Posted on August 4th, 2010

Shelton A.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Gunaratne ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚© 2010

Our (25 July) 2010 trip to North Wales was unplanned and unexpected. After attending the annual conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) in Braga, Portugal, Yoke-Sim and I returned to London to visit with my youngest sister Nayana AxonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s family in Shepherds Bush.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  On the day after our arrival, we met with a couple from Westlake, QueenslandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚Geoffrey and Kathy Hagan—at Cutty Sark in Greenwich. The Hagans have been our mates since we originally settled down in Central Queensland in the mid-1970s.

While eating our lunch at the Taste of India in Greenwich, after visiting the National Observatory, the Hagans told us that they planned to rent a car and explore the area surrounding the 3,560-ft (1,085 m) Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa (“the tumulus”), the second highest peak in Britain after Ben Nevis in Scotland.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Because we had no important engagements for the next couple of days, we decided to join the Hagans to explore the Snowdon National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri) in Gwynedd, a largely Welsh-speaking county in Northwest Wales.

My son Junius and I whizzed past the 4,409-ft. (1,344-m) Ben Nevis in 1990, when we participated in a Trafalgar tour of Britain (see The Travels of a JournalistƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚7). Although I wanted to get close to Snowdon as well, the occasion never arose until nowƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚20 years later! I grabbed the opportunity although it was Yoke-Sim who was vocal in expressing enthusiasm to explore the peculiarities of Welsh-speaking Britain. I was more interested in seeing the rustic splendor of the scenic A5 route from Shrewsbury (pop. 70,700), the county town of Shropshire in the West Midlands, to Bangor (pop. 13,725) in Wales.

Day 1

The next morning, we re-joined the Hagans at Terminal 1 of Heathrow Airport, where the Hagans rented a stick shift Avis car for the journey. Geoffrey, a retired math teacher of Irish ancestry born in Sydney, chose to be the driver. We bundled ourselves into the little Chevrolet with Yoke-Sim and me in the back seats. Kathy, an Aussie retired teacher of South Indian origin, volunteered to be the navigator. Hers was quite an easy task. She fed the Global Positioning System (GPS) to give directions to the driver to go to specific destinations.

Geoffrey did not reveal the specific destinations of the journey.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  He followed the driving directions of the GPS robot seemingly hiding his own understanding of directions and routes. Usually, I spend hours looking at the geographical layout of a trip well before the journey. On this occasion, I did not know that we were going to spend overnight at Dinas Dinlle, a fishing village along the east coast of the Irish Sea seven miles southwest of Caernarfon (pop. 9,611), the most Welsh-speaking community in all of Wales.

Leaving Heathrow about 10 a.m. on a Sunday (25 July), Geoffrey followed the automated directions of the GPS right up to Shrewsbury, some 160 miles to the northwest on M40. We stopped on a wayside service area for brunch. Thereafter, Geoffrey drove along the narrow but extremely scenic and idyllic route A5 right up to Capel [Chapel] Curig in the heart of Snowdon National Park. A5 crosses into Wales near the village of St. MartinƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s in Shropshire. AfonƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  [River] Ceiriog and Afon Dee demarcate the England-Wales border.

The distance from Shrewsbury to Snowdon is about 74 miles. After crossing over to Wales, the Celtic flavor of the territory becomes all too obvious not only in peopleƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s shrill accents but also in signs giving pride of place to Welsh with tongue-twisting place names like Llangolen (Denbighshire), Druid, Cerrig-y-drudion (Conwy), Rhydlydan, Pentrfoelas and Merddwr (where A5 enters the Snowdon National Park).

Within the national park, we passed through picture-postcard villages such as BroGarmon; Betws-y-Coed (ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Prayer house in the woodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚) known for its Pont-y-Pant Falls and Swallow Falls, as well as the converging point of Afon [River] Conwy and its two tributaries Llugwy and Lledr; Pont [Bridge] Cyfyng; and Capel [Chapel] Crunig on the Llugwy (where we turned west on A4086 to reach Caernarfon via Snowdon and Llanberis. This road runs southwest and then curves northwest to suit the contours of the mountains. We arrived in Dinas Dinlle about 3.30 p.m. and went straight into Bryn Mor Beach Hotel on the seafront.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Ram and Sandhya Ananthraman, the couple who ran the hotel, greeted us and checked us into our respective rooms. They were friends of the Hagans. The lust for travel and adventure had landed them in Wales after stints in Botswana and Papua New Guinea. They established the hotel in 2003. After a brief rest,

Yoke-Sim and I walked more than a mile along the sand and pebble beach admiring the canine creatures their owners were promenading. Back at the hotel, we joined Ram and the Hagans for tea and wine with Indian delicacies.

Because we saw hundreds of rams (uncastrated male sheep) and other sheep, including black sheep, grazing in the pastures, I introduced some humor into our conversation when I asked Ram whether the Welsh had any difficulty distinguishing him from the other rams in the area.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  He responded that the people maintained the distinction by pronouncing his Sanskrit name with the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-areƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ sound.

