Breakfast was a fairly lardy effort by all four of us. I was ready a few minutes early so I took the opportunity to dash 200 yards down the road to find This Daughter became a Conwy Valley tour guide and to take a couple of photos. It was quite a nice morning.
After we checked out of the hotel we headed off for Jimmy’s “main event” for the weekend, which was the drive around the Evo Triangle, which starts a little way back along the A5 from where we’d been the previous night. While we were having breakfast there had been a couple of hail showers and the remnants of it were still lying around on the ground. This, combined with Kip’s understandably tentative driving (in a car he’d only had for three days) meant that my ride around was somewhat more leisurely than Jimmy and Steve’s. The first stretch is really quite narrow and twisty. You can see why Evo Magazine tests cars up there, but I could also see why Kip wasn’t really testing his.
From here we hadn’t really got much of a plan other than to start heading south. We started by picking our way south through Blaenau Ffestiniog in the general direction of Portmeirion, where we stopped to refuel the cars. Blaenau Ffestiniog has some tourist trade associated with the slate mining industry, but this is fairly quiet in November. It also has the dubious distinction of being an island of non-park within the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. The village is surrounded (and completely dominated) by spoil heaps from the now defunct slate mines, which gives it a somewhat otherworldly feel. The National Park has a nice mix of colours, especially in Autumn, with grass, trees, coloured buildings, and so on. Blaenau Ffestiniog is predominantly grey in colour.
We’d sort of half planned to drive down the coast road from Portmeirion through Harlech to Barmouth but as we glanced at our watches while filling the cars up we decided instead that we ought to get a few more miles done while the driving conditions were good (i.e. while it was sunny and the roads were dry). So we just headed back up the main road and followed a series of winding A-roads all the way down to Aberystwyth. At one point we passed the now decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station – the only nuclear station ever built in the UK that’s not by the sea. This being Wales, they concluded that the lake they constructed to hold the cooling water would never empty enough to cause a problem.
I’m not sure what I expected to find in Aberystwyth, because I’ve never been there before. I was somehow expecting it to be a much bigger place than it was. It basically only has a couple of shopping streets in the middle with some housing estates around the outside and the rather large Aberystwyth University. The place is apparently a very long way from anywhere else, by UK standards, with the closest large settlements of note being Swansea (70 miles), Telford (75 miles) and Wrexham (80 miles). We stopped to have some lunch (well, coffee and cake) and a bit of a leg-stretch through the castle and down the sea front a little bit. At the castle I managed to sneak in an Earthache called Aberystwyth stone circle earth cache.
The important distance (from our perspective) in that list of places above was “Swansea (70 miles)”, or in our case, Gower Peninsula (86 miles). By the time we left Aberystwyth it was well after 3pm, so we were in for some driving in the dark. We picked our way down the coast initially through a seemingly endless succession of small villages, all of which were in the bottom of a steep hollow, followed by a steep climb out. I guess there’s a village here at every point where a stream flows out into the sea.
We eventually turned off the coast road and followed a bunch of smaller (but still A graded) roads down to Carmarthen. By the time we got there it was all but dark. At least there we picked up a decent dual carriageway that took us a good chunk of the way. By the time we got back onto the country roads leading into the Gower it was completely dark, and it was also chucking it down with rain. Methinks that both drivers were having a slight sense of humour crisis and just wanted to get parked up and get the beers in. I don’t blame them. They’d both been driving for about 5 hours over the course of the day.
We were staying at the King’s Head Inn at Llangennith, which proved to have some very nice bedrooms but a public area that was somewhat more basic than the Groes Inn, where we’d been the previous night. It wasn’t bad, it was just more of a pub than a restaurant.
We’d reserved a table for dinner for 7:30, but ended up in the bar well before 6 and started merrily helping ourselves to beer and food pretty much as soon as we got there. Stevie kept disappearing up the car park to fetch games out of Jimmy’s car. There was some cards and risk involved. And that was pretty much it for Saturday.