I recently managed to combine a little work trip with an excursion to England and Wales, along with Jolien and Milo the dog. Here’s how it went.
We did a lot of driving to get to our first point of interest, but after our first morning sleeping off the M5 we went for a walk in some nearby woods.
First major sight was Cheddar Gorge, which turned out much nicer than expected even. We walked around completely on both sides, starting of with the free, National Trust owned northern side.
It has to be said that the Southern, privately owned and thus paid-entry side, has the best views. Jolien got to indulge in some “Instagram-Perfect” photographs, co-starring Milo.
After a night near the coast, we drove on to reach Wales, though we did get some bad weather in the Brecon Beacons.
Travelling with a dog is always interesting, as you try to ensure he enjoys himself enough, while the dog does the same for you in his own special way. Milo’s preferred method tends to be jumping into muddy puddles.
We woke up to an excellent morning with fog clearing, but did get a bit surprised by the rear-wheel van digging itself into the muddy ground from last evening’s rain a bit. I’d started digging with my hands and some rocks before we realized we could use our toilet-shovel to get out. Well by “we”, I mean me as Jolien just documented things mostly. We nade it out fine, though it did make me think I should be a bit more prepared and careful about these things.
After that I really wanted to take Jolien and Milo to a place I’d been to as well those two years ago: small roads with sheep enclosures, leading up to Cregennan Lakes. We went for a nice hike, Milo swam many times; everybody happy. I’d hoped to sleep up there but we didn’t want to risk it (I think we could have in hindsight), so we continued on.
Just to show how tiny the roads are up there: I’m taking the tightest turn I can with the van, and still take up the whole road, like a tourbus in the Alps or something!
Next morning we headed into majestic Snowdonia. Which, come to think of it, is probably from where we live the closest-by, really cool mountain range.
We stopped at Dolbadarn castle, and across the water you can see an interesting area I’d found out about earlier. The Dinorwic quarry is an old disused slate quarry which is fairly easy to access (there’s a fenced path going through). Naturally we were going to have a look there.
The quarry was really quite a sight, absolutely massive, an often bleak landscape littered with remnants of the mining times.
The pictures speak for themselves, it’s a really otherworldly place, hence why they have filmed some movies there over the years. Even though the path is fenced off, you can climb over in some areas, which according to locals isn’t a big deal: just watch out for the railways, we were told, there are big holes you could fall through! We stayed away from those. Milo loved the place as well, as he found a big stick that got dragged halfway up a mountain.
After the quarry, we drove out of the mountains to Betws-Y-Coed, “sanctuary in the woods”. Another place I knew from my Celtic Tour two years ago.
Then, just as we were leaving Wales to drive to Stoke-On-Trent for my work assignment the next two days, I learned I’d misread the date, and it was 3 days away instead of the next morning. So we decided to just make the best of it, spend some more time in the nicer areas, and Jolien would drive the van home herself in two days. We pulled of the road and went for a nearby camping, to get a shower. It turned out marvellous, with a view on Snowdonia from our back doors as the sun was setting.
Gwrych castle had fascinated me for a while, I had it pinned on a map for ages, and with out newly gained time we went to visit it. It’s no longer fully abandoned as it was for many years before, but in the process of being restored. While I appreciate the effort, it did mean large parts of the castle were now off-limits, and I could only peek in with my drone. There’s some fascinating stories behind the castle, like how in the 90’s it was taken over by “new age travellers” and deteriorated very rapidly. The elabirate marble stairs (which you can see in the top down shot) were completely stripped and stolen. Those damn van-dwelling hippies!
When moving along to a point where me and Jolien would separate, we went for a hike a few more times, things did tend to get less exciting as we left Wales. Milo was also a bit down on it, he had some really bad stomach problems. I’d feel sorry for him, but then again, he does tend to try to eat ungodly things like sheep-poo. He’d get better in a few days.
And with that the trip was over. We said goodbye at Oxford station, I trained up to Stoke again and Jolien took the ferry home after spending a night right at the base of the Dover cliffs. The trip was short, but it felt like we saw a lot of things in that amount of time. Makes me appreciate how closeby the UK is for us; we’ll try and do another trip there in the future!