My first stop was at Bala on the A494; having been there many times before I hadn't intended to stop but it seemed that even though it was Sunday most of the shops were open, probably because of the bank holiday, so I decided to have a quick browse round. With just an hour on the car park ticket I went up one side of the street and back down the other, going in just two shops, then took the dogs for a short walk along the lake side. Even though it was so cloudy the lake was still very busy with various people swimming, boating or just chilling out with picnics on the grass, and several dogs were enjoying themselves in the water.
The next stop was a brief one by the wooden toll bridge at Penmaenpool on the A483; I've taken some lovely photos there on a previously sunny occasion but I think it's such a cute little place that even though it was so cloudy I couldn't resist stopping to take a few more shots before I drove over to the other side of the estuary.
My third stop was another unintended one in a lay-by on the A496 approaching Barmouth. As I rounded a bend I saw up ahead and over the wall on my left what appeared to be a little house built on a small rocky outcrop right on the sands of the estuary; it seemed to be a strange place for a house as it must surely be completely surrounded by water at high tide, so with curiosity getting the better of me I pulled up in the lay-by and walked back along the road to investigate.
At first I couldn't see anything as the wall was too high and overgrown with bushes but eventually I came to a clear part where I could see over the top. With windows and a doorway all open to the elements the little house looked rather abandoned and unloved, though the presence of a nearby tarmac slipway suggested that it may have once been a boat house rather than a house to live in. There was no way I could get to it for a proper look so I had to be happy with a couple of snaps from the roadside, and with my curiosity satisfied, partially at least, I made my way back to the van.
As I walked back along the road I passed the driveway to a house set down below the road itself. I hadn't noticed it before as it ran at an angle to the road but I couldn't miss it this time - it was full of flowering shrubs, plants and trees on both sides and down its whole length, making a colourful display which, even on such a cloudy day, was very attractive. This was too good an opportunity to miss so at the risk of getting told off for trespassing I wandered part way down and took several shots, though luckily there was no-one around so I didn't get challenged.
Back at the van I just had to take a photo of the sign in the lay-by; it was surrounded by a very colourful raised flower bed and was thanking me for visiting Barmouth, but it was on the side of the road going towards the town not coming away from it. Now I could have been missing something obvious but that seemed a bit odd to me - surely it should have been on the other side of the road?!
Down in Barmouth itself the sky was clearing and the sun started to appear in fits and starts through the clouds; I decided not to stop there though as I'd already taken lots of nice photos on my visit at Easter last year, so I just drove straight through the little town and out the other side. After that I was on a true voyage of discovery as I'd never been any further north along that particular stretch of coast so everything was new to me. As I left Barmouth behind the weather got better and better; the sky turned blue, the clouds turned white and fluffy and the sun shone, so when I saw a sign saying 'beach' I turned off the road and went to take a look.
A country lane led from the main road past fields and a couple of camp sites, ending in a tree-shaded car park and a boardwalk through the dunes; the car park was full though so I had to park on the grass verge at the side of the lane. A sign near the boardwalk told me that part of the beach was a designated naturist area so not wanting to come across something I had no wish to see I thought I'd better not stray too far along when I got there.
The boardwalk emerged through the dunes onto a wide beach which looked like it stretched for miles and probably did, though I had no idea if it had a name. Ahead of me and right across the bay were the hills and coastline of the south east part of the Lleyn Peninsula, while in front of me the beach was alive with families enjoying themselves in the sunshine. With several shots taken I made my way back to the van and headed back to the main road to see where else I could discover.
As I passed through the village of Llanbedr I saw a sign for Shell Island and briefly thought about going there but then decided against it. It was reached by a tidal causeway and was cut off when the sea was in; not knowing the tide times I didn't want to go there and become so engrossed in exploring that I ended up getting stuck for several hours if the tide came in so I gave it a miss; I could always go another time.
My next intended stop was to be Harlech so I continued north along the A496, but as I rounded a bend I saw what I thought was one of the best beach views that's not on Anglesey. I'd just passed a lay-by so I found a safe place to turn round and went back to park up, though I left the dogs in the van for once as I wouldn't be many minutes. At the end of the lay-by was a grass verge and a stone wall with a steep grassy hillside leading down to the beach below, and from my elevated position at the roadside I had a fantastic view over the beach itself to Porthmadog, Borth-y-Gest, Black Rock Sands and Criccieth right across the bay, with the hills beyond. In the sunshine it was a stunning view and the photos I took really don't do it justice.
Back in the van I spent a few minutes going through the photos I'd just taken to make sure I'd got the best shots I could - I would have hated to drive away from that view and then later on find that the photos weren't right, but they looked good enough on the camera screen so I pulled away from the lay-by and headed for Harlech and the next part of my day.