Cnicht Walk, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, our cottage looked across to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. One of them, called Cnicht, is known as the Matterhorn of Wales, due to it’s shape when viewed from a certain position. Well, it just had to be done.

My route would start in the small village of Croesor and head up the south-west flank. I was a little worried about finding my way as the map never had a path marked. But as you will see from the pictures below, the route was well signposted, even from the car park, and the summit was always clear and visible straight ahead.

From there I descended to 2 or 3 of the many small lakes, or Llyns, which pepper the landscape, before returning via a disused slate quarry down the Cwm Croesor valley.

Lleyn Peninsular, North Wales

For a day out, Jude and I took a drive around the Lleyn Peninsular. Jude had read about a place called Caeau Tan y Bwlch, where there were some of the last traditional fields left on the peninsular. We hoped, even expected, to see lots of wild flowers and butterflies. In the event, there were no butterflies at all (well, it was a windy day), but there were tens of Chimney Sweeper moths flitting between the orchids.

From there we went to Porth Iago and had a walk along the coastal path, (where I did at least capture my first Painted Lady of the year) before stopping at Llanbedrog beach on our way back to Ynys, near Harlech.

Ynys, North Wales, Part 2

Once out of quarantine, Jude and I were free to wander and below are some pictures of the local places we explored.

Not more than a kilometre away from where we were staying was Llanfihangel-y-traethau church. It’s quite famous for a number of reasons, not least of which is that there is a unique memorial stone in the churchyard with an inscription (in latin) which indicates that it was built in the reign of King Owen Gwynedd, who reigned from 1137 to 1170. Another reason is that the writer Richard AW Hughes is buried there. (See pic 7).

But perhaps most interestingly, especially to American readers, is that David Ormsby-Gore is also buried there. Who’s he?, you may well ask, but he was the 5th Baron Harlech or more generally known simply as Lord Harlech. He was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1961 to 1965 (and, to add a bit of UK interest, MP for Oswestry from 1950 to 1961). He became good friends with President John F. Kennedy and (Wiki tells me that) “after his assassination there were rumours of a romance between Ormsby-Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1968 he proposed marriage to her, but, she did not accept. Ormsby-Gore was one of the pallbearers at Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral.”

He subsequently married American socialite Pamela Colin in 1969 but, sadly, Lord Harlech was seriously injured in a car crash on 25 January 1985 and died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital the following morning, aged 66. Senator Edward Kennedy, Jacqueline (by then) Onassis and other Kennedy family members attended his funeral in the Llanfihagel-y-traethau church. He was buried there as the church is situated on one of the two Lord Harlech estates.

The reason we were keen to we visit the church (and we were lucky enough to get the keys to be able to go inside), was that Jude grew up in the old school, in Pant Glas, which had provided education for the children of the workers on Lord Harlech’s other estate, Brogyntyn, near Oswestry.

As you will also see below, at low tide it is possible to walk across the Glaslyn/Dwyryd estuary and Jude and I took the opportunity to go swimming in one of the pools left behind by the side of Ynys Gifftan island, which sits in the middle of the estuary.

Ynys, North Wales

My apologies for neglecting my blogging duties for the past week or so but, as mentioned in my previous post, Jude and I have been in quarantine in the UK. This severely hampers one’s ability to take and post interesting photographs.

However, I did take the opportunity to go the ‘scenic route’ to post our COVID tests in the nearby village and I did manage to get a few evening sunset pictures only a few yards up the road from where we were staying.

Our cottage (see pic 1) was in the small village of Ynys and looked out over the Glaslyn/Dwyryd estuary to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. On the far side of the estuary, was the small village of Portmeirion, (pic 3), which is built in an Italianate style (more info and pics here) and famous for being the setting for the 1960’s cult TV series, The Prisoner, (more info here). This seemed quite appropriate given our situation. I fully envisaged a great white balloon coming to capture us if we strayed from our cottage! As it was, Jude had 6 phone calls in the 10 days and I had none!

In case you are wondering, all of our tests (i.e. the one before we left Switzerland and those on Day 2 and Day 8 of our isolation) came back negative. 👍👍😊 So we were then free to explore… See next post(s).

Auberive, Haute-Marne, France

Like many of you no doubt, Jude and I thought the COVID vaccination programme might be the beginning of the end of the COVID pandemic. Things seemed to be going well in the UK and, in April, we were called for both of our jabs within the space of 4 weeks. Great, we thought and, despite Switzerland being on the UK’s Amber list*, we decided to take a trip back to the UK – again for reasons which will become clear… (I’m such a tease!)

*Note for non-UK citizens: Being on the UK’s Amber list meant that not only would we need a negative COVID test 72 hours before arrival, but we’d also be required to quarantine for 10 days and send off 2 more self-tests on days 2 and 8 of our self-isolation. We (begrudgingly) accepted this situation and booked a place to stay for 2 weeks, simply to quarantine for most of it!

