The origin of our trip to Wales was open ended, so much so that we didn’t know Wales was our destination until a couple weeks out. This trip serves as an example of an unplanned road trip that’s a culmination of cheap flights across the pond, an expiring travel voucher, and no time to plan. The end result was cliffs, rocks, castles, and fish and chips.

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the decision

At the end of 2017, we had an $1000 Delta Airlines travel voucher from our mega New Zealand & Maui trip about to expire. So I was on the lookout for flights to several locations on our to do list that would fit within the travel voucher.

While Wales wasn’t the direct target for our travels, Meg was drawn back to the British Isles. Her enjoyment of the cliffs of Ireland last year may have been a major factor in this decision. So when one of the, now regular, fare deals from the USA to London Heathrow (LHR) came up, we booked a week long trip for after the spring semester. The original idea at the time of booking was mainly London was a flexible spot to jump around from. Of Course it would be cheaper if we had a place in mind originally, but that is the cost of flexibility.

The decision for Wales wasn’t made until a couple weeks before our flight. A busy semester and aiming to keeping the travel time down was a main factor. Meg took the lead on this one and decided on Wales, which featured cliff and knife edge cliffs.

The second decision we made shortly after was to stick with day hikes rather then do any overnight backpacking, the trekking kind, even though the two main areas we looked into both had trekking options. Similar to Ireland, there are roads that allow access to many parts of the park being where people have lived well preceding the national park creations. In fact for long distance trekking here, it isn’t out of the question to go town to town without having to need a full backpacking pack.

The first national park we were interested in was the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, including the 186 mile (299km) Pembrokeshire Coast Path that stretch from Amroth at the southern end and St. Dogmaeis at the northing end.

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path is marked by the acorns.

The second national park is Snowdonia National Park (wikitravel), a more mountainous northern region including the highest peak in Wales, Snowdon. There isn’t a specific long route options here, but rather a large network of trails.

Our decision was to take it easy and play it by ear. After all we were looking to catch up on some rest after a busy semester.

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planning

The planning for this trip was pretty minimal. Flights wise, it was a direct flight on Virgin Atlantic across the pond.

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Since Wales was in driving distance of London, especially Heathrow, a rental car would get us there and give us the flexibility of deciding what we wanted to do. A couple weeks before our trip, I still used autoslash to search for a rental and tracking of prices. Even through they had to change their booking process and you have to manually enter your rental information now to track changes in pricing, it is still pretty reliable. Our rental was more expensive than needed to be at GBP141.50 since we had to reserve an automatic transmission.

We had a general idea that we would hike around Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Snowdonia National Park, but left it open ended regarding the hikes we would do and the duration we’d stay. The only hotel I booked was a night outside of Cardiff. I could have used points, but I was going for the regularly occurring Wyndham promotion for extra 15k points for 2 stays. 15k is enough for a night at any of their hotels (see more details – dr of credit).

equipment

We went with our carry-on configuration for this trip. Mainly, we had daypacks, a few changes in clothing, and a computer bag that fits both Meg’s Mac Powerbook and my Windows Surface. We planned to do laundry along the way and with a car, it was easy to play it by ear.

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trip report: getting in

Our flight was a direct flight from Washington Dulles airport (IAD) to London Heathrow (LHR). To save cost on parking, we used Spot Hero (referral link) where we end up parking at a local hotel and take their airport shuttle in. There are several different companies that do this, we just used what was cheapest.

Our flight was out of terminal A, though it is actually the same building at B, so we were about to check out the Turkish Airlines Lounge (review from OMAAT) located in B using our Priority Pass through our credit cards. It provided us a surprisingly nice dinner so we can just go directly to sleep on our red eye flight.

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Apparently booking through Delta’s webpage didn’t inform us that our fare prices did not include seats on Virgin. At the same time, our trip ended up on the Friday before the Royal Wedding, which lead us to some crappy middle seats. it was a rough night aboard Lady Love.

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Immigration at LHR was a mess and took us a good hour to get through. After taking the Hertz shuttle from Heathrow, we arrived at our rental car. It was the most cosmetically banged up rental I’d ever seen. After inquiring about it with the rental counter since I didn’t want to be charged with any of it, they forwarded me the pre-existing damage report. The car itself drove very nicely and we had no problems on return. One cool thing about cars over there is that the engine will turn off automatically the brake is fully engaged at a stop.

