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Harlech - sunset heaven!
Member Name: jo1l
Date: 09/01/01, updated on 19/09/04 (3022 review reads)
Advantages: The Sunsets
Disadvantages: The weather, the epic journey to get there
It was as a teenager Mum packed us all in a car and announced that we were going to live in Wales for a year whilest she went to the local College. Colege Harlech is an adult education college similar to Ruskin college and prior to access courses was prehaps the only way an adult lacking the prequisite A levels could go to University. This was in the late 70's. I've mixed feelings about my year there as a teenager living miles from any where it was hell on earth for me but now as an adult I often yearn for the tranquility that is Harlech!
It was not until the early 90's did I venture back to Harlech, and now apart from the year my daughter was born, I've been back every year!
Harlech would be an unremarkable village if it was not for the College situated there and the castle. Every town has that special landmark that if you know the place well you look out for as you get near, Harlech's landmark is the Castle. The Castle itself is nothing spectacular, if you want a "good" castle then drive to near by Caenarvon! If you should find yourself in Harlech then obviously do visit the views are spectacular! But try to go when they are doing one of the pagents, it really makes a visit extra special.
Harlech itself, contains several mini markets ( as the brouchures would say), a growing number of gift shops, a bank with a cash point, several resturant/cafes and two pubs! If you're after a night life place then Harlech is not for you! Accomadation is in plentiful supply from Grand hotels to a caravan site to self catering flats and cottages. The College also has a cinema which is open to the public showing a variety of films.
With the closing of the near by Nuclear power station ( perfectly safe!) unemployment has hit the village
and you will be greeted with an ever growing number of for sale signs.
Harlech beach is a good 30 minute plus walk away from the village down hill so take your car! There is a car park about a 5 minute walk away from the beach. The beach is spectacular, clean, covered in shells, the sea is relatively shallow so is ok for kids to paddle in under supervision. But best of all is practically empty even in August!
Getting to Harlech is an epic adventure which takes practically all day, once you've left the motorway at Chester ( if coming from the North) or just outside Shrewsbury ( if coming from the South) you join the typical country lanes which have some wonderful views and hair raising drops as you drive throw Snowdonia. The train journey is again an epic, my brother made it from London, changing at Birmingham. The journey post Birmingham was made on a local train which stopped at every little sheep shed on route.
Harlech is a relatively isolated place so unfortunately a car is a must for getting out to other places. The train line does run semi frequent services from Barmouth to Pwhelli, but to be honest having waited an eternity one time for a train I've never used it since!
Harlech is well situated for visits to a number of places, check out the tourist Information office for ideas.
Barmouth is about a half hours drive along the coast from Harlech. It a quaint Victorian town which has gone a little to seed. Barmouth has the usual tourist attractions eg nice beah complete with donkeys, a fun fair that has seen better days and the usual proliferation of gift shops, sporting equipement shops, cafes and pubs. It also contains the all important co -op supermarket, a must if you're in Self Catering accomadation. If you've got a child to amuse then Barmouth is ideal. A trip across the bay in a rickety old boat will bring you to a minature railway where a 20 minute journey will take you to another small village
a cafe and a " museum".
The other nearby town is Portmadoc this is more of a town then a tourist resort. There a plenty of shops here as well as 2 supermarkets. Portmadoc itself does not have a beach itself but if you drive out of the town following signs to Black Rock Sands you'll find a spectacular beach which allows cars straight on it - Beware the tide coming in!! Portmadoc is also the starting point for the Bleauneu Ffestiniog Steam railway - a spectacular journey by steam trian up into the mountains.
Portmarion an italianate folly built in the 20's is located near to Portmadoc. Port Marion is better known as the setting for the 1960's cult TV series the Prisoner. It's well worth a visit even if it does get a little bit crowded. I visited it once when the Prisoner society were actually re enacting bits from the show.
Driving along the Llyen penninsula out of Portmadoc you'll come across a number of small Villages/towns. Cricceth, is actually a very sweet little village complete with mini castle and its claim to fame as the home of David Lloyd George - A liberal prime minister. It well worth a look around and grabbing a sandwich in one of the cafes.
The next big town on the Lleyn pennisula is Pwhelli once home to the Butlins camp, now a Haven holiday village. Pwhelli apart from its market on a Thursday has little to recommend. Drive straight throw to Abersoch.
Abersoch is a small village, which has been adopted by the sailing fraternity, so you'll find sailing boats glore here. The shops and resturants are obviously geared up for the invasion of the sailors! The Beach is wonderful, complete with the obligatory shells. If you want nothing else but to have a good lunch, a lounge on the beach with a good book and watch the sail boats then Abersoch is ideal.
On the road out of Harlech towards Barmouth is the small village of Llanfair, if you've got small children then a
visit to the Childrens farm is a must. you only pay once for a muti admission ticket. Also located by the farm is an old slate mine with tours.
Harlech is also very near to Mount Snowdian so if you're feeling very energetic then you could always try a walk up Snowdian. If you just fancy a gentle hike then the countryside around is ideal walking territory
The weather, unfortunately, Harlech can be hell if it does nothing but rain for your entire holiday, but if the sun comes out then thats another matter!
Mobile phone reception, BT cellnet is as clear as a bell here, Vodaphone is ok but forget it with One to One.
I entitled this review Sunset heaven, well if your sat out with a cool beer or a nice glass of wine, as the sun goes down over the Lleyn Penninsula glowing in the tranquil sea it really is heaven! The best sunset's in the world are to be seen over Harlech bay!
Should you want further information on Harlech try the following web sites: