Our favourite hikes: Nant Gwynant to Gladstone Rock, on Snowdon’s Watkin Path

It’s a real struggle with the ego to set off up a mountain and not push your luck to get to the top. We really, really yearned to climb Snowdon but knew our limits with the girls, and knew we probably wouldn’t make it all the way up and back down in good time. 

  

For those who haven’t climbed before, Snowdon is Wales’ highest peak, and though it is pretty small in mountain terms, it can be a difficult climb. Sir Edmund Hillary used to train here before embarking on his successful expedition to be the first person to get to the summit of Mount Everest. My Nain (Welsh for grandmother), danced with him one night at the nearby Pen-y-Gwryd hotel – one of my family’s favourite claims to fame! 

   
   

I’ve been up twice before, both in very different conditions, and one other time had to turn back near the top due to very bad weather conditions. 

  

So, knowing we weren’t headed for the top, but wanting to stretch our lungs and legs in the mountains, we decided to head for the waterfalls that lie a third of the way up the Watkin path. 

    

Our walk started from a car park (£2 for 4 hours & there are toilets) at Nant Gwynant, a little above sea level; and first crosses the Afon (river) Glaslyn, before heading through National Trust woodland at Hafod y Lan. 

The girls just love trees and we picked up sticks and leaves for them to play with to keep them occupied in the backpacks. We are constantly chattering away to them pointing out anything and everything that might take their interest, and this keeps them excited and engaged in our hikes for much longer. 

   
 

Before long we reached the end of the woodland and the waterfalls were revealed to us as they cut down through the valley, with one of the peaks of Snowdon in view far above. 

  
   
 

We headed up the valley on a stone track, and stopped for a snack break overlooking the impossibly picturesque turquoise blue water cascade from one pool to the next; I guess they are so blue because of the presence of copper in the water. The mountains at this time of year are so colourful; although the day was hazy, the purple heather & vibrant green bracken meant it was far from dull. 

   
    
 

We decided to let the girls walk a bit to stretch their legs – and stretch them they did! We were astounded by how far they managed to walk, just holding our hands. The path was steep and uneven but they were determined to keep going. The only grumbling was when we put them back into the backpacks after half an hour! 

We pushed on up to the disused quarry buildings and the famous Gladstone Rock; this path was famously opened by Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1883. We stopped at the Rock for a picnic and looked longingly up at the summit but both agreed that it would have been a terrible idea to try to do it with the girls, and with my dodgy back too! 

  

After a picnic of tinned tuna, oatcakes, cucumber & blueberries, we headed all the way back downhill, not stopping for a break this time. 

On the journey home we reflected and decided it was lovely to have been on Snowdon, and for the girls to have taken their first steps up the mountain at such a young age; but that we were both equally frustrated not to have been able to get to the top, and are wondering when we will next get the opportunity. 

I’d love to hear from anyone who has hiked to the top of Snowdon, or any other mountain, with a toddler – what would be your top tips? 

Life Unexpected

Twin life: Sleep deprivation with twins – how bad can it get? 

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while but have put it off because I want my blog to be about the positive aspects of being a twin parent. But after what is now almost a month of intense molar teething, one cold and then another, I feel compelled to write the truth about sleep deprivation when you have twins. 

I don’t want to scare expectant twin parents; and should make it clear that this is one person’s experience. I know quite a few twin mums whose babies sleep far better than mine do. But as a first time mum I was hugely naive about how little sleep I would be getting when my twins arrived, and would have liked to have been better prepared about what to expect in the worse case scenario, so here it is.

As newborns, we woke the girls every three hours to feed them on the advice of our midwives. At first I woke for every feed. Each feed would last at least 45 minutes then 20 minutes of winding and nappy changing. We always fed one after the other, as I hadn’t learnt to tandem feed at that stage. So I’d get about 45 mins to an hour sleep before starting again with the first baby. We soon realised that I’d need my husband’s help with the night feeds, so I started expressing at the same time as feeding the first baby, which meant he could feed the second baby, which gave me two hours sleep in a row before doing the next feed. Occasionally my poor sleep-deprived husband would spill a bottle of expressed milk everywhere or fall asleep while it was heating and boil it dry. I was almost too tired to care enough to threaten todivorce him, though I’m sure that spilling expressed milk is legitimate grounds for marital separation! 