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After a few hour drive, we reached the Days Inn, our stop for the night, still early in the morning. Since we couldn’t check in yet without paying an extra fee, we headed over to the West House Pub (tripadvisor) where we enjoyed some nice pints and lunch while taking in the Royal Wedding being projected and the eavesdropping on the gossip of the locals.

By the time the we finished lunch and checked in, I was pretty tired. We ended up napping and relaxing the rest of the day. The hotel was very basic and we were able to rest up well.

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Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park

First on our list was to continue driving west to the coast and the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park (wikitravel). Again, we kept to day hikes so it meant looking for sections of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path where we can loop since we didn’t have the capabilities to run a shuttle. Alternatively, we could have looked up the local bus systems, but I didn’t want to take the effort.

My main resource for hikes was using wikiloc, especially following trackings by Tjaart Molenkamp who have a long list of recordings throughout wales.

We decided to base ourselves in the town of Milford Haven, the origin of the name Milford Sound in New Zealand, according to our airbnb host. We booked 3 nights at her pace that included a kitchen, washer, and spacious rooms. Our host recommended we drive along the southern portion of the Pembrokeshire Coast before crossing the Cleddau Bridge on our way into Milford Haven.

So after a full on English breakfast at the Village Farm Cafe,

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we started our second day road tripping along the southern coast of Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park.

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Lydstep Point, Manorbier Bay, & St Govan’s Chapel

While we did the roadtrip thing and stopped at the main points, it is definitely possible to walk the entire stretch we did on this day. This alltrails 28 mile route lists some of the highlights of the southern section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail between Amroth to the Green Bridges (though car access might not be possible to Green Bridges because of the military base there.

Our first stop was at Lydstep Point, there is a very short loop there that follows the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail. This area had some nice cliffs to hang out on and you can head down to the water at an inlet.

Next we dropped by Manorbier Bay. There is a large paid lot at the castle, but there are also free parking spots further overlooking Manorbier beach.

Our last stop of the day and the best day hike section I’d recommend during this stretch is to around Saint Govan’s Chapel. These are a couple of examples of loops around the area, but start at Saint Govan’s since the parking is free there rather than Bosherston or the parking lot for the lily pond. Another example heads toward the Green Bridges along the coast though I can’t confirm if it is possible to make it a loop due to the military base here.

We first headed down the well worn stairs to check out Saint Govan’s Chapel and the surrounding arches and rock cliffs.

Then we walked along the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail westward for more cliffs, including the Huntsman’s Leap. We saw some climbers among these cliffs, something we’ll have to revisit with climbing friends. This portion is also next to the military base and arms testing grounds, so don’t go wandering into off trail inlands.

Lastly, we headed east of Saint Govan’s Chapel for more views of the cliffs and the climbers on them.

After that, we headed toward Milford Haven and our Airbnb. A supermarket was a few minutes walk away from the places, so we were able to stock up on groceries and drinks and relaxed for the rest of the day.

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day hike: St David’s loop

Based on a brief search online, we found a couple loop hikes along highly rates sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. An issue with following the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the difficulty of making a loop. On day three, our we headed north for the shorter of the two we decided to on to the town of St Davids.

trail information

  • name: St David’s loop (our wikiloc track)
  • type: loop
  • distance: 10.31 miles (16.59 km)
  • elevation change: 1,201 ft (366 m) ascend & descend
  • time: 5 hours, 3:25 moving
  • location: St Davids (google maps to trailhead)

Our loop started in the town of St Davids, however there are a couple coastal points where you can get onto the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at Whitesands Bay or St Justinian’s (though parking can be limited especially during peak summer season). Additionally, you can park at the YHA St Davids as well to be at the start of the uphills to Carn Llidi from the east side.

There is no set loop here and the trail you take can be modified at several different points as roads and trails are pretty common across the entire area. We didn’t actually have an exact route in mind, just planned as we went. The main points we wanted to hit was the high point of Carn Llidi and some distance along the coast.

Since we were there early enough, both in the season and the time of day, there was free street parking we took advantage of near the church. The trail started a downhills through the church grounds.

After that it was a mix of road walk and trails through grazing fields to reach the YHA St Davids, where the trail started to gain elevation.

The initial portion follows a stone fence before turning left. Along the way, there are feral horses that graze this area.

The peak of Carn Llidi didn’t exactly have a specific trail up, it was just a short scramble to the top.

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Once up there, we could we had an amazing views of St Davids’ Head,

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north along the coast,

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and south along the coast. It was a good spot for lunch.

