Exploring Corwen and the mysterious lanes of Llyn

I am just back from Wales. Normally I would be just back from Scotland, but that seemed too far away. I mean, you don’t want to be quarantined by Nicola Sturgeon, do you? And if the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital did decide to wake up and aim to take my gall bladder out, I didn’t want to be so far away that I couldn’t respond in time. That’s the sort of thing that can set you back five years on the waiting list.

So we went to North Wales, which is one of my favourite places anyway – especially Corwen. Not many people say that, because as a small town it seems to have a number of drawbacks. For one thing, the A5 cuts right through the middle of it, and crossing it is a bit of a challenge. For another, it’s a bit too far from Snowdonia, if you’re a perfectionist. And the pubs do not serve food. Never have, and never will. If you want to know what an English pub used to be like, go to Wales.

I still like it, though, partly because it houses a large number of my wife’s cousins, who are totally different from me and therefore very agreeable company.

Our hotel in Corwen – a 17th century coaching inn with certain updates – comes as close to the A5 as it is possible to get without blocking it. It has no parking, and no evening meal, and no cooked breakfast. It has narrow, steep stairs and no lift. Our room on the top floor was so small that we had nowhere to put our clothes – it was exceeded in smallness only by our bedroom in the caravan we moved on to later.

We loved it. The couple who were running it at the time were wonderfully welcoming and would do anything for you. And who needs a cooked breakfast?

Corwen also has hidden bonuses. It is surrounded by hills – most notably the Berwyn Mountains, which are vastly underrated,when they are rated at all. It also has Caer Drewyn – a hill fort. Among other things. And it doesn’t have many tourists, except the ones passing through.

This turned out to be a huge advantage. Everywhere else we went was sprouting tourists out of every lane and lay-by. We went to the centre of Snowdonia and discovered there was literally nowhere to park. I have never seen so many cars in one place. We went to the delightful little coastal towns of the Llyn Peninsula, and found them full.

Fortunately the caravan park in Chwilog was not full. And after a bit of reconnoitring (or getting lost, as some might put it), plus a bit of advice from certain cousins, we found some delightful spots. I will mention them in case you happen to find yourself west of Snowdon.

One is Llanbedrog. Ignore the beach and go to the art gallery. Free parking, a delightful cafe and a stunning if quite demanding climb up to and along the cliffs. Another is Morfa Nefyn. They closed the short path to the beach; so there was a long, long walk up, down, along, over, up and down again to what I was reliably assured was the third most famous beach pub in the world – the Ty Coch Inn. Since you ask, Ty Coch means Red House. I’m not sure who came up with the degree of fame: probably the same genius who worked on the Covid statistics.

Lastly – and I do mean lastly, because if you don’t stop here you will drive into the sea – is Mynydd Mawr. Go left a bit after Aberdaron (full of parked tourists again), and you will find yourself on a ridiculously narrow and steep road, signposted Uwchmynydd, which appears to have been lifted from Lord of the Rings. The road seems to go nowhere. But it takes you instead up on to a rocky outcrop at the bottom of the peninsula – a memorable viewpoint with Bardsey Island poking out of the sea as the sun lowers itself into the water.

I wouldn’t tell you all this if I thought I would be inviting hordes to descend on these beauty spots. But fortunately I know hardly anyone reads this. So it should still be wonderful when you get there.