Day 21: Bradford to Leyburn – 91km and 1450m of climbing.

Early Sunday morning is generally a lazy time for us but when we are travelling, Sunday is much like any other day. We rose early and packed up. Jane kindly got up to see us off, but this is not a time on a Sunday which works well for her – so thanks for the effort!

The first few km were through the Bradford suburbs, with houses getting larger and the number and size of the cars increasing as we headed away from the city centre. The road ambled up and down, and then we descended towards Shipley, near where we were yesterday. Then up and out onto a farmland area with the moors in the distance. The pictures speak for themselves, but it was stunning country.

After about 15km we came to Ikley, which was just setting up for what looked to be a brilliant food festival – almost as good as the ones we have in Bewdley. There were stalls selling hot and cold food, cheese, wine and pastries. If it had been 15km further on we would have stopped and indulged, but we felt we had only just got going and it was too early to stop. So with a heavy heart, we cycled past all the stalls without stopping. Possibly a mistake? We will never know.

Then we joined a quiet, undulating road towards Bolton Abbey. It was quiet of cars but busy with MAMILS – middle aged men in lycra on expensive cycles, going much faster than us. Some were in ‘trains’ where everyone was wearing the same kit! About 95% men and all fully kitted out, strava was no doubt engaged and heads down. I hope we did not lower the tone too much but there is no doubt ‘Yorkshire cycles’ – we must have seen several hundred cyclists over the morning.

We reached the impressive remains of Bolton Abbey after 30km, and stopped for a bacon and egg buttie and coffee – totally fit the bill. Then we ambled around the site for an hour, but could not go in the church because there was a service going on.

The Abbey must have been magnificent and a rival for the more famous Fountains Abbey (on the other side of the Dales) in its heyday. It was dissolved by Henry VIII in the dissolution of the monasteries in 1519. Once we saw how powerful it must have been, we understood why Henry felt he had to remove this alternative source of power in his country.

Then we ambled through the Dales for the rest of the day. Pictures are better than words at this point, but it was the end of half term and, as we followed the Wharfe valley, families were everywhere having fun in the river, cycling, walking and lazing in the sun. The Dales felt like a playground for the surrounding towns – well used and much loved.

Our route took us up a steep climb but, after seeing a sign which warned of 25% gradients, we decided to take a longer but less challenging route which took us up and into Wensleydale. We searched for Cranberries but saw none – a joke for Pippa.

We finally got to the campsite about 5. Once we had set up we went for a walk and spent 15 minutes watching a group of curlews, flying around, screeching to each other in their distinct call and generally (we assume) protecting their nests in the long grass from intruders (and they may have thought we were in that category). Their flight was low, fast and accurate. It was a total privilege to observe them, but we moved on in case we were the cause of their angst.

A long day but brilliant one which we will always remember for the views of the Dales.

Day 20. Day off on Bradford.

It was great to spend sometime with Jane ‘in the flesh’ so to speak, after 15 months on zoom. We dawdled about in the morning looking out over the amazing panorama of Bradford from her front window, writing up the blog from the last few days now that we had a working keyboard.

In the afternoon Jane took us to Salt Mills, an enormous mill building converted into a shops and arts complex in the village of Saltair. We spent a lovely time browsing through an eclectic selection of books laid out on tables covering art, photograph and a whole range of other arty type subjects. All around the walls were David Hockney paintings, a born and bred Bradfordian.

Some of the books of photographs were beautiful but we had to resist buying – maybe another time. We looked around an exhibition a Yorkshire artist, name forgotten at the moment, who had a quirky take on Yorkshire landscapes (and life in general). We then had walk along Shipley Glen and had ice creams looking over the views.

In the evening we went out to an Indian restaurant in the centre of Bradford (the International), full of families and humming with life. The people watching was as good as the eating – and that was excellent.

A great day off and we really warmed to Bradford – a city without pretensions where the people are the thing. Still being tired from yesterday, we were in bed by 10.