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Afterwards, we scrambled down from the peak along a rock ridge. It was very photogenic all the way down. We stopped by the foundation of some old structures before deciding to head toward St David’s Head.

We made our way around St David’s Head, but there weren’t any great rock formations other than the furthest point out.

We followed the cost south and found a secluded beach in the bay of Porthmelgan.

We continued along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path where the cliffs were more prominent. You can tell when there are signs telling you the best way fall off the cliff is head first.

Before arriving at Whitesands Beach, we found an interested outcrop with jagged rocks and overlooking Porth Lleug. You can get down to the tidal pools to the south, but we mainly went to the far point and back.

At Whitesands Beach, we found a few fire rings and plenty of visitors sunbathing and trying to learn to surf. The water was still pretty cold. The beach also connects with a parking lot and there seemed to be vendors and possibly a bathroom, though we did not investigate. We continued to the far side of the beach where there were stairs to continue on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

The trail continues along the coast with wild flowers blooming and it wasn’t long before  we reached another small beach.

The next section was among my favorites of the trip as the rock formations was especially spectacular as we rounded the next peninsula with the island of Ynys Dewi in the background

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and that was in addition to the many shades of the blue sea and blooming wildflowers.

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After rounding the coast, the St David Lifeboat Station and St Justinian’s rounds into view. There is a little stand that sells food and drinks here, a bus stop, and some spaces for parking. From the signage, the parking gets full during the high season.

The rest of the hike was a hot and unsheltered road walk back into St Davids. Though the end reward is ice cream, rum raisin and ginger brandy were pretty amazing.

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The town of St Davids was inline of a cute European town and there were a few different restaurants and coffee shops in St Davids. We didn’t linger though since we were hungry and had decided on utilizing our kitchen and eating in.

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ratings (range: 1-5; see link for explanation)

  • views: 4. The loop around St David’s Head had a bit of everything. It included a vista view point from Carn Llidi, wild ponies, beaches, cliffs, and old cathedrals. The only negative was the road walk under the sun to make the hike a loop. The ice cream at the end sure helped.
  • difficulty: 1. The only major elevation change with some steepness is the uphills toward Carn Llidi.
  • technical: 1. Most of the trail was well marked as part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Trail. There is a little bit of scramble and route finding for the most optimal up onto the summit rock of Carn Llidi, but it was not technical.

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day hike: Marloes & St Anns Head loop

trail information

  • name: Marloes & St Anns Head loop (our wikiloc track)
  • type: loop
  • distance: 18.01 miles (28.98 km)
  • elevation change: 1713 ft ascent & descent (522 m)
  • time: 8:20 hours (5:40 hours moving)
  • location: Martins Haven, Marloes Peninsula, Wales (google maps to trailhead)

For our second hike of the trip, we headed toward the Marloes Peninsula, which was only a half hour away from our airbnb in Milford Haven. Our drive to the trailhead was mostly on a one lane road and you have to be careful with oncoming traffic. We were clearly going the opposite of the work day traffic on our way in.

We roughly planned to follow this trail found on wikiloc. Again, there are many variations here and several different places you can start or stop. If you were looking for free parking, it may be possible to park in the small town of Marloes (google maps) on the way in.

It was a windy morning when we reached the parking lot at Martins Haven. It was manned by a local who and the charge was GBP 5. This was also the leaving point for the ferry to Skomer Island, but the wind was so strong that the ferry was canceled for the day. So, the parking lot was pretty empty when we arrived.

We decided to head around the Marloes Peninsula counter clockwise along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. The initial elevation gain reaches small structure called Wooltack Point. The viewpoint at the furthest point overlooks the Skomer Island to the west.

We then turned south along the rocky coast with Skokholm Island in the background to the south.

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After passing a few grazing cows, the series of rock formations jutting out of the water started at Deadman’s Bay.

They almost created a feeling of majestic battleships all lined up lined up.

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The wind did not let up as we continued our way around Little Castle Bay, Victoria Bay, and Watery Bay.

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It wasn’t until we reached Gateholm, the pretruting land mass did the clouds clear and the sun rises up into the sky.  The result was an amazing view of the water with the many layered colors of blue contrasting the red, brown, and back of cliffs and rocky edges.

A little further, we reached the unspoiled and secluded beach of Marloes Sands. We didn’t spend much time at the beach since we don’t so much enjoying laying out and sun tanning so we continued on the trail continuing along the cliffs overlooking the beach.