 After a few weeks when their weight gain was ‘satisfactory’ for the health team, we stopped waking them and amazingly, one of the girls would do stretches of 5-6 hours! We began to get three hours sleep in a row, it was wonderful. 

Everyone advised me to sleep during the daytime when the babies napped, but as much as I tried, they’d never nap at the same time, or I’d just get both down to sleep, close my eyes only to be painfully awoken by the other one. That kind of awaking, when you’ve literally just fallen asleep is the most excruciating kind, and so I gave up trying to nap during the day. Instead I’d use their nap time to do all my chores so that I could go to bed earlier, soon after they’d gone to sleep. 

  

We had a few months when we got into a rhythm, having about 5 hours (albeit broken) sleep per night was do-able. Then, at about 4 months old something happened. I’m not sure what, could have been the winter with cold after cold, proper teething, or it could have just been the girls’ mental development reaching a point where they knew that they were being left to sleep alone in their cots and were not happy about it!! Suddenly they were waking up every two hours and feeding back to sleep was the only way to settle them.

Gradually the amount of milk I got from expressing dwindled and so I gave up, as I was spending longer expressing than feeding them myself would take! Luckily feeds had dropped to around 20 minutes, but every two hours each meant I was now getting less sleep than ever – most nights I would get a total of just two or three hours broken sleep. I was broken. 

I would start the day completely exhausted, wondering how on earth I would be able to look after these babies all day by myself. I got ill all the time & I felt really low; I had never felt so low. I was supposed to be enjoying my babies and cherishing this new phase of my life but I felt like I was being tortured. In hindsight my depression was probably just severe exhaustion.

  
 

They weren’t great at sleeping during the day and at one stage the only way I could get them to sleep was to drive them round and round. I was completely unsafe to drive and on one occasion I remember knocking a grassy bank with my car. It was the wake up call I needed. I decided to do something about the girls’ sleep problem – my sleep problem. I read every article ever written about improving babies’ sleep. Still, I could not bring myself to sleep train. There was no way I could leave my babies to cry at night, and leave them alone to wonder why I wasn’t coming – I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. I researched gentle sleep training methods but none seemed gentle enough, all of them went against my instincts. 

I’d been resisting co-sleeping all the while. I’d read too many horror stories and almost everyone I knew was of the mind that it was a bad habit to get into. One night though, my husband hadn’t been able to wake me up – I had stopped waking up to the babies’ cries – I felt like an awful mother but my body was in shut down mode – so my husband used to get them up, bring them into me to feed then take them back into their nursery to sleep in their cots. That night, he fell asleep and forgot to put them back. We woke up in my bed at 7am. We had all slept from 1am to 7am!!! 6 hours!! That was the most sleep I’d had since before pregnancy!! The girls were 7 months old.

I researched as much as I could into cosleeping and soon found lots of support for cosleeping and then there was no looking back – it was absolutely the most natural thing for all of us and we were all finally happy. Now I felt guilty for not doing it sooner. 

I’d like to say cosleeping solved all our sleep problems, but we still have regular sleepless nights with colds, teething, development leaps etc. we have had about a month now with terrible sleep; I’m currently getting about 5 hours a night; but the days of two hours broken sleep seem like a distant bad memory and I’ve accepted that this is the way things are for now. It’s been 16 months of sleep deprivation, and I genuinely don’t know if I’d even be capable of sleeping 8 hours straight any more. And I’m not going to give it that much thought, because I’m not going to get the chance to find out any day soon!! 

Getting outside with kids in the rain

We live in Wales where it rains, a lot and often. I’m not complaining, it’s what makes our landscape so lush and fills our waterfalls with an endless supply of gloriously crashing water. It also means on the relatively rare occasions that I have to water the garden, I can use my supply of harvested rain water. Always good to look on the bright side! 

