Aberdaron – Pilgrims Way

We hit many of targets today. Hang on, that doesn’t sound like me, more like a motivational speaker! But that said we did walk some more of the Wales Coastal Path, witnessed some fantastic scenery, sat on a great beach for a few hours, saw some great wildlife and had an ice cream. Well the last two were more my demands from the day, but we had a cracking day out.

The day started at Aberdaron, a small village right on there end of the Lleyn Peninsula, that despite its size has had an important place in history. For many years it acted as the last staging post for thousands of pilgrims waiting for passage over to Ynys Enlli or Bardsey Island.

Looking back onto Aberdaron, with Ynys Gwylan Fach and Ynys Gwylan Fawr just off shore.
Looking back onto Aberdaron, with Ynys Gwylan Fach and Ynys Gwylan Fawr just off shore.

We walked from Aberdaron along some narrow but very quiet lanes. These were great for wildlife, flowers, butterflies and an almost perfect funnel web.

Funnel Web spider clearly  showing the funnel. Not sure what species it is.
Funnel Web spider clearly showing the funnel. Not sure what species it is.

It seems that almost every village was close to a granite quarry, with many abandoned quarries scattered over the peninsula.

Terrace of small cottages
Terrace of small cottages

As we reached the Coast North of Aberdaron we were confronted with a perfect view of Ynys Enlli from the top of Mynydd y Gwyddel. It also turned out to be the place for a cup of coffee and the chance to appreciate the view. Ynys Enlli can be translated as The Island of Currents, and these can be clearly seen in the water flow in the sound between the island and main land. But more on Ynys Enlli in another post.

Ynys Enlli from Mynydd y Gwyddel - a grand spot for coffee.
Ynys Enlli from Mynydd y Gwyddel – a grand spot for coffee.
Porth Felen, a small inlet with steep cliffs.
Porth Felen, a small inlet with steep cliffs.

As we walked along the Coast it seemed we came across another fantastic view each time we turned a corner. It almost seems that all of the inlets, large and small, have been given names, many with a prefix of Porth or Port. Though in reality I doubt that many of them could have ever been used to land boats as they are inaccessible from land. I suspect that they’ve been named to help with navigation. This is a dangerous coast for shipping. In 1901 the “Stuart” set sail from Liverpool on Good Friday 1901, bound for New Zealand carrying cargo that included pianos, cotton bales, porcelain and thousands of bottles of whisky. The vessel came to grief near Porth Colmon on the north coast near Tudweiliog on a foggy and drizzly Easter Sunday morning. But Capt Robert Hichinson and his crew of 18 got ashore without injury or loss of life. Locals made the most of the wreck taking away everything of value – especially the whisky – before Customs and Excise men arrived from Caernarfon. And by all accounts there was a huge party. But occasionally bottles are still washed ashore today. But no luck, we didn’t find any. Down to the local shop instead!

Grasshoppers and crickets seemed to be everywhere as we walked along the path, and after a little while I managed to get a couple in focus.

Field Grasshopper - Chorthippus brunneus.
Field Grasshopper – Chorthippus brunneus.
Common Green Grasshopper - Omocestus rufipes.
Common Green Grasshopper – Omocestus rufipes.

One place worthy on mention though is Porth y Pystill. All of a sudden we noticed an abandoned small port at the bottom of the cliffs, but couldn’t see any way down. At the top of hey he cliff is an old rusty winch and pulley wheel. Back at the caravan a little research turned up a brief history on a port and quarry that never really took off. Granite was quarried near by and shipped out via the small port. However, the quarry was difficult to access, workmen had to scramble down part way and then climb down ladders the rest of the way. The port had be continually cleared of rocks as the sea kept on bring them back to block access. No wonder it never worked.

Porth y Pystill right at the bottom of a steep 50m cliff. No way down!
Porth y Pystill right at the bottom of a steep 50m cliff. No way down!

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The sea was very calm today, and the views across Aberdaron Bay towards Ynys Gwylan Fach and Ynys Gwylan Fach was clear. These translate as Seagull Island (large badge small). Both are uninhibited, and unusual for the area never seem to have had monks living on them. They are now nesting sites for puffins and other sea birds.

Looking South to the long beach at Aberdaron, and Ynys Gwylan-Fawr and Ynys Gwylan-Fach.
Looking South to the long beach at Aberdaron, and Ynys Gwylan-Fawr and Ynys Gwylan-Fach.

Eventually Aberdaron came into view. This must have been a very welcome sight to pilgrims after walking all the way, finally the last stage was in sight.

Aberdaron from the path
Aberdaron from the path

The end of the walk before relaxing on hey he beach was to see the church where many of the pilgrims rested waiting for the boat over to Ynys Enlli. Although the church has been rebuilt a number of times over the centuries T here has been a place of Christian worship at the edge of the sea at Aberdaron since the fifth century. At first a simple wooden structure housed both Hywyn and his prayer cell where the Gospel was preached to the few villagers whose humble cottages clung to the side of the cliffs and whose livelihood depended on the sea and the few acres of soil in which they grew crops.

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Cadfan, the warrior saint, who travelled from Brittany with Hywyn, moved on to Enlli, the island off the tip of the Llŷn peninsula. There he set up a religious house, later to be dedicated to St Mary. To both men these were places of their resurrection. Places where they felt God had called them to live, to pray and to die. The title ‘saint’ in the Celtic church was not a title of honour, but indicated that the person was a Christian.

Then it was time for an ice cream!

A celebratory Ice Cream.
A celebratory Ice Cream.

 

 

 

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