a traditional sweets shop with loads of variety, but they also serve some really good quality take-away ice cream. The shop lacks the fancy options of its neighbour down the hill, but the ice cream itself is in my opinion better. We had a nice strawberry which was very fruity, a banoffee scoop which was really well balanced and not sickly sweet, and a rich caramel/toffee scoop.

This bright pink building looks like a sweetie itself, and the entire “kid in a candy shop” experience is there. It is not a sit down for a sundae venue (like the nearby Pavilion) so it all down to what you are after.  I for one like it, however.

Image ©Padre’s Ramblings

Gorleston, Norfolk’s Dimascio is a great year round venue.  Even in the off-season the selection and quality are superb. Right before going into my wife’s Keto diet regime, we made a visit.   I had a very nice waffle cone with hazelnut, maple/walnut and strawberry cheese cake and my wife has coconut (very nice), chocolate and cherry with a flake. The quality was excellent, the flavours rich, and the texture creamy. It is a favourite when in the Great Yarmouth area.

This was just a sampling of ice cream venues, but all well worth checking out if nearby.

Padre

 

 

Welsh Falls

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Cenarth Falls

Wales is a country with mountains, scenic valleys, and some pretty persistent rainfall.  The result is an abundance of waterfalls, and rapid water courses which are a marvel to observe.

My youngest step-daughter attended university in Mid-Wales, and on our many visits there we saw some really nice examples.

One of these was at Cenarth in Carmarthenshire. In parts of the South and Midwest of America, small communities are sometimes referred to as “wide spots in the road.” Well, Cenarth is the exact opposite. It is a place where the road narrows to cross a valley bridge. It is at the bridge that one can take in the falls and the natural beauty of the place.

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Cenarth

The falls are small, by some standards just glorified rapids, but the overall effect is beautiful and relaxing. The bridge is a nice piece of architecture as well, though some of the views of it (bridge not falls) were obscured by the vehicles of fisherman. The parking is a little expensive especially if stopping only briefly for a few photos. To be fair to the attendant, he was willing for us to pull in and pull out again, but as we decided to take some pictures we paid and stayed. There is an “honesty box” for payment as well, for when the attendant is away. There is a nice little shop with Welsh spoons, etc next to the bridge as well. In the end, it was worth a couple of quid for the view and the experience.

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Cenarth Bridge

The Salmon Leap is nice little cafe located in a period stone building right next to the bridge and the falls car parking area.  The cafe is attached to a very nice shop of the same name which offers Welsh souvenirs, and some really good quality gifts and handbags. The cafe offers teas, jacket potatoes, chips and baked goods such as Welsh cakes. The hot chocolate and tea we had was very good quality and the Welsh cakes were tasty. There is a limited amount of “transport cafe” type seating inside, but very nice tables outside with views of the falls and the bridge. It was very nice to sit in the natural views and enjoy our drinks. The staff were very friendly and helpful.

 

A more impressive falls is at Devil’s Bridge (Pontarfynach). It is in Ceredigion, and is another settlement which clings to the mountainsides, overlooking the valley below. We have passed through it on several occasions, and stopped for views and for drinks as we travelled. Fortunately I was vaguely familiar with it, as on one occasion while traveling on a dark winter’s night my GPS directed me to take a left turning, which would have plunged me into the valley. It didn’t seem right, so I disregarded it, and am here to tell the tale.

I have not taken a photo of the falls myself, as my late daughter, who was a talented photographer had taken some amazing shots of it. In keeping with her wishes, I will not share them here, but instead am posting a stock photo by another photographer.

 

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Devil’s Bridge Falls from West Wales Holiday Cottages

There are a couple of tea rooms and a souvenir shop at Devil’s Bridge.  We usually stopped in for a hot drink at The Woodland Tea Room.  It is at a scenic spot and and has convenient parking near the Devil’s Bridge and falls.  The shop is colourful and has touristy souvenirs, and local Welsh products. The tea room itself is clean, and offers a chance for a rest and a drink. The coffee was rather average, and the welsh-cakes were a little bland compared to others I have had. As a cultural experience, however, it was okay.

 

Travelling to Wales from England will either bring you into the south near Cardiff (which has a few valley falls), or through the Brecon Beacons, or Snowdonia.  The latter two routes bring you into contact with several falls just off the roadway.  Below are just a couple offered without comment.

Padre

 

North Wales Adventure: Homeward Bound

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Criccieth Castle

It has been about a month since our visit in North Wales. As our stay was ending we made an additional photo call at Criccieth Castle, then headed into Porthmadog for some drinks and snacks for the road.

