Friday 22 June
After leaving Hardwick Hall we hit one of the notorious traffic jams on England’s motorways but fortunately are soon able to head off cross country towards Stoke and the slow roads to our hotel, Lake Vrynwy in North Wales, narrowly being missed by a board that flew off a passing van somewhere near the Wales border.
Our Sat Nav seemed to have a mind of it’s own in getting us to the hotel via a single track road for part of the way.
Saturday 23 June
After a restful night in our somewhat antiquated room but with a fabulous evening sunset view breakfast is a traditional Welsh with again stunning views over the lake.
We set off in bright sunshine on a drive to Barmouth where we had been many years ago on a rail excursion from Hertfordshire.
It was quite busy today with beachgoers and walkers a plenty enjoying the summer sun but we did find a small area that was not crowded and this time we probably spent less time there than anticipated as parking was a bit difficult and we wanted to go on to some new places.
Harlech was just up the coast road and surprisingly, parking was not a problem. The cafe at the castle was a find and can be recommended as can the beer they sell in the castle shop as takeaways.
Sadly, no sight though of any male voice choirs singing “Men of Harlech”, that very Welsh song I used to sing with The Harmony Men in Jersey.
Our route back to the hotel passed nearby the Ffestiniog Railway at Tan-y-Bwlch station where, having heard the sound of a train approaching from a distance we wait for some photographs of the little Ffestiniog train which is quite full but disgorges a good number of passengers who probably are there to take the next train back to Porthmadoc.
And to think that 45+ years ago this was just a fledgling tourist attraction which we travelled on during our honeymoon. Look at it now.
Sunday 24 June
Start off after another substantial Welsh breakfast with a view to driving around Lake Vrynwy with a stop at a picnic area where we see some wood carvings stuck onto rock – maybe something from the village submerged back in the 1880s – and some wonderful trees and views.
We have some time before the England’s next World Cup football game so make a detour over a very narrow and windy road to the town of Bala for a coffee over some long and steep hills.
Just before a long drag down from the pass we find a young girl stranded in her car half on the road and half in the ditch with the car at an angle of about 30 degrees.
Fortunately several bikers had just arrived on the scene and with their muscle and the moving of a couple of boulders to make a ramp she was soon on her way, probably somewhat embarrassed but at least her car was intact and the recovery vehicles weren’t needed.
(We passed her again – quite coincidentally – on our return from Bala and she reversed up this time, one lucky lady)
Onwards to Bala, a bustling little town for a coffee & cake – our lunch – at Y Cyfnod, before heading back a different way to the hotel to watch England’s 6-1 hammering of Panama.
A drive around the southern part of the lake after the football, stopping off at several vantage points to view the large trees, the large picnic tables and the river running into the lake under a bridge – all very photogenic in the wall to wall sunshine .
We had been recommended to this hotel some years ago by a friend whose son was married at the hotel which had been chosen, amongst other reasons for the view and I must say, I could never tire of seeing this view from the hotel on a clear day – we were so lucky with the weather.
Monday 25 June
A long drive in the heat from North to South Wales, a slow journey through Aberystwyth, and single A roads that are not conducive to fast travel.
We stop for lunch at Aberaeron asking a local (with not a particularly Welsh accent) for recommendations before our onward journey to Roch Castle for a coupe of nights.
Roch Castle is a 12th-century castle, located near Haverfordwest and was built by a Norman knight, Adam de Rupe in the second half of the 12th century, probably on the site of an earlier wooden structure.
It was extended and converted to a hotel, opening in 2013.
It only has 6 bedrooms which by the very design of the castle, are all somewhat quirky.
The lounge is on the first floor with an outdoor area for viewing the surrounding countryside, above which are 4 other bedrooms and a spa room on the top floor although our room was on the lower ground floor which in turn had to be accessed from below. Strange layout but somehow it worked.
Dinner tonight at a sister hotel in St Davids with some interesting artwork to which we are taken and returned by the hotel provided minibus.