This is how we came to be in the quaint little village of Auberive, in France. It’s a 9 hour drive from our home in Evolène to the ferry port of Dunkirk, so we decided to stop off more or less half way. As with many of these things, the reason we chose that particular location was because we liked the look of the accommodation, which was an old auberge, built sometime around the 12 to 13th century. And we were not disappointed with our choice. 😊

Saillon to Produit Walk, Valais, Switzerland

I had plenty of time to get into position for my previous post on the Tour de Romandie so, after parking in Saillon, I took the scenic route over the Farinet suspension bridge and down into Produit. I’d never been up the Tour Bayart in Saillon, so that just had to be done first (though the path to it was quite interesting – see pic 5). And, on the way to the bridge, I detoured to the smallest vineyard in the world, made up of just 3 vines, which is owned by the Dalai Lama. The whole site is a place for contemplation and several famous people have visited over the years. (See pic 14 for some examples).

I’d been over the Farinet footbridge once before and knew that there was a via ferrata (climbing route) which finished nearby. I paused on the bridge but could not see anything other than the large Dove of Peace stuck to the wall and a couple of arrows. It was only when I zoomed in on my photos did I see some of the metalwork which aids climbers up the sheer rockface. (See pics 26-28).

For those who may have missed my previous post on this area, the bridge is named after a certain Joseph-Samuel Farinet who, until his death in 1880, spent most of his life on the run, but he was a bit of a Robin Hood character. However, he didn’t stoop so low as to take from the rich, he simply created his own counterfeit money and gave it to the poor. Naturally he became a bit of a hero of the people in the Valais and his legend has grown, such that almost everything in the area seems to be named after him!

Walk around Lac de Montsalvens, Gruyère, Switzerland

Like many of you no doubt, Jude and I have been longing to get away for a bit of a break. The hotels in Switzerland are still open and we took advantage of a special Dinner, Bed and Breakfast offer at a hotel in the small village of Charmey.

I think it’s fair to say that the Gruyère region is more ‘chocolate box’ pretty than the more rugged Alps of the Valais, as I hope these photos show.

Lac Léman and Château de Chillon, Vaud, Switzerland

On Tuesday, Jude and I took a trip down to Switzerland’s largest lake, Lac Léman or Lake Geneva. We parked up in Villeneuve, which lies at the eastern end and walked along the lakeside towards Montreux. Along the way is one of Switzerland’s “Top 10” tourist sites, the Château de Chillon.

The site began as a Roman outpost, to guard the route through the alpine passes, but construction started in the 10th century. As you can imagine it has an interesting history and you can read all about it here.

Equally interesting are the legends which surround the small island seen in picture 4. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it’s the only natural island in the lake, Technically it’s called the Île de Peilz but, being British, I like the story about it being given as a gift to Queen Victoria when she visited the region. A tree was planted on the island and it’s known as Queen Victoria’s tree. For more legends and even a video of the tree please click here.

Note that the first two images below were taken near Ollon, on our way to the lake.

Châteaux de Sion et Environs, (Route 140), Valais, Switzerland

Most of the routes that I use are derived from the SwitzerlandMobility website, which is a fantastic resource (should you ever wish to explore this fine country). Not only does it show every single walking path or track, but it also includes cycling, mountain biking, roller blading and, would you believe, canoeing routes. It’s very easy to use – just zoom in to the region you’re interested in then select the appropriate type of exercise on the left and specify whether you’d like to view the National, Regional and/or Local routes. You can also draw and download your own routes, (as I do frequently), but this requires an annual subscription of around 35 Swiss francs (35 US dollars/£30). Well worth every cent, I’d say!

So, while searching for another new route to walk, I had a quick look at the cycling options and discovered this circular, regional route (no. 140) around the villages above Sion. At 42 km (or 26 miles), it didn’t seem to be too far, for a part-time cyclist like me, though it did have 950m of ascent. The altitude profile suggested that it would be done in 2 separate climbs, with a level-ish section in between, so I thought it might not be too difficult. It was only during the drive down to Sion with my bike in the back of the car that I realised it was the equivalent of cycling back up to Evolène from Sion. (My family and friends, who have visited us, will appreciate how big a climb that is!)

Anyway, all went well as you will see from the images below. Though, try as I might, I couldn’t get the Speed Checker by the side of the road to register anything, such was the incline (see pic 18). The first climb had an average incline of 8.5% over 4.5 km and, purely in the interests of producing this post of course, I did stop frequently to take a few photos. 😊

Lastly, I should also praise the Garmin Edge, which you can see in Pic 9. I’d only used it in the past to track where I’d been and this was the first time I’d downloaded a route to follow. For something so tiny it did an amazing job, giving an alarm around 150 metres before and then at any significant change in direction and also an alarm when I went slightly off the route, plus confirming when I was back on track. 👍👍

Winter Walk, Arolla valley, Val, d’Hérens, Switzerland

Last week, Jude and I went for a drive up to Arolla to do a walk up the valley. We knew that heli-skiing (and heli-boarding) had become popular, but even we were surprised to see not one, but three helicopters waiting to take their clients high into the mountains. We were lucky in that 5 people arrived just as we got to the first one and soon they took off. (See pics 4 & 5). On our return another group arrived and a second (pic 7) soon disappeared over the horizon. As we made our way back through the woods, it seemed like only a matter of minutes had elapsed and the 5 in the first group came whizzing by, obviously eager to take off for at least a third time!