We then headed northward to check out the great Edward the First castles of Caernarfon and Conwy.

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Caernarfon Castle

I had visited Caernarfon years ago, and well remembered the impressive castle. On this recent visit I had the opportunity to renew those memories, and to take in the spectacular battlements and towers. Parking in on most sides of the castle and while a brief walk might be in store, with a little patience you can get parked close by.
It was a very busy day when we visited, and a pirate festival (I believe) was going on so it made for a even more crowded feel on the approaches to the castle. That said, it was well worth the journey to see again.

Nearby are the Medieval walls of the town. I have seen lots of Medieval town walls (Norwich, etc) which have portions intact. While Caernarfon’s are not as extensive as York’s or Chester’s, they are nonetheless impressive with their thickness and they along with the castle must have been an imposing reminder of Edward I’s conquest to the local population.

Beyond these two features, we found the town a bit too crowded (on the day) for more exploring, so set off for the next port of call Conwy.

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Conwy Castle

I had also visited Conwy’s castle years (decades) ago, and climbed the towers, and taken it all in. On this visit we just took in the majesty of the structure from below. This is a really awesome fortification, and it easy to see how it took so much of the English budget to build it for Edward. It dominates the town, and is a wonderful example with its towers. When we visited this time, there was renovation/preservation going on, so some of the outer walls were under scaffolding, but it was nonetheless an impressive sight.

What I enjoyed more was the quayside. The Quay at Conway is what many people would picture of the ideal seaside vista. The quayside with its stacks of crab/lobster pots, the boats resting in the harbour, and the old town behind, and the sea afore.
We arrived an found parking by the RNLI and we were able to spend a brief time taking in the views, before I headed down the key to find more venues to visit.

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Quay

There are a few shops, and the public toilets are about midway down the quay from the castle end heading towards the smallest house. There is a pub as well, and if facing towards the castle there are some good views of it as well.

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Bay View

There is also a harbour boat tour which departs from the quay as well.

One of the great features of Conwy is the “Smallest House in Great Britain.”  As huge as the castle is, the other end of the scale is not to be missed either. This little gem is a “must see” It is a mere 72 inches across, 122 inches high and 120 inches deep. It is near the Quay and is basically pedestrianized now, but is easy to reach from the parking near the RNLI. It has a bold coat of paint, so even though small is not easy to miss.

We next made our way to Llandudno. We have been to many seaside towns in Britain, and many have areas which maintain the Georgian and Victorian terraced frontages (Hastings for example). Llandudno seems unique to me in that the entire Promenade area is unchanged. There are no arcades, shops, or eateries breaking the pattern of terrace, These are primarily guest houses, hotels, and other accommodation, but it does give a feel of the past. The terraces overlook the water, and there is a certain calm to it all. It does ave many of the usual seaside activities, but most of these are found a street or two inland.

I didn’t think I would every write a negative review of Costa Coffee. I am in fact a Costa fan. That said, the Llandudno branch was a real disappointment. This seems a very popular, or at least busy outlet. There was a steady queue, and the baristas were pushed to the limit. This may be the source of the problem. There were no available tables, which is fine, as we were prepared to drink in the car, but the drinks themselves were almost undrinkable. We had ordered two large coconut chais, and they in turn, and after a long wait were ready. They were hot, so we didn’t taste them right away, so decided to go to the seafront to drink them. When we got there, they were so strong, as to leave a spice burn, and an aftertaste. I don’t know if the chai mix was inadvertently increased, or if it was somehow off. I assume the former rather than the latter. But, we were not in a mood to go back and deal with parking, and the queue again. So homeward bound, next stop East Anglia.

Padre

 

Smallest House Site

North Wales Adventure: Criccieth

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Criccieth High Street

We made Criccieth our base of operations for our North Wales adventure.  We spent the four days and three nights at the George IV Hotel. We had stayed here previously 8 or 9 years before, and found it just as convenient as before. While there are a few stairs to the lobby, there is a small wheelchair lift, and all floors are serviced by the main lift. Some of the hallways are a bit narrow for a wheelchair to navigate, and there are several fire doors as well. But we managed to get access to all areas we needed.  Our room was basic, and in need of some renovation, but functional, comfortable, and suited our purposes. The shower had good pressure, and there was sufficient hot water for a good bath as well. The mattress was a bit overly firm, but we doubled the duvet to pad it out.  Housekeeping came each day to change towels, empty bins, and make the bed, but only changed bed linen if there was a “obvious need” for it. We did query this, and were brought fresh linen. Meals for the half board were good, and followed a set rotation. Same offerings each Monday, etc. Breakfast was buffet for the Continental portions (cereal, etc) and cooked options were ordered at the table. WiFi was available in some public areas, but was weak. No connection was found in our room, at all. Fair enough it wasn’t advertised as such. Many of the guests were part of coach tours, and the hotel seems to make a good business of this arrangement.  The location in Criccieth is good, and there is parking for guests opposite the hotel on the High Street. It is a good base of operations as well for visiting Portmeirion, Porthmadog, and Anglesey.