Tuesday 26 June
A day to explore St Davids and of course its Cathedral. St Davids is the United Kingdom’s smallest city in terms of both size and population (1,841 in 2011) and is the final resting place of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales.
Inside the cathedral, the ceiling, stained glass and flooring were exceptional and there was a lot to see – very calm and collected in there of course.
In fairness, there is probably not a lot else to St Davids other than the Cathedral and the adjacent ruins of St Davids’ Bishop’s Palace which is not free to go into.
Now, anyone with an english language background will be puzzled as to the spelling of the Cathedral.
The official website of the cathedral has no apostrophe but Google Maps and Wikipedia has it with an apostrophe. Which is right?
We then head off via Haverfordwest to Fishguard which, just outside, has a good viewpoint at Fishguard Fort.
A meal tonight at the Cambrian Inn at nearby Solva which has a wonderfully protected harbour and some Lime kilns with lots of moored yachts in the harbour and many canoeists.
Of course we get a good view of the sunset from the castle balcony although we are reminded that the sun does not always shine in Pembrokeshire!
Wednesday 27 June
Yes, we would return there if we could and stay at both hotels but let us hope the weather is not quite as hot as it was on our very long drive eastwards in the scorching heat – it reached 30C – to Reading (with a brief drive around Tenby – couldn’t park so didn’t stop) for our overnight and a catch up with Flic, Gary and Cody.
Thursday 28 June
Another very hot day and we are calling in on friends Pete and Lorraine in Woodford for a catch up with lunch in nearby Buckhurst Hill.
Friday 29 June
Another very hot day and we drive down to Steyning where we used to live 30 years ago to visit friends Bob & Di.
Their middle daughter, Toni, has recently become engaged and we are fortunate enough to be there for her engagement party.
Her party is held in a pub just over the road from Brighton Station, the Grand Central public house.
Sadly, our goddaughter, Alex, could not be there but hopefully we will be able to catch up with her soon.
A nightcap back in Steyning and a chance to see the resident badger.
Saturday 30 June
Our plan was to go to Clearwell to check the decorating and garden, talk to the caretaker and collect something from the loft for Flic.
However, we changed so that we could meet Flic, Gary and Cody at Amesbury, Wiltshire for some house hunting, electing to defer our visit to Clearwell for three weeks later.
After struggling in the traffic jams around Worthing and Chichester, we then managed to get into a traffic jam outside Salisbury which took us 80 minutes to travel just over a mile.
Missing one house, we then take Cody to a park at Amesbury for a couple of house before ending our stay in a local pub for a drink before we head for Huntingdon for tonight’s stay at the Holiday Inn racecourse which is a bit difficult to locate but well appointed with wonderful views over the racecourse.
It is still 24C at virtually 10pm when we get to the hotel!
Only afterwards we discover that the hold up in Salisbury was probably due to the discovery in Amesbury of two individuals who had been poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent that had also poisoned two Russians in Salisbury a couple of months previously.
Both individuals have a strong link with Salisbury and sadly one of them died a week later.
Part of the investigation included Boots (the UK store) at Amesbury where I had tried to visit whilst there (it was closed). Scary times.
Sunday 1 July
A visit to Sally’s brother, Nick and his family in Cambridge for a catch up although due to a family funeral, they had met in Surrey earlier this month.
Both Peter and Paul were in so it was time to catch up with them and their respective studies.
A long drive tonight to our overnight at Liverpool (Crowne Plaza at the Airport), an Art Deco building with an aviation history and which had served as the main Airport building many years ago.
We hadn’t stayed here before but on the basis of our stay, think it will be on the list for a repeat visit.
(I had possibly been through the building in the very early 1960s with my Mum & Dad on a family holiday to the Isle of Man)
Monday 2 July
The end of a somewhat varied experience in Yorkshire, Wales, Sussex and Cambridgeshire with a mid morning ferry home after an indifferent breakfast at the hotel and prepare for a visitor for a few days.