Afterwards, the ground took on a more reddish color as we started to pass the used disused airfield inland.

Along the way, there were several different trails leading back inland where you can loop back through the interior of the Marloes Peninsula, but my recommendation would be to go all the way to Westdale Bay and another secluded beach. Across the narrow stretch of land here, you can see into to town of Dale and the private castle (no access as we found later). The stretch of land is also the neck of St Anns Head, which we continued on around. However, the views around St Anns Head pales in comparison to the Marloes. If you are looking to make this a shorter hike, I’d recommend turning around here and head north and following the trail cutting across the airfield and to the other side of the Marloes Peninsula (description of which I’ll describe later after we rounded St Anns Head).

After lunch we continued on and the theme of the reddish rock cliffs continued.

At tip of St Anns head separating the ocean from the bay is a lighthouse and private property. The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path does go through this with a small offshoot.

Afterward the views of the bay or inlet isn’t as impressive. The trail passes through grazing land, large communication structures, and several private property forts that may have been interesting, but were off limits. There were a couple much less impressive beaches along the way. The main negative was that there were no cliffs on this side of the peninsula.

After reaching Dale via a stretch of road walk, the conclusion of an uninteresting portion of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path along St Anns Head, we decided to check out the castle. Disappointed, we found it was private property. So we decided to head back at that point rather than continue further along the coastal path following the bay side of the peninsula. We followed the road above the castle and climbing back toward the disused airfield. From there, we followed the trail through the airfield and then through the dirt roads through some farmland crossing the Marloes Peninsula until we reached the town of Marloes.

We stopped in at The Lobster Pot Inn for a pint and a break. Unfortunately we had just missed lunch, but we were able to play a fun game of darts. As you can see, yours truly was victorious.

After our break, we headed out to finish our loop. Just outside of town, the trail turns toward the north coast of the peninsula. There is another beach at the junction, but we turned west along the coast to continue along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

The trail continued along the coast sandwiched between the cliff and active farmland. There was a couple of trails cutting back through the farmland back to the trail. One of not was the West Hook Farm, where there is a camp grounds. The end of our hike was back at the harbor at Martins Haven. Interesting, there seemed to be diving here at the harbor, though I wouldn’t want to dive at the cold waters here.

By the time we reached the end of our hike, we’d gone 18 miles and ready for dinner.

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ratings (range: 1-5; see link for explanation)

  • views: 4 for Marloes & 2 for St Anns Head. The rock formation along the western cliff wall of the Marloes peninsula was probably my favorite parts of the trip. In addition, the large remote beaches provides amazing views and relaxing spots where there didn’t seem to be large crowds. I wouldn’t recommend St Anns Head however as there are far less rock formations and less interesting trail. The turn around point that I would suggest would be around Westdale Bay and the private Dale Castle.
  • difficulty: 2. There weren’t much elevation change though we ended up hiking 18 miles, which is why I’m giving this a 2. If you only do the Marloes peninsula or lower mileage overall, this would be a 1.
  • technical: 1. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is well marked. There are again many different possible routes you can take between the trails, farm roads, dirt roads, and disused airfields. So it’s useful to be able to navigate a map. However, there are plenty of civilization, so you can always ask.

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Being our last night at Milford Haven we wanted to check out a local eatery. By the end of our long day, we were pretty famished. In Milford Haven, there seemed to be cool Marina area with several store and restaurants. We went with Gordon Bennett’s Traditional Fish and Chips (tripadvisor) and was very satisfied, so much so we gobbled it up without a picture. It was a nice carry out place with a lot of local customers stopping in on their way home. Interestingly, there is a upcharge for eating in and condiments.

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trip report: coastal drive through Cardigan, Aberaeron, & Aberystwyth

On the fifth day of our trip, our plan was to make our way up the coast toward Snowdonia National Park. It was a welcome day of visiting castles and eating food after two days of hiking.

Our day started with a visit to the Cardigan Castle. It isn’t the castle in the traditional sense when you think of castles, but it provided a nice history of the region.

Our next stop was in Aberaeron for an early lunch. We went to the Harbormaster (tripadvisor), which our next airbnb host recommended. Our fish and chip streak through the British Isles continued.

Before we hit the road again, we walked around the town for 100 steps and enjoyed the harbor and Afon Aeron running through the town. Also the ice cream, though not as as good as the ones we had in St. Davids.

Our next stop was the city of Aberystwyth and the Castle Grounds there (wikipedia).

