We were due to spend a week in Northern Italy but, like so many things, this was postponed due to Covid19. When it became clear that we’d be able to safely travel to other parts of the UK we decided on a staycation in North Wales (Northern Italy and North Wales are comparable right?!?). With social distancing measures in mind etc, we felt comfortable with this as an option – we’d travelled there before (last October) and knew that it would be quiet and relatively easy to maintain social distancing. So we settled on two nights in a relative’s cottage before moving to an Airbnb near lake Bala (more about that below!).
Before I tell you about what we did etc….a few thoughts on a Covid holiday. You don’t need me to tell you that Covid has changed everything. Now, as you know, I always plan before holidays (I love it!) but this time it was even more important – not only did we need to take most of our own food (thereby sticking to the once a week shop that we’ve be doing throughout the pandemic) we still wanted the trip to feel like a holiday despite the obvious restrictions and challenges. The advantage of some pre-holiday planning is that you get to experience the best of what a local area can offer….you also get to support the local economy – shopping in independent cafe’s and dining out in amazing little cafe (massively important in light of Covid). My research led me to some gems that I’ll link to throughout the blog entry!
So we arrived on the Monday afternoon and settled into the cottage. It was raining (wonderful British summer!) so we snuggled down to watch a film whilst we waited for our wine delivery from Gwin Dylanwad wine merchant in Dolgellau (I did say I was keen to support local!). I can’t recommend this place enough – not only was the wine selection we had incredible (as it should be on holiday!), the owners were wonderfully generous with their time, suggesting so many other independent businesses (some of which we were lucky enough to try!). Wine….tick.
On our first full day, with the weather at least dry, we decided on a walk (turned out to be a long walk!). We didn’t really do family walks before lockdown so this is somewhat of a novelty still. We settled on the Precipice Walk – one of the most popular walks in southern Snowdonia, situated about three miles north of Dolgellau – you could walk from the town but we parked at a large carpark (that also had public toilets and picnic benches). The walk varies between 700-850 feet above sea level and offers truly stunning panoramic views of the Mawddach river below and on towards the northern mountains. I’m not going to lie it was a really challenging walk for the little people (clue is in the name I guess!) – not only was it ridiculously steep in places (contrary to the various write ups I’d seen) it was also far longer (our phones tell us it was closer to 5 miles!) – thankfully we’d packed lunch and we found an idyllic spot at the top to take in the views (lunch with a view – you’d pay a fortune for that anywhere else!). A much easier option would be to start at the carpark and make your way to the reservoir – you could just walk the level path around the reservoir which is worth a trip in itself (we enjoyed a morning snack sat overlooking it!) but you wouldn’t get the stunning views. Anyway, we survived and on balance we all enjoyed it (and certainly felt a sense of achievement!).
Throughout lockdown we’d dreamt of the beach. So the afternoon was spent soaking up the non-existent rays in Barmouth. Jokes aside, it was the perfect spot for some social distancing – barely saw another person. We treated ourselves to some chips on the beach (had to be done!) and after an afternoon of sandcastle building, kite flying and football, we finished the day with an ice cream and waffle (from Antonia’s).
On our second day the weather was awful – that non-stop Welsh drizzle that reminds me of my student days in Cardiff. We had promised the children that they would see waterfalls so waterfalls it was. The long walk the day before had taken it out of the children’s legs…we settled on a much shorter walk – the Dolgoch Falls Walk at Tywyn. Here you will find a series of three sets of magnificent waterfalls in a beautiful wooded ravine – there were plenty of picnic benches scattered around (we opted for a car picnic!). Outside of Covid19 times you could also combine this walk with a trip on the Talyllyn Railway which has a station at the bottom of the walk.
Slightly soggy we returned to our cottage for an afternoon of film watching before a delicious afternoon tea (with Prosecco!) delivered courtesy of Cacennau Cil y Coed (in Brithdir). After tea, we packed up the car and moved onto our Airbnb in Bala. The ‘Hovel’ is based at Caerau Gardens, the highest public garden in North Wales. The cottage was wonderfully set up for us all – fresh bread and eggs, Nintendo Wii (old school!), comfy beds and a stunning, quiet location. The place is truly idyllic for little people – trampoline, zip line, table tennis table, and fort in the garden, their own personal lake, a resident duck and some chickens – what more could you ask for?
Top Tip: Live like a local, book an apartment through, this link for £30 travel credit with Airbnb and we get a little something off our next booking too, enjoy!
On our first evening at the Hovel we treated ourselves to a takeaway from Yr Hwb Bala. The dirty fries were amazing! The social distancing was handled perfectly. Highly recommend.
The following day we started our day by heading out to the Rhug Estate shop – a BBQ dinner was on the cards (oh my goodness the steak was divine!) . The weather was on our side so we went back to the cottage and enjoyed an al fresco lunch (with wine!). We spent time hanging out in the gardens (we were under considerable pressure from our little people!). Later in the afternoon, we went into Bala for a pre-booked trip on the Bala Lake railway. The railway offers a delightful 9 mile return journey alongside Bala Lake, through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The narrow gauge steam train gives excellent views of the lake and was a big hit with us all! We started at Bala Pen-y-bont Station (there really isn’t anything there!) and went to Llanuwchllyn – the railway’s HQ is located here (here you’ll find ample free car-parking, refreshments, with the all important ice cream, small gift shop, toilets, and picnic tables. All in all a fab afternoon.
Our last full day was another typically windy Welsh day. We went down to Lake Bala – the largest natural lake in Wales. Given the wind we chose Llangower (outside of Covid times this is the midway point on the Bala railway). There is plenty of carparking and some public toilets. This pebble beach is sheltered and we spent an enjoyable few hours building stone towers, paddling in the water and watching some ducks and their ducklings. With the weather improving we returned to our Airbnb and enjoyed a walk down to the private lake (as well as more time bouncing on the trampoline with stunning views!). We treated ourselves to some coffee and cake in the onsite cafe (oh my goodness – best cake ever!) and in the evening we treated ourselves to a final night takeaway from Cyfnod Cafe and Bistro.
All in all a wonderful 5 night break with lots of fun family memories made. It just shows that it’s not where you go its what you do and who you spend time with!