Day 19: The ‘big one’ – Macclesfield to Bradford: 90km and 1800m of climbing

The first thing to say about today is that the title of this blog post is not an error. In all previous cycling days, we have maxed out at 1600m of climbing but today was a new peak, namely 1800m. That is over a mile straight up! No wonder we felt tired at the end of the day. But it was also a magnificent day’s cycling and one we will remember for a long, long time (as will our thighs and calves of course).

We got an early get away from Chris and Marilyn’s and plodded uphill and then down to Bollington and the wonderfully named Pott Shrigley. From there we began one of the classic climbs of the Peak District, namely the ‘Old Brickworks’ climb up and over to Whaley Bridge. It is ranked as one of the best 500 climbs in the UK according to one cycling website – which does not seem much! But at 8am it was lovely in the cool, sunny morning.

We then descended to Whaley and had a look at the house our son, Ant, is buying (from the outside) and were fed coffee and croissants by Chris and Kate Jeffrey as we met their delightful son, Aaran (hope I got the spelling right).

With a heavy heart we left them at about 10 and traversed the outer reaches of the Manchester conurbation, and climbed some really steep hills to Higher Chisworth which gave us amazing views. By the time we got to 1pm, we had reached Greenfield and had done over 1000m of climbing – our usual marker for a tough day. The Greenfield Cafe had everything a cyclist needs – good coffee and an all day breakfast.

That set us up for the next 340m climb up to Saddleworth Moor (of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley infamous recollection). We knew this route so well as it was where Ant climbed most of the height of Everest when doing a charity cycle ride last year. We climbed it once but he did this about 20 times! It was steep at the bottom but then we plodded up at about 4% to 6%, with the spectacular scenery developing with each turn of the pedals.

Not a place to linger on the top, a few photos and then a steep descent into Meltham. We were now into South Yorkshire and passed through a few towns before we spent 20 minutes in the sunshine having tea and cake in Huddersfield. People watching is a fascinating pastime the world over, and Huddersfield is no exception. We sipped tea, felt weary limbs and watched the area’s colourful cast of characters taking a gander at us as the passed by, some arguing with each other and some making up publicly from arguments. In our cycle shorts, bikes with panniers and looking older than we had a right to in lycra, I suspect we were equally part of other people’s people watching afternoons.

Back on the bikes and the last 30km to Bradford was mostly on main roads, with intermittent cycleways. Finally we coasted down the hill towards Bradford city, only to find Jane (Bernie’s sister) lives up a series of steep hills on the other side. It was 2 pretty dishevelled looking individuals who turned up on her doorstep seeking hospitality, but she was welcoming and it was great to see her. A hot shower, a beer and 3 burritos life things were looking up – but we cannot have been the greatest company at dinner!

Day 18. Oswestry to Macclesfield. 99km 380m climbing

Today was our longest but also our flattest day. Very different to our cycling of our last few days – distance is covered so much faster on the flat. It was also a day that split neatly into thirds.

Our first section took us through pleasant back lanes to Whitchurch and a coffee stop.

This was near to home territory for us so it was coffee shop we had frequented on previous rides. The second section took us to Nantwich, which merged seamlessly into Crewe. Having only experienced Crewe train station before I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised but unfortunately this was not the case as we found ourselves cycling along a busy ring road. At least they had cycle lanes so were trying their best to be cycle friendly. After 10 miles of urban cycling we were at last back out into the countryside and had our picnic on a bench overlooking a duck pond. We watched a pair of Moorhens diving down and coming back up to feed their 3 chicks and aggressively chasing away any Mallards that strayed too near their offspring.

Finally, the Cheshire plain petered out and there were hills ahead. We made a small diversion to Biddulph Grange gardens. These were created by one of those creative Victorian eccentrics who built an Italianate villa and gardens to plant his collection from all over the world – so there was a Himalayan section, Japanese section, Egyptian section etc, including fake temples and sphinxes. Utterly bizarre but the gardens were beautiful and the wide range of Rhododendrons in full bloom. The Italianate villa largely burnt down and the central part replaced by the gruffer grey/lack stone that is much more characteristic of the area. It only remained a family home for a few decades then went through various iterations. It was a children’s hospital from 1923-1960 and then an orthopaedic hospital until the National Trust took it over in 1988 and started to restore the gardens. After partaking of the NT tea room (including cake of course), we spent a very pleasant hour wandering around.