The road cut into the mountains away from the coast from Aberystwyth and remained that way until we reached our airbnb in the town of Dinas, just outside of Caernarfon. Llŷr, our host left us local brews and coffee and left great recommendations for us, which we put to use for the next couple of days. However for this night, we visited the local Tesco grocery store for groceries and relaxed after a day in the car.

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View from Llŷr’s backdoor, this pattern was commonly found on windows in Wales.

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trip report: Snowdonia National Park & Caernarfon

Snowdonia National Park (wikipedia) contains a pretty extensive network of trails. Unlike Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Snowdonia is mountainous region with Wales’ tallest Peak. We would, again, only be doing day hikes since it’s not difficult to access the many high points of the park.

Wikiloc is a good resource for piecing together your own hikes, again Tjaart Molekamp has is a pretty reliable source of trackings on there. Another resource for this area is the Walking Englishman website detailing many of the hikes (though he doesn’t have any hikes from Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park as of the time I visited).

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day hike: Snowdon via Crib Goch & Miners’ Track

trail information

  • name: Snowdon via Crib Goch & Miners’ Track (our wikiloc track)
  • type: loop
  • distance: est 7.7 miles (12.39 km)
  • elevation change: 2687 ft ascent & descent (818.00 m)
  • time: 6:00 hours (3:20 hours moving)
  • location: Pen-y-Pass Car Park, Llanberis, Caernarfon, Wales (google map directions)

We arrived early at the Pen-y-Pass Car park being on the first cars there. There is a daily fee of GBP10 for the parking lot. We wanted to start early because of the problematic forecast calling for rain in the afternoons and to avoid the crowds that Snowdon was known for.

It looked like there is a bus stop at the parking lot.

From the Pen-y-Pass Car Park, there are 4 ways to reach the top of Snowdon sharing 2 specific starts. The classic hiking route is the Pyg Track and the Miner’s Track (alltrails).

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We took the Crib Goch route, which was a scrambling route and the most difficult. The last route shares the same start as the Miner’s Track, but heads up toward Y Lliwedd on a route requiring scrambling before hooks up with the Watkin Path. Our plan for to take on Crib Goch on the way up and then play it by ear regarding continuing on the Watkins and Y Lliwedd depending on how we felt and the weather. The route we used for referenced was similar to this trail on wikiloc.

Our initial start sharing the same trail as the Pyg Track passing rock faces and ascending at a descent rate over rocky formed stairs. Pretty soon, we can see the climb up to Crib Goch we’d have to scramble up.

Once we reached the small pass and the Llyn Llydow came into view, there was an intersection. We took the trail to the right to head up to Crib Goch. Initially, the trail was still well maintained.

However pretty soon, we were on all fours making our way up to rockface. There isn’t really a specific route, rather you had to be smart of how you made your way up. Here and there, we would find a cairn to serve as a checkpoint for us. While there were a lot of exposure, there were also plenty of holds.

While the sun was out, the wind had picked up as well when we made our final approach to the knife edge.

When we first reached the top, there was a semi-flat section.

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I could actually stand up on two feet.

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It wasn’t really that scary until we were at the traverse for the knife edge. The condition for us was that it was clear, but did had a strong constant wind gusts. That probably made it more nerve racking. I made sure to have three points of contact at all times during the crossing.

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Meg was much more confident on the traverse as always.

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The rest of the traverse of Crib Goch was uneventful as we took it slow. At one point, we scrambled below the ridge on the Llyn Llydaw side (south side).

After the peaks of Crib Goch, the trail picked up again at Bwlch Coch. It continued around the second peak steadily increasing in attitude.

Looking at the approach to the next peak, Garnedd Ugain, we saw a the trail split with one heading up and another continuing to the left along the side of the mountain. Since the wind was pretty strong, we opted for what seemed a lower path. After continuing along the path for about half a mile, the trail disappeared among a scree field. From that point, we had to bushwhack and make our own way across the scree field and grassy slope aiming for the pass where all the trails met. From other trackings found online, I’ve seen others bushwhacking downwards toward the Pyg Track on the scree. Either way, I would not recommend this at all, especially when there are visibility issues or rain. What we took is not a trail at all and I would recommend to head up to Garnedd Ugain.

Once we reached the trail junction, the rest of the trail up to the summit of snowdon was well kept and next to the train track. Since it was still early in the day, it wasn’t until we were on our way down did we see the first trail come up carrying the works and resupply for the summit cafe, Hafod Eryri (trip advisor).