On the other hand, getting out in the rain with young children often seems like too much hassle – wet clothes, unhappy babies – no thanks! However, my babies go stir crazy when kept inside for more than one day, so when the rain sets in for a week or even weeks, it’s time to be brave and just get outside. 

  
As an adult, I like to embrace the wet weather and just go for it completely – going for a sea swim, surf or walking behind a waterfall just to make sure I’m completely drenched through and not just damp; maybe that’s the Welsh girl in me? With the children, it’s all too tempting to let worries about their comfort put me off going outside in wet weather completely. However, with a little bit of planning and a lot of kit, we can have as much, if not more fun on a wet day as any other!! 

  

Here are a few pointers that make getting outside for adventures in the rain easier for us: 

  • Waterproofs! This is very obvious but makes all the difference between a happy baby and a miserable one. We have Regatta puddle suits which are absolutely fantastic and keep my girls warm, dry and happy all over! We also recently tested a fantastic waterproof all in one from Muddy Puddles – check out the review here
  • Hats – with rain usually comes wind and I find keeping the girls’ heads dry and warm keeps them happier for longer. 
  • Warm snacks and drinks – breastfeeding provides an easy on-tap supply of warm drinks and snacks without any fuss (except wet boobs for me!) and you can get wonderful thermal insulated lunchboxes / bowls which keep food warm. I find wrapping it in foil adds an extra layer of insulation. 

  

  • A change or several changes of warm dry clothes; a waterproof rucksack is good for keeping everything dry. Plastic bags are usually the devil in my eyes but they are wonderful for keeping spare clothes and other things dry and then for putting wet clothes in afterwards.
  • Somewhere dry to get changed – even if under a tree or behind a wall, it’s usually possible to find a bit of shelter from heavy rain somewhere. 
  • A positive mental attitude and sense of adventure – if you’re having fun your children will pick up on it and have fun too! 

  

  • Keep in mind a list of water-based activities your kids will enjoy; if you’re going to get wet you might as well really embrace it! My girls love playing in rockpools, jumping waves on the beach, splashing in puddles, drawing in the mud with sticks and shaking branches (yes, really) when we’re out and about; and chalking on our patio or playing with a water table or just washing tub of water outside when we’re at home. 

  
  
We struggled before the girls were walking well enough for wellies with suitable footwear; they tended to get cold feet if they were in their neoprene socks for too long. Thankfully we’re now able to use wellies, but I wonder what the solution is for pre/ new walkers? How do you get out in the rain?

The Twinkle Diaries

Our favourite hikes: Elan Valley – Caban Coch Dam to Ty’n y Pant

I consider myself to be pretty well versed in the beautiful parts of my homeland – the small but aesthetically gifted country of Wales. However each time I visit a new part of the country, I’m astounded by how much beauty one small corner of the world can hold, and pleasantly reminded that there is still so much left for me to discover so close to home. 

  
  
Elan Valley is a dramatically beautiful estate of reservoirs formed by a chain of dams running down through several valleys, whose sides rise steeply up to mixed plantation and deciduous woodland, becoming heather and bracken-clad before ascending to gloriously vast open prime Welsh mountain tops. 

  
The estate lies smack in the centre of Wales and is probably the most isolated piece of wilderness that remains here; it certainly doesn’t draw the crowds of visitors that flock to Snowdonia year-round. 

We chose to visit Elan Valley to break up our journey from South to North Wales, and happily it lies a toddler’s nap distance away. After breakfasting in a cosy cafe in the nearest small town, Rhayader, we headed a few miles out to the Visitors Centre, where we parked up, used the (great) facilities, and put the backpacks on. We only had time for a short hike and wanted the girls to be able to stretch their legs and tire themselves out. As it turns out, this wasn’t the best choice of route for that, but they enjoyed themselves nonetheless, and had a play in the park back at the visitors centre on our return. 

   
 
From the visitor’s centre we headed up to the Caban Coch Dam, crossed over the old stone bridge then began South along a path next to the reservoir. 

