It was mid morning by the time I was ready for going out; it was still very windy so I double checked all my guy lines and pegs first to make sure the awning was as secure as it could be before I left it - I didn't want to return and find that in my absence it had become airborne and disappeared over the hedge! When I got down to the beach I found that the sea, whipped up by the wind, was higher than I'd ever seen it before - at one end of the promenade the waves were crashing against the sea wall and sending showers of spray up and over onto the road. Not wanting to get the van drenched with sea water I drove along to where it was a bit calmer before parking up and taking the dogs down onto the sand - at least the curve of the bay meant that there was still a large expanse of beach which wasn't covered by the sea so we were able to have a decent, although a very bracing, walk.
Walking back to the van I got chatting to a local lady who was also walking her dog, and during the conversation I happened to mention an 'out of the way' beach I had been to about ten years before, but I couldn't remember where it was or how to find it - it turned out that she knew the beach I meant and she gave me directions to it, and as it was on the way to Beaumaris I decided to have a look there before going into the town itself. The route to the beach took me down a very narrow winding lane with an occasional passing place here and there - the lady I had been talking to warned me to be careful as the locals don't exactly drive slowly and I wouldn't know what I might meet round a bend, but I managed to drive all the way down without meeting any other vehicles. The lane ended practically on the beach, in a rough sandy area which could loosely be called a car park - there were just two other cars there and a horse box, with a couple of young girls and their ponies just getting ready for a ride out.
As I drove onto the sand I looked round for a ticket machine but couldn't see one so assumed I didn't have to pay; then I noticed that one of the cars, with its driver's door open, was occupied by a guy who was directing me into a place to park, so I thought he must be collecting payment. However, after I had parked up and gone over to speak to him it turned out that he was just an ordinary guy watching the world go by while waiting for a phone call, and he was only directing me so that I wouldn't drive into the soft sand and get stuck. We struck up a conversation and chatted for well over half an hour before I took the dogs for a walk along the beach.
The guy was still sitting in his car when I got back to the van so we chatted again for a while and he made friends with Sophie and Sugar. He was very interested and impressed with my van set up for camping, and when I said I liked photography he got out a map of Anglesey and showed me how to get to a couple of places I was interested in going to. He told me his name was Chris and that he lived on the island, and he even gave me his phone number so I could contact him if I fancied some company on one of my walkabouts - it was a nice idea but as I finally put the dogs back in the van and drove away from the beach I didn't think I would be pursuing it.
My next stop was Beaumaris, where I was lucky enough to find some free parking close to the castle instead of paying an all-day fee just for an hour or so at the sea front car park - and I was also lucky enough to be able to park under a big tree so the whole of the van was in the shade. I knew dogs weren't allowed in the castle so Sophie and Sugar would have to stay in the van, but the strong wind was taking most of the heat out of the sun so with the windows open and their fan on I knew they would be okay - and I didn't intend to linger in the castle anyway. So after paying the modest entrance fee at the counter in the gift shop I set out to explore, and I was quite surprised to find that the place was much bigger than I thought it was. And it was just the sort of castle which adventure stories are made of - with spiral stone staircases, hidey holes, and a maze of narrow passages built into the walls it would grab the imagination of anyone who had ever read Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. Adding in the great views over Beaumaris and towards the Snowdonia hills I found it to be a very fascinating place.
With my castle wanderings over I called into a nearby shop for a can of Coke and a KitKat then went back to the van to indulge before continuing my journey. I decided to search out a little spot at Menai Bridge which I had been to briefly several years previously - that was if I could remember where it was and how to get to it. My memory and sense of direction didn't let me down though and I found it without much trouble, although there were no available parking spaces so I had to use the car park behind a nearby pub. From the pub a short lane took me down to the shore - ahead of me a concrete slipway led down into the water, where several small fishing boats and private yachts were anchored in the calm water. The Menai Strait was at its narrowest there, and the shore on the mainland opposite looked so close it could have been within touching distance. To my left a short promenade ended at the entrance to what could loosely be called a pier, and to my right were some public gardens and a bowling green.
It was very pleasant wandering round the gardens but time was getting on and there was somewhere else I wanted to go to, so returning to the van I settled the dogs in the back and set off once more. This time I retraced my route back to Beaumaris and out the other side, following the coast till the road turned inland and after several twists and turns brought me to Penmon Priory. The old priory itself seemed rather a desolate place with its crumbling grey stone walls and narrow windows - one of those places which somehow never looks nice no matter how much the sun shines on it, although the adjoining church which is actually in use looked much better. I hadn't gone to look at the priory though - a few yards from the graveyard entrance was a narrow grassy path, and this led to a quiet little grove where St. Seiriol's well was situated at the base of a limestone outcrop. The well itself, dated from the 6th Century, was shallow and square and surrounded by stone slabs, and the water was so absolutely crystal clear that it was like looking through a sheet of glass.
Leaving the van parked near the priory I headed off up the road towards Penmon Point, another place I had visited briefly several years previously. I could have driven there, but from just beyond the priory the road becomes a toll road and at that point there is no indication of the cost - the catch is that you pay the fee when you get to the other end, and if you don't like it then tough, you've already used the road to get there. I don't know how much the fee is, or what it's used for, but it certainly isn't to provide and maintain a car park as there isn't one - parking is on a rough, bumpy, pot-holed grassy area at the end of the road.
I couldn't remember how far away from the priory Penmon Point was, and at one stage I was beginning to think I would never get there, but then I reached the top of an incline in the road and there in front of me and down the hill was the Point, with Puffin Island just offshore.
There's not really anything there when you get to the end of the road, just a couple of whitewashed cottages and the rough land used for parking, but it's a nice enough place for anyone wanting to stop for a picnic. There was no need for me to go right to the very end so I just went far enough to take a couple of photos of the lighthouse and Puffin Island before I turned round and headed back in the direction of the priory.
It didn't seem to take as long to reach the priory as it had to get to Penmon Point, and once I'd given the dogs a good drink I settled them in the back of the van and headed for 'home' - it was early evening by then and I was more than ready for a good brew and something to eat, providing of course that my awning was still standing! There had been no let-up in the wind of all day but I needn't have worried, the awning was just as I'd left it, and I even had some neighbours. What had been a relatively empty field when I went out was now occupied by several tents and a couple of gazebos, with a group of kids playing ball in the middle. Well, the peace had been nice while it lasted! With the van reversed into place and the awning connected up I fed the dogs then set about making myself something to eat and drink, and apart from a brief late night dog walk round the opposite field and a check of the tent pegs and guy lines I didn't venture out again. I spent quite a while studying the map book to get some ideas for my next trip out, and when I finally went to bed I drifted off to sleep with the occasional rocking of the van as it was buffeted by the wind.