Tuesday, 29 April 2014

PWLLHELI



This market town's rather exotic looking name simply means 'salt-water pool' (pwll=pool, heli=salt-water or brine) and derives from the fact that during medieval times the borough was sited next to a large tidal pool.  The port was once a big ship-building centre, launching over 460 ships during the period 1759-1878.  At the start of the 20th century around 100 ships a year were sailing in and out of Pwllheli, exporting agricultural produce and importing coal.  Wine from the continent also used to be imported through here, and smuggling was a major part of the economy.  However, the siltation of the harbour and the rise of the railways brought about the demise of the port's shipping activities.  During the war, the site near Pwllheli now occupied by the Haven holiday park was a training centre for the Admiralty and Merchant Navy known as HMS Glendower.  In 1947 the site was transformed into a Butlin's holiday camp with, at its height, a maximum capacity of 8,000.  A miniature railway and a chairlift were installed for transporting the guests, and an extensive programme of entertainment was laid on, including none other than Ringo Starr in his pre-Beatles days, performing with his band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

Nowadays, Pwllheli is a busy market town with an open-air market on Wednesdays, and Sundays in the summer.  The town's Blue Flag beaches are mainly south-facing, and there is a promenade backed by pastel-coloured terraced houses.  The town is also a magnet for sailors, and is classed as a 'European Centre of Excellence' in sailing, with a 400-berth marina.  The Sailing Club hosts both national and international sailing events.  A new Sailing Academy is planned for the town, although this has been hit by delays due to technical problems and the opening is scheduled for 2015.

Map of the area.

File:Harbwr Pwllheli Harbour - geograph.org.uk - 547670.jpg
Photo by Alan Fryer, via Wikimedia Commons


Friday, 25 April 2014

LLANBEDROG



Llanbedrog is a village of two halves, divided by the A499 road.  The upper part has a couple of pubs, camping and other facilities, while the lower part of the village has a beautiful, sheltered beach dominated by the Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd headland.  The beach is owned by the National Trust, so there is parking which is free to members plus toilets, a cafe and a gift shop, as well as some attractive National Trust beach huts available for fire.  The beach is popular with dog owners, and the water is shallow and safe for children.  Steep steps lead up to the top of the headland, from where there are stunning views.  There is a statue at the top called "The Weary Traveller" which was originally a wooden ship's figurehead, but has been replaced twice due to the twin evils of the weather and vandalism.  The new one, otherwise known as the "Tin Man", is made of strips of metal, and its design causes it to make a sound described as "singing in the wind". Llanbedrog used to be connected to Pwllheli by a tramway, but most of the track has now gone.  Back in the village, St Pedrog's Church, named after the saint who also gave the village its name, is thought to date back to the 5th century, when the saint arrived here.  The church hall houses exhibitions during the summer.  Just to the south of the village is Plas Glyn-y-weddw, which is an arts gallery and residential centre.

Map of the area.

File:The beach at Llanbedrog - geograph.org.uk - 1634597.jpg
Photo by Colin Park, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

ABERSOCH



The former fishing village of Abersoch was first visited by tourists in the early 1900s, but it took several decades for it to become firmly established as a resort, due in large part to its lovely beaches and views.  Today, Abersoch is particularly popular with the boating fraternity as well as with windsurfers and jet-skiers.  The proximity of the excellent surfing to be had in Hell's Mouth (see previous post) adds to its popularity, making it the busiest resort on the Llyn Peninsula.  There are a number of events in Abersoch's calendar, but the biggest event of the year is Wakestock, which takes place in July, and which is a celebration of wakeboarding and music.  The resort's popularity has led to huge increases in property prices, making it one of only 20 places in Wales with average prices of more than £300,000.  Abersoch gets its name from the River Soch (Afon Soch), which flows out of here.  There are two sandy beaches separated by a headland, the southern one backed by sanddunes and a golf course, while the northern one, The Warren, stretches as far as the Trwyn Llanbedrog headland.  The Welsh privateer, Sir Henry Morgan, better known as Captain Morgan, used to call in at Abersoch on his way from his exploits in the Caribbean, staying at a cottage on the outskirts.  

One mile west of Abersoch is the village of Llangian, with St Cian's Church.  There is a pillar stone which was evidently a grave-slab dating from the 5th-6th century with the Latin inscription MELI MEDICI MARTINI IACIT, or 'stone of Melus the Doctor son of Martinus'.  It is believed to be the only ancient stone in Wales recalling a person's profession, and it is the earliest surviving mention of a doctor in Wales.  

For a list of events in Abersoch see here

Webcam views of the resort.


File:The harbour from Pont Abersoch - geograph.org.uk - 645773.jpg
Photo by Eric Jones, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 17 April 2014

HELL'S MOUTH



Hell's Mouth, otherwise known as Porth Neigwl, is a suitably scary name for this bay on the south coast of the Llyn Peninsula.  Facing south-west, and therefore right in the firing line of the prevailing winds in this part of the world, the bay has struck fear into the hearts of many a seaman passing by.  Together with dangerous offshore currents, the gales blowing in from the south-west have claimed many lives over the years. Around 30 vessels have come to grief off this coast due to this perilous combination.  Occasionally the locals would benefit from the cargo let loose from the ships.  In 1877 the 'Idea' came ashore at Hell's Mouth together with its cargo of potatoes from Ireland.  The local people gathered the potatoes and planted them in their gardens, leading to a record crop for that year.  When the 'Faith' ran aground in 1896 with a cargo of flour an auction was held on the beach to sell off the flour to local families.  However, in its more benign moods the bay is a perfect sandy crescent which is very popular with surfers keen to make the most of the swell.  In fact, Hell's Mouth is widely regarded as the best beach in Wales for surfing.  Ordinary swimmers should take care; only the strongest should brave the water here.  The nearby village of Llanengan has a 15th century church and a pub. The churchyard has a memorial to mark the graves of the many bodies that came ashore at Hell's Mouth from stricken ships, in particular during the First World War. 

