This summer has been pretty unusual in that I decided to take my summer holiday in the UK, well… Wales to be precise – so no planes, and no trains – instead bicycles and campervans, and numerous flotation devices from paddle boards, sea kayaks, to power boats that ruled the waves, which always means adventure in my book.
I’ve had Vinnie my VW campervan for nearly two years now. So far, we’ve shared many day trips to the beach, weekend trips to see friends further afield, week long stays in Cornwall and the Lakes, and more recently a summer holiday to Wales. With nine days of annual leave booked I wanted to head somewhere new, somewhere I’d not been before. So with new horizons in my sights, I decided to head to the mountains in Wales. You may ask, why Wales? In June 2021 I went on hols with some Bella Velo girlfriends with a company called Glaudax Cycle Tours and discovered the delights of the Elan Valley and the remoteness of the hills, which prepared me well for the Pennine Rally in July 2021. But this year I was looking for something a little more chilled. A holiday with no 6 or 7am alarm calls for 8am departures, I wanted to enjoy being in nature, ideally soaking in some rays during the day and the milky way and stars by night. And so began the tale of two halves…
Part 1 – Inland in Cantraf and the Brecons Beacons
The first gem was arriving at the campsite that Jasmijn had suggested – what a view! Not only was the campsite the perfect spot for a sunset, it also provided the optimal viewing spot to watch the sunrise – I never get bored of watching either. And not having a loo in Vinnie meant an early morning walk for a wee – and as every cloud has a silver lining, with every early rise I was rewarded with the sunrise.
During my time in the Brecons I ventured on two wheels out on the Taff Trail, saw the Brecons Mountain Railway train, passed loads of lakes, breezed along canal paths, cycled through military land (with permission) and witnessed the most spectacular views. I enjoyed ice-cream, homecooked Welsh cakes, eat the best steak I’ve tasted in months, and sampled some home-cooked BBQ lamb that had been marinading in a delicious mix of herbs and spices for over 24 hours. Much of the above was thanks to the hospitality, kindness and generosity of Jasmijn for taking me out on the trails, and her husband Chris for being a master chef on the BBQ.
If you fancy checking out my bike routes on Strava, have a look here ‘Taff Trail’ and here ‘Brecons Loop’.
In addition to two wheels, me and Jasmijn ventured out on a walk up to the Fforest Fawr Geopark. And as tempting as it was to swim in the glacial lake at the top, it was not remotely tempting to take a dip in the river flowing down the mountain… it was freezing, properly bone chilling as soon as you put your feet in. It was interesting to do this walk and to discover some more about the heritage of the region, plus read about the legends and tales that have been captured over the years.
Part 2 – Out by the coast and playing on the sea in Nefyn
The drive from the Brecons to Nefyn was stunning. In total the journey time was 4.5 hours. Taking in many twists and turns through narrow lanes and the stunning Snowdonia National Park, I was not short of beautiful views to keep me alert and on the ball. I also had a range of CDs (yes, CDs) to sing along to. From Andrea Botchelli to Anastasia, I had a retro kickback to tickle my tonsils. I guess that’s also another benefit of solo travelling, you don’t need to negotiate the route you’re going to take, or the music you’re going to sing along to.
It’s true to say that some things never change – and that’s my spirit for adventure. So, I knew I was in good company with my uni friend and round the world travel buddy, Cat! We’ve shared and experienced so many incredible moments together and even though we don’t get to do so much together these days, when we do get together, we really are up for anything active and do effortlessly squeeze the most out of every day.
From morning cycles around local hills, to afternoon swims and paddle board adventures, to sun-downer BBQs in different bays, and watching the super moon rise over the saddle of the hills in Nefyn as we kayaked by night under the stars – this experience was quite unique and magical, and I think we may have witnessed the last super moon of 2022. Following a haze of peachy light in the distance, a blazing ball of pink fiery light literally rose from nowhere. Moreover, with the super moon shining bright, the tide came right up to the seawall – this made for an interesting knee deep walk along the beach at the end of our adventurous and fun packed evening.
At the other end of the scale, the night before we’d had our glad rags on and danced the night way at the Nefyn Sailing Club summer dinner. I’ve not danced or sang like that in a long time and it felt bloody brilliant, you can’t beat a crazy boogie to classic 80’s power ballads and 90’s super tracks.
A life of adventure
It’s not very often that I have some relatively unplanned and unstructured time. But what I loved most about taking this trip was my conscious decision to not plan much, other than the first two nights accommodation in Cantref in the Brecons, and that I was driving on to Nefyn on day six, then planning to drive home on day 9. I knew I’d see Jasmijn in the Brecons and Cat and her boys in Nefyn, but the rest was open to evolution – no fixed plans, just the intention to have an adventure and to have fun. And what a raft for magic taking that approach created.
Sometimes I am refuelled by doing very little, then at other times I’m refuelled by playing and being active outside in nature. I realise that it’s a rare gift to have a staycation when the temperature stays on average 28 degrees day on day, with blue skies and blazing sunshine – and for that I’m extremely grateful and thankful.
I hope you’ve also managed to discover and enjoy some natural gems this summer.
All photos my own.