Revived we were into our last section to Macclesfield. Our legs were reminded that hills existed but we also had a fun flat section along the Macclesfield Canal tow path – including the Bosley Lock flight.

We did not quite make the ‘ton’ as we rolled up to our friends Chris and Marilyn, clocking 99.1km! It had been a great day and we had another wonderful evening. It has been such a great way to catch up with old friends. We first met Chris and Marilyn in 1988 on a trek in Ladakh in northern India. We were with old friends, discussing issues affecting the world and rediscovering things we had in common as we surveyed the state of nations. Although we have not seen each other a great deal in recent years, we immediately felt at home with them. This trip has been a wonderful way of reestablishing contact with people who are important to us.
It was great to open a bottle of champagne with Chris and Marilyn as an early celebration for their 50th wedding anniversary.

Day 17: Bala to Grimpo, near Oswestry: Not very far and not too much up!

I was woken by the birds at 5.30 and crept up to avoid waking Bernie. I brewed up a cup of coffee and then spent a glorious hour reading on my own, listening to the birds. I was reading ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler and was lost in a world of 1950s America whilst sitting on a stone in a Welsh campsite.

Bernie woke up and we packed up and left within an hour or so. The first part of the day involved a climb up to the highest point of the Berwyns. These are less visited mountains than the Snowden range to the north but are lovely in their remoteness. The top point of the road was 500m up, and the moorland stretched out on all sides for miles. This was the site of a supposed UFO landing in January 1974, but the event is now put down to a combination of a small earthquake, a meteor shower and lights from poachers who were up on the mountain at night. Well, that is the official story at least!

I stopped at the top to allow Bernie to catch up. She had delayed to take pictures on the way up and so it was a few minutes before she joined me. Whilst waiting I was approached by a man who was sitting having a coffee outside his campervan. He was a Polish guy who had lived in the Lake District for 18 years and took himself off to mountain bike in remote parts. Like us, those remote parts outside the UK were cut off from him so he was exploring his adopted country. We chatted, exchanged views on cycling saddles and on life on the road. A lovely encounter – ending with us both wishing each other well in our travels.

The descent was, of course, short but exhilarating as we dropped 300m into the Tanant Valley. This valley is less than 1km wide but it gently drops from the Berwyn mountains into the Shropshire plains. It has a long and interesting history as it was the route for armies fighting between the English and the Welsh over centuries, as well as having religious foundations dotted through the valley. The road was quiet and we motored along in the sunshine, aided by a slightly tail wind and the slightly downhill.

At the end of the valley we re-emerged into England, but with a renewed appreciation of the beauties of Wales. There is so much more to explore in Wales and we look forward to doing so in future years as it is on our doorstep.

We by-passed Oswestry and headed to long standing friends who live in the village with one of the best names in England, Grimpo. We had estimated our arrival time at between 3 and 4pm, so were slightly embarrassed to arrive an noon, but nothing phases them. We then sat in their garden to recover after our 42km ride – not as long as previous days but just what was needed after a few mega days in the saddle.

The rest of the day was a total delight; catching up with people we had not seen for 18 months, swapping stories about what was happening to our lives and theirs, and increasingly what our respective children were doing as they forged their way in the world as adults.

We also did a rationalisation of our kit, sending a parcel home containing the computer, after using it to write the previous day’s blog (we are always at least one day behind). We had ordered a new portable keyboard so we could write the blog on the tablet – but it later proved not to work. That explains the delay in posting this blog – apologies to regular readers. We are now in Bradford (day off with Bernie’s sister Jane), have a keyboard that works and so will spend part of today catching up on the last few days.

