THIS WAS A FUN TIME FOR ME–exhausting, but super fun and very memorable! I’d not miss any of it–I’d do it all over again…even the ‘vertical’ portions.
Every year, Marc Gunn puts together a trip to one of the seven Celtic Nations. He’s been doing this for quite a few years. In past years, he has taken adventurers to various parts of Ireland, Scotland (I’m so sorry I missed this!), and France to take in both modern and ancient sights. Since Marc is a Celtic musician (born on St. Paddy’s Day), he always includes personal house concerts, both with his playing and singing and with invited musicians bringing in their instruments and voices to play for us in the evenings. In addition, when possible he seeks out Celtic music in local pubs for his Invaders to enjoy whilst feasting and downing a pint.
The troupe of Invaders is usually on the small side (6-14 people, including Marc), which allows for a fair amount of leeway when proceeding through his very loose itinerary. If something doesn’t strike a fancy with the majority, perhaps another venue is more appealing…and so, itinerary might be changed. Going with the flow. I like that. So does everyone else.
This year, I drove up from Holyhead (spent the night in Llanfairfetchan–I even know how to say it right–before proceeding), and (after a few wrong turns–remember, no fine-tuned GPS yet in the UK), turned in my car and met up with the Invaders at the Bewely Hotel very near the Manchester Airport the night before the actual tour began. Since we had to wait for the last two to arrive (the morning our group was to head out),
The six of us trekking back to the train station in Manchester
the rest of us (was there really only six of us?) took the train down into Manchester and,
A glimpse of Manchester, on the way back to the train station.
ill-prepared for the rain that fell, we ignored the rain and did some walking around, sightseeing, made a few strategic purchases and had our
Drying out, enjoying a lovely Italian dinner
dinner (which allowed for us to dry out our sopping pants and jackets a wee bit–it’s only water, right?)…
After picking up our last two Invaders and retrieving the van, we headed out, traversing back down the way I’d traveled, down into Wales–actually, pretty close to where I spent the night when I first came over on the ferry. I could have checked with Marc about the details before I made reservations for accommodations and my car rental to save on the extra travel and expenses…but I did have fun with the group the night before we headed out, so I’m happy with how it went.
Marc usually rents a cottage of some sort for his Invaders and uses it at ‘base camp’, coming back at the end of each day to relax, have dinner (did I mention Marc is an excellent cook and prepares most of the breakfasts and dinners that we had at the cottage for us?) and, at least two or three (or maybe four) nights enjoy our own little personal house concert, whether Marc or one of the guest musician.
This was a delightful little cottage in Bryngwran, with an open floor plan–the front patio had a BBQ and picnic table,
My room, Marc’s bed on left, mine in right.
Looking through the skylight down to the patio
The partially hidden watermill at our cottage
Delightful location for a meal…used the BBQ (not seen) for our dinner
the front entry lead into a large kitchen flowing into a dining and living room area, with an en suite bedroom (for two) stashed off on the side from the entry, plus a bathroom. Upstairs had a loft with two beds and two bedrooms (one was en suite), each accommodating two, which was perfect for us. (Sshhh–don’t tell anyone…Marc and I shared a room. Giggle…he was a perfect gentleman–he offered to sleep on the couch, but I said no way, and offered the second twin bed–no reason for him to sleep on the couch where there was a perfectly good, empty bed. Like I said, he was a perfect gentleman.) There was a washer off of the kitchen area…and solar drying (clothesline) on the beautifully landscaped garden patio…I should have done my laundry when we first arrived to allow time for items to dry (but we had off and on rain and couldn’t see things actually drying with the weather we were having), instead, I chose to wait till I left the Invaders and settled into the hostel before doing laundry.
Day One, Saturday, included the scenic drive through the countryside and along the coast from Manchester Airport down to the cottage. (I won’t mention who left their drivers license back in the states…teehee…two of us with licenses did some of the driving.) Our first adventure took us into Conwy (pronounced Conwee) to see their beautiful castle. From atop the turrets I could see the walls encapsulating
High atop one of the turrets, a shot into the castle grounds
From the turrets, looking into the castle grounds
View of Conwy from the Castle
the entire town. It was breathtaking to see the little hamlet with the great protective ‘arms’ wrapped around it. After touring the castle, we were free to wander the town for several hours before meeting back up. I ended up making my first purchases (a tea towel with wild flower of Wales printed on it, plus some tea and scones) in a little shop, then stumbled upon a local art exhibition, with some very nice works: photography needlework scenery, penwork…all lovely. I ended up with a few items: a bag with an owl (of course, since I’m such an owl fanatic) and a small water colour and/or pen drawn dragon for my daughter…and a bookmark, which I’ll use as a prize/giveaway one of these days. Definitely a town to revisit…
From there, we worked our way to our cottage where everyone claimed their bed/room, unpacked and Marc and one other brave soul went out to shop for our food supplies. I think Marc entertained us with music, but we were all so tired, I honestly don’t remember. Our poor last two CIVers
Marc played many of his tunes for us over the course of the week.
were working on well over 24 hours of travel by the time we all headed to our respective beds…
Day Two and Three (Sunday and Monday) were a blur of activities. For a few days, I failed to note all of the places we visited–I was having entirely too much fun to take the time…I’ve looked at dates on photos and my posts on Facebook to figure out what we did…and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right–lol–think I’ve missed one or two castles and towns…oops–I’ll include them in next weeks blog.
Picturesque shot of cemetery
A view of Snowdon Mountain
Church on the little island between Menai and Britannia Bridges surrounded by Menai Strait (in a portion called The Swellies because of dangerous whirlpools)
Cute little seaside town had a bunker nestled into a hillside.
Nearing the end of our guided tour, resting in a seaside village
In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.
Lots of livestock to keep contained, so plenty of gates and turnstyles to get through. Note the detail of ironwork.
Our guide, Willym explained the lore, facts and some of the traditions behind the burial mounds.
Jonny Dyer and Vicki Shaw graciously played for us.
A pristine lake (Llyn y Dywarchen) is our reward after a short climb.
Together, these two harmonized to make fantastic music for us, well past the time they planned to quit. Amazing duo!
We made quite a few stops (photo ops and ooohs and aaahs) on this first day of real exploring of Wales. We wound through the gorgeous, mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Outside of Scotland, it has the tallest peak in the UK…and the views are breathtaking, to say the least (and Day Three held even closer inspection of this magnificent region). The SavNat provided (TomTom) was not working well, so Kevin, the one person that had a smart phone with GPS was giving directions from the middle of the van. There was plenty to see. We ended our day with a bit of music by our fearless leader, Marc Gunn. Wonderful.
Day Three (Monday) was filled with cultural and natural history, with our guide, Willym. In addition to more beautiful sights in Snowdonia, there were hills to climb, gates to go through, and more climbing…all while we heard about the history of the area. Not the dry stuff with someone spouting off facts that fall on deaf ears. Our guide led us out to fields to explore cairns (burial mounds), up trails, into dales, across brooks. (I’d say I easily logged an average of five miles each day.) Delightful. I’m not a history buff, but definitely enjoyed taking in all I heard and saw. That night, we were privileged to hear the harmony of two wonderful musicians: Vicki Shaw and Jonny Dyer. They were fantastic! (I’ll tried to attach a clip.)
Day Four (Tuesday) was ridiculously fun…and exhausting. It started with a mead tasting in Llanberis. It was deliriously
The owner of Snowdon Honey Farm and Winery, is wearing one of my book wristbands
We tasted many very different (and delicious meads…
fun and took more time than planned. Many of us went away with arms full of goodies (I for one was trying to figure out how my purchases would make it back home unscathed…(they did make it intact, thank you very much…)
We were to meet a storyteller “near” the National Slate Museum and had to rush across the river to get there. Well, we took a few wrong turns (no biggie–it really was a beautiful area), Marc called our storyteller and he gave us directions for us to follow. We traveled a well worn trail up into the hills, passed a hospital (for the slate company back in the day–part of the museum, and beautifully preserved), continued to walk up, and up…down…and up. I think there was more verticality to this walk than I’ve ever seen, and my knee (and very out of shape muscles) protested. I was the ‘weak link’ in our party of eight and I finally got to the point, when they were unsure whether they needed to go up further or turn down, following the river, that I stopped. I begged them to check and see which way we needed to go before I took another step. They were sweet enough to oblige me and forged ahead, down the hill. Yup, the right choice. I slowly followed. And was rewarded with the most beautiful little encampment I’ve ever seen. A little village of quaint, and quite unique buildings.
Here, we are resting from our weary jaunt, but soon, we would settle into the lodge for a wonderfully told story.
So many of these little cottages are a delight to the eye and mind.
The village in the background as Marc and the Storyteller chat
The rustic, yet intricate carpentry details were fabulous. Our CIVers (including your truly) are in the reflection of the window.
In the large thatched lodge, our storyteller spins his yarn…
Thatched roofs, a Hobbit home, rammed earth building…all nestled amongst beautiful trees, next to a babbling stream. My fatigue melted away. And our storyteller was superb. Well worth the trek.
After our trekking, storytelling and a bit more sightseeing was done and we were munching on snacks in Llanberis, looking back up into the area we’d been traversing, well…I videoed Marc’s reactions, but his comments are not repeatable in this G-rated blog. (I’ve tried to upload another video I did showing the distance we traveled, but it hasn’t worked so far.) All I can say is…
…looking across the river into the town of Llanberis (photo taken from somewhere above and to the north of the Slate Museum Hospital)
Oh! My! Goodness!
I’ll continue with the last half of our trip next week…until then,
Slainté and peace be with you on this fine day.