Danny Breslin

How it is…

A Welcome in the Hillsides

Desperate to get away and clear my head after England rolled over for a belly tickle in the World Cup, I decided to head for a foreign country. I went to Wales. Some of you might be questioning the rationale of this move after the events I told you about from a previous venture over the border, when it was me versus a pub, but you know I don’t hold grudges.

I’d read about something called The Evo Triangle on a website that gives you information on the greatest driving roads in the UK (check out the link for info and photos of the route); I had to give it a go…

I found a hotel called Gwesty Ty Gorsaf in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a town famous for its slate industry. If you find yourself in the Gwynedd area then turn off the A5 onto the A470 and check it out. There’s also a steam train that runs from there down to Porthmadog.

 

I’d read some negative reviews about this hotel and its restaurant but let me set this straight right now: the rooms are comfortable, the staff are really friendly and can’t do enough for you and the food in the restaurant is superb – I couldn’t manage dessert because they feed you so well with the starter and main.

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I sat in the bar watching Argentina v Iran with a decent pint of lager in front of me, trying desperately to shut out the wall of noise coming from a gaggle of local women who, as women do, all spoke at the same time oblivious to what the others were saying. It’s strange, why do they do that? When blokes talk they do it each in turn, listening to the opinions on offer before giving a response. Women just move their mouths continuously producing a drone punctuated by occasional shrieks which I take to be laughter; although what the difference is between that sound and the sound they make when stubbing a toe escapes me.

I had no idea what it was that they found so amusing because they were speaking in Welsh, a strangulated language that made it sound like they were taking it in turns to clear their throats. This is after all proper Wales where they speak Welsh as their first language and English only when trying to communicate with stupid foreigners like me. This is the language that was spoken in my country before the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians came over on holiday from Northern Germany and Southern Denmark and decided they liked it so much they’d stay. By the way, did you know that the name Wales is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘strange’? Sums it up really. I’m only joking my friends, the Welsh are a proud race and on the whole nicer, friendlier and more honest folk you’d struggle to meet.

Anyway, lets cut to the chase as they say. After eating far too much breakfast, I headed out towards midday in bright, glorious sunshine to find this fabled route. Saying a fond farewell to the A470 I turned back onto the A5. Soon enough the turn for the A543 came up and I took it. All that stood between me and an open road were a tractor and rusting camper van which disappeared from my rear view mirror as I accelerated up this fantastic stretch of tarmac.

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Between the fluffy white clouds the sky was the colour it was meant to be and the sun shone down like it was pleased to see me. The moors rolled away towards hills in the distance and as I crested a rise I saw a small lake with water the darkest navy blue. I didn’t want to interrupt the drive but I  had to stop for a look and a breath of the clean air. As I was getting a lungful the camper van pulled in behind me and the middle-aged couple inside sat there unwrapping sandwiches. I waved to them but they chose to stare at me and not return the greeting. Their mouths had been turned down at the corners for so long that they had set in a permanent frown, even the enchanting vista around them couldn’t coax a smile. Sad!

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The tractor lumbered past but I was soon passing him and heading off again. Several motorbikes passed me coming the other way, the bends it seemed were fun on two wheels as well as four.

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A few miles later the sign for the B4501 came into view and I followed it. The moors gave way to a descent into a  forest and the tall trees were a blur as I pushed on. I guess I should have been paying attention to the signs on the side of the road that indicated I should be aware of a new road surface and advising slowing down to 20mph. As the Queen song goes though “Don’t stop me now ’cause I’m having a good time…” Taking an easy right hander I realised I was no longer in control and the gravel was taking me sideways. My car usually grips the road like a limpet but now I was sliding towards a tree that would definitely bring a halt to both my progress and my enjoyment.

Friends, I still don’t know how I recovered from the slide, I’m just glad I didn’t brake because that would have been the end of me. I wrestled the wheel over and took my foot off the gas, as soon as I felt it straighten up underneath me I accelerated in a hail of gravel and dust, my heart beating like a drum roll and a string of expletives falling off my tongue.

I found another much larger lake off to my left which caused me to take a break once again, watching the sailing boats glide across the glistening surface they couldn’t have removed the huge grin from my face with surgery. You know one of those days when you think to yourself how good it is to be alive?

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Back on the road and the A5 came into view way too soon. I followed it back across the border and all the way home to the Midlands.

A Welshman once proudly told me that Wales is God’s country. If the big fella is up there I honestly doubt He’d be Welsh but, on the other hand, He does seem to have put an extra bit of effort into creating their countryside.

 

 

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June 23, 2014 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , ,

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