This three-day tour was dubbed the Pontmeirien Tour, as we were headquartered in this “village” at the mouth of the Severn River in North Wales. The four-hour drive took me almost six hours, not counting the lunch stop, due to my curiosity and several “off road” adventures resulting therefrom. It was a pleasant drive, though my bottom side told me “enough”.
I had plotted what looked to be an interesting route, using mostly secondary roads. Traffic was light, and the run through rural Wales was delightful. However, after entering Wales I was reminded that they don’t speak ENGLISH there! All the town names are a mile long, all look the same, and the Welsh language makes liberal use of L’s, G’s, W’s and everything else but vowels, mostly in doubles…. Llangwwlynd. Is that a word? It took a while before I realized that there was an English translation following the Welsh on the road signs, but it was hard to train myself to “read the bottom first”!
My First Video Post: to see a five minute drive in Wales video click on the go arrow in the screen below.
In any case, eventually I made it to Pontmeirien which is sort of a fantasy village created beginning in 1925 by an eccentric English architect who thought that Wales needed something akin to Portofino in Italy. Many pictures follow but suffice to say that it is a bit like Disneyland. Most of the buildings are just facades. Most of the structures were salvaged from derelict English structures (of an Italian design) and rebuilt onsite. WW2 interrupted the process, but is was resumed in 1953 and completed in the 70’s. A bit more later.
There were 16 Jags on this tour, all XKs and E-Types, save one Triumph TR5 2500 pressed into service when an E-Type front wheel bearing went south 80% of the way to Pontmeirien. We didn’t get those in the US, they were sort of a TR6 with fuel injection…nice cars.
Only one couple from my earlier Backwater Tour and they live 10 miles from me. A very nice bunch, and quite a few “younger” types (40’s) which was nice to see. As per last time, I was a curiosity and well treated.
Ok, so first let’s talk about the Severn River. This is a very important river in history, having been used as a pathway to conquest by everyone from the Romans to the Vikings to the Normans. It also serves as the dividing line between England and Wales in some areas. The most notable aspect is the size of the tides. Below are two pictures taken at the same spot at high tide and low tide…. amazing, and it only takes about 30 minutes for the tides to have this effect.
Day One was a “Round the Mountain” tour. This area is famous for Snowdon Mountain (you may recognize the Welsh “Wyddfa”, or Holy Mountain). This place has been special since the time of the Druids and is steeped in British history. The mountain itself is only 3500 feet high, but on an island where 1000 feet is exceptional, that is quite tall. We drove in, around, through and over the mountain, before stopping at the Victoria Hotel in Llanberis for a ride up to the top on an old diesel cog train. It was lovely and sunny on the bottom, but one hour later we found the top of the mountain mostly shrouded in fog.
THAT LITTLE STRIPE DOWN THERE IS OUR ROAD THROUGH THE VALLEY
Many, and I mean many, hikers were trekking up (3 hours) mostly alongside the rail line. Many more opted to ride up and walk down (2.5 hours), including at least a half dozen of our group. That gives you an idea of what younger folks do. It was 70 and balmy at the bottom, 50, foggy and COLD on top. Some who set off in shorts and T shirts looked mighty cold up there, despite the exertion. The footing at the top was treacherous with loose rocks and shale being predominant. Lower down it was more manageable. You won’t see any photos taken at the edge of the precipice by me, as my vertigo kicked in and it was all I could do to stay on the paths. Others were braver, or dumber, and walked right up to 1000-foot cliffs.
Our ride down was another hour, but then we drove through a pass in the mountains that was incredible. Our tour leader is well known for taking us on “backroads” (hence the company name), one of which required that I negotiate two bulls, a Shetland pony and her 18” high foal, and several dozen sheep to get through the 4’ wide path. Sorry pictures were almost impossible until the bulls stopped stamping their feet and threatening to charge!
MR. BULL IS NOT HAPPY TO SHARE THE ROAD
A brief snippet of this road is below
The rest of the drive was excellent, through dense forests and moorlands that reminded me of Scotland. Pictures tell the story better than words.
The next day was more forest and a lot of coastline, but it was overcast, and the pix were not great. Suffice to say that the Brits really love the idea of Santa Cruz…. they just don’t have as much good weather or many great beaches. Despite this, camp grounds and caravan (trailer) parks were everywhere. You would be amazed at how they tow 20’ trailers behind Ford Fiesta’s!
Before our final run we were treated to a guided tour of the “village”. Our tour guide joked that she was a Scot guiding English around a Welsh village. As you can see from the pix below, Pontmeirien is a little cliff side cove decorated in Italian Riviera style. Most of the buildings are self-catering cottages, probably 20 in all, carefully disguised as grand villas. There is really no reason to come here, as there is nothing to do but walk around and drink tea once you arrive, but apparently enough folks come to make it profitable. It’s amazing what passes for fun in the UK! No wonder the Brits love American theme parks.
THE VILLAGE FROM OUR HOTEL
Our last night we ate in a castle and were entertained by a Welsh male choir. They were fantastic and very moving. However, I am having trouble uploading my iPhone videos of them to YouTube. If any experts out there can help me, firstname.lastname@example.org. (FYI I am getting an “asset not available” error).
DUNNEIDEN CASTLE WHERE WE HAD OUR FAREWELL DINNER
Today’s food news.
Gammon and eggs. Sort of breakfast for lunch. A thick slice of ham with hot mustard, a couple of eggs, grilled pineapple, peas and fries (everything comes with fries). This may be my last food news for a while. I got on the scale today (can you believe they have a scale in a holiday rental?) and I just passed 16 stone. Not going to tell you what that is in pounds, but it’s up a quarter of a stone since the first of April. It’s salads for me for a while. And fewer English ales.