INTRODUCTION: This Menhinick Outdoors Limited (Bryn Walking) 5-day "Walking in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park" was based at a pleasant and well furnished farmhouse on the northern slopes of the Preselli Hills. I assisted Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking with the event and I always enjoy visits to the area.
The 2023 event with different walks will be April 24th - 28th using the same accommodation - please contact me for details.
October 24th: Arrivals at the accommodation and briefing of the week ahead
October 25th: The Golden Road across the Preseli Hills
The Golden Road, running along the spine of the Preseli Hills (Mynydd Preseli), is one of the finest high ground walking ways in Wales. This gently undulating route, with views as far as Ireland, deep into South Wales, and north up the majestic arc of Cardigan Bay towards Snowdonia, links ancient monuments and burial places, cairns and rocky tors. Its star features are two of the possible quarries from which stones are believed to have been taken to Stonehenge 4000 years ago.
Helen drove the group to Bwlch-gwynt (Alt. 404m) where we parked and met three more of our group who were fairly local and didn't require accommodation. It was a wet day with no views until later in the day. The route was very easy to follow on this misty morning and quite wet underfoot until we reached the ancient cairn at Foel Feddau (Alt. 467m).
The boulder strewn landscape at Cerrigmarchogian could have been the source of the Blue Stones used at the Stonehenge and was interesting to walk through. We reached Carn Breseb after a easy descent and decided to have lunch here as the views were better from this lower altitude.
Rejoining the main route east at Carn Gwr we continued eastwards before leaving the Golden Road at Carn Gaseg to head north to the Foel Drygarn ancient hill fort within which are three ancient bronze age burial cairns.
The hill, the furthest east of the Preseli Hills can be seen from miles around, and the fort was probably an important centre in its time. An inner defence on the summit encloses 1.2 hectares (3.0 acres); outside this are defences built at later stages on the north and east side. Each are single ramparts of dry stone and earth; there are traces of a ditch outside the inner rampart.
Descending norhwards from the summit we soon found there were issues with the local Public Rights of Way network and this resulted in a crossing of open and rough ground over to Mirianog-ganol. From there we made better progress back to our accommodation near Crosswell.
October 26th: Pembrokeshire Coast Path around Point St. John and St Davids
We should have visited Ramsey Island today but the ferry boat operator had advised us there would be no sailings due to bad weather so we utilsed our back up plan which was to do a walk from the ferry car park around Pont St. John and then visit St Davids. As rounded Point St. John care was needed with foot placement due to the very strong winds.
We ended the walk back at the RNLI lifeboat base and visited the new lifeboat shed which was open to the public. A short drive took us into St Davids where everyone had a couple of hours to explore.
Dinner was the usual event BBQ hosted by Helen.
October 27th: Pembrokeshire Coast Path across disused WW2 airfields to Solva
This was a walk I was looking forward to and which exceeded my expetations for an enjoyable walk day. We started at the Upper Solva Mill where Helen had arranged for us to park and use the facilities, Then it was over to the abandoned WW2 airfields and downto the Wales Coastal Path into Solva for lunch at the harbour cafe which should have been closed but Helen had kindly arranged for it to be open for us.
After lunch we walked back up the Solva Inlet to the cars and several of us made purchases at the Mill.
Dinner was at a nearby pub.
October 28th: Waun Mawr Standing Stones and the Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber
Helen had done a lot of research about this mornings walk and ending up at the Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber was a treat as I'd never been there before. The event finished at arund midday.
Conclusion: I enjoy these Bryn Walking events with Helen and there are three residential walking breaks planned for 2023 which I'm looking forward to......
April 24th - 28th: Walks in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park using the same accommodation as referred to above.
July 3rd - 7th: Walks around the Elan Valley in the Southern Cambrian Mountains with an excellent bunkhouse just outside Rhayder. Whilst it is a bunkhouse it is very well equipped and all the rooms are en-suite.
October 2nd - 6th: Southern Snowdonia to summit Rhinog Fach and Rhinog Fawr
December 4th: Flight to Copenhagen with BA from LHR T5 on a BA Holidays package holiday
9 years ago we'd gone to Copenhagen for a city break as Yolande had particularly wanted to visit Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest and most visited theme parks in the world, operating since 1843. Two days into that trip we'd had to return to Cardiff as Yolande's father was in hospital following an acute stroke. This trip, last month, was to finally get Yolande into Tivoli Gardens which hadn't been possible back in 2013.
