Before we’d even thought about a getaway to the Llyn Peninsula, we’d seen that this area of North Wales – also known as Snowdon’s Arm – “enjoys a unique microclimate, benefiting from the Gulf Stream bringing warmer sea temperatures and weather”.
The weather forecasters, however, seemed to have other ideas. They were predicting that while the 40mph winds would have dropped by the time we arrived, the heavy rain would not.
But when we read that about a quarter of this 30-mile-long peninsula is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and one of only five such destinations in Wales – we were sold, nonetheless. It was settled: this was where we would be spending our (pre-lockdown) wedding anniversary.
We made the journey westwards to Llyn Ffynnon, our selected campsite, situated about three miles north of Pwllheli.
Unlike sites that we have previously picked for our anniversary weekends, this one is not blessed with its own hot tub. But it has a pub, and that’s the next best thing.
And so it was that, after the rain had miraculously stopped just long enough for us to set up on our chosen pitch, we spent a very pleasant evening putting the world to rights with some of our fellow visitors to the site that weekend. Perhaps it was the flowing ale that gave me an idea for the following morning.
Parkrun has become a phenomenal global success since its inception in Bushy Park, southwest London, back in 2004. Although it has now been temporarily suspended in the UK due to Covid-19, it encompasses a collection of 5km-long running events held at more than 1400 locations in 22 countries,, all of which are free for anyone to participate in.
However, Pwllheli is the first location I’d found where the run takes place on the beach.
A morning run
This was something that I just had to try, and that meant dragon myself out of bed and into a stiff breeze in time for the 9am start. None of the runners was deterred by the warning from the marshal that we would encounter more rocks and shingle than usual, following high autumn tides.
Nor were they put off by the incoming tide, which meant the latter part of the run involved the choice of either tripping over stones or getting very wet feet.
It certainly woke me up nicely, and the subsequent dip in the sea that I and one fellow runner were mad enough to take was, let’s say, very refreshing. Actually, let’s not. Let’s be accurate and say it was surprisingly pleasant, once the numbness from the freezing water had set in!
The plan for the rest of the day was that we would have a guided tour of some of the most beautiful beaches by my friend Karen, who after visiting the Llyn Peninsula with her partner Gary in September 2018, fell so much in love with the place, they had moved here to live by March of the following year.
Sadly though, this was not to be. Karen sent us a message to say that she was unwell, so wouldn’t be able to join us after all.
She kindly recommended some of her favourite haunts for us to visit ourselves, which we kept in mind.
But first, we decided on a visit to the nearby Glasfryn Parc Activity Centre, where Rose and I challenged each other to go-kart racing (I won handsomely), 10-pin bowling (I lost miserably) and Segway, which needs more than a few words to describe!
The Segway is described as a ‘two-wheeled self-balancing personal transporter’, and the first challenge is getting onto the damn thing. This involves holding the telescopic handle while you position your feet.
The trouble is, if you move the handle in any direction, the Segway starts to roll forwards, backwards, round in circles or a combination of them all. And it isn’t that easy to put your foot onto a platform that suddenly isn’t where it was a second ago!
We eventually got the hang of it and then had to learn how to stay balanced while on the move. It soon became clear that the faster you go, the easier this is.
So it wasn’t long before we – all right, I – began hurtling across the fields and through mud, puddles, cowpats and anything else that happened to be in the way, with the abandon of someone who has been granted eternal life.
Right up until the moment when I got a bit overconfident, lost my balance and ended up sitting oin the very puddle I had been trying to ride through just a little too quickly. Thankfully, no photographic evidence of my downfall exists!
With no damage done, other than some slight bruising – and wounded pride – I got straight back on, having now learned where I needed to be a bit more restrained, and the next 40 minutes or so passed rapidly in an adrenaline-fuelled blur.
My heart was sorry when our timed session finished, but my legs and knees, which had spent the mite being used as shock absorbers, were secretly relieved!
We decided to spend the rest of the day at a more sedate pace, and made the short drive to Nant Gwrtheym. This is a former quarrying village, in which a heritage centre and conference hall have been constructed, primarily for the purpose of teaching Welsh to adults as a second language.
Even if you have no particular interest in learning Welsh, you should still pay a visit here. If you can, walk down the steep hill to the centre, rather than drive, because the views are – in Karen’s words – “something else”. They take in the village itself at the bottom of a natural valley, the remains of former granite quarries in the valley sides and, at the top of the slopes, the ruins of two Iron Age hill forts, before continuing in panoramic scenes across the sea to the Isle of Anglesey.
Even more delightfully, we found the centre was hosting a wedding reception when we arrived, and the music brought back some wonderful memories for us.
We finished the day with a lovely meal at the Whitehall in Pwllheli (this is a very popular gastro-pub, so it’s advisable to book your table in advance).
Mansion on the hill
After our leisurely breakfast next morning, the rain showed no signs of abating, so a quick internet search for some indoor attractions came up with Plas yn Rhiw.
This fine 17th-century manor house was rescued from neglect in 1938 by the three Keating sisters – Eileen, Lorna and Honora – who had holidayed nearby as children.
The restoration was undertaken with the sole purpose of leaving the house and land to the National Trust, which they did in 1952. Today, the interior looks just like it might have done in the 1950s, although Lorna lived there until her death in 1981.
We would have explored the ornamental gardens, too, but just as we stepped out of the house, the rain turned from heavy to torrential and sent us running instead to the tearoom. In the time taken to enjoy some delicious cake and hot chocolate, we also had two nice surprises.
First, not only had the rain stopped, but the clouds cleared, revealing blue sky! This allowed us to glimpse the stunning views over Cardigan Bay that the Keating sisters clearly fell in love with.
Second, Karen called to say she was better, and could meet us if we were still around. We decided to meet for a drink at the Ty Coch Inn, in Porthdinllaen.
The village is owned by the National Trust, and access for non-residents is only allowed on foot, following routes along the beach or the cliffs.
Make the journey and your efforts will be rewarded by the sight of a picture-perfect fishing village, which feels totally unspoilt by time and tourism. It’s easy to see why Karen loves the place, and it was wonderful to see her looking so happy.
Never mind the weather
After a wonderful day, on our return to the campsite, we discovered that the morning’s rain had turned our pitch into a mud bath, and getting the caravan out required the loan of a neighbour’s 4×4. But the weather could do nothing to make us love this part of North Wales less than we do.
We’ve been delighted by so many places that we have visited, but this is one of only a few that have stolen a piece of our hearts.
Way to go
Towing to the Llyn Peninsula is best via the A497 from Porthmadog. We used the A5 to Llangollen, the A494 to Bala and the A420 to Trawsfynydd before reaching Porthmadog via the A470.
When to go
The main tourist season is from Easter to the end of October. During the winter, many attractions close or have reduced opening hours.
Food and drink
The Whitehall in Pwllheli is excellent. Pwllheli also has an Asda supermarket for self-catering. The tearoom at Plas yn Rhiw has lovely coffee and cake!
Where we stayed
- Llyn Ffynnon Touring and Caravan Park
- Yffor Pwllheli, Gwynedd, LL53 6UY
- Open 1 March to 31 October
- Charges (pitch+hook-up) £25
The seasonal pitches on this site are immensely popular, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the pub lovely, with a wonderful atmosphere, but the site also provides guests with immaculate facilities, a well-appointed laundry room and a beautiful fishing lake.
Find out more
We tow our 2002 Avondale Dart 515-4 caravan with our 2019 VW Arteon 2.0 TDI.
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Your efforts will be rewarded by the sight of a picture-perfect fishing village, which feels totally unspoilt by time and tourism