  
The path weaves itself through Oak and Heather which clings to the valley sides. We stopped to let the girls explore the trees, touch the bark which caused much amusement, pick up sticks to hit us over the head with, and leaves to scrunch into our hair. 

  
Before too long the path heads quite steeply uphill and after a while we got the girls out to stretch their legs; we’ve discovered that they just love to walk uphill!! 

  
There was one (quite literally) sticky moment when we stopped for a snack and a drink and having finished all their blueberries the girls decided to go and pick some more off the ground.. On closer inspection they were not blueberries but they were so enthralled because sheep poo squishes wonderfully between the fingers! Thank goodness for wet wipes. 

  
From our stopping point we had the most incredible views and it was so tempting to keep going, but we had to get back to continue our journey North, so we turned around at Ty’n y Pant. In no time, and having retrieved a welly which had been dropped on the way out, we were back at the centre. We just had time for a delicious leek and potato soup and a delicious gluten free cheesecake for me for lunch from the visitor’s centre before getting back in the car.

The Elan Valley estate is huge, you could literally spend several days exploring, and we are so excited to have found such a wonderful place to break up our regular journeys from North to South! 

For more information on visiting Elan Valley, see their wonderful website, here: http://www.elanvalley.org.uk

Our favourite recipes: curried butternut squash soup

The days are beginning to shorten, and although the sun has been shining quite a lot for us so far this September, the nights are cold and we’ve well and truly swapped suncream for jumpers now. At this time of year my thoughts always turn to food – maybe a throwback to my more primal ancestors; recent research has shown that our ancestors’ experiences are expressed in our genes. Mine were Snowdonian sheep farmers so it’s no wonder really that despite my warm house and many nearby supermarkets I get an urge to gather and cook at this time of year. 

One of my food cravings as the air turns colder is spice, lots of spice! I’m not entirely sure I can thank my Snowdonian roots for that, but we apparently also have Spanish sea captains in our bloodline, so maybe that’s where it comes from. 

  
I have a bit of a predicament when it comes to spice though; one of my daughters loves hot and spicy food, and the other screams if she gets anything remotely on the warm side of spicy in her mouth! You’d hope that one of the perks of having identical twins would be that they enjoy the same food but no – one loves fruit, the other doesn’t, one will eat her way through half a cow and the other won’t touch meat; and we have the spice issue as well. I remember one particularly stressed-looking mum at our local baby group telling me identical twins must be so easy compared to her two children of different ages because they have the same needs – cue lots of deep breathing and a polite smile from me! 

Anyway, I’ll get to the point of this post. Pre-babies I’d make this recipe for myself and my husband on the very spicy side, but now it’s a much lighter dusting of spice to suit my daughter’s tender palate. 

  
I grow squash in my garden most years, like I know my grandparents did. I use a lovely organic variety called ‘Uchiki Kuri’ which yields a ridiculous amount of delicious golden fleshed squash great for curries, risotto, roasting or in soup. I’ve even used it in cakes! This year, I had a vegetable growing disaster in that I didn’t manage to grow a single thing; unless you count a limp pea plant that yielded about 8 peas from 2 pods! So for this recipe, I bought a lovely looking organic squash from the supermarket. Cheating, yes, but it just wouldn’t be Autumn without squash! 

  
Ingredients:

  • One large butternut squash
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • Half a teaspoon ground coriander
  • Half a teaspoon of black pepper 
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin
  • One inch cubed of fresh ginger, chopped
  • Half a teaspoon of fresh chilli, chopped (optional – sadly none for us!)
  • A pint of water, plus more as needed
  • A third of a can of coconut milk
  • Tablespoon of coconut oil

Optional extra – 2 small handfuls of white quinoa to boost the protein content of this meal & make it more filling

Method: 

  • Peel, deseed and chop the squash into cubes
  • Saute with the coconut oil and all the spices in a large saucepan for about 5 mins
  • Add the water, and top up as needed until the squash is really soft
  • (Optional) add the quinoa, and more water, and simmer for a further 20 mins
  • Blend well, then stir in the coconut milk back on the heat for 5 minutes
  • Enjoy! 