With the windy and overcast weather and it being around 10:15 am, we were able to have have the summit to ourselves for a few minutes.

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However, we didn’t stay very long as the wind was brutal. From the top, we could see both the Miner’s and Pyg track. In addition, we could see the Watkin Path and Y Gribyn path as well.

We decided to take the Miner’s track down since the weather did not look like it was getting any better and the possible afternoon rain. From the intersection at the pass, the Miner’s track and Pyg track are the same and it is the steepest part of the trail. Care is needed going down as it can be a little slippery. After the trails split and we passed by the lake Glaslyn and the cascades draining the lake, the Miner’s track is made of large stones. Further down hill, the trail become composed of a wide gravel road around Llyn Llydaw as we passed mining ruins. The rest of the Miner’s tracks continues like this until the parking lot passing a last small pond Llyn Teryn.

We returned to the parking lot just afternoon and hungry since we didn’t stop for lunch. While we were leaving, we were able to pass our parking pass to another fellow hiker.

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ratings (range: 1-5; see link for explanation)

  • views: 3. The most impressive part of the loop aesthetically was crossing Crib Goch with the mountain falling away from the knife edge. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same view of the valley with the lakes Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw. On a nice day, be prepared for a large crowd including many novice hikers who may not know hiking etiquette or be prepared for the difficulties.
  • difficulty:
    • 2 for Miner’s Track and Pyg Track. The standard routes to reach Snowdon are a pretty steady climb from the parking lot. The last switchbacks up to the ridge and the junction with all Snowdon Ranger Path, Llanberis Path, and Grib Goch path requires a bit of endurance.
    • 4 for Grib Goch. Weather is a big factor for this section. We had a consistent 20-30 mph cross winds and it made the knife edge section way more difficult. It isn’t too difficult in terms of fatigue, but the constant wind can drain you pretty heavily. We were lucky to not encounter pour visibility from clouds or the wetness from precipitation, it would have been much worse. Lastly, I don’t recommend taking the fake trail and subsequent bushwacking and scrambling to the intersection but rather to go up top to summit Garnedd Ugain, which should be much easier.
  • technical:
    • 1 for Miner’s Track and Pyg Track. The main routes had a little bit of scrambling, but the path is clearly marked and you can just following the line or queue of hikers in front of you.
    • 4 for Crib Goch. The scrambling wasn’t too bad because there were plenty of hand and foot holds as the rocks were very jagged. There were some exposure on the uphill and the knife edge portion was definition of exposure. Not only is it required that you are confident in your footing and scrambling skills, but also be able to navigate the best route for yourself as there are no markers indicating a route. The term make your own adventure kept on popping in my head and made my way across that section. In comparison to difficult scrambling I’ve encountered, it was easier than the Cascade route to the Pylon in Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand as there were much better holds, but harder than the scramble up to Liverpool Hut also in Mt. Aspiring due to more exposure.

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Caernarfon

On our way back from to town, we saw that there were some climbers bouldering along the roads. Snowdonia is well known for its climbing and bouldering elements (uk climbing) and something we’ll have to look into when we return.

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After our Snowdon hike, we were famished. We headed for the Black Boy Inn (tripadvisor), which was a pub recommended to us by our airbnb host. It was a lively pub with many locals stopping in for lunch or for a drink. Meg especially enjoyed the lamb sandwich here.

After stuffing ourselves, we walked around the town of Caernarfon, which still had its cities walls in tact. Also in tact was the Caernarfon Castle (wikipedia), where recently has been the sight of the investiture of the Prince of Wales. Even after hiking, we toughed out the many spiral stairs exploring the castle. Within the castle are also historical exhibits and the Royal Welch Fusilier Museum.

After a few hours at the castle, which you definitely need to explore the whole of it, we grabbed some ice cream and turned in for an early night.

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day hike: Glyder Fawr via Devil’s Kitchen

We woke up early on our seventh day in Wales and our last day of hiking. Our end point for the day is a hotel between Northern Wales and London in the city of Birmingham. We found a cheap hotel there to fulfill the Wyndham Promotion (dr of credit).

trail information

  • name: Glyder Fawr via Devil’s Kitchen (our wikiloc recording)
  • type: in and out
  • distance: 6.79 miles (10.93 km)
  • elevation change: 2425 ft ascent & descent (739.14 m)
  • time: 4:20 hours (2:20 hours moving)
  • location: Bethesda, Wales (google map directions)

For our last hike of the trip, there are once again several options. The one we aimed to follow was the head up the Devil’s Kitchen to Glyder Fawr and then depending on the weather, continue across the ridge to Castell-Y-Gwynt and Glyder Fach. Roughly it would follow this tracking from wikiloc.

