To Harlech!

P1010795 One thing that I definitely missed whilst traipsing around Australia, if there was anything I could miss whilst my brain was being gently blown away by the staggering scenery, was old stuff. Ok, sure, Australia is host to one of the oldest peoples on the planet, and evidence of their existence certainly appears all over the place, but when it comes to newer, well, old stuff, it is missing out. By newer old stuff I mean things like seriously old buildings, and in particular, decent castles. Australian new old stuff usually is no more than 200 years old, and revolves around the fairly amazing expeditions that the early explorers set out on. I digress.

The UK, whilst perhaps not having thousands of kilometres of glorious blue skied outback to wander around in, does come up trumps with regard to old buildings, and in particular castles. And so it was yesterday, as the weather did that thing it does so well in Wales (i.e. unpredictably drizzle), a trip to Harlech castle was scheduled in.

Our route took us through Barmouth, a classic Victorian seaside town, which as far as I can tell hasn’t changed hugely from the eighteen hundreds. In the rain, people mill around in a confused manner, stumbling from rock shops to amusement arcades and back again, occasionally diverting via the fish and chip shop, or perhaps the pub. Barmouth took some time to pass through, tiny though it was, as tourists wandered zombie like into the roads on one of the routes from building to building. Generally, a seaside town in the rain is a terribly depressing place. Further digression appears to have occurred.

Harlech Castle, a few miles on from Barmouth, is a wonderful example of classic English P1010790 castle building. I say English, because it was built in the 12th century by the English King to keep the rowdy Welsh, recently quelled in an uprising, from doing so again. And it was, admittedly, built by a chap from the continent. However, it looks pretty classically English, as castles go, all turrets and massively thick grey walls and arrow loops. There are a whole chain of these castles up the coast, Harlech just happened to be our closest.

It scores highly on my personal castle-o-meter, as you can access pretty much all of it. Too often these days we are tempted by the sight of intriguing looking spires and turrets, yet held back by formidable gates and warning signs. Harlech Castle eschews, for the large part, personal safety in the name of exploration, and I applaud them for it. So it was that we climbed the highest part of the Castle and wandered along the battlements. This also afforded us a tremendous view of the Welsh countryside out into the sweep of Cardigan Bay, and the grey, cloud covered and angry looking mountains of the Snowdon area. The highlight of the castle trip for my travelling companion did appear to be a large ginger cat who gave the impression of owning the place, but at least some culture was absorbed in the process.

P1010832 After the castle trip we had some rather tasty ice creams, and then headed back along the coast home, stopping on the way to see an ancient burial mound. This mostly consisted of some carefully balanced rocks, but as they had been carefully balanced over four thousand years ago, they were worth a bit of a look see. We looked and saw.

Finally we returned home, via an extended stop off in Barmouth where a thorough walking tour was given (including the highlight, the pub I worked in for three hours as a Chef before it was discovered I wasn’t, in fact, a chef, my shortest career ever), before we got back to the house and dinner was served, courtesy of my brothers girlfriend, Rosie. Normally I wouldn’t go into much detail on dinner, and I won’t now either, suffice to say, if you lovingly bake my initial into the pastry top of the meal I am about to eat, you will win my stomach forever.

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