A few months ago, we took a road trip around Wales. It rained a lot which really shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it did but a dampener on things! All in all it was a 950 mile round trip from Newcastle which took in the sights of Swansea, Portmeirion and lots of scenic tarmac! It was the first proper outing in the Lotus since I’d had its head gasket replaced and thankfully it gave us no problems (which is more than can be said for it recently).
I’d been working in South Wales and staying in Usk whilst I was there. My partner flew down to join me and as soon as work had finished on Friday, we hit the road. The weather report for the weekend suggested that we wouldn’t be removing our raincoats very often, but as I had spent five years studying in Swansea, I had gotten used to Wales’ wet weather.
Seeing as I had spent quite a chunk of my life living on the Welsh south coast, I thought it would be good to go back and reminisce about old times, as well as taking the opportunity to show my partner some of my old haunts. Off we drove down the M4, passing Cardiff, Bridgend and the orange wind sock of Port Talbot. I don’t remember Swansea being a particular beautiful city, and in the rain, it did look a bit dismal.
We drove up and down the steep streets of Brynmill passing the rows of terraced student houses and came across my old house. It had been painted blue, but it still looked shabby. I decided to show my partner a better house – the castle I used to live in.
Up until 2005(ish), the University used to own a grade II listed building called Clyne Castle. It was used as accommodation for the international students to live in, but they have since sold it and the castle has been converted into luxury flats. I have plenty of stories to tell from living there!
After a walk in the rain around the gardens, we hopped back in the car and headed to The Mumbles – a beautiful little seaside town complete with a pier and a lighthouse. It sits on the western end of Swansea Bay and is so named after a French word ‘la mamelles’ due to the shape of a pair of rounded islands rising out of the sea. I’ll let you look up the translation.
That brought an end to my soggy trip down memory lane and we set out to Haverfordwest. We were supposed to have been meeting some friends there, but due to a last minute call-up from work, they weren’t around. Instead, we found some food in a steam-punk themed restaurant and hit the hay.
The next morning, the sun was shining and we took to the A40 with the aim of seeing Portmeirion. On our way we nearly got squashed by an oncoming coach through the colourful, narrow streets of Fishguard and had plenty of onlookers as we cruised through Aberystwyth. Both places looked quite appealing in the sun and I would like to go back and see them properly. Unfortunately, as we only had a weekend, we had to keep driving. When we approached the mountains, it started to rain again.
We eventually arrived at Portmeirion and I found myself parking next to a blue Lotus Elise. We took a photo and went off to find the visitor’s entrance.
Portmeirion is a peculiar place and not much fun in the rain! It was designed and built by a chap called Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and is a mixture of architecture from around the world all painted in bright and vivid colours. It is also famous for being the location for the television series ‘The Prisoner’ and if you didn’t know that before you visited the place, you did by the time you left!
The buildings were nice and the colours were great – yellows, purples, blues etc. There were plenty of walks to go on which wound up the hills and through the trees, and you could even look out to sea from the bottom of the village. It was all rather quaint but it also felt a bit lifeless.
Other than walking around the place and taking photos, there wasn’t an awful lot to do that day to justify the £8 entry fee. It felt as if all we’d paid for was to walk around a few unwelcoming gift shops and look at the Portmeirion pottery. On the plus side, they did sell their own beer, so I bought one of every flavour! I’ve not drunk them yet but I can’t wait to drink No. 6, a very dark ale.
After moseying around for what felt longer than necessary, we decided to leave. Our next stop was a small village called Caergwrle where we were meeting my brother for the evening. Not a lot happens there but it has a castle and the Spar on the corner is the only place where I’ve seen the latest Status Quo beer, Dog of Two Heads, to be sold – try it if you can find some, it’s good!
Although Portmeirion didn’t live up to my expectations, I don’t think the weather helped – who wants to be outside in the cold rain? I shall have to go back on a sunny day, but before I do that, I would like to watch The Prisoner – it might give me a bit more of an appreciation for the place.