We arrived at the trailhead at Pen Y Benglog early in the morning after checking out of airbnb. There is a snack bar, hostal, bus stop, and information center among other buildings here. The parking lot looked to require payment, but you can park for free along the road just northwest Pen Y Benglog. The trailhead parking lot also gets pretty busy during the day as you can see below when we returned from our hike.

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Right off the bat, there is a split in the trail. Continue on the large rocks paved trail on the left. Maps I have of the right trail dead ends shortly, however the rocks it goes through does look interesting.

Continuing on the left path will lead you immediately to a bridge crossing.

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Not long after that is where you come to the next intersection.

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The left, much less pronounced, trail lead up to the pass of Bwlch Tryfan, Bristly Ridge, Glyder Fach, and Castell-Y-Grant. Based on the tracking we were using from wikiloc, this was the return route. Continuing on the more pronounced and paved trail took us to Llyn Idwal. We turned left at the lake to start our gradual ascend upwards and passing by a cascade and the Idwal Slabs, a popular top rope climbing spot.

About 2 miles into our hike, we reached the Devil’s Kitchen section of our hike. It was mostly consisted of large stepping stones. Initially, the trail appears to head toward the gap between the rock faces,

18_5_Wales-1437.jpg

but it turns left shortly before reaching it.

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The steep climb starts to level out once we reached a rock fence.

The trail briefly flattens out at the boggy pass near the small pond of Llyn Y Cwn, where there is a trail junction. The right trail heads up to the neighboring peak of Y Gam and the left trail leads up to our destination of Glyder Fawr.

18_5_Wales-1444.jpg

The next section ascending up a scree slope was the hardest portion of the hike. The steep incline with very lose rocks and scree meant a lot of sliding back after a step up.

However, the top near Glyder Fawr was worth it. It started with a view south with Llyn Padarn in the distance and Snowdon, our previous’ day hike, peaking up.

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Then the rock field started. Many of them standing up create jagged formations creating the feeling that you were in a dragon’s nest.

An behold, there is Dragon Meg.

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With the possibility of worsening weather, a few hours of driving ahead of us, and the reports of scrambling that would be needed at certain parts along Bristly Ridge, we decided to head back down Devil’s Kitchen. Extreme extra care was needed during the scree section of the downhill.

Back above the lake, Llyn Idwal, we took the left trail following a stream to continue around the other side of the lake. The trail went by the shore along a pebble beach before crossing the stream draining the lake and meeting up with the trail we took in.

By the time we returned to the parking lot, it was completely full.

wales-2008

ratings (range: 1-5; see link for explanation)

  • view: 3. The best part of Glyder Fawr were the rock formations and the views from the summit. The aesthetics throughout may be a bit lacking.
  • difficulty: 3. We were pretty lucky with the weather on our 2 days in snowdonia, where I’m leaning toward giving this a 2 for difficulty. We experience only some strong winds 10-20 mph near the path and around some gaps. Rain, clouds, and winds will make this more difficult. There is a good amount of endurance needed for this hike as well since the attitude change is pretty aggressive on the boulders and pushing up the scree slope near the top.
  • technical: 2. The technicality comes with the boulder section at Devil’s Kitchen requiring some minor scrambling. Otherwise the trail is pretty clear and there were even cairns to mark the trail near the summit. You do have to know where you are going as there are several trails that split off and there are no markings to where those trails lead to. However, there isn’t too much in terms of way finding since the terrain is mostly barren so you can always see where you should be going.

wales-2004

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trip report: getting out

Our return home was mainly uneventful, so much so I didn’t take any photos.

Before we started our drive to our Hotel in Birmingham, we stopped by Fitzpatricks Cafe (tripadvisor). It was a cute place that only served breakfast like food. We broke our fish and chip streak here and I thought it was mediocre and was my least favorite place of the trip.

The rest of our drive to Birmingham battling the rain and rush hour traffic was uneventful but slow. Our hotel was the Ramada Oldbury Birmingham, which was basic and satisfactory. We didn’t get to enjoy the free breakfast since we had to return our car early the next morning at Heathrow. Since we didn’t add any more dents to our beat up rental, there was no problem from Hertz.

