As I left Aberdaron after breakfast, the weather forecast suggested that the light rain would clear shortly, and that the rest of the day would be overcast, but dry. In fact, it poured solidly for all of the thirty-five miles along the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula to Caernarfon.
Caernarfon is home to Wales’ most famous castle and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by Edward I in the thirteenth century as a royal palace and military fortress, and formed the core of a medieval walled town. Behind the castle, the town has a network of attractive, narrow back streets, where I hoped to track down a quaint coffee shop and dry out for an hour. I found several, but none were open on a Sunday morning.
I paused at a bus shelter and, with no one about to take offence, changed into a fresh, dry set of clothes. It helped me to push on, reckoning I was good for another fifteen or twenty miles tonight. That would mean staying in Bangor or, better still, somewhere on Anglesey. A quick search online revealed a large, slightly old-fashioned hotel in Beaumaris that looked perfect. Just my sort of place. I phoned ahead to make sure they’d be happy to hide my bike somewhere safe, and then made my way slowly north.
Getting on to Anglesey involved crossing the wonderful Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1826. It’s one of a pair of famous bridges over the Menai Straits, and was the world’s first iron suspension bridge.
— Edward Peppitt (@thebeaconbike) July 5, 2015
Beaumaris, I discovered, is a beautiful seaside town, and I was surprised that I hadn’t come across it before. The buildings are a mix of medieval, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and most of the cottages lining the residential streets are painted in soft pastel colours. It’s the greenest seaside town I’ve visited – not in the ecological sense, but literally. The promenade and seafront walkways are edged with wide expanses of freshly mown lawn. Even the seafront car parks are all grass lined.
The Bulkeley Hotel was everything I had hoped it would be. A vast and elegant Victorian seafront hotel that somehow manages to cater for rich and poor alike. I passed through an elegant drawing room, where afternoon tea and cakes were served on silver cake stands and platters, on tables with starched white tablecloths. In the next room, a much more down-to-earth bar and bistro looked ideal for the under-dressed long-distance cyclist on a budget.
My room was vast, but with the slightly faded decor that inevitably comes with buildings whose maintenance costs have outpaced the purses of the people who stay here. I loved it. The plumbing in my bedroom and bathroom was also Victorian, with a radiator quite a bit larger than my bath. The various runs of hot-water piping provided an instant and welcome washing line, and I hung out every item of wet clothing to dry.
I caught up with The Archers for the first time in a few weeks. It was the wrong thing to do, and I felt thoroughly wound up as I listened. In recent months, the editor had randomly changed a number of cast members, who clearly hadn’t fitted in with his vision of what The Archers was about. I could have tolerated this if he hadn’t replaced them with a series of actors whose voices were all but identical. I had to strain to work out whether it was Charley, Tom or either of the Fairbrothers speaking, and could only really tell from the context of what they are discussing. It felt a bit like listening to a lousy impersonator, who has to tell you who he’s going to do next before he starts.
Despite my Archers tetchiness, I felt glad to be in Beaumaris and positive, perhaps even buoyant, in anticipation of the exploration of the Anglesey lighthouses that awaited me over the coming days. It was a little soon for my ‘happy’ medication to have kicked in, but my mood was certainly lifting.