Day 16. Friog to Lake Bala. 43km. 380m climbing

We were really well rested  after our stay at Panteinion Hall but our legs were still tired after several stiff days so we planned a shorter half day to Bala. We don’t usually plug specific places on our blog but I would definitely recommend Panteinion Hall. 

Panteinion Hall
The view from Panteinion Hall

The setting was amazing and soaking in the log fired hot tub yesterday evening looking out over the tree-scape of the valley to the sound of the nearby waterfall and birds singing was blissful. It sent every muscle in my body to jelly! The whole place was very comfortable and restful ….but time to move on again!

The first section was along 9 miles of the Mawddach trail – a lovely track along the estuary to Dolgellau.  We stopped to watch herons and passed numerous family cycling groups coming in the opposite direction.  A great place to get your biking legs.

Heron on the estuary

Dolgellau is one of my favourite towns in Wales and well set up for our needs.  It  was busy but not heaving.   We managed to get a patch for the small hole in our flysheet and a new bottle cage to replace David’s split one within the space of a couple of hundred meters, and chatted to the friendly and helpful man who ran Dolgellau Cycles.

The route to Bala was along a main road – never a great prospect but we needed a short route with not too much climbing.  The road was not too busy and the climb was relatively gradual but I was finding it really tough.  My legs were really telling me they had had enough!  However after a rest by a babbling little river and a large handful of jelly beans I revived – mainly because the wind switched from a head wind to a tail wind.

Over the top of the hill and down towards Bala, and we were able to turn off the main road in order to cycle up the quiet side of the lake. Still there were quite a few cars bon this tiny road, but it is half term and sunny so its not surprising that lots of people are out and about.

A tranquil brook on the way between Dolgellau and Bala

We were at the campsite in time for a late lunch.  Pleasantly surprised that the nearest campsite to the town and very close to the lake was a quiet, smallish, grassy simple site – plenty of hot water in the shower a marker for 5 stars in or book.

The aim for the afternoon was to rest and revive our tired legs so we pottered about the campsite then ambled into Bala for an ice cream, which we ate looking at everyone else being very active on the lake – canoes, swimming, windsurfing, paddle boarding and lots and lots of children having a great time in the water.

As we strolled back a couple of runners passed us babbling away in an incomprehensible language.  I commented that I had heard more foreign languages in Bala than anywhere else; until David pointed out that they were speaking Welsh and we were the foreigners here!

Day 15: Llanrhystud to Friog: 87km and 1100m of climbing

Prior to today, we had covered 966km so, after 34km today, we got into 4 figures by covering 1000km on this trip.  However, honesty requires me to say that we were totally unaware of this; but we now know that we passed the 1000km mark about 14km outside Machynlleth.  But more of that later.

We had an indifferent, mass produced but filling breakfast at the golf resort – not our type of place really.  However special mention of the smoked bacon that was locally produced and was excellent.

We checked out and got on the road by 8.30am, knowing that our first hill of the day was on the main road to Aberystwyth (we stayed about 9 miles south of the town).  It was not too steep but a shock to the system to have impatient car and van drivers passing us too close.  On minor roads the cars have been great so far but we felt the drag as a few passed too close. Maybe the mentality changes on an “A” road. In contrast, the truck drivers were, as always, patient and gave us plenty of room as they passed with a wave or a toot of the horn.

It was a relief to turn off onto quiet roads even though the gradient was far steeper in places.  We picked up a lovely bike path south of Aberystwyth which had the twin attractions of taking us off the road and by-passing a huge hill.  Thanks to the EU funding which paid for this and the development of other bike paths in Wales.  It will be interesting to see if this funding continues in future years now we are out of the EU.  I would not bet on it. There is something of “What have the Romans ever done for us” in EDRF funding for areas such as Wales and Cornwall, which benefitted so greatly from regional funds and then voted to leave the EU.  But no point crying over illogically spilt milk.

