Friday, 23rd July 2021
Today Stuart (@LoneWalkerUK) and I started section hiking the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way. It’s a different kind of trail to what we’d normally hike insomuch as I chose this particular route. Normally I’m happy for Stuart to decide where we go, however I’d wanted somewhere other than the Yorkshire Dales (Stuart’s favourite hiking area) for a while so I decided on this relatively new trail.
Centuries ago, pilgrims in their thousands were finding their way to Bardsey Island, drawn there by stories of the special peace to be found at the edge of the western world – drawn to the place of the setting sun, with only the vast ocean between them and the unknown. 1,500 years ago St Cadfan had founded a Christian community there. In the Middle Ages, two pilgrimages to Bardsey were considered as good as one to Rome. And that sense of a sacred place draws pilgrims there still. Today a route crossing North Wales has been mapped and waymarked, linking ancient churches dedicated to the saints of the 6th century whose gentle faith, entwined with a sense of thebeauty and wonder of nature, still echoes with us today.https://www.pilgrims-way-north-wales.org/index.html
Here’s the GPX track I recorded showing today’s route. (Pinch and zoom for more detail).Download file for GPS
Glorious weather started the day and continued throughout, both delighting and draining us in equal measure as we hiked almost 15 miles today. Water wasn’t a problem, we’re both experienced hikers in all weathers and terrain, however Stuart was especially pleased as he’d been able to freeze some of his water the night before. As I’d travelled to Wales the previous evening I hadn’t had a similar chsnc. He delighted in tormenting me with his “It’s so cold!” and “Sooo refreshing!” comments throughout the day as I sipped my tepid water.
We were mainly walking field boundaries and it soon became obvious this wasn’t a well travelled route. Nettles were a constant and painful reminder that my decision to wear shorts probably wasn’t wise in hindsight. However Stuart’s remarks (slightly mockingly I thought) about his wearing trousers was the right decision were soon short-lived. They afforded him virtually no protection and it wasn’t long before he was cursing the nettles too! At least my legs were cool and didn’t have trousers rubbing against the nettle stings hehehe.
Part of the reason for my wanting to hike this particular trail was because it celebrates the heritage of those Celtic saints whose stories are lost in the mists of time but whose memory reverberates in ancient churches and at holy wells along the way. I have a passion for ancient religious monuments, churches and the lives of the saints and it was a joy to discover a 12 foot high cross at Maen Achwyfan – a thousand years old, carved with Celtic knotting and still standing enigmatic and isolated in the middle of a field, with its mix of Christian and pagan symbols.
But it wasn’t all nettles, heat and monuments. There were moments of levity too as this Tweet from Stuart shows. (Yes that’s me ‘posing’ for a silly picture. My shorts aren’t THAT short thoug – I was simply showing some #manleg lol)
And then there was the unexpected joy of discovering a café called Doris’s Bunker, a charity run café who’s profits go towards rehabilitating abused dogs. We had only a mile previously experienced the disappointment of not finding a pub, shop or similar establishment where we could purchase refreshments in the only village of any size on today’s route. So imagine the delight at stumbling across this oasis that served ice cold drinks, cakes and sausage butties! Perfection.
To summarize the first day hiking the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way I’d say it was not an especially scenic part of the trail although there were a couple of pleasant views. The regular encounters with nettles, and fields where inconsiderate farmers had decided to plant Maize across the public rights of way, made for painful and frustrating times occasionally too. However, the weather was glorious, the company of my hiking companion is always welcome and moments of laughter and surprises ensured I enjoyed the day overall. Let’s see what tomorrow brings as we prepare for day 2.
Click here for more information about the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way
A few photos of the day’s walk.