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George IV

The beach at Criccieth is mixed sand and cobble. There were several people out on the beach, and it is sign-posted as a dog free beach. Owing to this several dog walkers confined themselves to the promenade outside the beach railings. There are some excellent views of the castle, and of the mountains in the other direction. We stopped here on two occasions with very differing weather, on one day blowy with people in Wellies and jackets, and the other sunnier with more people dressed in beachwear. There is pay and display parking, though blue badge parking is free. We parked up and spent time just watching the sea, and surrounds.

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Blowy Day On The Beach

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View of Castle from the beach

Criccieth Castle dominates the town and is a great landmark. It can be seen from much of the town, and there are especially good views of it from the beach, and on the castle hill itself. While it is not as grand as Conwy or Caernarfon, it is still an impressive size considering the size of the town. There is a bit of a climb to reach it, so we settled on exterior views, but it was still a must see.

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Criccieth Castle

In the nearby village of Llanystumdwy is the Llyod George Museum.  The museum has a relatively late opening time, so we were much to early to go in, and had a full schedule for the day. That said we viewed the grounds from outside, and got a few photos. This cottage is really important historically, and I hope to someday be able to return to learn more of the great PM’s story.

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Back in Criccieth we found Cadwaladers Ice Cream Shop.  We stopped in to try a few scoops and were glad we did. After all what is the seaside without ice cream? But this is no ordinary ice cream. We had a scoop of custard which was the flavour of true custard, not just a hint. The Turkish Delight was bursting with yumminess as well. The pistachio was also goo, but lacked the explosive good flavour of the other two, but was still one of the better ones I have had.

Criccieth is small, but has lots to offer both in local attractions and in places to be reached from it. It is worth the visit.

Padre

North Wales Adventure: Anglesey

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The Britannia or Menai Bridge links Anglesey and the mainland, and was the necessary starting point for our of our visit. This imposing and impressive Victorian structure is something to see! It has really strong lines, and the massive stone work give a sense of security that more modern structures sometime fail provide. This really is a wonderful piece of engineering.

Once in the island we headed to Holyhead and the Holy Island. We found the Holyhead docks are much like ports everywhere, with the ferry port doing steady business, and the marina area rather disappointing.  So we headed down the West Coast towards South Stack.  The South Stack area more than made up for the everyday views of Holyhead.

We started with the circle huts. The ancient stone circle remains of the huts are impressive. They overlook the sea, and really give a feel of the past.  This is a fairly big complex, but the lower huts are easy to access. There is parking at a small car park directly opposite them, and after crossing the small road, the closest hut circle is only about 50 paces from a farm gate. The next is a similar distance further up the path.  I found the stone rings, and what I assume to be hearth stones great reminders of our heritage.

The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Reserve is a short distance further up the mountain from the huts. The reserve offers some wonderful views of the sea and surrounding natural beauty. There is parking in three places that we could find. One low on the mountain across from the circle hut ruins (this also gives access to a Ellin’s Tower path. The second is at the visitor centre/cafe. The third is at the top of the rise where the road comes to an end. Hikers and watchers also climbed the rocky areas above. The visitor centre views are excellent and the RSPB has done a good job of making the area as accessible as possible, without spoiling the nature.

The Reserve has a visitor centre and cafe as well, so finding the cafe was a bonus. The cafe is medium sized, and it being a chilly day rather full, but the staff were really helpful and the service good (one server carried tray to table for us owing to disability).

There is outdoor seating as well, which we braved for a few minutes, and great views of the sea, Ellin’s Tower, and the light house.  The cafe/visitor centre also has a disabled toilet. The tea was well brewed, and we had chocolate and lemon cakes which were rich, moist, and satisfying. Really glad we found this place, to chill and take in the views.

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The South Stack Lighthouse is a wonderful part of the overall scenery. Owing to mobility issues we knew the hike itself was too much, but there are several places above the complex, and along the trails to view this sight. It was well worth seeing, even if for a few minutes just for the glory of the surroundings, and the majesty of the building itself.

