THE sky was cloudy and the temperature warm as I returned to Malltraeth at some ridiculously early hour. The village shop, a strange mixture of newsagent and fish & chip shop, was open for the purpose of the former and I unashamedly purchased an ice cream to serve as my breakfast. This I sat and leisurely devoured, while enjoying a view of the estuary from the Cob. It was an excellent start to a day’s walk.
Anglesey Coastal Path
The Anglesey Coastal Path waymarks pointed inland into the village but the path soon departed from the road. A narrow and rather leafy path dropped me onto the north bank of the estuary and, for a short distance, I walked between the vast plane of mud and the houses that gazed upon it.
When the path next turned inland, it began to twist and turn, leading me though a linear maze that threaded between people’s properties. A path such as this could have been invasive but their privacy and mine were quite assured.
Eventually, the leafy labyrinth spat me out onto a public road, the sort of high-hedged narrow lane that seldom sees a vehicle. Half a mile or so later this road conveyed me to the village of Hermon, which sits on a hill beside a crossroads.
There, my Ordnance Survey map and the coastal path waymarks disagreed. The former thought that I should go straight on and through the centre of Hermon. The latter thought I should turn left. I decided to trust my OS Map, not because I thought it was correct — I assumed pretty much immediately that the coast path had moved since 2012, when the map was printed — but because I wanted to see something in the middle of Hermon.
It is, of course, the ruin of a windmill. Anglesey was at one time dotted with windmills, many of them erected for the Meyrick family, owners of the Bodorgan estate. This one, Felin Hermon, was no exception. It was constructed in 1743 and operated as a corn mill. Sold off in the 1880s, it continued working until about 1909.
Having both satisfied my curiosity and simultaneously been disappointed — I was expecting to see a different Anglesey windmill, having got the two confused — I duly headed off through the centre of Hermon in search of the footpath on my map. I found it where it should be, just outside the village, indicated by a local footpath sign but not by coast path waymarks.
Clambering over a stile, I set off in the direction of the footpath arrow via a field full of sheep. Beyond the sheep was a field full of corn, with only the narrowest of gaps around the edge. I duly edged my way around the field but could not find the way onwards. Eventually, I gave up and returned, through the sheep, to the road. There was another footpath further on and I resolved to try that one.
The second footpath was beyond the next settlement, the tiny village of Llangadwaladr, whose church is believed to have been a royal burial ground for the House of Aberffraw. My route between the two villages was my old friend the A4080, to the north of which I could see Llyn Coron (‘crown lake’), one Anglesey’s few natural lakes, as opposed to a man-made reservoir.
When I eventually reached it, the second footpath started quite promisingly by heading down the drive of a cottage — Tyddyn Rhydderch — and then past that building via a track. This came to an end at another field full of cereal, this time with no space at all in which to walk. The footpath sign nonetheless pointed through it and I sighed inwardly; some farmers hope that obliterating the footpath will deter people from using it. I refused to be deterred.
Keeping as close to one side as I could, I strode through the field, flattening a swathe down the edge of the field. An old cottage — Tyddyn-y-Crydd — sat in the middle of the field but it was in ruins and I had no fear of unfriendly eyes watching from its dark, unglazed windows.
Thorns & Prickles
The cornfield ended at a fence which, on inspection, turned out to have a stile buried under some brambles. An arrow marker upon it pointed across the next field, which was much like the first. Muttering and bramble-scratched, I stomped across this field also, my now dew-soaked trousers clinging tightly to my legs. Ears of wheat clung to the soaking cloth as though I had dipped myself in some sort of experimental diet muesli.
The third field had been left fallow but that didn’t make it easy going. If anything, the waist-high thistles were harder going than the wheat. I was getting pretty irritated by now, in more ways than one. I hardly glanced at the cattle in the next field but stomped past them muttering darkly. When I eventually rejoined the coast path at the edge of the Aberffraw Dunes (Tywyn Aberffraw), I was heartily relieved.
At this point a road across the dunes led directly to Aberffraw, which was my next destination. It would be about half a mile of easy going. Of course, had I stayed on the A4080, that would also have led me directly to Aberffraw. Far too easy.
Following the coast path waymarks, I struck out to my left, heading for the beach. I would reach Aberffraw in a mile and a half, having described three sides of a square.
The dunes were fixed and covered in marram grass. They were also covered in lots of tiny brown frogs, which hopped out of my way as I approached. The path clambered over the sand dunes and then dropped me onto the beach. It was still warm, though cloudy, and my feet were feeling tired. I therefore had no hesitation at all in taking my boots and socks off and paddling the final mile or so in the gently rippling waves.
At the far end of the beach I found the Afon Ffraw, whose banks led me to an old stone bridge erected in 1731. Its far side was occupied by Aberffraw.
Aberffraw is considerably older than its bridge and its modern obscurity belies its ancient importance. From around 860 through to 1170, this little village was the capital of Gwynedd and the place from which its royal house took its name.
Even after the capital moved to Rhuddlan, Aberffraw continued to hold some importance as the House of Aberffraw’s ancestral seat. The conquest of Gwynedd by Edward I of England put paid to that though and in 1315, just to really drive the point home, Edward had the old timber castle that served as the Royal Court (Llys) demolished in order to build Beaumaris Castle.
One might expect that with such a lofty history Aberffraw would be festooned with signs regaling tourists with its regal status but this was not the case. Pretty much, there was only the name of its pub — Y Goron (‘the Crown’) — to hint at what once was.
