The summer expedition in 2013 was aimed at finding a place where culture and nature could be enjoyed and where it could be experienced in a combination of hiking, canoeing and 4×4 greenlaning. The election fell on Wales.
Wales is, for us, known for its outstanding beautiful scenery, a highly self-contained culture and an impressive collection of UNESCO-listed world heritage sites. And of course, pretty bad weather, which has become a trademark for our excursions…
As one of our acquaintances, with Welsh ancestors ones said; “In Wales one can experience the most beautiful nature in the world – if it comes out of the fog”. However, we were very lucky with the weather and did not need the long woolen one time – but we had them with!
We chose to sail to England from The Netherlands . It was the cheapest solution, and it took almost the same time to drive to Hoek van Holland and sail across the English channel, as the cruise takes from Esbjerg. Our principle that the trip is the goal we just put on the shelf for a while. The trip to Holland and across England was pure transportation. Such must be the case this time – it was Wales that was the goal!
The first part of the trip was based on Landrwst (w pronounced as “oo” in Welsh) in the Snowdonia National Park. Landrwst is an old and very nice city – typically Welsh. And then it’s far less outrage than the well-known neighbor, Betws-y-coed. Both cities are perfect as a starting point for hikes in Snowdonia and general sightseeing in North Wales.
When King Edward 1 entered Wales in the 1280s, he established an impressive defense along the north coast to defend himself against the walisans. We chose to spend a day at the amazing castles and towns around them, in Caernafon and Conwy. Thus, a good amount of history teaching came along on the trip. Then the kids were quite happy to spend the rest of the time in nature in Snowdonia.
Snowdonia has a nice collection of small scale mountains. The Snowdon itself, as the only, is over 1,000 meters. This makes the area a real mountain landscape, without it becoming particularly violent. The top of Snowdon is reached in about 3-4 hours. In Snowdonia there are countless hiking trails, in all possible severities and lengths. Everyone has the opportunity to go walking – regardless of the level of ambition or condition.
From the northern part of Snowdonia we drove south to the city of Bala. Bala is a good starting point for canoeing, whether you like white-water-canoeing or just want to enjoy the tranquility of the Lake Balas. We found the most beautiful campsite on the southern shore of the lake and changed our focus from hiking boots to paddles and swimwear.
The Bala Lake, which is Wales’ largest natural lake, ie it is not sheltered, is located at the southern end of Snowdonia, so it was also an obvious way to pull south on our way down to Beacon Brecon and the Black Mountains in South Wales.
Byways and Greenlaning
Wales has a huge network of byways, or BOATs as they are also called. BOAT stands for Byway Open to All Traffic, and are therefore public roads that are more or less accessible to ordinary cars. Some of the roads are completely impassable for other than big four-wheelers. And some of the roads are closed at different times of the year, so little research in advance is a good idea.
Of course we used byways to the extent possible and fit into our route planning. Or rather, we planned our routes for the coolest byways. One of those we got to fit in was the legendary Strata Florida. Strata Florida is about 18 km and is located in the middle of Wales. The English 4 × 4 enthusiasts are busy discussing how long it takes to drive it – and we’ve heard everything between 1 and 8 hours, depending on the weather. We spent about 2 hours on the case and so all the eggs in the fridge were still intact.
Overnight stays, population and everything else
Finding accommodations in Wales is easy. The Walisans have stroked Bed & Breakfast, hotels, inns and camping sites with easy hand. We used the campgrounds and they perfectly suited our temperament. They were neat, well-kept and very simple.
The Walisans – at least those we met – were extremely accommodating and hospitable, so we still wonder that all the fortresses should be built in the 13th century. Their language, Welsh, on the other hand, is not for ordinary people.
You may not want to visit Wales because of their culinary skills. Their cuisine is primarily English-inspired. But they actually have many farms where you can get the most delicious ingredients, so if you have your own kitchen with you, then there’s actually the basis for the perfect combination of beautiful nature, culture, exercise and good food in Wales.