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We didn't do much research for this holiday in advance, so we didn't have a firm plan of what to do today. Looking through suggested walks in the Wales guidebook last night, we came across instructions for a walk around the Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall. It looked pretty based on a Google image search and it was less than 40 miles away from where we're staying in Ruthin, so we decided to give it a go. The drive was very scenic, though it did take us down some single-track roads where you just had to hope for the best that no one was coming in the opposite direction. The final road to the waterfall was a particularly narrow one, with a car park right at the end. We made it there without incident, but then found that the parking cost £5 and they wanted payment in cash. We didn't have any cash, so this was a bit of a problem! Luckily the man on the gate eventually remembered that it was possible to pay by card in the cafe, so we were able to do that instead. The car park itself was quite scenic, though quickly filling up when we arrived some time after 11. From the car park we followed a small path up through the trees to get our first glimpse of the waterfall. That may not look too impressive, but that was just a small part of the waterfall. The whole thing is much bigger. Opinion seems to vary about whether Pistyll Rhaeadr is the tallest waterfall in Wales or not. The guidebook we have says it is the tallest waterfall south of the Scottish Highlands. Wikipedia, however, seems to think that Wales has a couple of other waterfalls which are higher. Either way, at 73m/240ft it's a pretty big one and we were impressed by it As you can see from the pictures, there were quite a lot of other people around also taking photos. We did eventually manage to climb closer to the waterfall and get some shots without anybody else in them Some of the stones around the waterfall were a bit slippery so you had to be careful where you stepped, but it was worth it for the views. It really is a beautiful waterfall and we had the added bonus of a blue sky behind it today as well. The walking instructions in our guidebook aren't the best, but once we'd finished admiring the waterfall we attempted to follow them and found the starting point for the walk. This led us up through the woods alongside the waterfall and then on a rather steep and rocky path up the hill behind it. The path was a bit challenging at times, but the views were lovely. At some point in the walk I realised that I'd actually been here before, many years ago when I was in the hiking club at university. Although the walk today was quite steep, it definitely wasn't as challenging as the one I'd done back then Eventually we made it to the highest point of the walk, which was the top of the falls. Tim went to a viewpoint near the edge to take photos of the waterfall going over the top. Personally I was too scared of the drop It was a long way down from here! From this point onwards we struggled to follow the instructions from the guidebook walk, but it didn't matter because we'd spotted what looked like a nice fairly flat path that we could use to construct our own circular walk. From the top of the falls we had to retrace our steps downhill a bit towards this path. From there we crossed over a small bridge and continued around the side of the hill. We now had a view back towards the opposite side of the stream, where we'd been climbing up to the top of the falls. We could just make out the path we'd followed, zigzagging up the hillside. We also got a tiny glimpse of the waterfall in the distance. As we followed the path around, the views of the waterfall became clearer. From this distance you could really tell what a big drop it is. The path eventually took us back down to the road on which we'd driven up the falls, enabling us to stroll back to the car. We were pretty hungry at this point so we drove down the road for a while to a small village called Llangynog, where we found a pub with a sunny beer garden where we could sit outside and get some food. The views weren't bad from here either Overall it was another really fun day in Wales
In the absence of any firm plans, we spent some time this morning trying to generate ideas of places we could visit on the way home. We considered going to Chester, but looked at the map and realised it would involve driving a bit out of the way. In the end we settled on the idea of visiting the Long Mynd in Shropshire, which was more or less on our route. Having made this decision, we went for a final walk around Ruthin and handed the key back to the owner of the cottage. He suggested that we should drive home via Llangollen, which would take us on a scenic road via the Horseshoe Pass, and explained that there was plenty to see around Llangollen, in particular the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It wasn't significantly out of our way, so we decided to give it a try. The Horsehoe Pass road was indeed very scenic, taking us over the mountains and down towards Llangollen. We followed signs towards the aqueduct, eventually finding a cafe with a car park where we were able to park for just £2. From there it wasn't far to walk down towards the canal. Within a few minutes we had our first view of the aqueduct. Completed in 1805, the aqueduct takes the Llangollen canal across the river Dee. It's the longest aqueduct in the UK and also the highest aqueduct in the world. What I hadn't realised until we arrived, was that there was a footpath alongside the water which meant that we could walk all the way across the aqueduct. It certainly felt high to me when we were doing that, but there were some really nice views. At one point we were even passed by a couple of narrow boats as we walked across. And we also had a view towards what seemed to be a viaduct in the distance. We reached the other side and had a bit of a stroll down the canal, but there wasn't an obvious way to turn it into a circular walk, so after a while we turned around and crossed the aqueduct again. We figured that we ought to be able to find a place to get a good view of the aqueduct from a distance if we walked along the river underneath. We followed a riverside path, which took us towards a viewpoint. From here we could really get a feel for how huge the aqueduct is and how high above the river we'd been when we were walking across it! We continued walking alongside the river, following signs towards a country park. This ultimately brought us right up to the viaduct which we'd been admiring from a distance. This is the Cefn viaduct, apparently the third largest in Wales. At the edge of the country park we turned around and retraced our steps back towards the car. It had actually been quite a long walk - by the time we got back to the car I had 15,000 steps - so we decided to give climbing the Long Mynd a miss for today Instead we had some refreshments at the cafe where we'd parked the car and set off on the journey home. It's been a really fun few days in Wales and in general it feels like a really long week off work with two separate holidays
As I mentioned yesterday, we didn't have many plans for this trip but one thing we did want to do was visit Conwy. An Esperanto-speaking friend who lived near the town sadly passed away last year. He had a large collection of Esperanto books, some of which Tim was interested in acquiring, and we had arranged to visit his wife to pick those up and take the rest of the collection back to Esperanto House in Barlaston. Conwy is only about 45 minutes away from where we're staying in Ruthin, so it was an easy journey to make and save a lot of courier costs. It was a bit damp and drizzly when we set off, so I decided not to put on any sun cream. That turned out to be an error of judgement; by the time we got to Conwy the sun was well and truly shining and as we were sitting outside in our friend's garden having coffee, I could feel myself starting to turn a bit pink. Oops! Just down the road from where our friend lived we had the most amazing view of Conwy and its castle. The castle is only open for pre-booked visits at the moment so we weren't able to go inside today, but we parked and had a stroll around the town anyway. The castle walls are really impressive. And the town itself is pretty too. We walked through a gate... ...which took us on a path around the outside of part of the castle walls. It reminded me a bit of walking around the castle walls in Carcassonne. And actually today it was sunny enough in Conwy to rival Carcassonne This was as close as we could get to the castle itself without a ticket to go in. It looked really impressive with its Welsh flags flying. We turned around and retraced our steps back towards the car park. As we did so we passed through a small underpass, which had a painted display of the word "welcome" in different languages. One part of the display caught Tim's attention. We do have a bit of a history of stumbling across Esperanto-related monuments in Europe, but I think this is the first time we've found an unexpected bit of Esperanto in the UK From Conwy it wasn't far to drive to Anglesey. Tim's dad's family are originally from here, so we visited the place where his grandad is buried, and then continued on towards Holyhead. We went on a camping trip to Wales in 2011, in preparation for which I think we bought a cheap guidebook to Wales from The Works. This book recommended a walk at Holyhead, which we definitely did part of back in 2011 and vaguely remembered as being nice, so we were planning to give it another go. The guidebook is quite old now but the instructions for how to find the car park were luckily still valid and we followed road signs towards South Stack, where there is an RSPB nature reserve. The car park was no longer free, as the guidebook suggested it would be, but it had one of those car parking machines which only takes coins (which we didn't have) and didn't offer any other options for payment. We decided to park anyway and hope for the best! We followed a gravel path from the car park, which led towards a tower that I think serves as the RSPB information centre. It seemed to be closed today anyway, so we figured we were probably okay with the parking. From alongside the tower we had our first view of the cliffs. While Holyhead is probably most famous for having a ferry port, the coastline here is really beautiful. We soon had a view of the South Stack lighthouse, which was built here in 1809 to warn boats about the cliffs. What you can't see in the photos is that the surrounding cliffs were absolutely covered in sea birds. It was one of those times when you really wish you had binoculars with you! I tried to take a very zoomed in picture on my phone to give some idea of how many birds there were, but it doesn't really do it justice. An information board we saw suggested that they would either be puffins or guillemots. From what we could see, they were black with white chests but we couldn't see any colourful beaks, so we think guillemots. After the cliffs the path continued, taking us up above the lighthouse. We climbed up to a viewpoint... ...from where we could look right down on it. The path then led around a corner, giving us a view of yet more cliffs. Although it was no longer a very sunny day, it was still really bright which is why I am pulling a funny face trying to keep my eyes open for this photo We walked towards the view for a bit longer... ...before turning around and retracing our steps back towards the car park. Luckily, when we got back to the car we hadn't acquired any sort of fine for not being able to pay for the parking! We set off on the drive back towards Ruthin, where Tim couldn't resist taking a video of the beautiful street we're staying on
After a day at home following our trip to Devon, we were ready to hit the road again. The destination this time was Wales and the small town of Ruthin. Not a part of Wales we are familiar with - or a town I'd ever heard of before to be honest - but options for accommodation were fairly limited when we were trying to book this break at short notice. I had done lots of advanced planning for our first break to Devon because I knew we weren't going to have any internet when we got there. We do have internet at the place we're staying in Ruthin, and so we're taking a more spontaneous approach and making up plans as we go. As a place to break the journey today, we decided to try the National Trust estate of Erddig, which is actually most of the way to Ruthin; a mere 20 miles away. We hadn't booked in advance, but it seems like it's possible to park in the car park and do some walks on the estate without actually going into the property anyway. All the estate walks are colour-coded and start from this dovecote, just outside the main car park. We decided to follow the purple trail, which was supposed to be a circular walk of around 3 miles, taking us through some woods. The path started by taking us past some beautiful fields. We turned a corner and had a view up towards Erddig Hall itself. Then we were in the woods. The estate was rather flat, so this was definitely one of the easier National Trust walks we've done recently It was quite a cloudy day, but it still felt very warm as we were walking. At some point we lost track of the purple waymarkers and started following red ones instead. They led us to this rather unusual water feature, known as the "cup and saucer". From there it wasn't too far back to the dovecote where we had started. We tried our luck getting into the property without a booking and enjoyed some ice-cream from the cafe, before setting out to explore the gardens. They were beautifully landscaped, with lots of trees and hedges. We walked right down to the bottom of the gardens, from where we had a view back up to the house. I think the house itself is closed at the moment and in general there didn't seem to be a lot of visitors in the gardens today. When we'd finished exploring we got back in the car for the short trip to Ruthin, where we checked into our cottage. It's really lovely - downstairs is a living room... ...and kitchen... ...while upstairs is the bedroom. It's really quiet too - it's completely set back from the road and you access it via a little passage, which leads into this garden area. We settled in to the cottage and then set out to explore Ruthin. The street which the cottage is off is really colourful. Just at the end of it is Ruthin Castle. It's a hotel today, but we walked up the driveway to have a look anyway. The main castle building looks fairly modern... ...but we found some of the ruins of the old castle too. As we wandered around we even caught sight of what looked like an ancient stone circle, admittedly on a bit of a smaller scale than the ones we'd seen in Scotland last summer Overall Ruthin seems like a really pretty town and I think we're going to have a fun few days staying here