We drove to LHR and dropped the car off with Purple Parking, were soon checked in and enjoying the BA lounge which was included in our package. The flight was short and under 2hrs and we were soon in Copenhagen trying to figure out how to book our train tickets into the city centre for the very short walk to our centrally located Scandic Palace Hotel.
After checking in to the hotel and unpacking we headed out into the city centre for a walk but is was cold, wet and very dark. We visited the fabulous and nearby Torvehallerne Food Market which is definitely worth a visit and close to numerous high quality, but very expensive, outdoor equipment shops.
December 5th: At leisure in Copenhagen
After breakfast we set off out in to the cold and wet city centre to firstly visit The Round Tower where we had coffee as well before climbing up to the observation level at the top.
This 17th Century tower and observatory is one of Copenhagen's most iconic buildings. Located on one of the city's busy shopping streets it's easy to escape the crowds and walk up the wide spiral path to the top. It's rumoured that a Russian Tsar once rode to the top.
Continuing onwards through the streets we headed to Nyhaven to try to find another restaurant we'd enjoyed from 9 years ago and were successful in our search. Colourful, captivating Nyhavn is one of Copenhagen’s most iconic sights and one of the locals’ favourite places to sink a cold beer on a hot day. Nyhavn's buildings aren't the only colourful thing about the area – its history is colourful too. Originally it was a commercial port where ships from all over the world would dock, and it was packed with sailors visiting its pubs, alehouses and ladies of pleasure. The restaurant was as good as previously although perhaps not quite as efficient with GF offerings for Yolande. We said we'd previously been there and searched for it so we were rewarded with complimentary desserts which was nice.
We called into a lego shop on the way back to the hotel to buy gifts for our grandchildren back home.
For dinner we returned to another restaurant we'd visited 9 years previously but it wasn't quite as good and the fabulous ribs we'd enjoyed were no longer on the menu. They did brew their own Christmas beer though which I enjoyed. We had our photos taken with Hans Christian Anderson on the way back to the hotel.
December 6th: By train to Roskilde to visit the Viking Ship Museum.
On most of our city breaks we try to get out of the city to visit an outlying town or city and we'd thought the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde might be worth the effort on this snowy and cold day.
Dinner at Wagamamas as they provide good GF food for Yolande.
December 7th: At leisure in Copenhagen
Yolande was determined to use as much public transport as possible so we took the Metro out to the north of the city and walked to The Little Mermaid.
Unveiled on 23 August 1913, The Little Mermaid was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen. The sculpture is made of bronze and granite and sits in the water at Langelinie Pier. It was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale about a mermaid who gives up everything to be united with a young, handsome prince on land.
We then headed in the general direction of the city centre, passing the Seaplane Base where I spoke to two pilots about their twin Otter Floatplane before enjoying a coffee in a nearby delicatesen.
We looked at our maps and decided that the adjacent Kastellet Fortress would be worthy of a visit, even on such a cold and snowy day as this. It was an enjoyable visit with many interesting buildings to look at on one of Northern Europe's finest and best preserved fortifications. Kastellet is today used as a military barracks and is a busy workplace for several hundred employees. Kastellet is also a beautiful cultural gem and a peaceful green oasis – right in the middle of the busy city.
Dinner was in the Dubrovnik Restaurant close to the hotel as we're going to Croatia next summer so thought we'd better see if we like the food.
December 8th: A day trip to Malmo in Sweden
Another trip out of Copenhagen, by rail across The Bridge which was perhaps made famous by a Scandic tV series dating back to 2011. The trains are below road level on the bridge so views are not really possible but we were soon over in Malmo.
The weather was wonderful, cold and sunny for our walk around Malmo with a light lunch in a lovely coffee shop near the Turning Torso building. Construction started in the summer of 2001. One reason for building Turning Torso was to re-establish a recognisable skyline for Malmö since the removal in 2002 of the Kockums Crane, which was located less than one kilometre from Turning Torso. The local politicians deemed it important for the inhabitants to have a new symbol for Malmö in lieu of the crane that had been used for shipbuilding and somewhat symbolised the city's blue collar roots.
We also enjoyed visiting Malmöhus Castle, Scandinavia´s oldest surviving Renaissance castle. Here Denmark´s coins were minted in the Middle Ages and here Crown Prince Frederick held wild parties in the 16th century. Prisoners were beheaded in the courtyard in the 19th century.
Trains back over the bridge to Copenhagen were every 20 minutes and we went back to our hotel for a late cocktail hour before heading out to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli has opened throughout the year with a variety of themed attractions. Halloween, Christmas, winter and summer, where the gardens are redecorated to convey the cosy winter vibes, the hearty Christmas feeling, and the nostalgic long summer days and scary Halloween. The Christmas lights were spectacular as we walked around the gardens.
