Beauty and the beach to put you on a high
Finds fun and relaxation in Gwynedd
calm down and relax. And we needed it.
As we settled in, we could still recall how, just a few hours earlier, we had reached the point of no return. How the chit-chat stopped... My harness was doublechecked and clipped onto the inch-thick cable above my head. My seven-yearold son was in my lap, tethered to both me and the cable.
Our guide heaved the gate away to our right, revealing an unobstructed and spectacular view of the huge man-made hollow that is the Llechwedd slate quarry extending for what seemed like miles into the distance.
Before my lad had a chance to object to the sheer lunacy at hand, we To book your stay at National Trust Cottages contact 0344 335 1287 or nationaltrustcottages. co.uk. To book Zip World Titan log onto zipworld.co.uk. were off, hurtling down and across quarry at speeds approaching 70mph.
I tried a couple of ‘whoops’ to re-assure my boy but they were rammed straight back down my throat by the Snowdonia wind, which was now trying to spin us round.
Going backwards into oblivion seemed less than heroic so I used my out-stretched legs and arms like rudders to try to keep us straight. Our destination loomed into view. A few moments later, the overhead rig slammed violently into the stopper at the end of our line and we were slung forwards. The terror and, yes, the thrill ebbed away. Our amazing 890m flight was at an end.
Back on solid ground, with streaky trails of my own drool stretching from the edges of my mouth across my wind-swept jowls to my ears, I feigned nonchalance.
“How was that, son?” I asked. “Epic!” came my lad’s answer, feigning precisely nothing as he marched off to the next zip wire.
Two-more heartstopping trips later – this time flying solo – and our day at Zip World Titan in Blaenau Ffestiniog, north Wales, was at an end.
Back at Gwernouau Cottage, life could hardly have been more different. We didn’t see a soul in three days.
Rather shamefully, the Scheerhouts used it essentially as somewhere to sleep rather than as a destination in itself.
We spent two funpacked days exploring the Llyn peninsular. The journey in itself is a mini-marvel as the green, wet and dramatic scenery around Snowdon flattens out and the land stretches 30 miles into the Irish Sea.
Our first stop was the beach at Aberdaron very close to the tip of the peninsular and shielded from the worst of the wind.
This delightful village isn’t over-run – as Abersoch regularly is – by Cheshire-setters driving Range Rovers. It’s just a bit more normal and quieter.
Here, the National Trust has set up Porth y Swnt, which is easier to visit than it is to say.
Part museum and part gallery, it’s a thoughtful celebration of the landscape on which it sits, exploring how it’s been
formed geologically as well as how it’s been shaped by farmers, pilgrims and now holiday-makers.
Our day ended with a visit to another National Trust gem. Just a few miles east along the coast and over the headland, we dipped down to Plas yn Rhiw – a beautifullyrestored 17th century mansion set in lovely gardens.
The stunning property – rescued by the Keating sisters in the 1930s – is trumped only by the view across the azure – yes azure – waters of Cardigan Bay.
We were blessed with fantastic weather and the next day we were back on the peninsular, this time enjoying a day at Porthor beach for a family day organised by the National Trust.
Narrowly, we had plumped for a day on the sand rather than a trip to Bardsey Island. On the north side of the peninsular, it’s accessed via a long, narrow road to a car park and then a steep path.
It’s one of several rather lovely National Trust beaches around the country I’m lucky enough to have visited. This one is among the best.
An unpromising start with dark clouds and rain eventually became a proper scorcher.
Rock-pooling, canoeing, beach football, bodyboarding – our sunbleached brains soon forgot the long journey to get there.
We were kept well fed and watered with a super cool beach cafe looking over the water.
As we headed back home to Manchester after our north Wales adventure, it seemed to me we are lucky to have so much lovely scenery – and adventure – on our doorstep.
Above, Porthor Beach. Above right, part of an old lighthouse being exhibited at Porth y Swnt, a National Trust visitor centre in Aberdaron. Below, Aberdaron itself