CROESO I CYMRU (WELCOME TO WALES)

NORTH WALES TOUR – 1ST TO 7TH JUNE

It is barely a year since we became infected with the 500 bug and because our day outings with the club have been so enjoyable, we thought we should try a longer trip. What could be better than returning to North Wales, an area we knew well from our courting days, way back when.

Deciding to spread the journey to the Llanberis base over two days, we met with Chairman Rod, Sally and Zoe and enjoyed a route through Leamington Spa (excellent coffee stop at an Italian restaurant where, as ever, the staff were more interested in the cars than us), Warwick, Redditch, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster to Ludlow where we had an hour exploring this very pleasant town. A very pleasant town it may be but it has the odd not so pleasant person – our suitcase had been nicked from the rear rack when we returned to the cars, which necessitated some emergency underwear purchases!

Once reported to the police, we drove on to Affcot Lodge near Church Stretton to meet with some more members of the tour.

Day 2, and now we were six. We set off in grotty weather but on a delightful route through Shropshire and then, with the weather improving, into Wales through Machynlleth to Dolgellau. It was here that Florence developed a chronic misfire swiftly traced to a faulty condenser by the “Fiat Fiddlers”. Then followed a slightly anxious moment, whilst testing to see if the misfire had been cured by driving up and down a DIY store car park, the throttle stuck full on and I nearly ended up in the Customer Service department!

By now the weather was Mediterranean, Barmouth bridge and beach looked fantastic, so it was lunch with the donkeys…

…and a scenic run via Harlech to Llanberis to meet with the rest of the group at the picturesque Padarn Lake hotel.

In the evening, we met our hosts and organisers for the weekend, Keith and Sian who gave us a warm welcome and ran through the itinerary. Keith turned out to be a man of many parts, but more of that later….

Day 3 – the first day of the tour started with the incredible Electric Mountain. Dinorwig is an amazing pumped storage hydroelectric scheme constructed deep within the mountain. a visit to the slate museum followed and then a lovely drive to Caernarfon and through some glorious north Wales scenery. A compulsory tea stop followed at a dramatic venue high above the Llanberis valley with magnificent views of Snowdon.

Day 4 dawned and the first challenge was the climb over the Llanberis pass – which the 500s all managed in some style.

Our first destination was a copper mine – not for the claustrophobic! And then, what we had all been looking forward to, the highlight of the weekend, a visit to Portmeirion. This was the realisation of a dream by Sir Clough Willams-Ellis who designed and built it in the style of an Italian seaside village between 1925 and 1975.

Keith had managed to get permission for us to take the classic 500’s, three at a time, into the village (normally closed to traffic) for photos and general ogling by all the other visitors. What a fantastic experience for all!

Sadly, for some members who had to support the British economy, they had to head for home, whilst others stayed on for an extra day or two.

That evening our host Keith prepared a fantastic meal for us all – it turns out he is a much-accomplished professional chef, who after some encouragement, gave a demonstration of some of the tricks of his trade after supper. As well as being able to cook a pretty special meal, it just turns out that he is also world bog snorkelling champion (twice) and a cross channel relay swimmer – amongst many other things!

Day 5 and we awoke to wind and rain of biblical proportions, which meant that the one-way train trip up Snowdon that we had booked was in doubt – they told us they needed at least 30 people on board during high winds to keep it on the track! It was a considerable relief to find that it had been cancelled and plan B was a lower level walk to the local waterfall and around Padarn Lake. Steady rain throughout but of course, there is no such thing as bad weather – just the wrong clothing.

Day 6 dawned and we had to start the trip home but, as ever, this was via some dramatic scenery. Some very steep climbs onto the tops, around the beautiful Bala Lake and then on to Llangollen. Our overnight stop was in Bridgnorth, a very interesting place with a funicular railway to the upper town and some great restaurants.

The final day arrived and we said our farewells and enjoyed a trouble-free run back to Northamptonshire.

A very special thank you is due to Keith and Sian for their wonderful itineraries and hospitality, very much appreciated by all. We would also like to thank the whole group who made us most welcome on this, our first trip – we hope of many.

Steve & Mandy Edmonds