December 9th: BA flight to London and drive home to Cardiff.
October 17th: Drive to York from Cardiff
About a 5hr drive saw us arrive at the centrally located Novotel Hotel. After checking in we spent the rest of the day exploring York before enjoying dinner and returning to our hotel having looked at: Clifford's Tower from the outside, The Shambles, Petergate and the home of Guy Fawkes.
I was born in York many years ago so this was a trip to explore my birthplace. Normally we'd stay with my brother over in Wetwang but on this occasion it wasn't possible. The Novotel Hotel was comfortable with a good breakfast and just a short walk into the city centre.
October 18th: At leisure in York
We explored Clifford's Tower which was a main feature of York Castle and walked the entire length of the city walls which I'd never done before. Along the way we used our National Trust memberships to visit the Treasurer's House, explored The Shambles once more, and walked through the site of the old Roman Fort on our way back to the hotel.
October 19th: A day to visit my brother and his family over in Wetwang as, due to Covid-19, we'd not seen them for quite a time.
October 20th: At leisure in York
Our objectives today were to visit the National Railway Museum and York Minster and we reached the museum in a heavy rain shower which led to flooding on our way back into the city centre afterwards. York Minster was equally enjoyable after lunch.
October 21st: Drive home to Cardiff
February 9th: Travel to London Heathrow and overnight accommodation
Due to an 0800 flight departure the next morning we’d decided to stay at the Garden Inn by Hilton after dropping the car off at Purple Parking. Next stop was into Terminal 5 where we checked in and dropped our bags off.
Taking the free Paddington Express over to the Terminal 2/3 Station I was able to get us to the wrong hotel before making good and eventually checking in to the Garden Inn Hilton. Early evening drinks up at the Runway Bar and then down to the restaurant for an excellent chicken Piri Piri.
Early to bed ready for an 0430 wake-up call the next morning.
February 10th: Early morning departure (0800) on BA894 to Reykjavik
We were awake and checked out by about 0500 and the Paddington Express returned us to Terminal 5 where we passed through formalities with ease and went up to the lounge for breakfast.
Not having flown for two years I was somewhat apprehensive about all the Covid-19 formalities but our paperwork was hardly looked at.
Access to the T5 lounge was part of our BA Holidays package and the bacon rolls and coffee were very enjoyable.
The flight boarded but was slightly delayed in taking off but the lost time was made up and I believe we landed more or less on time at Keflavik Internatonal Airport. Our airport transfer was waiting for us and delivered us to the canopy Hotel in Reykjavic City Centre.
Having visited Iceland twice before I was able to offer Yolande a personalised city tour in the freezing temperatures which were prevailing.
February 11th: Day at leisure in Reykjavik
We walked from the hotel to the Europcar depot over near to the container terminal which was 5.5km mostly on snow covered pavements which made for slow progress in freezing temperatures. The first couple of kilometers were along the Sculpture & Shore Walk which passed the Sun Voyager and Höfơi House sites. We had a coffee in a petrol station cafe which was opposite the Cabin Hotel where I'd stayed previously. The second half of the walk was along Laugarasvegur, lined with some very expensive looking properties.
Picking up the car was easy enough with a very comprehensive handover briefing. I’d booked a Kia Sportage as I have one at home but had opted for an 4WD version because of the winter conditions. The car we were given was a Suzuki Across 4WD which was very well equipped and easy to drive. I found driving in the area to be quite stress free with little traffic on our routes.
We drove to the Grandi Harbour District to climb the Pufa mound but the path was too icy to risk so we drove on to the excellent Grandi Matholl Food Court where we enjoyed a great lunch. Yolande had lamb skewers from the Fjarhusid counter whilst I opted for plaice and chips from the Frystihusid counter.
After lunch we drove over to the Grotta Fridland – Nature Reserve for a look around and to where we returned one cold night to look at the Northern Lights. On the way back into the city centre we visited the Maritime Museum.
Dinner was at the nearby Hard Rock Cafe which was very good but we'd enjoyed a M&S Margerita Cocktail (highly recommended) in our room before that.
February 12th: Self-drive Golden Circle Tour
This was to be a big day out on one of Iceland's classic tours and I was glad we had 4WD capability as it was very wintery. We were soon out of the city centre headed north on Highway 1 before leaving that and turning eastwards onto Highway 36, for Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Springs and the Gullfoss Waterfall.