Our favourite hikes: Newborough Beach & Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

More of a walk than a long hike, as it’s a 3-4 mile flattish round trip, but for the purpose of continuity on the blog I’m classing this as a hike! Also, with 25kg strapped to your back it definitely feels more like hiking. Anyway, I digress before I’ve even started…

  

The day we visited Newborough & Llanddwyn was one of those days when without much planning, everything falls together spectacularly. We had about an hour’s drive from where we were staying, the girls napped in the car on the way, and woke up as we arrived (might have been something to do with me singing Foals quite loudly to ‘help’ them wake up!).

  

The tide was going out, so we knew we’d be able to cross onto the Island and the weather, well, what can I say about it? It was one of those perfectly still, serene days where a ripple and a bubble are the only things distinguishing the sea from the sky. A layer of haze softly blanketed the foot of the mountains on the horizon; from here you could see the whole of the Snowdonian range, as well as South to the long arm of the Lleyn Peninsula jutting up from the sea. 

  

The trip begins in a large car park nestled between the dunes and the thick pine forest – home to the rare and endangered red squirrel; though we saw none as no doubt with two toddlers we were probably making too much noise! We walked out over the dunes down onto the beach and, despite the number of cars in the car park, there were relatively few people, and even less as we headed along the beach towards the island.

  

Perhaps it was the pine forest, sand dunes or maybe the still quite intense sun, but this felt more like southwestern France than Wales. 

  
  

We reached the island and stopped for a picnic on the most perfect golden sand isolated beach looking over the water to Snowdon. We got the girls down from the backpacks and they played with rocks and shells, running back to us only for another mouthful of food or water. 

   
   

Refuelled, we headed up onto the Island where the views only became more breathtaking. Now we had left France for a Greek Island with boats moored in the sparkling azure waters just off the island. 

  

But this place is well and truly Welsh, and steeped in Welsh myth and legend; the island is named after Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of Love. It is believed she brought her many lovers to the island and you can see why, you’d find it hard to think of a more romantic location!

   
 

We walked up to the lighthouse jutting out into the Irish Sea then turned and headed quite rapidly back to the mainland, as we sensed the girls were starting to reach their threshold! The more hiking we do with them, the more we get to know how far we can push them so that we can balance our enjoyment with a good experience for them.

    
 

Once we had crossed the dunes and reached the forest – which offered welcome relief from the intensity of the afternoon sun – we let the girls walk through the forest stopping now and again to collect pine cones and sticks.

   
 

They managed a really long walk; about 3/4 of a mile almost all of the way back to the car, taking it in turns to have a go on daddy’s shoulders. 

   
 

I’m not exaggerating when I say I think I’ve found one of my favourite places in the world, and I can imagine it is equally spectacular, if very different, during a big winter storm, waves crashing against the black rocks and sea foam flying into the evergreen forest. 

On to the practicalities: the beach is reached through Newborough, South Anglesey, and costs £4 to access the car park. There are toilets at the car park and even showers and a picnic area.  You have to get the tide right to get out to the island and ensure you won’t get caught out coming back. Dogs aren’t supposed to be on the beach until the end of October but everyone seemed to ignore that rule for some reason? More information on the area’s fascinating history can be found here: Anglesey History
Life Unexpected


Are your non-identical twins really non-identical? 

I remember every single detail of the moment we were having twins; the first scan at 9 weeks revealed two wriggly sets of legs, two heads facing opposite ends, each in its own little sac, one on top of the other as if in mini bunk beds in my belly. 

  

  
We had a lengthy appointment with the sonographer, who got a bit cross with me for not lying still – how could I, I was in fits of hysterical giggles having found out I not only had one live and kicking baby, but two! Then it was on to the midwife who brought us back down to earth explaining the likelihood of both twins surviving wasn’t that great at this early stage, and if they did, then there were all the additional risks and complications to take into account, so we shouldn’t get too excited yet. (Actually, impossible and also why shouldn’t we have believed in our babies – they were there weren’t they?). 

