Aberdyfi is a thriving little harbour resort set within the Snowdonia National Park, where the river Dyfi meets the blue waters of Cardigan Bay.
The wide sandy beach leads to grass-covered sand dunes, and, now here's a thing............the whole is separated from the car park and road, by a rail fence with gates advising you to keep them shut so as not to let the sheep out! It seems they graze sheep on the dunes in the off season!
ABERYSTWYTH MOUNTAIN TRAIL
This amazing road starts just above the Elan Valley and winds its way through the mountains, through Devil's Bridge and on to the outskirts of Aberystwyth on the west coast. It's almost impossible narrow in places. I had to take refuge in someone's front garden at one point when I met a huge milk tanker coming the other way. It continues up and down, left and right through the mountains and a beautiful forest. In the middle of the forest, miles from anywhere, they have built a stone arch for no apparent reason. A couple of years ago, I came across a man building it, and he couldn't or wouldn't tell me why.
Well, this year it has been finished, and the area around it cleared and partially tarmacced to provide a small carpark and picnic area in one of the most delightful and quiet areas I've yet to come across.
BALA LAKE ( Llyn Tegid)
Beautiful Bala Lake, crossed by the River Dee, is the largest body of water in Wales, being four miles long and a mile wide.
The lake is known in Welsh as 'Llyn Tegid', meaning Lake of Serenity, and was formed by the action of glaciers.
At the edge by the visitor centre, it's very shallow to quite a distance, and loved as a paddling place by small children, ducks and jackdaws (it also has a decent sized free bike park)
Beddgelert, the 'Grave of Gelert' is situated in Snowdonia, at the head of the Aberglaslyn Pass.
According to legend, the stone monument in the field marks the resting place of 'Gelert', the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great.
The story, as written on the tombstone reads:
"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, "The Faithful Hound", who was unaccountably absent.
On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.
Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain.
The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here".
Really the gateway to Snowdonia, Betwys is loved for the Swallow Falls. Unfortunately, the last time I was there, we'd had a dry summer, so they were little less than impressive.
Blaenau is an old slate mining town, and can seem very drear and grey, especially on a wet day. The Steam Railway, one of the 'Great Little Trains Of Wales, is well worth a ride.
The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway company in the World - being founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832.
Over the last fifty years, the Ffestiniog Railway has become a leader in railway preservation and is now one of Wales’ top tourist attractions.
It is remarkable for its double-ended 'push-me pull-you' Double Fairlie locomotives.
THE BRECON BEACONS
One of Wales' National Parks (why they don't just make the whole of Wales one big national park, I don't know), the Brecons are a majestic, often lonely place. The Brecon to Merthyr road is a particular favourite of mine.
BRECON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
Another of the Great Little Trains Of Wales, the BMR sits at the foot of the Brecons, not far from Merthyr Tyddfil. The rail runs alongside a reservoir, and there's plenty of opportunity to spot wildlife.
The name Builth, in Welsh Buallt or perhaps Buellt, is older than the town to which it now refers. Buallt/Buellt originally applied to the Cantref or Hundred, an area within the old Welsh administrative system. The Cantref of Buallt/Buellt was an area of land between the rivers Wye and Tywi and north of a line drawn roughly between Erwood and Llanwrtyd, covering an area of some 174 miles. It has long been thought the name of the Cantref, and later the town, came from the Welsh words 'Bu' and 'Allt', and could be translated as 'The Wild Ox of the Wooded Slope'.
Bronze statue of a Black Welsh bull, reflecting Builth Wells importance as a central market for beef cattle in past times
This, for me, is probably the most beautiful of all the Welsh Castles.
The castle's majestic persona is no architectural accident: it was designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, the imperial power of Rome and the dream castle, 'the fairest that ever man saw', of Welsh myth and legend.
Standing at the mouth of the Seiont river, the fortress (with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour banded masonry) dominates the walled town also founded by Edward I. Caernarfon's symbolic status was emphasized when Edward made sure that his son, the first English Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. In 1969, the castle gained worldwide fame as the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
Caerphilly Castle is one of the great medieval castles of western Europe. Several factors give it this pre-eminence - its immense size (1.2h), making it the largest in Britain after Windsor, its large-scale use of water for defence and the fact that it is the first truly concentric castle in Britain. Of the time of its building in the late 13th century, it was a revolutionary masterpiece of military planning
Located in the centre of Caerphilly town, its lakes and grounds, which are outside the castle walls, are free to wander round.
