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Time out: A hidden pearl

by
21 April 2009

Where?

Criccieth, tucked into the armpit of the Lleyn peninsular at the top of Cardigan Bay.

Getting there

Take the M56 and M53 on to the A55 (the North Wales coast road). Turn left before the Menai Straits on to the A487 past Caernarfon, then right before Porthmadog, and take the B4411 to Criccieth. Alternatively, take the A5 west of Wrexham to Druid, the A494 to Bala, then head for Ffestiniog on the A4212 and B4391, and skirt Snowdonia. Both ap­proaches offer stunning views and stop-off points.

Why?

A pretty, unspoiled Welsh seaside town with two bays, sandy beaches, and an ancient castle.

What to see

Panoramic views from Criccieth Castle, with Harlech at the other side of the Galilee-like bay, framed by Snowdonia. A fantastic beach-walk from Morfa Nefyn reveals a seal colony frolicking on the rocks.

Near by

The Lleyn has beaches and moun­tains galore — an Iron Age fort with distant views of Anglesey is your reward for the steepest of climbs up the Rivals. But from Criccieth’s heights, it seems as if you could al­most touch Snowdonia, Harlech, Anglesey, Portmeirion (of The Prisoner fame), and Caernarfon.

For little more than the price of a car-park ticket, the Cambrian Rail­way will snake you around Cardigan Bay. The Ffestiniog narrow-gauge railway, based at Porthmadog, scrambles high into the mountains.

Refreshments

The fish and chip shop in the shadow of Criccieth Castle takes some beating. The Bron Eifion Hotel just outside Criccieth offers the best meals for 100 miles. Poveys, a little butchers’ in Chwilog, sells saltmarsh Welsh lamb, and rowan jelly that melts in the mouth.

Child-friendly?

A beach, a castle, mountains, seals, two railways: this is child heaven. And not an amusement arcade in sight.

High points

Ancient saints have travelled through this land of holy wells and hermit­ages: their prayers to “such a fast God” seem soaked into the soil and the “blank sea” — phrases from that modern-day saint R. S. Thomas, who ended his days at the end of the Lleyn, watching over Merlin’s Bard­sey Isle for migrating birds to return in the spring.

Low points

The narrowest finger of land jutting into the Irish Sea tends to be the first hit when rain billows in from the west. But sometimes the clouds circle the mountains like a halo. Head for watersports-free beaches at busy weekends to avoid a redivivus Donald Campbell bouncing on the waves. For a fortnight in summer there is a beach mission; so prepare to have the gospel loud-hailed at you as you seek refuge beneath the waves.

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