I took notes during the appointment with the midwife. I was born a curious person and I need to know every detail about anything that matters to me. I remember clearly being told that we were having non-identical twins as they had two sacs and two placentas – the term was Di Chorionic, Di Amniotic or DCDA. So I wrote in my notes DCDA = non-identical. 

After the appointment I went home and read every single book and article on twins I could find. I was starting from scratch as my GCSE Biology was a long time ago and I couldn’t even really remember how babies were made – ha!! 

When it was time for our consultant appointment at 12 weeks, and with our babies still kicking, and now punching each other too, we went armed with a list of questions. One of our questions was, we had read that not all DCDA twins are non-identical, was there a possibility that they could be identical. She answered that it was a very, very slim chance and we shouldn’t really consider it. Our twin specialist consultant said that, so we took it as truth. 

  
I lose count of the number of times our babies were referred to as ‘non-identical’ twins by almost every professional we were treated by during my pregnancy. So that’s what we believed, too. The issue raised itself again when we found out at 20 weeks we were expecting two girls, but again, we were told no, as there are two sacs and two placentas, they are non-identical. Still, what I read told me about the slim possibility and so I always kept it in my mind that there was a chance they could be. 

  
When they were born, the girls were distinguishable by their birth battle scars, and a birthmark. As they grew, they were increasingly alike, their weight was only ever a few ounces apart, their hair and eye colour remained the same, and they even cut teeth on the same day. Our friends and relatives struggled to tell them apart. Some days, after a particularly sleepless night, we’d mix them up as parents! It never lasted long but left us wondering how we could possibly mistake the two, even if only for a second. 

  
We joined a twin club, and two of the ladies there had the same set-up in pregnancy as us: two sacs and two placentas, or DCDA, and had had same sex babies but were told non-identical throughout. Both had had their doubts and sent off for a DNA testing kit from the Multiple Birth Foundation. Both came back as identical. They urged us to do the test as everyone was convinced they were identical. We did, and it came back identical. That’s 3 out of 3 same-sex twins from non-IVF DCDA pregnancies in a very small twin club that were identical. 

  
 
So, why does this matter? Well first of all, it’s just not great to be given false or misleading information no matter how important it seems. Secondly, and particularly important to us, is that our girls grow up to be strong individuals with a sense of identity and individual interests etc. Identical twins in particular can struggle with this, and now we know they are identical, we make extra effort to dress them differently, encourage their individual interests and help them develop a sense of self. We also take steps to ensure others treat them as individuals. Lastly, and hopefully we will never have to cross this bridge, but if for any reason one of the girls gets sick, we know that there is the option of the other helping their sister out – an ethical issue which we very much hope we’ll never have to face. 

  

  
I would love to hear from anyone who has been told throughout their DCDA pregnancy that they’re having non-identical twins. Did you do a test? Would you do one? Does it matter to you whether they’re identical or not? 

Our favourite products: Muddy Puddles puddle pac all-in-one

My girls just love to keep my washing machine busy. Whether it’s wet, sandy, or muddy clothes; it’s not unheard of for us to go through 5 changes of clothes in one day per twin! 

  

Enter Muddy Puddles’ puddle pac all-in-one, to save my washing machine and save my sanity. As you probably know by now, we just love to hike and spend lots of time on the beach, and this all-in-one folds up very neatly indeed into a tiny flat pack with a handy hook perfect for clipping onto our backpack or popping into the beach bag. It’s super lightweight – so much so that you can hardly believe it could be waterproof, but although we’ve yet to take it out in heavy rain, it performs really well in rockpools, on wet sand, and in muddy puddles (does what it says on the tin then!). 

  

Because it is so lightweight, it is great for unpredictable weather. Summer in Wales can see pouring rain one minute and intense sun the next, but when we set off in the rain and the sun came out, I wasn’t worried about my daughter overheating in this suit, so we could continue on our hike, and we didn’t have to stop to get the suit back on when it rained again 10 minutes later!