Y Goron appears to be a rather popular foodie pub and I completely failed to secure a table for lunch there. A restorative gin and tonic by the bar worked wonders though.
Once rested and refreshed, I followed the path along the slightly muddy north bank of the Afon Ffraw and then up onto a low cliff path with occasional descents to pebbly beaches. I paused at the low rocky headland of Braich Lwyd (‘grey arm’) in order to gaze across the sea to Gwynedd and the Llŷn Peninsula.
A pleasant cliff top amble followed, marred only by the dreadful noise of what sounded the Devil’s own swarm of mutant mammoth bees. And, being the Devil’s own bees, they were not dissuaded by the presence of St Cwyfan’s Church, which perches on the tidal island of Cribinau in a bay named (inevitably) Porth Cwyfan.
St Cwyfan’s Church
St Cwyfan’s was built sometime in the thirteenth century — it is known to have existed in 1254 — and was enlarged over the next couple of hundred years before then being abandoned and falling into disrepair.
Roofless and deteriorating rapidly by 1891, it was partly restored and then again during the 1970s. Forty-odd years on it desperately need some more work done. I doubt that it will be permitted to moulder indefinitely: the church is too popular for weddings and baptisms on account of its romantic location.
It wasn’t intended to be on a tidal island, however; erosion has accomplished that since the 1770s. Its wall was erected in the nineteenth century to try to prevent the gravestones from falling into the sea.
On the other side of Cribinau lay the small bay of Porth China, whose cliffs harboured ruined buildings left over from a local china clay industry. A footpath led up from the bay and diverted inland, around the fenced establishment which was the source of the giant bee noise. Sadly of course, there were no mutant bees, not even F1 hybrids. The noise from the Anglesey Circuit (Trac Môn) was entirely due to motor racing.
I made my way along a track that led to (or in the direction I was heading, from) what must be ether the most disappointing or exciting coastal cottage ever (Ty’n-twll, ‘hole farm’), depending on your level of motor racing fandom.
All the way along, the mighty buzzing filled my ears but the cars themselves were entirely screened from view. A herd of cows, long since deaf to engine noises, watched me incuriously as I passed.
By the time the track had become a proper road, I too had ceased to hear the racing cars — the noise was still there I’m quite sure but my brain was paying it no attention. It was at about this time that the footpath abandoned the road entirely and charged off across a field brimming with daisies, buttercups and dandelions in order to return me to the sea.
I found myself walking on an open grassy cliff top beneath a sky now showing more blue than clouds. There wasn’t really a path as such but that was okay as the going was about as rugged as taking a walk in the park.
Barclodiad y Gawres
Not only was the short grass and level ground easy underfoot but there was also a helpful lack of tiring hills. Indeed the only hill I could see was a very small one, which was suspiciously regular-looking in shape. This was a bit of a clue that it might not be natural.
The mound in question was Barclodiad y Gawres (‘apronful of the giantess’), the largest neolithic tomb in Wales.
Constructed sometime between 2500 and 3000 BC, probably as a public grave for a local farming community, the mound is of a similar age to the Great Pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge. It was excavated in the early 1950s and capped with a new concrete dome to protect it.
Sadly, this protection is necessary and, although it used to be open to the public, these days it can only be visited by appointment on account of people vandalising the stones inside with graffiti. Which means of course that I couldn’t see inside.
In one of those moments of perfect serendipity, I was standing on top of the mound, taking in the view when a voice called up:
‘You can look inside, if you want’.
The voice turned out to belong to a lovely young lady from Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service) who was waiting for someone else to show up for their appointment and figured a man with a Helpful Mammal on his t-shirt would hardly do any harm.
‘Ah good, you’ve got a torch,’ she said when I had retrieved it from my bag. ‘I forgot mine.’
The Tale of the Giants
The strangely poetic name ‘Barclodiad y Gawres’ comes from a local myth concerning two giants.
The giants, one male and one female, were travelling to Anglesey to build a house. The he-giant was carrying two large stones for the doorway while the giantess used her apron to carry smaller stones.
On the way, they encountered a cobbler and when they asked him how far it was to Anglesey, he decided to play a little joke. Indicating the many shoes for repair that were slung over his shoulder, he told the giants that he had worn them all out on his journey from there. The disheartened giants gave up on their travels and the giantess dropped all her stones, creating Barclodiad y Gawres.
Having thanked the young lady from Cadw, I hurried on my way along the low cliffs. Ahead I could see my destination of Rhosneigr, while in the far distance Holyhead Mountain jutted up from the horizon.
The last mile or so of my approach to Rhosneigr took the form of a path through low sand dunes, which were covered in marram grass. I was aware that I’d dawdled and so picked my pace up, as I had a specific train to catch.
The path, no respecter of urgency, meandered leisurely up dunes and down them before climbing the highest one it could find as a prelude to depositing me on the beach.
Rhosneigr turned out to be a fairly busy village with more than the usual share of cafés, pubs and hotels. It had been my plan to relax at one, some or all of those but now I had twenty minutes to get to the station and I had realised, somewhat belatedly, that Rhosneigr Station was over a mile away.
So, with regret, I had to forego my refreshment and make a bit of a last-minute dash in order to make my train in time.
I reached the station with eight minutes to spare, hot and quite out of breath. This was just enough time to pull on a clean t-shirt so as not to assault the noses of my fellow passengers and then I was aboard and heading home to London. The refreshment trolley served in lieu of Rhosneigr’s cafés…
This time: 12 miles
Total since Gravesend: 1,694 miles