Thingvellir National Park: No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Þingvellir by the river Öxará. At Þingvellir - literally "Assembly Plains" - the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. Today Þingvellir is a protected national shrine. According to the law, passed in 1928, the protected area shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the Alþing. There is a small visitor centre here with gift shop and a small cafe - pay and display parking.
Geysir Hot Springs: A favorite stop along the Golden Circle is the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers. A favourite is lively Strokkur geyser, which spouts water 30 metres (100 ft) into the air every few minutes. There is a good gift shop within the visitor centre and a large cafe and free parking - take care crossing the road to the geyser area though!
Gullfoss Waterfall: In volume, Gullfoss is the largest waterfall in Europe. The average water flow is around 49,441 ft³/s during its peak season of summer and only 2,825 ft³/s during the winter season. Gullfoss is fed from the wide Hvítá river as it travels from Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier. During a flood of the Hvítá river, Gullfoss broke records at a water flow of 70,629.33 ft³/s. There is a very large visitor centre here with plenty of food options and an equally large gift shop and plenty of free parking.
Kerid Volcanic Crater: Geological Aspect of Kerið Crater - With distinctive volcanic red rock slopes, the crater measures approximately 558 feet (170 meters) in width with a circumference of 886 feet (270 meters) and it is 180 feet (55 meters) deep. Kerið Crater in South Iceland is a volcanic crater that is believed to be 3,000-year-old, which seems to be approximately half of the age of other volcanic calderas found in Iceland.
We returned to Reykjavik after the Kerid Volcanic Crater and the south coast highway. For dinner we went back to the Grandi Matholl Food Court for another great meal and then drove over to the Grotta Fridland – Nature Reserve, to view the Northern Lights but it was very cold and it took some time for them to appear and it wasn't the greatest display. Locals we talked to said it was the first sighting for a long time.
February 13th: Self-drive tour of the Reykjanes Peninsular
Reykjanes is a small headland on the southwestern tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland, giving the main peninsula its name. The region is about nine kilometres from Iceland's international airport.
Driving out of the city centre was easy enough from the multi-story car park next to our hotel as our route would take us past the main interational airport. We arrived at Suðurnesjabær where we enjoyed a coffee in the nearby motel as the lighthouse cafe was closed. This would be a great spot for viewing the northern lights.
We continued southwards, stopping briefly to see some Icelandic Ponies before continuing to follow the coasline eastwards. The peninsula’s surrounding steam and the natural Reykjanes hot springs is a good indicator of the immense natural energy found in the area. Covering the whole of the peninsula is rough and outlandish dark lava with mossy tops. The colours of the peninsula are truly fascinating and are in an array from dark grey to red to turquoise blue, although most of the lanscape was snow covered.
We reached the very quiet fishing village of Grindavik where we found the Café Bryggjan on the dockside so went in for lunch. The lobster soup was amazing with a second helping included in the price - big lumps of lobster too if you stirred the pot! Yolande was lucky enough to order Gluten Free food but the choice was limited.
I'd watched a large fishing boat tie up next to the Café Bryggjan so went over to take some photos and the crew, busy offloading their catch, came over to talk to me. They'd landed 50 tons of cod the day before and were a happy bunch.
We returned to Reykjavik to drop the car off at the domestic airport and get a taxi back to our hotel as heavy snow started to fall and we later walked through blizzard like conditions to find a restaurant for dinner.
February 14th: Day at leisure in Reykjavik
Without a car we'd decided to further explore Reykjavik on foot for the day before a Valentine's Day dinner in the hotel restaurant. Our Rohan clothing kept us warm and dry from the continuous snow which fell all day.
Yolande led us to a nice warm coffee shop before we returned for a picnic lunch in our hotel room. After lunch we went for our final walk around the city centre and at one stage I had to pull her to safety as the snow plough clearing the pavement wasn't even slowing down for us so we ended up in two feet of snow. Down at the Viking Ship the wind was so strong it was difficult to stay upright. We later took the lift to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja (“Church of Hallgrímur” in English), one of Reykjavík’s main landmarks. The impressive church towers over the city’s skyline, rising out of the capital’s center like a concrete geyser.
Dinner in the hotel was excellent - best Cod and Chips I've ever eaten.
February 15th: BA flight back to the UK.
Our airport transfer was a bit delayed because BA Holidays had sent the driver to a different hotel. The flight back to LHR was comfortable (after the aircraft was de-iced) with bangers and mash on offer which was really good and a tasty GF meal for Yolande too.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.