The sea front at Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth was sunny and, as with other UK resorts, is full of young, overweight tourists.  Indeed, seeing very large numbers of significantly overweight British people at the seaside has been a feature of this trip.  It is a public health time bomb which, I suspect, has understandably shifted down the agenda with Covid and the Climate Emergency, but the sunshine brings the problem out for all to see – or possibly for some not to see it because obesity is in danger of being normalised and thus will be unseen in plain sight.  Not that Aberystwyth is any worse than anywhere else – but it has become an undercurrent of our trip around the UK. 

There is a great soul song “The only way is up” which I hummed to myself when leaving Aberystwyth – because the only way out of the town is up. 

Looking down towards Borth

We passed the University where Becky had such a great time and then made our way to Borth.  There is a serious headland between Aberystwyth and Borth – and the descent claimed that the road dropped at 25%.

A road sign to worry any cyclist – thank goodness we were not climbing

Cycling down a really steep road with 4 panniers is no joke and tough on the fingers – brakes on full and the bike still moves forward ever so slightly faster than I would want!  But we got there and saw Borth in all its delight – or lack of it.  A stony beach and lots of cafés doing all you can eat breakfasts.  But it was busy and lots of families were clearly having a good time, with lots of fun and laughter –  laying down great memories for children. 

I recall a friend explaining that Borth was the drugs capital of North Wales, partly because the roads were too steep for the police to drive here, and so a cannabis scene flourished without interference.  We know the distinctive smell of cannabis only too well from living in Kennington – you can get high walking back from the tube station to our flat – but there was no such smell in Borth.  Perhaps the sea breeze takes it away or maybe it is suspended for the summer season.

We stopped, brewed up and watched the golfers on the links course driving their balls into the sea – a wonderful game but it does generate so much frustration.

The wind was against us as we headed up the coast and then turned inland.  There used to be a ferry from the top end of the peninsular to Aberdyfi, but the ferryman gave up years ago.  The lack of a ferry meant we had a 23 mile detour inland to cross the Dovey river near Machynlleth and then back along the north side of the river estuary.  Part was on the main road, so was not great.

Four miles outside Machynlleth we came across the Dyfi Osprey Project.  It was tickets only so we could not go in but the helpful woman on duty (herself a keen cyclist) pointed us to the website – which I strongly recommend:  www.dyfiospreyproject.com which has live feed of ospreys feeding their chicks.  We did not see it in the flesh, but the live feed is amazing.

Lunch by the river

We lunched by the river just after Machynlleth, and then had a choice as to whether to tackle Happy Valley (where we used to have a holiday cottage, and spent many happy weekends) or brave Aberdyfi on a bank holiday Monday.  Happy Valley got the vote and so we plodded up the valley – pretty slowly as it was steep (extra) climbing and we were still feeling our legs from yesterday. 

Looking back towards Pennal and the climb into Happy Valley

But it was well worth it.  The valley is stunning and we stopped off at our old place – part of a barn conversion that seems to have been improved since we left about 20 years ago.

Remoteness at the top – Aberdyfi is about 3 miles away by crow flying!

We stopped off in Tywyn for supplies and then faced the last few miles along the coast.  By now tiredness was real but the coastal scenery was wonderful and the uphills were thankfully gradually. 

Looking south on the road near Fairbourne
Looking north to the Llin Peninsular

We then swung down the last hill and plodded up to our hotel, Panteinion Hall.  We got a warm welcome from the couple who run this guest house, and quickly relaxed with the wonders of a hot shower.

Another amazing day in the sunshine, great views and lots of revived memories. 

Day 14. Trefasser to Llanrhystud. 94km. 1600m climbing.

Today was a mega day in all senses – long, hilly, magnificent scenery, wonderful weather. It started with David being woken by cows mooing at 6am. Being first up in the campsite is always peaceful.  The sun was brightly shining and it was great to pack up a dry tent. We were off by 7.30am.

Making breakfast before we leave

We bumped our way back down the track from the campsite then it was largely downhill to Fishguard. The 200m alongside the Harbour was the only flat section of the day! We climbed out of Fishguard and were soon in stunning Pembrokeshire countryside.

The cycle along the Cwm Gwaun valley was picture perfect.  A gorgeous tiny country lane along a rippling river, tree clad hillsides, hedgerows packed with wild flowers.

