Friday, 17 August 2018

St David's to Aberystwyth

After leaving St David's we followed the coast north.  Our first brief stop was at Fishguard, where we saw a small lighthouse.  They have been few and far between so far.

It had a nice little harbour.  It was high tide and the water was lapping into the car park.  I wouldn't like to be there in bad weather.

Our next stop was the town of Cardigan.  There was a castle in the middle of town, but we didn't visit.

The main street was really nice and we enjoyed exploring.

There were a few antique shops and we found a little treasure that is wrapped safely until we get home.

Our lunch stop was at Aberaeron.  This seaside town was different as it wasn't crammed into a narrow valley, but more open.  There were rows of colourful, well kept cottages.

We found a lovely little cafe up a side street for lunch.  

How do you like our table?  It is a Singer sewing machine.

I had to try the "Cawl Caws Bara" for lunch.  I had no idea what it was, so had to ask.  "Cawl" (pronounce Cowell, as in Simon Cowell) is Welsh broth, "Caws" (pronounce like cows, but with an S sound at the end) is cheese, and "Bara", (pronounce Barra) is bread.  It was broth with lamb and lots of root veges.  Rather tasty.

We kept on our way to Aberystwyth.  Try pronouncing that one!   It takes a bit of practice.  We were able to get accommodation on the esplanade, our room being on the ground floor overlooking the sea.  We were rather happy with that.  Ours is the window next to the "Atlantic" sign.

There are the ruins of the castle to explore.

Ancient university buildings.

We had a quick look in St Michaels Church as well.

I think the water front would look better at high tide. 

The old pier is rather lovely.

There is a Victorian Cliff Railway, so of course we had to go for a ride.  

It used to be powered by water, but has been converted to electricity. 

There is a wonderful view from the top of the hill.

Once we returned to sea level we required afternoon tea. Welsh Cakes were the obvious choice.

We found a pub for dinner and tried Blue Moon beer.  It is Belgiun and served with a slice of orange.  Something different, but rather nice.

After dinner we were wandering back to our hotel when we heard a band playing.  The Aberystwyth Silver Band play every Tuesday and Thursday evening.  They really were good, playing a variety of tunes, even getting the audience singing and dancing along.  It was a nice way to end the day.

Tenby to St Davids

We woke to a grey, but dry day in Tenby and the tide was in.  The island that you could walk to at low tide was now well and truly cut off from the mainland.

Once again our plans for the day were rather fluid.  We just headed west along the coast.

Our route took up below the walls of Manorbier Castle.   There are so many castles in Wales.  There was even a small remnant of the castle in Tenby.

We took a scenic detour and where we parked picked our first blackberries.  We have seen lots in the hedgerows, but most aren't ripe as yet.  They don't appear to be treated as a noxious weed over here.

Some people we were chatting with at Tenby recommended we visit Pembroke Castle, so we headed there.

They do guided tours, so we joined the one at 10.30, which was to go for a bit over an hour. Our guide, Howard, was passionate about the castle and also Welsh history, so our tour took nearly two hours.

The building stands on a limestone peninsula.  Underneath there is a cave that was inhabited by cavemen for 6,000 years.  This was later incorporated into the castle defenses.

The castle has influenced the course of history on four main occasions.  It was originally built of timber by the Norman invaders in the late 11th century.  After the Norman invasion of Ireland Pembroke was the entry point for all of Wales and was where taxes were collected.

In the late 12th century ownership went to William Marshall "the Great Knight".  He rebuilt the castle in stone, was instrumental in fending off the French invasion and was the author of the second version of the Magna Carta.  He was a good man.

The castle next comes to prominence in the 15th century when Jasper Tudor, half brother of King Henry VI, took in his widowed sister-in-law.  She was 13 years old and pregnant.  She gave birth to Henry Tudor who later went on to be King Henry VII, one of England's finest kings.

In the mid 17th century Oliver Cromwell held the castle siege for 8 weeks.  The castle had been described as being impregnable, and this proved to be correct until the new technology of huge canons were deployed, one single shot destroying a tower.  The castle surrendered and fell into disrepair.  It was restored to what we see today in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The main street of Pembroke follows the route of the original road to the castle and the blocks of land are those that were first allotted about 700 years ago.

By now it was lunch time and a decision had to be made for the afternoon's activities.  We ended up heading further west to the UK's smallest city, St David's.

We called in briefly at the beach at Newgale.

And came across a rather different tractor.

St David's is located at the site of the monk St David's priory.  The cathedral was built in the 12th Century and the Pope made it a centre of pilgrimage.

There was also a very elaborate Bishop's Palace next to the Cathedral.  During the Civil War in the mid 17th Century Oliver Cromwell all but destroyed both buildings.  The Cathedral was later partially restored in the late 18th Century, but the most significant restoration happened in the early 2000s.

The Shrine has been recreated.

A new organ was installed.

This cathedral has quite a different feel to others we have visited, with its limed oak timbers, giving it a faded look, even on the ceilings.

It was a glorious warm afternoon and many people were taking advantage of the day.

However, it was lovely and cool by the brook running next to the car park.

We thought we had better try to find some accommodation, as being school holidays there isn't a great deal available.  We were lucky enough to find a little B&B just off the main street.  It is the cream house to the right of the blue building.

Our room was on the third floor, but the climb was worth it for the view.

As it was quite warm we found a beer garden at the Farmers Arms Hotel. (There is a Farmers Arms at home as well.)

For dinner we ate at The Bishops, just around the corner from our B&B.

We had a lovely meal and Mick discovered that they served Pimms to drink.  Perfect for a summer's evening in the UK.

