The first proper day of cycling the Lon Las Cymru route began windy and wet. The weather driving off the Irish Sea straight into me and my bike. I opted for leggings and jacket, with over trousers and rain mac on standby.
I checked out of Anglesey Outdoors after a swift coffee. I met another guest during coffee who was a sea kayaker from Southampton. I discovered Holy island was somewhat of a Mecca for sea kayaking. Next time I’m here I may have a go at it. I picked up national cycle route 8 just leaving Holyhead. The redundant aluminium smelting chimney protruding through the grey skyline.
The weather stayed the same, getting bad enough to employ the extra waterproofs outside the village shop at Bethel. That’s also where I bought a cheese and onion pasty, chocolate and crisps for breakfast. All the food groups!
I passed the Bodowyn burial chamber (or pile of rocks) in a nearby field, but that was the highlight of Anglesey for me. The wind was getting the better of my sense of adventure and interest in the landscape. A vague outline of Snowdonia slowly become more visible the closer I moved to the Menia Straight, the channel that makes Anglesey an island. The trees and shrubs on Anglesey grow in an Easterley direction. Their shape formed by that incessant wind off the Irish Sea that seemingly never lets up.
I aimed to follow my bike sat nav route, but found it had routed to the main A55 rather than national cycle Route 8. Instead of blindly following the technology I opted to follow Route 8 signs, and if necessary pull out my trusty Sustrans map if I got lost. Fortunately, the route is so well signposted there was little chance of losing my way. The Menia suspension bridge is superb. Although I admit to feeling serious vertigo when it became apparent the footpath cantilevers from the main structure. Of course it’s safe but the nagging thought remains; what if? This feeling made more sobering by signs placed by the Samaritans and flower tributes laid for a victim who ignored their invite to phone them and talk.
I had lunch just the other side of the bridge in a garden centre cafe. Sitting still I realised my mind was quite tired and the break was well needed. I often find on long cycling trips that the brain is a willing victim. Rational thought is the first thing to go and as such decision making becomes clouded and one has to be careful about the judgements and decisions one time takes. Making one poor decision, like skipping a meal, can lead to a series of other poor decisions and it can be easy to find oneself in real trouble. I recently read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, a personal account of the 1996 Everest disaster, where 12 people died trying to reach the summit. The book is an account of the kind of fuzzy thinking that is caused when pushing to extremes, where the circumstances in this case were deadly. Although I am not pretending to be in nearly the same challenging environment as those people, I now strictly follow a regime of eating properly and keeping myself hydrated when doing any endurance challenge. I suspect that most outdoor rescue situations probably arise from a series of seemingly minor but ever increasing poor decisions, made because individuals have neglected themselves in some manner.
As with the morning’s ride, Route 8 frequently meandered off the sat nav route. This ensured a few extra miles were travelled. 58 instead of the sat nav’s proposed 51. I was surprised how tired I was and I am not sure if I would stick so festidisously to Route 8 the following day as I traverse Snowdonia. The mountains that I could see through the clouds in Criccieth looked pretty inhospitable and would be a tough climb. The weather was forecast as more of the same grey cloud and drizzle. I imagined that I would be looking for any break offered.
The route from Anglesey to Criccieth was good, but did not have the breathtaking views I had expected. This was mainly due to the weather and partly the comparatively flat landscape of Anglesey. The tree covered trail of Lon Las Menai and Lon Eifion did not assist the views. Lon Las Menai is the path that runs parallel to the Menai Straight to Caernarfon and Lon Eifon the path that runs from Penygroes to Bryncir. The latter trail follows a narrow gauge railway line, although no active rolling stock was evident during as I rode. There were other attractions, such as the Inigo Jones Slateworks at Groeslon, that might have peeked my interest on any other day, but determination to reach my destination had set in and I only stopped to take a look at the outside of the castle in Caernarfon briefly before moving onwards. On a sunny day I imagine I would have taken the time to take a walk around and enjoy a coffee in the main town square.
The 12th Century castle at Caernarfon is stunning due to its age and size. I a suspect with the backdrop of Snowdonia to the south west it would be even more spectacular. A view I could only imagine, although by now the cloud had sufficiently thinned to offer the vaguest of outlines of the mountains. The ruined castle at Cricceith has its own coastal beauty but cannot compete on scale to Caernarfon. I did make a serious attempt to look at Cricceith Castle in more detail but the visiting hours were over boy the time I arrived in the town.
Cricceith town is a lovely little place. I stayed in and B&B on Mona Place. A really lovely landlady who is very knowledgable about Wales but was confused as to why I would be doing such a thing as cycling the country. She made a few endeavours to persuade me to take the train. Although I’m sure the railway has a charm of its own, it is not as appealing to me as cycling.
I had a curry in the local curry house. The building is great, the food okay, the service good and the cleaniliness appauling. Otherwise it was okay. Glints of Snowdonia were evident as I returned back to my B&B. But I felt what I could see was only a tantalising glimpse of what was there. I will have to return on a sunny day to appreciate what I missed.
Cycling wise. I found the day pretty exhausting. I decided I was not as fit as I should be too take on this challenge. This was meant to be the easy day to ease myself into things, but I still felt pretty exhausted at the end of it.
Stats: Miles: 58.6. Ride Time: 6 hours 41 mins. Elevation gain 2900ft. Maximum elevation:427ft. Average moving speed 9.7mph. Average temp 18 degrees C.