Cwm Gwaun valley

Bypassing Newport, we were nearly floored by a very steep hill but these days we feel no shame at getting off and pushing. A lorry squeezing by us said he would have given us a tow if he wasn’t going in the opposite direction – and I have a horrible suspicion that he meant it!

Part of the long uphill

And the view back down the valley

We had a great swoop down in Cardigan where we stopped for ‘second breakfast’ in a rather haphazard café. We were up for a ‘greasy spoon’ breakfast as although we had already done 650m climbing we still had lot to go. The coffee was good and they let us charge up all our gadgets, but the banter between the staff was hilarious as they tried to come to terms it was busier than usual – but then it was the bank holiday weekend so they could not have been surprised (which they professed to be).  It was all well meaning chaos, just like Dominic Cummings’ account of government (without the well-meaning of course).

We faced  climb out of Cardigan – of course – but then a lovely road high on the hills parallel to the coast.  We dipped in and out of two beach resorts. There were caravan parks all over the place but, as I had discovered when looking, there was very little tent camping.  It is far easier here to get a place for a caravan or motorhome than a small tent.

By this stage we had climbed over 100m – our usual marker for a tough day in the saddle – but faced another steep climb away from the coast.  It is not the climbing itself that tires us alone, it is the effort to climb very steep hills with all our stuff.  However, gritted teeth and this time we managed not to get off and push.   Then up, up, up the side of another lovely valley  then onto a high ridge where we could see all of Cardigan bay ahead and even the LLyn peninsular misty in the distance.

We rested in a lovely grassy field (the farmer had conveniently left the gate open for passing weary cyclists) and brewed up some tea to build ourselves up for the last section.  We had already climbed far more than counts for a ‘big climbing day’ but the incredible views and continuous sunshine kept us going.  The last up and downs along the ridge to our highest point at 301m then a glorious decent down, down, down over about 12km. Now with panoramic views inland.

A Kestrel (we think) on a post

One more much lower ridge to pedal over in the last afternoon sun and the last descent down to the coast. The bank holiday meant everything was very booked up even a few weeks ago when I was looking. In retrospect we were glad that I had been unable to find a campsite as we were absolutely wacked when we arrived at our hotel; a complex of accommodation attached to a golf course.

How we felt at the end of this day!

Totally exhausted after such a fantastic day then able to relax in a large comfy room and a hot bath.

Day 12: Pembroke to Trefesser : 72km and 1050m of climbing

Having had a lazy day yesterday, we were surprisingly ready to get on our bikes again.  We were off by about 7.30am and expected the usually tedious process of getting out of a city – but this one was straightforward.  There were some sharp hills but soon we crossed the estuary and joined a delightful bike path which followed an old railway line. Lined with trees and wild flowers it climbed very gently up hill and was empty at that time of the morning.

The delightful cycle path

After 20km we dropped down to Broad Haven, the site of one of our least successful holidays.  It must have been about 1992 when we camped there with a toddler and a crawling baby and it rained continuously for days – so we gave up and went home rather than face another day of trying to stop a toddler making mud pies in the damp.

Overlooking Broadhaven

Today was overcast at this point but dry.  The road along the coast was – as in all roads along the coast – a mixture of seriously steep up and seriously steep down, with short periods of respite along the bluffs.  It was fantastic scenery but tough cycling.  I suspect we may have a great deal of this over the next few days.

The beach at Nolton Haven

The road swooped down to a series of little hamlets, and then rose out of the settlement over the next cliff.  We stopped at Nolton Haven and brewed up, watching children playing on the beach in the little cove. It was the first day of the half term holiday and bank holiday weekend. We pressed on past Newgale (surfers paradise except the sea was calm today) and then up Newgale Hill (18% and slow).

