Pilgrimpace's Blog


north wales pilgrim way – report

A few weeks ago, R, M and I walked the North Wales Pilgrim Way from west to east (Aberdaron to Holywell).  This is the ‘wrong’ direction (in that it is signposted east to west).  We did this as I am filling in the sections of the Cistercian Way which I missed when I hurt my knee last autumn.

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Maddy asked me to see how viable walking the route in this direction is, as a possible alternative route for people walking the Cistercian Way.  If you were walking the whole of the CW, you would pick up this route south of Conwy and follow it to Holywell and Basingwerk before turning south down the borders.

The route is advertised as being 134 miles.  We possibly walked a little less than this.  We missed a section from Penygroes to Waunfawr as we were staying with a friend in Waunfawr and arrived in Penygroes too late and with too little energy to get to Waunfawr (I’ll walk this section when I stay with my friends next).  We also bypassed Bangor in order to finish the route before I had to get back to work.

However, some re-routing of the Coastal Path near the beginning (you can’t get off of it for ages) and our working out our own route between villages (as the route is unmarked in this direction) meant some miles added on.

The route is no more difficult to follow than the rest of the Cistercian Way in this direction (ie you need to have a good map and to use it).

The North Wales Pilgrim Way website is helpful:

http://www.pilgrims-way-north-wales.org/

The Guidebook was not useful walking west -east.

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For me, it was a great route.  There is not much infrastructure so we carried camping equipment.  As there were three of us, wildcamping was more difficult (we did it once), but we mainly used campsites or got permission to camp in fields.  We stayed with friends, in the Youth Hostel at Rowan, and in a pub in St Asaph.

The route is varied and testing.  I think we averaged around 16 miles per day with full packs (my knee held up well).  There are some real pilgrimage highlights along the way:

The weather was good on our first day so we were able to get the boat across to Bardsey (you need to book this in advance).  We paid our respects to RS Thomas at Aberdaron.  There are ancient churches closely associated with St Bueno at Pistyll (the floor covered in rushes) and Clynnog Fawr – which also has a large, but very mucky, holy well.  High up, before Rowen and the steep descent to the river, you follow the Roman road.  In the Churchyard at Llangernyw is a 4000 year old yew; and nearby at Gwytherin is the mound where Winefrede had her monastery and was buried before she was moved to Shrewsbury, putting aside all the romantic legends about what actually happened, I found this a very special place; I want to go back.  And we finished on a very hot day with a plunge into the very cold waters at Holywell.

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Some reflections and stories to follow (this is, for example, the first time I have been on pilgrimage and helped someone turf a grave …)

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