  

The best design feature by far are the elasticated foot straps – they are adjustable and do a fantastic job at keeping wellies on; we are forever backtracking half a mile on hike to collect fallen wellies, but the stirrups on this suit meant that even the wellies that are slightly on the big side for the girls finally stay on for the duration of our hike! 

The long zip makes it really easy to get on and off, but my little Houdini hasn’t managed to undo the ‘yank-proof’ zip yet.

I never realised how much non-elasticated hoods and sleeves bothered me until we started using this suit and it’s a revelation; the hood stayed up and the sleeves didn’t drag, allowing my little artists in-training to have full use of their hands during a wet patio chalking session.

  

The suit is generous in size, and this is great for my busy girls as it allows total freedom of movement, perfect for climbing, crawling, splashing and running around. 

  

I just love the bold, fun design; the colour is so vibrant and really suits my girls with their bright blue eyes. The material feels strong and it’s really easy to wash, too – after one particularly muddy trip we just threw it into the washing machine with everything else on a normal cycle and it came out good as new. 

The Puddle Pac all-in-one is currently 20% off on the Muddy Puddles website, (be quick) and while for twins this adds up, individually I think this represents great value for money because of the quality of the suit. 

So, overall this is a fantastic piece of adventuring kit with real attention to detail that completely suits my busy, adventurous, and messy babies (and saves me a load of washing!)

We received one puddle pac all-in-one from Muddy Puddles for the purpose of this review 😊

Our favourite hikes: Abereiddy to Porthgain, Pembrokeshire

I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve done this hike, but no matter how many times we walk this stretch of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, we never tire of the stunning views, quiet isolation, wildlife spotting opportunities, and the cosy pub where we make a pit stop half way round! 

  
Add in to the mix some fantastic accommodation, and water sports opportunities and it makes for a pretty perfect destination to spend a day, week, and well, who wouldn’t want to live somewhere like this?! 

We usually drive to Abereiddy beach to begin the walk. It’s a 10 minute drive from St David’s yet often, especially in Winter, almost deserted. I like to spend a while searching for sea glass on the beach, often with a seal or two bobbing in the bay watching me with curiosity. Then we head up to the Blue Lagoon – an old slate quarry which has been flooded by the sea. 

  

  
The Blue Lagoon gets its name from the vibrant blue colour of its water, turned a gleaming turquoise by the copper particles released by the quarrying process. 

  
In the summer the lagoon is often full of kayakers, children in dinghies and of course, coasteerers, after all, this is the very place where coasteering was invented! There are some old quarry buildings from which, if you have a head for heights, or craving some adrenaline, you can hurl yourself into the water below (n.b. Don’t try this at home?!). 

  
We back track a little and climb up to the cliff top from where expansive sweeping views out over the Atlantic literally take your breath away! We sometimes scramble out to a small watchtower on a semi-island surrounded on all sides by waves crashing into the cliffs far below. We’ve seen seals, porpoises and dolphins from here. 

  
Heading on to Porthgain, we pass the dramatic golden sand black rock beach of Traethllyfn, always quiet due to its remote location. The beach can be reached via a steep staircase, and care has to be taken to not get cut off by the tide. 

  
Next we pass more quarry buildings and tramway tracks before descending into the impossibly picturesque fishing village of Porthgain. 

   
 
The village is built around the large brick and stone quarry building structures, but nowadays the main industry is crab fishing (sadly most of this exported straight to Spain); and tourism. There are two great eating options here; the Sloop Inn, an extremely picturesque and cosy traditional pub serving hearty pub grub, some more sophisticated specials, and fresh local crab when in season. The other option is the Shed, which is much more upmarket than it sounds – expect gorgeous decor, fresh fish dishes and great coffees. There’s a small art gallery in the village, but I’ve never managed to visit! 

  
After refuelling, we take the path back over the fields to Abereiddy; less picturesque but much more direct. We’ve done the walk with our toddlers in backpacks, and without; and although if you get them out of the backpack you have to be really cautious of the cliff drops and other hazards, our girls love this walk! Good job really as we’ll be doing it with them many times in the future! 

