Currently I have six yellow-tailed black cockatoos hanging out in my suburb. Haven’t seen them here before, so it’s a bit exciting!
Day 16 we farewelled Wales, but not before wandering around Rossett and having a snack in Chester on our way back to Manchester airport!
In a tourist booklet in our accommodation in Caernarfon (pretty sure it was there), we found a place called the Glassblobbery advertised. I love glass blowing so it snuck onto the itinerary! So this was the last tourist thing we did in Wales, visiting their little shop:
At Manchester Airport it was way too hot, way too busy and everything flying seemed to be delayed! The one positive was finding my favourite beverage was available…
We arrived in Dublin over an hour later than scheduled and were, I think it’s fair to say, on the exhausted side! (Maybe the emotional turmoil of saying goodbye to Claudia the car?)
We did, though, remember to pick up our 3 day bus pass so we could not only get to and from the airport but could get the hop-on-hop off bus! So we headed into the city on a bus, and found our accommodation. Then we literally went two doors down to a bar and had South American tapas-type-meal.
Of all our accommodation on the trip, Dublin’s was definitely not the best, but it was the most incredibly positioned! We only had two days to see as much as we could, so being within spitting distance of the river meant we could walk anywhere we wanted to. That was awesome.
Just think… this time last May I was in Wales! In fact we were finishing our stay in lovely Llandudno and were checking out Conwy Castle in the rain, on our looping way to Caernarfon. We’d grown used to our car, Claudia, and were letting Miriam (the GPS) guide us around the country. Aaah, the memories.
But that was day 5 and I’m talking here about day 15, so what was happening then? Well, we were spending our last full day in Wales obsessed with… books. Books. Books. More books.
I mentioned in my last Wales post that we stayed in another funky B&B in Glasbury, and it too was appropriately book themed:
Other than the B&B the main reasons to stay in Glasbury are 1. The River…
And 2. Being very close to Hay-on-Wye, famous for its bookshops!
Hay-on-Wye, even if you aren’t there during their book festival (we visited just before), has book sellers of all kinds with shops for children, crime, poetry and lots of second hand. One of my pleasures at Richard Booth’s was finding these books of Star Wars trading cards, which my brother and I collected as kids. It was such a random, unexpected thing to open one and realise that what it was!
Not everything in Hay-on-Wye is books though… there were a few antique shops that I could have tripled the volume of my luggage shopping in (really great range of things)!
My favourite pic from Hay was this, because however you read it, it seems like a secret code!
Of course, there was also icecream. Because… icecream & also it was sheep’s milk icecream which seemed appropriate for Wales.
I had ginger and something else which I now don’t remember because the ginger was so delicious.
Then we drove onto Rosset – another small town – for our final sleep in Wales. Highlight was definitely dinner at the Alyn (named for the river Alyn that flows behind it) where our last dinner in Wales was served on… slate.
You may be wondering whether we came straight home from Wales…? No, we went to Dublin! So the remaining part of the story will be titled a little differently.
Today, as I sit at home like so many people around the world, it’s quite nice to look through my photos and remember Wales last year! My travel buddy from that trip has been in isolation for week after returning from a sailing trip in Thailand, so I’m sure she’ll enjoy reliving a less stressful trip too…
So day 14 we were up early and at our lovely, funky hotel we got to eat breakfast in a fancy restaurant attached to the place (all this hidden down a little arcade!) and I fell in love with the egg boiler.
After breaky and check-out we went into Cardiff to visit the markets, which was nice because we got to walk back through some of the area we’d visited the night before. Also, I finally tried Welsh Cakes!
The market was quiet because things were just opening, but it was great to see a market like this surviving in the 21st C. So many of them have closed!
From Cardiff we drove to Caerleon to enjoy their many roman ruins! They have a barracks which is why they also have a bathhouse and an amphitheater! So much roman-y goodness.
From Caerleon, we moved on to Raglan Castle. Our last castle for Wales! Aside from being huge, it really does show the status of its inhabitants in its scale and complexity. Again, so many photos to choose from but I’ve picked just one I really liked.
Raglan Castle was the most expensive stop of the trip for me, because when my travel buddy went to find the loos and accidentally ended up climbing a tower instead, that left me waiting the in gift shop just long enough to buy a Clogau pendant. Ahem.
From Raglan we headed off to our next accommodation at Glasbury, and we went through the Brecon Beacons for some amazing views from Black Mountain.
We stopped for a rest and there were ponies… lovely critters. I may also have decided to have an icecream which I then regretted all the way down through the windy, windy road out of the Brecon Beacons.
Glasbury is a teeny, tiny little place on the Wye river where we stayed in another funky hotel, in the attic room! I didn’t love the stairs but it was worth it for how cool the attic room was.
The only sad part (for me) of the day was that I’ve always wanted to go to Abergavenny, because… well… it’s possibly the most fun place name to say in all of Wales. I’ll admit that’s why. I have no shame. Sadly the GPS decided it was faster to go around Abergavenny, so now I’ll just have to go back to Wales some time and visit it!
Recently I visited an installation called Rain Room which has been working its way around the world for a few years. It was a cool sensory experience and, while it was interesting watching people in the space, it was the sensory stuff I liked best.
Being in a dark place with a single source of light highlighting the rain pouring down from above and having the noise of it around you – that was fantastic. Yes, it was also fun trying to walk slowly through it and with enough space from other people so that you don’t get wet (!) but that was secondary for me.
I found it quite restful, but then I often find water restful!
Moving around so you didn’t cause it to rain on other people by getting too close, was interesting in its own way, but what I enjoyed most about being there with others (you enter in groups) was watching other people’s joy at the experience.