We had only travelled a short distance on the day, but that doesn't matter, as we saw some fascinating places and had a relatively relaxing afternoon.  One of the advantages of not having a set itinerary.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Cardiff to Tenby

Mick and I don't follow a detailed itinerary when we travel, rather we have a very vague framework and make the rest up as we go along.

Our plan this time was to leave Cardiff in our hire car and head west until we decide to stop for the night.

The first thing we saw was the Brains Brewery in Cardiff.  Hopefully we may even get to try some on our travels.

The weather was still drizzly as we started our trip.  It wasn't long before we had left the city behind and entered a densely wooded area, travelling through a tunnel of trees.  

As we came through a village there was a beautiful garden by the main car park.  The main flowers were begonias, like our Council grows in a special hot house in the park.  We'd never be able to grow them in the garden.  So lovely and vibrant.

We had a rough idea as to which road we would travel along, but changed our mind before long at all.  There was a road on the map which seemed to follow a river and had a few windy bits, which sounded more interesting than the main road.  We entered an area with lots of Victorian terraces in a narrow valley. It was  rather gloomy, with the hills shrouded in mist.

We were travelling up the Rhonda Valleys, which are a coal mining area.  So many old terraces, and steep, narrow roads.

For this reason, our hire car of choice is a small one.  We ended up with a Suzuki Swift, which is perfect for our needs and goes well.

It is always a standing joke when we visit the UK that we will see lots of tractors towing trailers on the road.  It didn't take very long at all before we saw our first big red tractor.

It has been very hot and dry in Wales for the last couple of months, so they are appreciating the rain.  The rivers were running well and we even saw a couple of waterfalls in the distance.

Wind farms are also a feature.

After a while the countryside opened up a bit and the sun briefly broke through the clouds.

We had heard of a Vintage Car Show and Shine and Car Boot Sale in an area we would be near, but unfortunately, when we reached the area there was a very heavy downpour, so there was no point.

We continued on our way and found a little place on the coast called Burry Point and stopped in for lunch.  We got to see our first light house, although it was fenced off.

Our first beach, and it was nice and sandy. 

There was a nice little harbour, but as the tide was out it wasn't all that picturesque at the time.

We were now travelling through lovely farmland on good roads.

Until we had to take a detour due to roadworks.  It was on a very narrow road and the verges were rather slushy.  Rather interesting when you met a larger vehicle and you could see some not happy drivers of black luxury cars.  Our little blue car is rather dirty on the passengers side, so we are now wanting some heavy rain to give it a wash.

I had read that the seaside town of Tenby was nice and had half planned to reach there on our first day on the road.  I didn't know anything much about it, so when we arrived to find medieval walls it was a total surprise.

It was early afternoon, so we decided to make this our destination for the day.  By now the sun had come out and it was going to be a fine afternoon.

Our first priority was to find some accommodation.  It is school holidays over here, so that isn't all that easy.  We were lucky enough to find a hotel right in the middle of town, in the blue house at the right hand end of the row of Victorian properties.  It turned out to be a great place to stay.

We walked through the arch in the town wall and were greeted by a bustling, colourful street scene.

The church was in the town square.

We just wandered aimlessly, taking in the beautiful scenery.

The low tide created beautiful beaches.

However, the boats in the harbour were all stranded.

There are two life boat houses.  The old one was featured on Grand Designs a few years ago, after it was converted into a home.

The new one is pretty spectacular as well, having been built at a cost of 5.8 million pounds.

The lifeboat itself cost 2.4 million pounds in 2006.  It is the most advance life boat in the world and if capsized it can right itself in 45 seconds.  We were lucky enough to turn up on the annual open day, so got to have a good look around.

St Catherine's Island stands just off the coast.

As you can see, it is easily accessed at low tide.

However, look at the high tide mark on the rocks, and it becomes evident that at high tide it is completely cut off from the mainland.  The building is a fort, built in the mid 1800s.

The hill on which I took the first photo of the island is known as Castle Hill.  There isn't much of the castle left now.

We heard music so headed down the hill towards the harbour.  

It turns out that on each Sunday during the summer holidays there is a Tenby Spectacular at the harbour.

There were some champion Irish dancers and great bands playing all afternoon.

The kids were kept amused down on the beach. 

The weather was now nice and warm, so there were good crowds.

After a while we kept on exploring all the little streets and alley ways.  The Tudor Merchant House Museum looks like it comes out of a Harry Potter movie.  No,we didn't go in for a look.

By now it was late afternoon, so we found a beer garden overlooking the sea and enjoyed an ice cold beer.  It really hit the spot.

On our wanders we had come across the oldest pub in Tenby.  Another fun thing we do in the UK is visit pubs that claim to be the oldest something or other, so this had to be our venue for dinner.

We found a nice snug little corner to sit.

After dinner we went back down to the harbour and found a very different scene, as the tide had come in.  The beach had completely disappeared and the water was lapping the base of the blue house.  I'd hate to be there in a king tide.

Before long the sun set.  What a sight!  By the way, this was after 9pm, as we are still on daylight saving time.  It is well and truly daylight before 6am too.

We had to hang around the harbour for another hour, as at 10pm there was to be a fireworks display.  It started off OK, but nothing spectacular, and we thought that was nice, but it went on for ages and got better and better.  In the end it was one of the best displays we have seen.  A real bonus to our stay.

Walking back to our hotel, the church looked lovely all lit up.

The following morning it was high tide again and we were surprised to see how much water there is between St Catherine's Island and the mainland.

We thoroughly enjoyed our drive through the Rhonda Valleys and our stay at Tenby.  The added bonus of the festival, life boat open day and fireworks were the icing on the cake.