So, on to the practicalities! The walk takes around 2 hours plus however long you spend in the pub! 

Here’s a link to a map of the car park at Abereiddy: 

Abereiddy map
You can reach the beach using the wonderful Puffin Shuttle bus: 

Pembrokeshire coast buses
If you want to stay close by, I’d highly recommend the lovely Ynys Barry holiday cottages / rooms: 

Ynys Barry website
For info on the history of the area, see this wonderful publication: 

http://www.uklandscapeaward.org/Entryfiles/1282835251Porthgain-english-version.pdf
And as much of the land covered on this walk is National Trust owned, see their website for more info and membership: 

National Trust Wales

  

8 reasons not to be sad that Summer is over 

I’m a January baby but I most definitely class myself as a Summer person. I love almost everything about Summer, everything that is, except it’s passing and the long, dark months which ensue as Summer gives way to Autumn. 

This year though, I’m determined not to wish life away by craving next Summer. Instead, I’m going to try to relish every moment of our wonderful seasons, appreciating each moment as it happens, and making the most of the finer things Autumn brings. Here are 8 things I love about this time of year:   

Goodbye sun cream, sun hats & wasps

These have been the 3 main sources of stress for me this Summer! My toddlers refuse to wear their sun hats, making a big game of taking them off and watch me chase them round trying to put them back on. They don’t mind me putting on suncream, but then proceed to rub it into their eyes resulting in two very unhappy toddlers! And as for wasps, well what actually is the point of them other than to cause stress to mums who are trying to have a nice picnic in the park with their children. I most definitely look forward to a few seasons without these things! 

  
Quiet beaches & countryside

Not that I’m completely antisocial, but I do love a bit of seclusion and very much look forward to our local beach being less crowded, being able to take a peaceful stroll through the woods and fields. 

 

   
Fruit picking & crumbles

Years ago, when I spent several months travelling through the tropics, it was always fruit crumble and custard I hallucinated about! A quintessentially British dish, no other food captures the essence of the season like a good fruit crumble. Blackberries, apples, pears, plums – we are spoilt for choice at this time of year. I love the whole ritual of gathering fruit and coming home to turn it into a delicious pudding. I often eat leftover crumble for breakfast at this time of year! 

   
 
Sunsets & starry nights
While I love the long lazy warm nights that we occasionally get during summer, with small children we tend to be either putting them to bed, or in bed ourselves before sunset in the Summer. Staying up until it gets dark and the stars appear seems less of a priority when you know you’re going to be up at least 3 times in the night for your non-sleep appreciating children. So, with the nights drawing in, I look forward to watching the sunset with my children before they go to bed, and wrapping up warm to sit outside under the stars with a hot chocolate once they have gone to bed. 

   

   

  

Off-peak prices

We often take a holiday during Autumn as there are some really good deals to be had on accommodation. Eating out is often cheaper with offers designed to entice customers in, and entry prices to popular attractions can be much lower out of peak season. 

Autumn leaves

We usually go ‘leaf peeping’ and conker collecting during the Autumn. The colours on the trees are captivating and crunching through crisp fallen leaves takes me right back to my childhood spent tramping around the forest where my grandparents lived. As my children started walking this summer, this autumn will be their first experience of kicking the leaves around and I can’t wait!! 

  
Muddy puddles & wellies

Another irresistible Autumn experience is splashing in puddles with wellies on! As we’ve had a pretty wet August here my girls are already pretty adept at puddle splashing (and occasionally sitting – doh!) but if my washing machine is up to the challenge, so are we! 

  
Log fires & cosy nights in

We invested in a log burner last winter and I can’t wait to fire it up again! I love nothing better than getting cosy on the sofa in front of the fire with a blanket and a glass of wine, lighting all my candles, putting on some good music and reading or writing. Even better after a long crisp hike on an empty beach or quiet woods collecting blackberries!   

  
Are you sad Summer is over? What are you looking forward to most about Autumn? 

Monkey and Mouse