If the Rain Room comes to your city, and you’re not too claustrophobic (it’s a very big space but the water, noise and darkness might set you off) then it’s worth a visit.
This was our many castles day! Travelling from Swansea to Cardiff we fitted in three completely different styles of castles. We also had a delightful and fascinating extra that we weren’t planning to look at and I’ve got to admit that was kind of my favourite bit, but we’ll get to that later.
First, we visited Castle Coch which is, to be fair, not really a castle. It was built as more of a summer retreat which is why it has pointy bits and a very small footprint. But it is pretty and there was a wedding taking place, which you can guess happens a lot.
Then we went on to Caerphilly, which had been the castle I was most hoping to see. It’s huge and you can walk around and through the whole thing, which now sits in a lovely town. We decided the inside didn’t offer too much of interest, but spent a loooong time walking around the outside. There were also a lot of waterbirds. Like, they were everywhere!
As you can tell, it was a bit of a cloudy day, and rain drove us into the shops in Caerphilly briefly. Where we bought crazy rave-worthy hair extensions and other glitzy things. We also had delicious lunch.
Then we headed onto Cardiff, but we were a bit ahead of schedule. Not normally an issue but we’d booked parking near our B&B and we didn’t know what would happen if we turned up early. So we needed to kill some time.
I dragged out my guidebook and found that there was a very, very old chambered tomb on the road ahead. Not only is it 6,000 yrs old, it has the coolest wind-up info thing that tells you all about it.
We also got to drive down a lot of leafy single lane roads…
Time killed (in a wonderful way!) we got to Cardiff and checked into the funkiest little B&B I think I’ve ever seen which was off one of the main shopping malls in an arcade. After enjoying ourselves for a bit and resting, we then walked the city.
It was bustling and much more multicultural than anywhere else we’d been. After I got us lost (had to happen at least once) we managed to see most of the government buildings and shopping areas and had some nice dinner. We didn’t go into Cardiff Castle, but we did walk around the outside and saw the “animal wall” where all different animals peek out over the top!
We were only in Cardiff one night, but did manage to see a chunk of the place. It was cool to see such a big city considering we’d mostly been stopping in very small towns. There were the ubiquitous number of tourist shops and, well, a lot of Welsh flags.
The only sad thing for us, was we got a fine for being in a bus lane… somewhere in the city! Of course we only found out after we got home.
We used Swansea as our base for a day trip down to the Gower Peninsula, the highlight of which was seeing Worm’s Head (worm = dragon).
After a day spent on winding roads and looking at the coast (and sheep, of course) we had a quiet dinner in Swansea. It got a bit exciting after that, because the hill opposite our hotel room caught fire! Coming from a fire prone country it was nerve-wracking to watch how close it got to houses…
I don’t have great photos of Swansea itself, but I did love the museum there. So much fun stuff to look at!
This day we travelled from St Davids to Swansea and we did skip a lot of towns and interesting things along the way. Mostly because the majority of the day was spent at Whitesands beach going for a small hike and watching the surfers!
But we started, in St Davids, having a good look around the Bishop’s Palace and St Davids Cathedral. Being the home of Wales’ patron saint is why such a small town has such a big church, but it is a lovely thing to see. The stone is purple and the ceilings in the different parts of the cathedral are wooden and that’s why I liked it so much.
I have a lot more pics of this place (and the ruins of the Bishops Palace) but let’s move on!
Whitesands is a great beach, but it was climbing around St Davids Head that we were looking forward to.
We also visited Newgale beach, Tenby and some other spots on the way through to Swansea, where we were in a hotel near the water… More boats!
After a couple of very big days of seeing cool and lovely stuff, we had a quieter day (partly because it involved a bit of driving). To start we spent a lovely morning in Aberystwyth wandering the streets and taking a funicular up Constitution Hill.
I have a soft spot for funiculars, which isn’t surprising to anyone who knows I like trams and trains I guess, but this one was awesome for how steep it was! And it creaked. A lot.
On top of Constitution Hill was a bit of family fun area where you could buy special icecream for your dog (not the only place in Wales we saw this) and play Frisbee golf. This was my first exposure to the idea of Frisbee golf… apparently I don’t get out enough!
Next up we went to Borth almost on a whim, not knowing whether it was worth the trip (it was actually in the wrong direction for the day’s travel) and it ended up being soooo worth it! Why? A petrified forest that was covered by the ocean centuries ago which now, at low tide, is visible on the beach.
After a little time travel at Borth, we drove to the pretty town of Aberaeron for lunch and stopped briefly in Old Fishguard Harbour.
We then reached our next home-for-a-night at St Davids, which is a fascinating place for being so very, very tiny and yet having the most enormous and lovely cathedral!
St Davids is a lovely place with lots of stone buildings and a 14thC cross, but I started to get horror film vibes when we passed the Farmers Arms…
Wales has a bounty of narrow gauge railways – mostly because these little engines serviced the many, many mines – but the Talyllyn Railway now takes you through some lovely, hilly countryside. I loved the train, I loved the views and I loved the doggie who kept us company for the journey! No, she didn’t come with the train; she was a fellow passenger and seemed to enjoy the ride as much as I did.
After our train ride (which included a reserved table at Abergynolwyn Station and a cream tea!!) we drove on to our next accommodation, which was in Aberystwyth.
Aside from it having baked in the glorious sunshine all day and so being about 27C in the room on arrival (!) it had an excellent view of the sea. Also, it cooled down once we juggled curtain closing and window opening!
Once we had checked in, we went for an evening wander and the light was wonderful…