After the refreshments, the Hagans and we went to climb Boncan Dinas, the majestic cliff by the beach, just south of the hotel. We followed the winding pathway that enabled us to reach the top without mishap. However, I reached the top first through a steep shortcut. I fell down flat on my face as I negotiated a slippery descent, but I was unhurt.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  I celebrated the event by coo-eeing from the peak as I used to do at Cooee Bay in Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia.

Back in the hotel, it was time for dinner. Another surprise: Seated next to us was an Indian Malaysian familyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a female law student; her accountant brother; her mother, a retired teacher; and her uncle, a telecommunication businessman. We instantly established rapport because Yoke-Sim was a Malaysian by birth and I was a lecturer in Penang in the mid-ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”70s. We exchanged preliminaries in Bahasa Malaysia, and then veered into Malaysian politics, Tamil conundrum in Sri Lanka, etc., until close to midnight.

Day 2

Yoke-Sim and I planned to return to London in the evening so that we have a day of rest before flying back to the United States Wednesday. The Hagans had planned to stay a few more days to explore all of Wales. Before we joined the Hagans for the dayƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s tour, we offered to settle our account for the nightƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s stay. But the Ananthramans refused to issue us an invoice asserting the Eastern tradition of offering hospitality to friends with no financial gain in mind. We diffused the situation by placing on the reception desk an envelope with ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£50 enclosed.

Ram told us that the light rain and mixed weather conditions in the morning would prevent us from seeing the summit of Snowdon even if we succeed in getting a ride from Llanberis to the Summit (Yr Wyddfa)ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a 4.7-mile stretch on Snowdon Mountain Railway.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Ram was right. When we went to the Llanberis station, the counter clerk bluntly told us that although the narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway was running, he saw no point in purchasing tickets at ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£25 per person to see nothing of the mountains. We regretted the hefty ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£4 we had to pay to park the car just to turn back.

Alternatively, we could have gone on the 60-minute return train trip along the north coast of Llyn (Lake) Padarn from Gilfach Ddu (where we ate lunch at the cafƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚© and visited the slate museum) to Penllyn on the Llanberis Lake Railway for ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£7.20 a person. However, this option did not appeal to us.

We spent the morning driving through the northern mountain range of Snowdonia (Eryri), which is roughly synonymouus with the 827sq.-mileƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  (2,140-sq.-km) Snowdon National Park. (The U.K. goverrnment established it as the third national park of Britain in 1951.)ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Wikipedia explains:

The northernmost area is the most popular with tourists, and includes (from west to east) Moel Hebog, Mynydd Mawr and the Nantlle Ridge; the Snowdon Massif; the Glyderau; and the Carneddau. These last three groups are the highest mountains in Wales, and include all Wales’ 3000-foot mountains.

Northern Snowdonia is the only place in Britain where the Snowdon Lily, an arctic-alpine plant, and the rainbow-colored Snowdon beetle (Chrysolina cerealis) are found, and the only place in the world where the Snowdonia hawkweed Hieracium snowdoniense grows.

Although the intermittent drizzle and the ensuing mist prevented us from seeing the Snowdon summit at close range, we saw enough of it from a distance over two days. Ram told us that the area was one of the wettest in Britain that the visibility of the summit was unpredictable from day to day.

We spent most of the morning in the Italian style tourist village of Portmeirion, which Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), an architect, established between 1925 and 1975. We drove 17 miles southeast from Dinas Dinlle to visit it at Penrhyndeudraeth, on the estuary of AftonƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  [River] Dwyryd, twoƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ miles southeast of Porthmadog.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  A charitable trust owns ad operates Portmeirion, which is one of the top tourist attractions in north Wales. The establishment has always been run as a hotel, which uses the majority of the buildings as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with shops, a cafe, tearoom and restaurant. PortmeirionƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s grounds contain an important collection of rhododendrons and other exotic plants in a wild-garden setting. Incidentally, we saw even a large Buddha statue ensconced in a dome. Admission to the village is ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£8 per adult. Spending a night at the luxury hotel costs a minimum of ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£200.

The Hagans dropped us at the Bangor Railway Station to catch the 4 p.m. Arriva train to Chester, where we changed over to the London-bound semi-express Virgin train. The Bangor-London one-way ticket cost us ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚£75.70 each, a hefty rip-off by the privately run British railway system.

(The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 1: The sand and pebble beach at Dinas Dinlle in North Wales.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The author climbed the cliff Boncan Dinas, where he rehearsed Aussie-style coo-eeing.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

(Picture by L. J. Anderson. Source: Wikimedia Commons)


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 2: ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A panoramic view of the Snowdon Mountain Range from Mynydd Mawr, 10 miles east of Dinas Dinlle. Snowdon is on center right. The Glyderau are in the background.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons <>)



ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 3:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Panoramic view of the central piazza at Portmeirion.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

(Source: Wikimedia CommonsƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚


Figure 1: The A5 Route to Snowdon National Park. A=Shrewsbury; B=Snowdon; C=Llanberis; D=Caernarfon; E=Dinas Dinlle; F=Portmeirion; G=Bangor; H=Chester.

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