Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and yes, I copied and pasted the shit out of that bad boy! And no, I still have no fucking idea how to say it. It doesn’t help that Welsh letters are pronounced differently to English letters. I’m trying to pick up a bit of Welsh while we’re here, I’ve started to recognise a few words but I can’t remember them off the top of my head. You could show me the word “llong” and I can tell you it means “ship”, but if you asked me what ship was in Welsh I’d probably just make some manner of phlegm noise and shrug a bit. I think the Welsh “W” is said the same as an English “U”, of course I could be totally fucking way out but you try remembering a whole different language when you have trouble remembering what you had for breakfast.
Anyway, Llanfair-lots-of-letters is a legit place in Anglesey but all those extra letters were added in the 1860’s as a publicity stunt, to put Llanfairpwllgwyngyll on the map, or the train station at least. It translates to St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near to the Rapid Whirlpool of Llantysilio of the Red Cave. So that little gimmick worked then. We duly rocked up, photographed the train station with the longest name in Britain, then headed to Beaumaris because Tarrant had gotten some vouchers from work which she’d spent on a speed boat ride.
This is a fun way to kill a couple of hours, except we didn’t realise it would be a couple of hours, we thought it’d be an hour on the water then we’d be safely back on land where the ground doesn’t move and there was no risk of the insides of my stomach ending up on the outside. We piled onto the boat which had seats you straddle like a motorbike, two to a seat, with the person at the front leaning on the person at the back. Fine for the couples, but if you found yourself paired with a complete stranger it’d be terribly, un-Britishly, cosy.
Off we went then to Puffin Island, so called on account of the puffins that nest there. They’re elusive, though. Very elusive. So fucking elusive that we didn’t get to see any today, despite circling the island in waters so choppy I was surprised that Tarrant didn’t end up wearing my breakfast on the back of her head. I usually get quite seasick but I was totally fine on this trip. Tarrant, however, got piss wet though as the boat bounced over waves and splashed down into the water. It was hilarious, especially for those of us snuggled safely behind our partners staying relatively dry.
The trouble with getting soaked then going on a speedboat sightseeing tour in less than scorching weather is the fact you do get really bloody cold. He took us along the coastline of Anglesey, stopping to show us Millionare’s Row where Roger Moore once had a house, and various other little attractions such as an old fishing house with a little wall they used to use to catch fish that swam in with the tide. It’s a holiday cottage now that can only be reached by boat. He also told us about the two bridges that connect the island of Angelsey to mainland Wales. The first one was built to transport Northern Irish politicians to the mainland once they’d arrived at Holyhead by ferry, and the second one has lions at each end guarding what looks like a lower layer. It did used to be the actual road but two boys looking for bats accidentally burned it down, and when they rebuilt it instead of raising the lions up, they left them where they were.
And we saw St Mary’s church, the very church talked about in Llanfair-lots-of-letter’s name, and the whirlpools mentioned in the name refer to the “swellies”, the little whirlpools caused by the tug of the tide around the bridges. As we sailed over them even we could feel the pull of them. Our final stop was a manor house which used to be the home of the Marquess of Anglesey. It was built to be visited from the water and there are tunnels which small boats could enter and people would use passages to get to the manor.
By this point I was so cold and uncomfortable I wasn’t sure if I had any blood left in my legs, and Tarrant was freezing. It’s a really interesting tour, though, I definitely recommend it. We were prepared to get wet, we’d worn full waterproofs, though I learned the hard way that if water pools in your crotch then your cheap Sports Direct waterproof trousers probably aren’t going to cut it and you’ll have to spend the rest of the day walking round looking like you pissed yourself if you don’t bring spare trousers. We just weren’t prepared for it to be two bloody hours long. The boat returned to the start and we stumbled off it and back to the car where we blasted the heater and tried to get warm. Next stop was Red Wharf bay where we had a spot of lunch at the pub, a pub which even stocks non-alcoholic beer for us drivers. I was in the process of praising whatever deity was responsible for such joy when I took a swig and promptly withdrew all gratitude. Booze free booze tastes like backwash. I made a mental note to stick to the cranberry juice in future, at least I could pass that shit off as one of my five a day.
We seem to be photographing boats a lot in Wales, we spent a bit of time snapping them here too because when you see a pretty sailboat slightly tilted in an estuary you simply have to tell Instagram all about it. It’s the rules. Same with cats, sunsets, cocktails, and that particularly nice lunch you had the other day. Once we’d gotten the boat thing out of our systems we drove on to Moelfre Bay and shovelled frozen sugar products into our faceholes, before heading off to find Porth Wen Brickworks. I’ve no idea how I found out about this place. I had even less idea that it’d be such a ball ache to park at and get to. Once you tuck your car away into whatever slightly-off-the-very-fucking-narrow-road alcove you can find and pray to the car gods that no one scrapes it on the way past, you then have to sacrifice strips of flesh to the gorse and brambles that line the very narrow trail down to the ruins.
It’s very worth it, though. We made it without being horribly blinded by sharp vegetation and stood at the top, gauging the terrifying death scramble that looked like the only route into the brick works. We saw a couple with a dog strolling through them and asked them how to get down and it turned out there was way that was much less likely to result in broken limbs. Then all there is to do is photograph it from every angle whilst being careful to not fall off the cliff it’s built on. I’ve no idea why it’s on a cliff, we speculated that the location would allow easier access or ships to take their product away. On one hand it’s amazing that no Trust has gotten hold if it, fenced it off and started charging a fortune to get in, on the other it means there’s literally no information. We had no idea how things were done or what the process involved. We just figured they made bricks. And it was made entirely of bricks. Meta as fuck. And definitely a highlight of our day.
We returned to our thankfully unscathed vehicle and carried on anti-clockwise around the island to South Stack on Holyhead, a rock formation with an RSPB centre. The bloody noise of it here! It’s like someone gave a thousand school kids crack then left them unattended with helium. I think it’s a nesting colony. We hadn’t realised the time and we’d rocked up too late to glean any information from the RSPB centre but from the sheer shit tonne of birds shouting at each other I’d say yeah. Nesting colony. We’d planned to walk to North Stack and back from here but it was probably a three hour round trip allowing for many stops to marvel at views and take seventy photos of the same thing so we sacked that idea off and headed to Rhoscolyn and a pub called the White Eagle that everyone bangs on about for food.
We like food. We eat it every day. And we’d heard that Rhoscolyn was a lovely beach. I mean, at no point during this trip did we have any illusions that we’d be sipping Piña Coladas on any manner of sand based terrain. A nice cup of tea perhaps whilst huddled together for warmth, and even then only for 20 minutes before one of us contracted hypothermia. But still, after a nice feed at the pub we wandered onto the beach as a family packed up after an apparently lovely day in the sun. Must be Northern. We Northerners are born with less cold detecting nerve endings than Southerners. It’s what makes us double hard bastards. Though I’ve been away from the north for far too long now and anything below 21°C has me scrambling for the thermals. It appears I’ve gone soft. I’ve even developed a taste for shandy on a hot day.
Anyway. Turns out the sun never fucking sets in North Wales in the summer. We waited around at Rhoscolyn for ages for the fiery sky ball to fuck off in a suitably beautiful fashion and gave up at around 9.30pm when it was still hovering stubbornly above the horizon. It took over an hour to get home and it still wasn’t totally dark then either. Seriously. Land of the midnight sun. Or the unsuitably late sun. Whatever. It was the first night since we arrived that we had to break out the lanterns, we’d not really considered how late it got dark so far because we’d been spark out drooling into our pillows before 10.30pm.
Stayed at: Llechrwd Riverside Campsite, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd