Anglesey – Day Two – NCR5, Telford’s bridge, seaside resorts, caravan parks, a golf course, sand dunes and rumours of a ghost.

Penmon Point Lighthouse with Puffin Island . Anglesey’s most westerly point.

I’d packed up and was out of the campsite by 7:15 am. Another long, hot day was promised but before heading homeward, I visited the Penmon Point lighthouse; this is at the most westerly tip of Anglesey. I had hoped that it would be quite at that time of day but half a dozen camper vans had parked there overnight and several of them had managed to park as close to the shoreline as possible detracting and spoiling the natural beauty of the place.

A few people were around and the sounds that I heard were those of the waves lapping against the rocks and the tolling of the bell buoy ringing its sad lament out in the channel between the Puffin Island and the shore. Nearby, I also heard the calls of terns as they tried, in vain, to deter a dog walker from trespassing on their beach.

On the road back towards Beaumaris I had a scare as I hit a really nasty pothole whilst freewheeling downhill. This happened in a matter of seconds and I was just about able to regain control of my fully laden bike and prevent myself from hitting the tarmac. Had I hit the deck, it’s likely that the cost of an ambulance and my medical bill would have far exceeded the cost of the pothole repair.

View of the Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge from Thomas Telford’s Suspension Bridge.

I pass through Beaumaris once more with its splendid castle and soon cover the five miles to Menai Bridge. I cross the straits on Telford’s suspension bridge and entered the city of Bangor where unfortunately I got myself lost. Again, I find that I’m unable to understand the road signs due to my lack of understanding the Welsh language. I compensated for this by having a full English breakfast at the local Morrison’s supermarket with two pots of tea. It’s the best meal I’ve had on my journey and a third of the cost of the one that I hadn’t enjoy the previous evening.

From Bangor, national cycle route 5 (NCR5) contributes most of my route home and in fact passes within 100 yards of my door. At first NCR5 diced with the North Wales expressway and at one point it took me into the coastal hills giving me clear views back over the straits, to Penmon point, the lighthouse and Beaumaris castle. After a tea break at the Aber Falls tea room I passed through Penmaenmawr. NCR5 still kept the company of the expressway and here the road goes through a couple of tunnels, but the cycle path raises up and passes over the rocky outcrop for the first tunnel and then goes around the outside for the second tunnel.

This has to be one of the  most perfect coastal cycle paths. In my humble opinion. Near Penmaenmawr heading towards Llandudno with Great Orme on the horizon.

Beyond Llandudno junction I cut across the base of peninsular and head for Rhos on Sea. The next stage was perhaps one of the most enjoyable and easiest sections of all. For 16 miles I remained on the coastal path as it took me through Colwyn Bay, Rhyl and Prestatyn.  I was also fortunate to have the wind at my back. The cycling becomes easier despite the load that I carry I was clocking 12 to 14 miles per hour and only touching the brakes to slow down for pedestrians, other cyclist and dog walkers. I was still a long way from home but it’s almost a reward for the hard work, investment of energy, and sacrifice to the heat. This is a time that I will remember, and I’m happy and filled with the joy of cycling.

At Prestatyn, I pass through the local golf course, beyond that, I coast around the curves of the Presthaven Sands Beach Resort and after that; I follow a beautiful tarmacked path through the dunes at Talacre.  Along this section I am surrounded by the sound of grasshopper warblers among the scrub and bushes. This is a bird that I often hear during the spring and early summer months but have never seen. (A grasshopper warbler sounds like a fishing reel being drawn out.)

As I continue through the dunes I see the Point Of Ayr lighthouse. Both Lighthouse and Beach along with an Old English Sheep dog once featured in a 2011 TV advert by a famous paint manufacturer. The failure of the paints resilience now stands as a testimony to the winter storms. The lighthouse looks forlorn, lonely and unloved and it has a slight list towards the setting sun. Built in 1776 and decommissioned in 1884, it is reputed to be haunted by a former lighthouse keeper called, Raymond.

Point of Ayr lighthouse. Mainland Wales’s most northerly point.

I have a childhood memory of charging down these dunes. I also remember exploring derelict timber holiday chalets. Deserted for many years, they were slowly being reclaimed by the sand. On a nearby hillside and amongst the trees I also remember the sound of a bell ringing at Talacre Abbey which, at that time, belonged to a closed order of Benedictine nuns.

Point of Ayr was the site of one of the last mines in the North Wales coal field. Today, like many former industrial sites it has become a nature reserve.  As I follow the path through the evening dusk I see the silhouette of a man and a horse. As I get closer I discover that it is a sculpture representing a miner with a pit pony. The last pony retired in 1968 and the mine closed in 1996. Further on, there is a piece of pit winding gear, this has been modified and now stands as another monument to the past. Eventually, the cycle path leads me back to a road and I join the A548.

At 10 o’clock; I switch my cycle lights on. At Llannerch-y-Mor, I pass the silhouette of the Duke of Lancaster. This steam turbine ship has stood here for the last four decades. Its last role was as a Sealink car ferry shuttling across the Irish Sea. The road ahead of me is gloriously wide, flat, and quiet. The moon is up now and it is a full one in a clear night sky. The night was cool but not cold and although I was beginning to ache, I was still 20 miles from home. I felt like I was in a magical place as I headed towards Flint. I treasure and store each of these precious moments like childhood reminiscence. Beyond Flint, I countdown the towns as I press on through, Connah’s Quay, Shotton and Queensferry. At Drome corner, I join Sealand road, unlit, the road is dark but the full moon is all that I need as I cycle the remaining miles home.

