We had settled in for the night quite early as we wanted to get away sharpish in the morning. During the evening the wind had picked up and I had a somewhat fitful night as it was rather chilly and being closest to the open vent meant that it was a little draftier on my side of the bed. Mr V though, slept soundly. We were both though fully awake at 05.00hrs so decided we may as well start prepping for the day ahead. We had already set up and padlocked Twolula the evening before, given that we were on an official site.
The route we were following was the No. 42 which utilised the road that passed our site, so there was no peddling to pick up the start, always a good thing. We rode through sleeping villages in the still fresh morning as the sun, though risen, was not yet fully shining and the wind was rather brisk so we had layered up. For the most part the ride was in the vicinity of the coast, around the very bottom of the Llyn Peninsular, so we were never far away from a sea breeze.
Whereas the previous day we had been on dedicated cycleways, today we were almost exclusively on tarmac roads, however, these were what turned out to be on the whole, little used lanes so we came across minimal traffic; always a bonus when the going is narrow. The flora and fauna in abundance along the verges also lifted the spirits, with shades of purple and the scent of wild honeysuckle in the air and the sound of birdsong in our ears, our senses were filled.
The scenery was lovely, we usually had the coast and sea on one side of us and the hills and mountains to the other, or up ahead; at one part we could even see Snowdonia in the distance such was the clarity of the day. There were though many, many hills to climb in this undulating countryside. We had obviously been aware of this when deciding on the ride, which had been identified from our book of ‘circular day rides in the South’, which helpfully provides a profile for each ride. We are back to being relatively bike fit, and not being laden down with full panniers, we thought it would be a decent workout ride.
Having set off fairly early, we were ready for our coffee stop before our usual 11.00hrs. Though riding lanes is lovely, with agricultural land either side, there is often very little opportunity to stop at a rest point. We have discovered though, over the years that where there is a church or chapel, there is usually a quiet seat – and the rule held fast for us again today as we came upon a tiny chapel with a seat sheltered from the breeze so we could stop and caffeinate.
We had identified Aberdaron as a lunch stop, estimating that we would be there at about the time we were ready for lunch, and looking at the very steep climbs after this point, thinking that we would need to take on some fuel before the challenge. Aberdaron is quaint little seaside village, but we did not really want to take Twolula onto the beach, so again opted for a churchyard bench with a lovely view over the bay, though it was difficult not to notice the steepness of the road out of the town given that the graves to the left of us appeared to have buried the bodies almost vertically!
Having rested and soaked up some vitamin D, we girded our loins to tackle what we knew would be only the first steep climb of a series before we were done, and man they were hard work! With our heads down peddling hard, we managed to miss a turning and given the sparseness of options had to do some nifty navigation to get back on track, this detour did not avoid the steepest climb of the day that had our legs screaming by the end. The payoff though was a nice long freewheel. However, in this terrain, the payoff is never free, and there is bound to be another incline before long. We were though now over the worst of the work and on the homeward stretch. We avoided a frustrating climb though thanks to the trusty ViewRanger (phone based navigation app) as the roadside route marker for the cycleway was pointing up hill at a junction, but the Ranger was saying the other way was correct. As usual, the Ranger was right! We surmised that there was actually a sign missing pointing the other way, as there was the fixture for it but nothing attached.
We swept into our campsite with a couple of hours to spare before having to move on, so wanting to maximise the facilities we busied ourselves with filling up water containers, washing up (with plentiful hot water) and showered before moving on to our identified park4night at a nature reserve near Abergele. We had a little trouble with the exact location initially, being led by the postcode which clearly identified a considerable area that was not the car park of the nature reserve. We got there in the end and had a light supper before taking a stroll around the area which was on high ground overlooking the countryside on one side and the sea on the other. As we were tired, we settled down for the evening relatively early, watching a movie in bed. The parking lot was small and generally quiet, but would seem to be prime cat territory which is hotly (and noisily) contested by the neighbourhood moggies. Matches commence from about 20.00hrs, with an interval for wound licking, and recommencement of battle at about one in the morning. Despite this, we slept fairly soundly, such was our exhaustion.
Next morning we had decided that we would drive the short distance to Prestatyn and take the route 5 from there to Llandudno which follows the coast and most importantly is flat. This we told ourselves would be a nice easy recovery ride. And for the most part it was, the route travels along the promenades of the numerous seaside towns along this coastline. There were though a couple of short sharp inclines which had us huffing and puffing, but it was easy going other than that.
It is easy to see why the seaside towns grew up along this coast as the beaches are vast. We did note that it appeared that the towns became more ‘up market’ the closer you get to Llandudno; with static caravan for rent on busy sites towards the Prestatyn end, becoming busier at Rhyl, which is essentially Southend with Welsh subtitles, and then on towards Towyn and Pensarn, where the static caravans appear to be more privately owned ‘mobile homes’. By the time you get to Colwyn Bay, you are in guesthouse and seaside apartment territory, with Llandudno being peak Victorian seaside villa territory.
We stopped for lunch on the wide promenade at Llandudno, congratulating ourselves on a nice easy ride, done in good time. Mr V on consulting the Ranger, spotted that the No 5 route circled round Llandudno and suggested we add this little bit on rather than just turn around. Seemed like a good idea, so off we peddled. First though it was necessary to answer the call of nature, so I referred to my ‘Flushed’ app to find the nearest public conveniences. We found the modernised all automated facilities almost on the intended route, and I queued up, kindly being let in by the lady in front as I did not have the correct change. However, I realised only after I had seated myself that I had not actually locked the door after reading that the blue light should be red, and only just managed to avert the catastrophe of the next user bursting in.
Relief achieved, we picked up the route. All was fine travelling through the residential streets towards the coastal path again. However, we had not gone far along when the ground was literally shifting under our feet and then petered out to a sandy track. We discovered long ago that tandems do not go well on sand, and even pushing them is extremely hard work. We consulted the Ranger, which showed that we were on the designated cycle route, but there was no way that we could continue on this terrain. We thought that the best option was to take her down to the beach proper, where the sand was at least firm.
We had not gone far and were pondering whether it would be best to continue or turn back, when a gentleman who had been striding along the beach with a considerable portion of tree slung over his shoulder, stopped to enquire whether we were ok. We explained our dilemma and David informed us that the actual path had been swept away but that the going was firmer around the other side of a spit of rocks we could see just along the way. (The portion of tree was evidently for his children’s recreation we discovered).
Onward we ventured around the outcrop, hopping over pools of sea water and towards the promised terra-firma. At last we spied the path proper, and were frustrated to see that from this direction there are clear signs away from the sandy path through the golf course. Heigh-ho. We knocked the sand out of our cleats, but I found that mine were not disengaging as smoothly as they should, whereupon Mr V gave a demonstration of his superior shoe banging prowess.
Our route gave us a pleasant surprise of going past Conwy Castle, however from then on, delivered rather more hills than we would have liked, and our poor legs were complaining. We were very pleased to close the circle and get back onto the smooth flat going of the seaside proms.
We were very glad to get back to our little van-haven, without much further drama – other than me nearly coming a cropper as my cleat would not disengage and Twolula reached an alarming angle as I was trying to get off to navigate a hairpin bend. With Twolula packed away we got the kettle on tout-suite to enjoyed tea and scones and rest our weary legs and tender derrières.
We had paid for a full day’s parking at a hotel, and have decided that we will stay here the night before moving on towards the Peak District tomorrow. After supper we took a walk along the sea front in the last warmth of the sun, and shall again retire early in the hope that the local cats are not so enamoured by the hotel car park.