“It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales!” -Robert Bolt
I’ve made it clear enough at this point that I love London, but am I really a city girl at heart? This city (London, that is) is easier than others with its history and cozy weather and the fact that I live very much on the outskirts; but I would have to say that I am definitely a country girl at heart. I made it a priority to bring my camping gear with me when I moved, and considering how many outfits that cost me I wasn’t about to waste away the autumn term without a trip.
With the cold weather fast approaching, I figured I had better make my move, so this weekend I stuffed my pack, laced my boots, and set off for the North Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
Wales is kind of a funny place.
It’s part of the United Kingdom, and you don’t need a passport to get there (we make a bigger deal out of entering a new county in the states than their roadsigns do of entering Wales), but it is definitely a different culture. It’s like the Midwest of the UK. People are friendlier yet also a bit more rough-and-tumble.
My plan was to, via two trains and a bus, make my way to Newport on Friday. There are actually two Newports in Wales, and I visited both of them. There’s a big city just across the border from England where I changed trains, and then there’s the tiny little town on which I set my sights along the northern coast of Pembrokeshire, the first place anybody recommended when I mentioned visiting Wales. I managed to make it there without any kind of difficulty.
Once I got there, it was raining. Not a driving rain; not even a shower by American standards. It was really more of a mist. I knew it was supposed to rain more that night though, so I wan’t thrilled about pitching my tent, but the campsite, called Morawelon, was absolutely beautiful
(stupid me got zero pictures of it). I got there and paid my £6 fee (which is about $9), and I started talking with Nikki, the woman who owns the place with her husband. She found out all of my plans and promised to check up on me since I was alone. Then she told me that she and her husband keep a nice tent up in case they ever want to stay there, but they were going home that night and I was welcome to use it so I didn’t have to set up camp in the rain. I obviously accepted, and walked into this tent to see an actual bed (!!) all set up. My sleeping bag performed like a champ, so I had a nice warm night in Newport.
The next morning is where my plans went off the rails.
The idea was to hike from Newport to Cardigan. It’s the most difficult part of the trail, but anyone who has done any kind of real hiking in the states would be fine just about anywhere in Wales (maybe with the exception of Snowdonia, I’ve read). Typically people complete the section in about 6 hours. I gave myself about 9, which I felt would compensate for being slower and possibly stopping for lunch.
I started out around 8, and while it was raining lightly it wasn’t even bad enough for me to need more than a hat. I got about 20% of the section done in about an hour (so WAY ahead of schedule, though some of the more difficult parts were still ahead), but then it started pouring rain. We’re talking driving, heavens-opening, pack-soaking kind of rain. Being a coastal path, there wasn’t much shelter. I was actually blown over walking across a golf course on part of the trail. I reached a small shelter by a beach to compose myself and make sure my phone charger was safely stored deep within my pack. I thought about continuing, but the seaside cliffs can get slippery, and if I was blown over just on a golf course imagine what could happen to me up there. The forecast had predicted rain most of the day, but I assumed it was like London rain, which is never much more than a drizzle. It turns out that Wales is a bit rough-and-tumble in more than one way.
I made the decision to quit while I was ahead.
I had seen some really lovely sights, and it was time to admit defeat. There was a car coming down the road, so I waved it down to ask for directions to the nearest town. They offered me a lift and
ended up taking me back to Newport, where I holed up in a little cafe for a while for breakfast (it was still only about 9!). I then took the bus to Cardigan instead.
Cardigan is cute, and it’s bigger than Newport, but there’s honestly not that much to do. The castle is unimpressive, though it was apparently the place where Lord Rhys hosted the first Eisteddfod in 1176, which is a festival literature, poetry, and music that has caught on internationally over the last couple of centuries.
I stopped in a small used bookshop on the High Street, and I started talking with Peter, the proprietor. He was the one who told me about Eisteddfod, and he even recited some poetry he had written about Cardigan. It was beautiful. About twenty minutes into our conversation, noticing my obnoxiously large pack for what strangely seemed to be the first time, he asked where I had stayed, and it turns out that Nikki (campsite lady) is his youngest daughter. Small freaking world. Actually, small country, but that’s beside the point.
Next stop: Cardiff.
I decided to head to Cardiff early so that I could walk around a bit more. I knew I needed to be up really early to catch my bus back to London, so I was excited to have some more cushion where I might actually be able to see the city. I went to the world’s oldest record store, Spillers Records, and bought myself a record before remembering that I don’t have a record player with me in England, but oh well. Looks like I’ll be bringing home a souvenir. I ate dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant on the high street, then retreated to my hostel by 7 to cozy up with a book and a gin and tonic.
Well, cozy might be the wrong word here. The hostel (The Bunk House) was incredible. It was not only clean, but it was also really fun. The whole place had this shabby chic vibe, with picnic tables and umbrellas set up inside, big comfy couches facing each other, and even some twin beds set up for people to lounge on. There were fairy lights strung all over the ceiling and paper cranes hanging down in between them. The music was good, the drinks were cheap, and the staff was super friendly. I ended up meeting two girls who also live in London, one named Jenny (an au pair from Germany) and one named Camille (a grad student from Quebec).
The next morning I woke up bright (actually still really dark) and early to catch my 6am bus back to London. I learned that 5:30am on a Sunday is the absolute worst time to walk along the High Street of any city, because the only things there are trash, vomit, grumpy public service employees, and people still too drunk to find their way home. But it was still Wales, and so the city was still somehow quite kind to me, even in the gross mess of a Sunday morning.
So that’s it!
That is the recap of my wonderful if not entirely as-planned 48 hour trip to Wales. I have some great, more specific recommendations if anyone would like them, so don’t be afraid to comment or contact!
(Also, if by some chance the homie working the checkout counter this morning who talked to me about Deadpool reads this, use the bloody contact form, please.)