I arrived home at one a.m. and it was to be another hour before I fell exhausted into bed. I’d covered 90 miles over 18 hours, a not so spectacular five miles an hour average. I slept well!

Anglesey – South Stack Lighthouse, Four Mile Bridge, Newborough Forest and Beaumaris. – Day One

When I add 35 lbs. to the weight of my bike, the hills become tougher. When I cycle on days with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, I know that I have committed myself to difficult conditions.  In late June, I took the early train to Holyhead intending to cycle home over two days. On my homeward journey, I wanted to seek out some notable landmarks and follow National Cycle Route number five (NCR5) that follows much of the North Wales Coast.

It was still cool when I got off the train at Holyhead. My first objective was the South Stack Lighthouse that stands at the base of Holyhead Mountain and alongside the RSPB reserve and sea bird colony.  This was to be the highest, but not necessarily the toughest climb of my journey.

South Stack Lighthouse. Holy Island. Anglesey’s, most Westerly point.

At the RSPB café, I was greeted by a handful of the choughs that live there. I locked my bike and walked down the hill until I reached the edge of the cliffs. The sound coming from the, predominantly guillemot, sea bird colony was like a loud mechanical hum. I scanned the cliffs hoping to see other species of bird. Maybe I was too late in the season because I was unable to spot any of the razorbills or puffins that know also nest and shelter on these cliffs.

Returning to my bike, I freewheeled down the hill and crossed over Holy Island passing alongside and through picturesque Trearddur Bay before crossing onto the main island at Four Mile Bridge. That’s the name of the village; the actual bridge is only 390 feet long.

I pass RAF Valley and reset my course towards my next intended lighthouse at Llanddwyn Island. The heat of the day continued to rise and I was soon starting to feel its effects. I discover that Anglesey is a difficult place to navigate. There is an absence of road signs at crucial crossroads and tee junctions and I had to consult my Ordnance Survey map at every turn. The road signs I did find were primarily in Welsh with place names that didn’t seem to relate to the names on my map. The coast is always a good navigation guide and as long as I kept it to my right, I knew that I was heading in the correct direction. The roads were narrow and quiet, the landscape was beautiful and pastoral and I occasional caught a glimpse of the sea. This made the journey more enjoyable. I wasn’t making fast progress but with increasing temperature and many hours of daylight still ahead, I needed to  pace myself. Cycling along these lanes I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of roads and places that I have not experienced before. As a believer, this is my expectation of Heaven.

View from Four Mile Bridge’s 390 foot long bridge.

I stopped for lunch seeking shade at a picnic site at the edge of the Newborough Forest. Here I reconsidered my original plan which had been to cycle the forest tracks to the Llanddwyn lighthouse. Considering the time and the tiredness caused by the heat and the many miles that I still needed to cover, I decide that I would have to give this one a miss.  By doing this, I was also giving myself a reason to come back to this beautiful place again. When I return, I’ll have more time to enjoy the place and savour the moment.

I cycled on, shadowing the Menai Straits towards my intended camp site close to Anglesey’s most easterly point. I increasingly had to stop for short breaks and was struggled with heat exhaustion. The mixture of sun lotion and perspiration was running into my eyes, making them feel increasingly tired. Eventually I came to a garden centre and café, Hooton’s Homegrown Coffee Shop, where I stopped for an hour to refreshed myself with a continuous supply of tea; six cups in total. The restorative power of tea must never be underestimated.

The Dawes Super Galaxy, that I use for touring. Thomas Telford’s Suspension Bridge crossing the Menai Straits in the background.

Back on the road, I stop briefly at a lay-by between Llanfair PG and the town of Menai Bridge to take in the iconic view across the straits towards the Suspension bridge. Anglesey is mainly flat, but my coastal journey is a series of gentle climbs, followed gradual downhill periods when I could choose between either freewheeling, or shifting up the gears and getting up some extra speed.

Beyond Menai Bridge town, I continued to shadow the straits as I headed toward Beaumaris. There I followed the road along the front and pass the splendid castle. Then I climbed again as I headed inland towards my pre-booked campsite at Kingsbridge Caravan and Camping Park. The site is immaculately kept and its owners were helpful and friendly. I erected my tent and sorted my stuff out before freewheeling back to Beaumaris for my evening meal letting the cooler evening air pass through my body.

Having cycled all day and not showered, I wanted somewhere where I could eat outside. Unfortunately, I did not follow the advice of the campsite owners and instead chose a nice looking restaurant on the front. My meal was poor and did not live up to my hard-earned appetite and after a twenty minute wait for a second pot of tea, which failed to arrive, I paid my bill and left.  In defence of the three members of front house staff, they were busy and their combined ages probably didn’t add up to mine! Management was conveniently absent.

Returning to camp I tried a different route back and visited St Catherine’s church at Llanfaes whose bell I’d heard earlier whilst I had been pitching my tent.  Back at the campsite, I had an amazing shower. After my day’s cycling, the use of the shower facilities alone was worth the cost of the pitch.

Settling down for the night, I lay in my tent listening to a tawny owl, only yards away. I haven’t seen an owl this year, but it’s always comforting to hear one so close. I came to the conclusion that it was a young one calling to be fed. Its call remained constant, at least until I fell asleep.

My Vango Banshee 200 tent. It’s a two man tent, so plenty of room for me and all my clobber.