Webcam showing surfing conditions.

Map of the area.

File:Aberdaron - Porth Neigwl - geograph.org.uk - 1612799.jpg
Photo by Ken Bagnall, via Wikimedia Commons





Monday, 14 April 2014

ABERDARON



The winter of 2013/2014 will be remembered by a lot of people for all the wrong reasons.  The British coast, particularly the western fringes, was subjected to a seemingly endless succession of violent storms, causing millions of pounds of damage and tragic loss of life.  During one of the storms, which took place on 12 February and was dubbed "wild Wednesday", Aberdaron made the national news for recording gusts of wind of 112 miles an hour.  I once spent a long weekend in Aberdaron, and while the village was delightful, it certainly felt like it was at the edge of nowhere, positioned as it is almost at the end of the Llyn Peninsula, and it is easy to see why it got such a battering given the direction of the winds that day.  Aberdaron is a fishing village with a cluster of whitewashed cottages and two excellent 'gwestys' (inns) facing each other, one of which has a delightful terrace with views of the beach and across the sea to Bardsey Island.  The Church of St Hywyn has a sea wall around it for protection, which is needed as coastal erosion has caused its location to edge closer to the shore.  Keen walkers can take the pilgrim path from Aberdaron to Mynydd Mawr, the southwestern tip of the peninsula, which reaches a height of 160m.  During the Second World War there was a lookout station here with hundreds of military personnel keeping watch for German ships and planes.  It was an appropriate spot for such an outfit, offering stunning views in all directions.

Two miles off the mainland, Bardsey Island is a National Nature Reserve, and can be visited on boat trips from Aberdaron.  After the Romans left Britain, the island was used as a refuge by early Christians, and it later became a pilgrimage site, leading to it being known as the "Isle of 20,000 Saints" for the number of pilgrims buried there.  Farmhouses on the island have been converted into holiday accommodation for those wanting to make the most of their visit.  There is a variety of birdlife on the island, but it is most closely associated with the Manx Shearwater, with a breeding colony of 10-16,000 birds.  Other species to watch out for are marine creatuers such as seals, harbour porpoises and dolphins, and there are rare flowering plants among the island's flora.  

Map of the area. 

File:Aberdaron from the coast path - geograph.org.uk - 1005093.jpg
Photo by Gordon Hatton, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 12 April 2014

PORTH OER




Who can resist a beach with the nickname "Whistling Sands"? This is the intriguing name which has been bestowed upon Porth Oer, due to the fact that if you walk over the sand on this beautiful beach you will hear a 'whistling' or 'squeaking' sound as the dry white grains of quartz rub against each other.  The grains are a peculiar shape, which contributes to the effect. The beach is one of only two beaches in Europe where such a phenomenon can be witnessed.  This natural wonder takes place in a small cove towards the western end of the Llyn Peninsula which is hemmed in by rocky headlands.  The clifftops leading away from Porth Oer are a joy to walk along, following the easy coastal paths.  Adjacent to Porth Oer is Porth Iago, a small cresent shaped bay which is popular for surfing and diving.  Just inland from these coastal delights is the Bronze Age hillfort of Castell Odo, one of the most important archaeological sites in Wales.  The fort was probably built by Celts coming across the Irish Sea around 400BC.  

File:The beach at Porth Oer (Whistling Sands) - geograph.org.uk - 1288854.jpg
Photo by Eirian Evans, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

NEFYN AND PORTHDINLLAEN



The town of Nefyn lies on a sandy bay on the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula, with the fishing hamlet of Porth Nefyn at one end nestling under the Penrhyn Nefyn headland.  The town was the venue for a tournament held by Edward I of England in 1284 in celebration of his victory over the Welsh.  There is an ancient Iron Age Hill Fort called Garn Boduan overlooking the town which has been dated back to 300BC.  In the next bay along, the smaller Morfa Nefyn and the tiny harbour village of Porthdinllaen share a curved sandy beach.  A golf course overlooking the bay has been built on the site of another Iron Age Hill Fort, Trwyn Dinllaen, which dates from around 100BC.   

Looking at the tiny port of Porthdinllaen, it is hard to believe that at one time it was an important shipping centre for the trade with Ireland, with over 700 ships making use of it at the height of these activities.  The village even had pretensions to become the main departure point for Ireland in the early 19th century, but Holyhead on Anglesey got the upper hand, leaving Porthdinllaen in its present tranquil state.  The main draw nowadays is the Ty Coch Inn right on the water's edge, probably one of the best known pubs in Wales.  Built from red brick in 1823, it was originally a vicarage, but after the vicar moved to another dwelling in 1942 the building was turned into an inn, catering for the men engaged in the local shipbuilding industry.  The inn was used in the film Half Light starring Demi Moore (see the entry for Malltraeth, 19 March 2014).  Adjacent to Porthdinllaen is Lifeboat Bay, home to the Porthdinllaen Lifeboat, which has a long history of saving lives at sea.  The whole area around Porthdinllaen and Lifeboat Bay is now owned by the National Trust. 

Webcam view from Ty Coch Inn

Map of the area.

File:PorthdynllaenLB16.JPG
Photo by Lesbardd, via Wikimedia Commons