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Lighthouse

Similarly, Ellin’s Tower was difficult for us to access. Therefore, we only looked at the building from the outside, but it makes a a wonderful photo op when used as a backdrop to the surrounding nature. Its while walls also make a striking contrast to the sea below. It is well worth seeing, and I have been told for those able to make the short hike to it, even more impressive up close.

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Ellin’s Tower

Leaving South Stack we followed the coastal road Lon Isallt to the Trearddur Bay taking in the views and visiting a couple of beaches. Then it was off to Aberffraw and St Cwyfan’s Church which I have previously posted on. The rugged coastline, and defiant little church (against nature;s power) are inspirational to see.

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Church in the Sea

On our way off Anglesey we followed more coastal road until we had to head inland to make our way back to the Menai Bridge.  Our island adventure had been a real treat, and the views alone made it worth taking, but yummy cake, and a glimpses of history made it a truly outstanding day.

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Trearddur Bay

Padre

 

 

A Brief Stop in Aberystwyth

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Aberystwyth Pier

When our daughter was at university in Wales, we had several occasions to visit the West Coast. One of the nice seaside stops was Aberystwyth.  This town is a classic British beach setting with a beach, pier, and over looking cliffs.

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Cliffs 

The beach is below the promenade and makes an arch around Cardigan Bay from the edge of town to the cliffs.

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Beach and Cardigan Bay

I enjoyed the promenade as a place to enjoy the views and to relax on the serpent themed benches.  After a brief “soaking it in” be headed to the pier for some ice cream and a pie.

Don Gelato’s  Ice Cream Parlour is part of the Royal Pier complex and is adjoined to the Inn on the Pier. There were multiple cone types, but ice cream/gelato flavours are the real choices to make. We had Turkish delight, strawberry, and chocolate. They were flavourful, and had a really great texture. The scoops were relatively large compared to some seafront cones we have had, and while not cheap, they are good value for money considering the quality. There was some queuing to be served, but the quality of the ice cream was worth it, and the staff were doing their best to accommodate everyone. This really has to be the place to get your seaside cone on a warm day.

Padre
 

Portmeirion: Visiting “The Village”

 

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Portmeirion in the North of Wales is a beautiful Italian-styled vacation/tourist village.  It was the brain-child of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and captures the feel of the Mediterranean in Snowdonia.

There is a hotel, and several unique holiday rentals in the village.  The complex has a restaurant, shop, and cafes and provides wonderful views of the bay, as well as gardens, and terrific architecture.

There are multiple “follies” and tucked away statues to discover. Whether it is Atlas with the globe upon his shoulders, or the Buddha tranquilly contemplating the truths of the universe, they are there for you to uncover.

 

Portmeirion is not so large that it can’t be taken in on a day trip, nor so small that one would come to a loss for things to do or explore.  Among the points for spotting are the areas of the village linked to the television series The Prisoner, which Portmeirion provided the set. It also featured in Dr Who episodes set in Renaissance Italy. Can you find the abode of Number 6, or the venue where The Doctor met Count Federico?

We made a long day of our visit, buying a day ticket and exploring throughout the afternoon.  There are ample paths, and most are suitable for small mobility scooters, and pushchairs.  Art and natural beauty came together, and we had a really enjoyable day finding the various themes and connections that make Portmeirion a coherent village setting.

For information about fees, or reservations for accommodation check this site.

Padre

More Than Stonehenge

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is perhaps the most famous of Britain’s prehistoric sites.  Its massive sarsens, are up to 9 meters tall and weigh 25 tons (22.6 metric tons).  The smaller bluestones are still massive and a major feat of engineering to have brought them to the site and erect them.  But for all its wonder the Henge is not alone in the British landscape.

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In Wales there are several ancient stone structures, and while not as grand as their Wiltshire counterpart, they remain wonders of engineering.  Pentre Ifan near Newport is one such structure.  It has a commanding view over the surrounding hills, and shows the importance and organisation of the leader who had it built.

 

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Pentre Ifan

The county of Norfolk on the opposite coast was the site of what has come to be known as Seahenge. This timber circle found near Old Hunstanton was made up of an outer ring of  fifty-five small split oak trunks forming an enclosure of 7 by 6 metres. In the centre of the ring was a large inverted oak stump. The preserved timbers and a reconstruction are on display in the county’s King’s Lynn Museum.

Britain offers more than its fair share of prehistoric wonders.  From henges to ancient causeways, to chalk horses and giants, Britain’s ancient monuments wait to be explored.

Padre