The sun was shining though the wind was a little than a breeze, so it was another walk along the Wales Coast Path. The idea was to find one of the little coves, or Porth, that are so common here on the Lleyn. Pouring over the map we noticed a bit of sand at a place called Porth Iago? The map shows there was no direct road access, but a small car park was marked at the end of a dirt track. So armed with sandwiches and coffee we drove along what felt like miles of single track road with Aunty diligently map reading. Finally we turned off the metalled road onto a farm track and after almost a mile arrived at a farm with a parking ticket machine in the middle of the yard. This is not something you see everyday. There were signs all along the track warning anyone who didn’t pay for parking would face dire consequences. After feeding the machine with £4 we drove along the track for another half a mile and finally reached the car park. It was worth the £4, and I paid willingly to help pay for the upkeep and access. For somewhere so isolated it was already busy – this beach must be an open secret!
We didn’t stop at Porth Iago, but first walked north along the Coast towards Porth Ferin, named after Saint Merin who had a church dedicated to him. The church now only a ruin, but had a very small parish of about a mile in length serving the fisher and farming families in surrounding area.
The port here comprises two small inlets side by side. The first one we came across is wider and has a small jetty built onto the side of the rocks. We think that when the tide is out it exposes sand, but we were there at high tide. In the past it was used for quite large boats as the old photo below shows.
In 1859 a severe storm hit the Lleyn Peninsula and a number of ships were wrecked along the Coast. At Porth Ferin a schooner called the Eliza was wrecked with all hands lost to the storm.
We then walked back towards Porth Iago. This is great little beach, and well sheltered from the breeze. By the time we had got back the beach had filled up, with kids have a great time on the sand.
During a during storm on the night of January 24th, 1884, a Scots brig named ‘Luther’ with a crew of nine was wrecked at Porth Iago. About two o clock in the morning of the 25th two of the crew arrived at a farm called Ty Mawr, very exhausted, exclaiming that they had left another two on the road to die, but during a search later they were found and taken back safely to the house. Those that were saved were the mate, an old man, the cook and two able-seamen: Gilbert Ross was the name of one, and John Jeness was the other. The captain, John Duncan, was drowned together with his son, and his body was found at Clynnog, twenty miles up the coast. Another man was saved by clinging to the ship’s biscuit tank, and eventually was brought ashore. The ‘Luther’ was loaded with general cargo at Dundee and bound for St John’s on Newfoundland, but the most conspicuous part of the cargo was beer and stout, and Scotch whiskey, all in large barrels of 40 to 60 gallons each. A Welsh version of Whiskey Galore, and if you’ve not seen the film hunt it out.
After lunch we continued on along the Coast to Porthor, on the map this is named as Porth Oer, which translates as Cold Port, but Potrthor could be translated as Gatekeeper. Take your pick I suppose, but with the wind blowing over the sands in the winter I think I’d go for Porth Oer.
the sands at Porthor have given rise to a more vernacular name, “Whistling Sands. This is derived from the squeaking sound as you walk over the sands. With each step, as your heel digs into the sand a squeal comes back at you. The sound is created by the unusual shape of the grains of sand on the beach. There’s more on this phenomenon here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_sand.