With my route decided I spent a leisurely morning in and around the tent then as it got past noon I topped up the dog's water container, put the batteries back in the camera and loaded the dogs in the van ready for off. My route took me down the A487 from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, and once I had left Caernarfon behind it was a very pleasant and scenic drive through many little villages and passing part of the Snowdonia mountains. Reaching Porthmadog I turned off onto the A497 and headed for Criccieth, a few miles along the coast. It was a place I had passed through several years previously but I hadn't had the opportunity to stop, and although I could remember it having a castle on a headland I knew nothing else about it so it would be good to do a bit of exploring round there. About half a mile before the town the road turned towards the coast and rounding a bend I had a great view of the castle on the headland - there was a lay-by just up ahead on the left so I pulled in there to spend a few minutes taking in the view. In front of me and to the right a large expanse of rough grassland dotted with trees and shrubs sloped down from the road to a railway line and a long straight stretch of beach beyond it, and sheep wandered about grazing contentedly. Beyond the rough land was what appeared to be a pitch and putt course and in the distance was the castle on its headland. To my left the undulating landscape seemed to be more cultivated, probably as a result of the grazing sheep, and in the far distance were more of the Snowdonia hills.
Leaving the lay-by I continued on towards the town and not much further along the road was a sign directing me down a side road to the beach - I wasn't sure if I would be able to find somewhere to park but I needn't have worried; at the bottom of the road and set back off the promenade was a large car park with plenty of vacant spaces so I pulled in there and once I'd fed the nearby machine and stuck the ticket in the windscreen I clipped the lead on the dogs and with my camera slung round my neck I set off to explore. Between the car park and the promenade road was a long lawned area with a few bench seats and picnic tables dotted about, and the very pleasant pedestrian part of the promenade was separated from the road by a low stone wall. At the end of the lawned area a road went off up the hill towards the town and beyond there, set up on a grass bank above the promenade, was a row of hotels and private houses. Another road to the right followed, with another hotel and a cafe/tea room on the corner, and across from there was a small semi-circular lawned area with a couple of bench seats and some tubs of brightly coloured flowers. A bit further on was the lifeboat station with its long concrete slipway going down across the beach and to the right was a harbour wall of sorts, with a handful of fishing dinghies pulled up onto the nearby grassy area.
The promenade itself ended there and the road turned inland - a sign for the castle pointed up the hill so I headed in that direction. There seemed to be a lot of people coming down the road eating ice cream and when I got about halfway up I saw there was a large open-fronted ice cream parlour on the left, and judging by the queue it looked like it was a very popular place. The road narrowed a bit there and consisted of mainly terraced houses and garden-fronted stone cottages, and it was only when I got to the top of the hill that I saw the castle on the left. As the road passed the castle grounds it went downhill again and I could see the sea in the distance so out of curiosity I went to see what was down at the bottom, and was quite surprised to see another beach. The section at the bottom of the hill was shingle but further along I could see it was sandy, split into sections by wooden breakwaters. As much as I would have liked to go further I decided against it as I didn't want to be too late in getting to Portmeirion - and missing that part out gave me a good excuse to return to Criccieth another time. By the time I had got back to the promenade the clouds were beginning to increase and some had a decidedly grey tinge to them so I just hoped that my visit to Portmeirion wouldn't be affected too much.
Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink then set off to return through Porthmadog and on to Portmeirion. As I was coming into Porthmadog I noticed a large camping store on my left so I decided to call in to see if I could get a footprint groundsheet and a carpet for the tent I bought the week before. After a lot of searching I still couldn't find what I was looking for so I asked an assistant who eventually did manage to find a groundsheet but the carpets were out of stock. The groundsheet was the more essential of the two items though and the price was good so I came out of the store a very happy bunny and continued on to Portmeirion. Driving through Porthmadog and out towards Portmeirion I saw briefly what looked to be a harbour on my right, then further along a straight stretch of road was some lovely scenery over to my left but as there was nowhere for me to stop safely I couldn't take any photos, however I decided to try to find somewhere to park when I was on my way back. Reaching the car park at Portmeirion, which was just outside the village and was free, I found a nice shady spot under some trees and reversed the van then went to the entrance to make sure I could go back in if I came out to check on the dogs - I could, so once I'd put the fan on for them I collected my camera and set off to see what delights Portmeirion had to offer.
The village itself was very much as I remembered it from twelve years previously but with one big difference - flowers. My previous visit had been very early in the season - the village had seemed very dull and drab at the time and I hadn't been too impressed, but now it was just full of colour. There were flowers everywhere - in ornamental tubs and pots, in flowerbeds, and alongside the lawns, and coupled with the brightly-painted walls of the houses and cottages they made the whole place so much more attractive. It was while I was wandering round that I did notice one thing - because of the surrounding tall trees some parts of the village were in the shade, which they wouldn't have been earlier in the day. Maybe that's why admission is half price after 3.30pm, as you don't get all the sun, but it didn't affect my photography too much and I still got lots of good shots. And I make no apologies for including many of them on here.
I had been wandering round for quite a while, lost in my photography, when I realized that it was time to check on the dogs - they were fine, but I let them out of the van, gave them a drink and took them for a brief walk round the large parking area before returning to the village for more photographs. There were so many parts to explore and take photos of but because of the increasing shade I missed out a lot, so it went without saying that I would make a return visit another time. I had initially expected the full admission price to be expensive but it was only £9 so not as bad as I thought, and it would certainly be worth paying that full price to get there much earlier in the day and make the most of the sun.
When I had photographed just about everywhere I could, missing out the areas with too much shade, I made my way back to the van and took Sophie and Sugar for another walk round the car park before setting off on my journey back to Anglesey. Driving back along the road between Portmeirion and Porthmadog I saw again that lovely scenery and a bit further on was a car park sign on the right, so at least there was somewhere to stop - and as it was after 6pm by then there was no charge. Across the road from the entrance to the car park was a short row of modern shops with the harbour just beyond but I walked back along the road first and managed to get several good shots of the view towards the Snowdonia mountains.
Retracing my steps to the harbour I had a wander round there and found it to be quite a pleasant little place. Across the far side were white-painted modern houses and apartments, and moored in the harbour itself were rows of small colourful fishing boats and larger yachts. I could have spent quite a while exploring as there was obviously more to see than the part where I was, but time was getting on and I still had to drive back to Anglesey so I just took half a dozen photos then made my way back to the van.
It was a very pleasant drive back to Anglesey and the sun was still shining when I arrived back at the tent. First thing was to make a brew and a sandwich, then just before the daylight faded I fed the dogs, took them for their last walk round the site then settled in for the rest of the evening with my laptop and an hour or so of tv. I'd had a lovely day and had been quite impressed with Portmeirion even though several parts of it were in the shade, so having seen how nice it can be I'll certainly be making a return visit in the not-too-distant future.