CAPEL CURIGCapel Curig is not so much a place, as a meeting point. It's where the notorious A5 meets the A4086 road to Beddgelert. If you take the A4086, just down the road is a viewing point, and I've included Capel Curig for that very reason. Stop for a moment and marvel in the stillness, and the wonderful scenery. The road from Capel Curig divides into the Llanberis Pass, whilst the other branch goes down to Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn pass
Chepstow is in Monmouthshire, just where the old Severn Bridge crosses. It's a lovely little town, crowned by the magnificent castle. Access to the castle is right by the main car park.
The castle sits in a big loop of the river Wye, and it's easy to see how the little town grew organically at the foot of the massive walls.
The border town of Chirk stands on the escarpment above the point at which the rivers Ceiriog and Dee meet. The name Chirk is thought to be an English corruption of the name Church, however it's Welsh name 'Y Waun' means 'the moor'
The Llangollen canal is perhaps Britain's most popular cruising canal and Chirk Marina is well situated between Thomas Telford's two magnificent aqueducts at Chirk and at Pontcysyllte. It is possible to walk across both aqueducts if you have a head for heights. I did indeed, walk across the Chirk Aquaeduct
The Claerwen dam is actually a part of the Elan Valley complex (see below), although it lays off to one side, at the end of its' own long valley. The largest and most impressive of the four completed Elan Valley Dams, Claerwen dam holds back 48,300 megalitres of water. This dam was started in 1946 and was mostly built by Italian stonemasons as British workers were still busy rebuilding after the Second World War.The Claerwen dam was built with later construction techniques than the other dams, and therefore has a concrete inner core. It was faced with stone in keeping with the other dams in the Elan Valley.
The unique thing about Conwy, is not so much the castle, although that is impressive to say the least, as the three parallel bridges under its walls.
Corris is a tiny village built into a steep hillside just north of Machynlleth, on the road to Dolgellau via Cross Foxes The best thing about Corris is the Craft Centre. It;s a honeycomb of little artisan workshops, where you can watch the people at work, and buy their products. There's a lovely café and decent loos.
One of the things you can buy here are smoking dragons! These little fellows smoke incense, and, if you follow your nose, you will find this one:
Cors Dyfi is 3.5 miles south west of Machynlleth on the A487 Abersytwyth road.
Cors Dyfi (Dyfi bog) is a wonderful little nature reserve that is teaming with wildlife for most of the year. This is where the Dyfi Osprey Project is situated.
Once estuary, reclaimed grazing, then conifer plantation and finally wildlife-rich wetland, the land at Cors Dyfi has seen many changes over the last few hundred years. Today the reserve is a healthy mixture of bog, swamp, wet woodland and scrub supporting a plethora of animals and plants, including the magnificent Osprey, which bred on the reserve for the first time in 2011. If you're lucky, you may also spot an otter or dormouse!
You really can't miss the location:
Apparently, Criccieth's castle was built at the beginning of the 13th century, a rather late date for initiating a castle at a particular site in Wales. The earliest mention of a stronghold on the craggy outcrop is to be found in the Welsh chronicles, the Brut y Tywysogyon, in the year 1239, when Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or "the Great") was imprisoned in the castle by his half-brother, Dafydd. Most likely, Llywelyn the Great began the stone fortress just a few years before his sons' quarrel.
THE ELAN VALLEY
Where to start? The Elan Valley is incredible. It's just outside Rhayader, in Mid-Wales, and it's a series of reservoirs and dams built to provide water to Birmingham. There are 5 dams, each one different and beautiful in its own way. There is a narrow road that runs around the entire complex, and just to ride around it in silence is a joy.
The visitor centre has a sculpture celebrating Percy Bysshe Shelley, who used to stay in a house that has been drowned beneath the waters of one of the reservoirs.
Flint is a small town on the North Coast at the mouth of the Dee Estuary, less than 20 miles from Chester. It's fairly unremarkable, except for the castle ruins, which stand on the edge of marshy land, now a nature reserve. As with all CADW properties that are very ruined, it's free to wander around, with no facilities.
What can I say about the magnificent spectacle that is Harlech Castle. It can be seen for miles, and the view from the castle is equally magnificent, looking out as it does, over both the sea and land towards the mountains of Snowdonia
A small market town in Powys, Hay is most famous for its annual book fair. Indeed, the town is full of book shops. There's also a very good chocolate shop there............
Knucklas is a tiny little village, just outside Knighton, and virtually just over the border into Wales. There's nothing there, except for a marvellous Victorian viaduct, and an excellent pub, which is where I stayed. Their web-site is here: http://www.castleinn.org.uk/
and this is the viaduct:
Another of the reservoirs which abound in the Welsh mountains, Vyrnwy, like the Elan Valley lakes, has a road right around it. You can drive across the dam and head out around the lake, enjoying the peace, solitude, and beautiful scenery.
Right in the heart of Snowdonia, Llanberis is where you can take a train to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. Be warned though, by 10am, rides for the day on the rack and pinion railway are usually fully-booked for the rest of the day.
