Let’s see…if Day 2 (in Chester) was New Year’s Eve, that makes Day 3 New Year’s Day. We’d stayed up until midnight the night before but not doing anything crazy, so what few plans we’d made for the day started with a run. Of course, when the alarm went off at 7 and it was still pitch black outside, we decided to put it off. Looked again at 7:30 – still very dark. (No streetlights, no houselights = very dark.) We finally got up at 8 (skipped the run), showered (Have I mentioned the shower? Stand-up shower, pretty small (barely enough room to turn around in), but it had great water pressure and a wide showerhead so you were pretty much under the spray no matter where you stood. Quite nice.), and headed north and west to look for breakfast. Yeah, nothing’s open on New Year’s Day. At least, not in the morning. We stopped at a Sainsbury’s (supermarket) and noticed a small crowd of people waiting outside. NOT OPEN. It was a couple of minutes before ten, so we joined the waiters on the assumption that the store would open at ten. They opened a few minutes after ten, but close enough, so we picked up some croissants and a couple of bottles of water and ate a flaky breakfast in the car. Kept driving west. We didn’t have any solid plans. We just kept driving to see what we could see. We saw a high stone wall that looked like it surrounded a park, so we pulled off the main road and headed down one side looking for a way in. Didn’t find it, but we did see a sign and some steps climbing the hill into the woods.
Can’t you just see them beckoning? There was a golf club just down the road, so we pulled into their parking lot, reached for hats and gloves and cameras, and then it started pouring down rain. (It had only been misting before.) Our Welsh weather gods were nice to us, though. We waited a couple of minutes and the rain settled back into a light mist again. We started climbing. There were a lot more stairs then we expected, so we kept climbing. Eventually, we got to the top of that hillside and came out on a wide track – practically a road. Left or right? Left went uphill, so we did, too. First clearing:
This is where we came from
That's where we could have gone
And this is where we did go. Road less traveled, right? We're adventurers!
But before I move on up the trail, here’s the view (part of it) from the first clearing.
A little gray, a little misty
Back to the trail. Not long after we left the clearing, our road narrowed down to a path wide enough for only one person with not much between the edge and a probably very painful tumble down the mountainside.
Guess where that path led?
More steps! Substantially more slippery than the first set.
So up we went. Path path path, trail trail trail, and voila! The top!
Not as impressive as we were hoping for.
It was a clearing with two mound-type little hills (Druid burial grounds, right?). Whatever, it was the top. There was a path across from the one we used to come in, but it looked like it was just heading to an overlook with the same view we’d already taken pictures of, so we didn’t go.
Haunted, I think.
Speaking of haunted, this next clearing-type place in the woods with lots of leaves (is it a clearing if it’s still got trees? They’re widely spaced, but still…) looks like it was used in every movie ever made. Blair Witch, Holy Grail, Stardust, other movies with scenes in woods…
We stopped at the same place on the way back down to get a few more pictures since the mist had cleared a little.
We were on the north shore of Wales - that's the bay.
Waves crashing on Wales
Back down the steps…
A bit more treacherous going down than up
and back to the car. We went back to the main road and were following the stone wall when all of a sudden I heard John: “Holy shit!” “Oh my god, what?” I nearly drove off the road. Yeah, he got a glimpse of this over that stone wall:
I followed that stone wall as far around as I could, but we couldn’t find a way in. We saw one entryway, but it was marked private. It’s not possible that that’s a private castle, right? We must have been missing something obvious. I pulled over so we could take pictures. Of course. (Click on them – they get bigger.)
We think we might have been able to hike there, if we’d gone right instead of left at the beginning and hiked for another three hours. After we took our pictures of Totally Awesome Castle #1, we got back in the car, still heading west, and looked for lunch. We stopped in a likely-looking town, parked the car on the main street, found a couple of cafes (all closed) and went into the first pub we saw. Open, yes, but not serving food. I asked the guy if anyone was serving food today. He listed two places, both nearby. We went into the first place (a pub called Prince Madog, I think). Open, not serving food. The barman said they’d have a great Sunday roast (tomorrow), and the only place he knew of that was open was this other pub around the corner. We went there. Open, serving food. Finally. We were hungry. This place was HUGE. Three or four levels, definitely a pub with pub food, but a layout more like a restaurant with the highest level of tables on a gallery overlooking the next level. Food was okay. We saw another pub owned by the same company a couple of days later; we think they’re the equivalent of TGI Friday’s. Anyway, they were open and that’s all that mattered. We had a pint and some lunch and gave up on finding anything else open on New Year’s Day. Almost gave up. On our way back we stumbled on Bodelwyddan Castle (which looks AWESOME). The sign at the entrance said it was closed, but the gate was open, so we drove in anyway. There’s a hotel attached to the castle, but when I went in and asked if the castle would be open for tours soon, they said it’s only open on Sundays and Saturdays and not at all that weekend. So yeah. Not open. No castles for us. We drove back to Denbigh (the town closest to our village). It was getting dark, so we wandered around a bit, found that the takeaways all opened at five (it was about 4:30), and hiked up the road to the castle to pass the time. (Denbigh has a castle.) COOL castle. Was it open? Of course not. Closed for excavation or something, so it didn’t even open up later in the week. I took some terrible pictures of it in the dark that night, and then we picked up some Indian takeaway, watched the second Daniel Craig Bond movie (bought the DVD at Sainsbury’s that morning), and I took a long bath in our GIANT bathtub with the vanilla-scented bath bomb Emily bought me for Christmas. It fizzed as it dissolved and turned the bathwater yellow-ish green. Very exciting.