For our last day, we bought an Oyster card at the airport and headed into London. It was a bank holiday Saturday, so the hotels were well booked in advance. Since our main goal for this last day was to walk around for Meg to do some shopping, hotels around Piccadilly was expensive. I ended up using 50k IHG points for the Holiday Inn London Mayfair. It was a lot of points, but a room for the night was costing more than USD $600 that day. We later found out that there was a marathon the next day in the city. The room was very comfortable and we took the free drinks as part of my Platinum status through Chase IHG credit card.

For the rest of our day we walked around London, met up with Iris for brunch, and did some shopping with our leftover cash. Iris treated us to Half Cup near King Cross (tripadvisor), which I especially enjoyed their smoothies. Thanks Iris!

Lastly, it wouldn’t have been a trip to Europe if we didn’t have some falafel and donner kabobs (Lebaneats – tripadvisor), which we had for dinner.

The next morning, took the underground back to Heathrow early and were able to visit the Club Aspire Lounge (jetsettingben review) as part of my  Priority Pass through our credit cards. We had a very satisfying breakfast before taking our Virgin Atlantic flight back across the pond to Dulles. Our flight was uneventful except for some heavy turbulence that made one of the passengers near us freak out. We should have participated in the trivia, since we wouldn’t have mind the prize of a bottle of champaign.

At Dulles, customs requires we board this custom buses (example youtube video) to be driven to a seperate terminal to be processed. That was the slow step of the process, especially since our Global Entry and no checked bags always makes customs and immigration a fast process. The hotel airport shuttle took about another 30 minutes before we were at our car and on our way home.

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final impressions

Our road trip around Wales took us took us to several castles, Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park, and Snowdon National Park.

In all, we logged around 800 miles on our road trip and we kept our main driving to about 3 days. I do indeed recommend day hiking rather than backpacking here since you can access all the best parts with day hikes as Wales road systems are well developed. However, keep in mind some of those roads may be one line roads through farm land.

wales-2011.jpg

Out of the two national parks, my favorite was the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park. It was less populated and had a sleepy feel throughout the many towns that dot the path. Meg always loves the cliffs and I was especially impressed by the colors of the water contrasting the many remote beaches and bluffs. The hiking there wasn’t very difficult and make for nice strolls to kick off the early part of our trip. I can see the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path being enjoyable for a long distance town to town walk, but there are certainly less interesting stretches among the amazing ones.

Despite my liking of Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park more, Snowdonia had the more adrenaline inducing hike of Crib Goch on our way up to Snowdon. Also the most impressive castle of our trip was Caernarfon Castle. While I did find certain rock formations of Snowdonia interesting, the overall grandeur was lacking aesthetically. Maybe it was the overcast and grey skies, but there just wasn’t much to contrast the barren and windswept mountains. My favorite areas in Snowdonia were definitely ball raising drop offs of Crib Goch and the rock structures at the peak of Glyder Fawr. A big negative for Snowdonia is the large number of crowds on the couple of hikes there. I guess it is surprising for me from an aesthetic standpoint because I found Pembrokeshire more pleasing and there were less people.

While I don’t have any immediate desire to return to Wales, the many climbing possibilities does intrigue me. However, the motivation of that trip would have to come from friends who’d make a trip of climbing.

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budget

wales-3001

Our total out of pocket cost was around USD$1500, this was mainly because majority of our flight was covered by our travel voucher from Delta. Otherwise, we were not overly stringent on our spending as we took the occasion to eat out more than our usual at home habits to enjoy the local eats. We did utilize the grocery stores and kitchens available to us at the airbnbs to keep the food cost down.

In comparison, our most expensive time was on our way out in London and that was not including the brunch we had with our friend Iris, who graciously treated us. Thank you Iris!

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point earnings

The complication of the ticket being Delta and flight on Virgin Atlantic made point earnings less clear. So I just stuck with Delta, leading to subpar earnings. Trying to credit to Korean might have been worth the risk here.

Other point earning wise, I did fulfill Wyndham’s promotion with our two stays. It means a free night at any Wyndham property (dr of credit) for the USD$152.87 we spent for our two night stays.

wales_wyndham

Lastly, I did earn 741 Hertz points, 550 through their promotion with 191 as base earnings. See upgraded points for more information about Hertz program.
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Written by John

I'm a graduate student that likes to hike and travel.

2 comments

  1. I always do enjoy your trip reports, you put so much effort into them and I love your photos! Wales has never been high on the wish list but I must admit it does look intriguing to explore!

    Liked by 1 person

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