Snowdonia & Aberystwyth, Wales
Driving through Wales proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. We had been cautioned about exasperating road conditions, and the warnings turned out to be accurate. Once we were off the motorway all we saw were narrow, winding lanes, with stone walls built up on either side, making it almost impossible to pass other cars. I'm fairly certain oncoming drivers weren't too impressed about seeing our van lumbering down the street either. Much of the journey involved reversing, pulling over or attempting to squeeze past at a snail's pace and praying that we didn't graze another vehicle. The drive took an eternity.
When we finally arrived at Snowdonia National Park we found it was well worth the effort. Snow capped the mountains loomed above us (apparently the snow only arrived yesterday), while the lower elevations were green and lush. We stopped in the tiny town of Betws-y-Coed (don't ask me to pronounce it) and unbelievably there was a caravan park that was open. After setting up the van, Danny marched off to the local pub. He returned sometime later with a bottle of red wine. I'm not sure how that worked, but it paired perfectly with our mushroom, pea and truffle risotto.
It hailed so loudly overnight that neither of us achieved much sleep. In contrast, though, it didn't rain at all for the rest of the day, which was perfect for exploring the National Park. On the way we undertook a quick walk around town, which revealed nothing of interest other than lovely old, stone buildings with grey slate roofs. The National Park, however, was breathtaking. Although we didn't see any snow up close (disappointing), our day was filled with loud, gushing waterfalls, a picturesque gorge, and two medieval castles (well the remains of two medieval castles). We didn't enter either because there didn't seem to be much to see, but the exteriors were quite impressive.
Once the daylight had disappeared, we made the agonisingly slow drive down to Aberystwyth, on the west coast. Unsurprisingly, we spent a while in the pub, mostly to keep warm and also to keep up to date with the news. The forecast for tomorrow is for severe winds – probably not the best time to be in a coastal town.
As predicted, the weather was horrible. We tried our luck and ventured down to the water, hoping for some sort of seaside stroll. Not our best idea. The spray off the water coupled with the overhead rain drenched us immediately (umbrellas were useless) and we were thrown about every which way in the wind. This wasn't going to deter me though - I was intent on climbing up a hill for a panoramic view over the town and coastline. Danny decided he was having no part of it, and I didn't blame him. It was a steep, muddy climb but I did eventually summit the crest. With all the rain it was almost hopeless trying to take a photo. A minute later I was hastily trying to make my way down, and while doing so I managed to slip over and land on my umbrella, breaking one of the ribs. Luckily, we had spares in the car, although that wasn't going to help me now.
Because I was already soaked, I thought I may as well stroll up the other end of the bay to the Aberystwyth Castle. I shouldn't have bothered. It was hard to call it a castle when there was only part of one tower standing and a bunch of rocks lying beside it. The lack of a noteworthy sight plus the winds that threatened to blow me over at any moment made the decision to leave an easy one. Somehow I managed to stay upright all the way back down to the safety and relative warmth of the car.