Llanberis is also famed for the Llanberis Pass. Now that's a strange place. If there's no traffic about, it's as silent as the grave!
OK, so it's not much of a place, but there's a nice café and children's play area in the centre of the village, which holds the only Welsh dragon in captivity ;)
feed him some money (for charity) and watch the fire start in his belly, travel up his neck, and erupt out of his mouth!
.or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, to give it its correct name. Comes to something when the name of a village is longer than the name of the island it sits on (Anglesey). Wonder just how many people have had their photos taken standing by the sign at the railway station?
Llangollen is a truly amazing town, encapsulating the best North Wales has to offer in a small area. With more sun than Cornwall and less rain than the Lake District.
There are mountains, white water rivers including the spectacular River Dee canals with horse-drawn boats, The Llangollen Steam Railway with steam and diesel trains that chug along the Dee Valley, the Horseshoe Pass, the Horseshoe Falls and all in easy reach of Chester and Wrexham.
The town itself has a plethora of little shops and cafes, all in a small space that is easy to walk around.
A tiny village, lying on the Llyn peninsula, between Criccieth and Pwllheli, Llanstumdwy has the distinction of being the birth place, and burial place of David Lloyd George. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led a Wartime Coalition Government between 1916 and 1922 and was the Leader of the Liberal Party from 1926 to 1931.
Visit the David Lloyd George museum in the village, then walk through the grounds out into the lane at the back, and the monument is opposite you.
On a pur of the moment, I decided to turn off the Corris road onto a little B road towards Tywn. I'd never been through there before, and I'm so glad I did. It's a beautiful road, with amazing scenery, and the high point is Llyn Mwyngil
An old slate mining complex, Llyn Padarn is just over the road from Llanberis railway station, and it has it's own little train, so if you can't go on the mountain railway, there's always this one.
A stormy day at the lake, with Dolbadarn Castle in the distance
You can just make out the little Llyn Padarn train chugging its way along the opposite shore of the lake.
The present stone bridge was erected late in the 1200s.
The gatehouse atop Monnow Bridge, Monnow Gate, was not an original feature of the bridge. It formed part of new town defences begun at the beginning of the 14th century.
New Quay, in Ceredigion, not only sounds like its' Cornish counterpart, it's very like a Cornish village itself. You get to it by a long downhill road, which opens out onto a seafront overlooking Cardigan Bay, with a quaint harbour and sandy beach. It's a marvellous place to see dolphins and porpoises.
Luckily, the engineering team of Thomas Telford and William Jessop were the most experienced canal and bridge builders of their time. Telford quickly put forward the idea of building a cast iron trough, similar in design to an earlier bridge of his in Longdon-on-Tern near Shrewsbury, placed on hollow stone pillars the width of the valley.
Despite much scepticism, Telford had his way. He built 19 supporting pillars, some up to 116ft (35m) high connected by 53ft wide iron arches. The mortar used in their construction was a mix of lime, water and ox blood. Nobody has yet worked out how many oxen this would have taken!!
The cast iron troughs were cast locally and dovetailed into each other. They were caulked by a mixture of pure Welsh linen and boiled sugar before being sealed over by lead.
The aqueduct was officially opened a month after the Battle of Trafalgar on the 26th November 1805 and cost the then considerable sum of £47,000. Ironically, this resulted in the project running out of money and the canal never reaching Ellesmere Port.
Another of the impressive castle ruins in Wales. The castle is probably most closely associated with William ap Thomas, who fought with King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In 1426, ap Thomas was knighted by Henry VI, becoming known to his compatriots as "the blue knight of Gwent."
VALE OF RHEIDOL
The Vale of Rheidol is famous for its narrow-gauge railway, which climbs over 600 feet from Aberystwyth, along the valley. The Railway is one of the Great Little Trains Of Wales, and the trip, an hour in each direction, leads to the marvellous Devils Bridge Falls.
Most of my pictures of the scenery were actually taken from the train.
VALLE CRUCIS ABBEY
Valle Crucis (Valley of the Cross) takes its name from from Eliseg's Pillar nearby, which would already have stood for nearly four centuries when the abbey was established in 1201. The new foundation was a Cistercian house, a 'daughter' of Strata Marcella, near Welshpool; its patron was Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, ruler of northern Powys. So that the abbey could enjoy solitude required by the order, the existing settlement of Llangwestl was removed to Stansty, north-west of Wrexham.
Like all Cistercian Abbeys, it is situated in an incredibly peaceful location, at the foot of the Horseshoe Pass, just ourside Llangollen.
It is unusual, in the fact that one wing still remains intact. Apparently, this was because when the Abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the local lord asked if he could keep this part intact to use as a farm building.