After more back roads and lots more ups and downs, we reached St Davids.  St David was a 5th century preacher and mystic who lived a simple life and inspired generations of Welsh Christians.  He was quickly adopted as a patron saint of this area and has remained symbolic ever since.  A cathedral church was built at St Davids and has remained on the same site ever since.  I have mixed reactions to cathedrals – much as I have mixed reactions to anything involving religion.  For those who do not know, I am an atheist with a theology degree; someone who lived in a religious community as a young man and has spent his professional career trying to understand and mediate between doctors and patients with profound religious views which cause them to have a different approach to life and death for children and relatives.  I have also had so, so many cases that have touched on financial or sexual abuse by those in religious authority that you will forgive me a measure of caution about the motives of anyone in a dog collar.

St Davids Cathedral

The inside of this amazing place

But St Davids Cathedral was a wonderful experience.  In part it was the simplicity, in part the sheer size and in part it was perhaps how we were feeling.  Cycling holidays tend towards looking for the good things in life, seeing beauty as opposed to seeing problems and allow time for us to understand the historical significance of historical sights.  It was a light, airy building and the sun streaming in through the upper windows.  It had a mixed history and was nearly a ruin by 1800, but was rescued and restored.  The roof is wooden and the carvings are a joy to observe. (Bernie says one of her most favourite cathedrals ever).

Next we met my chambers colleague, Rhodri Price Lewis and his wife, Barbara, for lunch.  Rhodri and Barbara have lived here for many years, managing the commute into London as we do from Worcestershire, albeit their commute is a bit longer.  Barbara had career as a teacher, and is a keen cyclist.  It was a really relaxed, enjoyable meal on the terrace of an old pub next to the cathedral.  The sun was out by now and as we sat soaking up the sun we marvelled at Rhodri ordering our meal on the pub’s app on his phone. As if by magic our meal arrived – albeit with 3 extra portions of chunky chips!  We donated these to a grateful next door table!

After lunch we visited the ruined Bishop’s palace next to the cathedral. The religious and political importance of the bishop meant a pad of considerable proportions. Underneath all the main rooms were a series of underground caverns where all the work was done.

The Bishop’s Palace

After leaving St Davids we adjourned for coffee in Rhodri and Barbara’s garden about 3 miles north of St Davids, and conveniently on our route.  We discovered that we had one additional thing in common – we have both been “Daily Mailed”; an interesting experience where a well known national newspaper gets the humph about something and writes slightly less than flattering things about someone to the great amusement of your peers.  Not nice when it happens and, as Rhodri says, better not to read below the headline.  However, most of us wear it as a badge of honour.

We said our goodbyes and ambled towards the Hill Fort Campsite at Trefassor. Perched high on a headland,  the final km of which was up a bumpy track.  This is a “green” campsite and there was loads of space.  We set up and then watched a spectacular sunset over the sea.  Watching the sun descend into the sea was something we had often seen abroad but never in the UK.  It was mystical and made me wonder if, after giving us such a superb show, the sun would be bothered to do the whole thing again tomorrow. A superb ending to a superb day.

Day 12. Day off in Pembroke

Today was a day to rest and recuperate and do a little bit of culture.  Our AirBnB was spacious and comfortable and perfect for a lazy day.  The weather was rainy so we were glad not to be on the bikes.

Pembroke is a pleasant little town with a castle perched on the bend of a river. We managed to time our visit to the castle to a time with the least rain.  It felt authentic to be damp and grey!  The oldest parts of the castle dated from the 1100’s but a timber castle had been on the site before. 

Pembroke Castle

There was lots of information but it got slightly confusing as the one way system that had to be implemented for covid meant that the rooms did not follow chronologically – sometimes we were going forward in time and sometimes backwards! What we did glean was that a lot of killing went on!

The main claim to fame was that Henry VII – the first Tudor king – was born there.  I had not appreciated that the Tudors were essentially Welsh in origin. Somehow although Tudors are studied endlessly at school, this fact is not to the fore!  Not every area was open but we were able to wander along the ramparts and up and down towers and learnt a lot of Welsh history.

The rest of the day was spent in idleness, finding a solar panel system that might charge phones and cycle computers and thinking about possibilities for our next cycling trip (I know we are not through this one yet but we always like to have one on the horizon!)