Weekending in Wales on the Lleyn Peninsula

by Jo.Cooke

Wild, rugged and windswept, the Lleyn Peninsula is west Wales at its best - which may be why many people seem keen to keep it a secret


Duffy grew up here and she’s turning out hit after hit. Perhaps that’s what will finally put the Lleyn Peninsula on the map. For some reason, this strip of land jutting out into the Irish Sea often gets overlooked, perhaps due to its star-attraction neighbours: Anglesey, Mount Snowdon, and the fantastical village of Portmeirion.

And when people do get to know about the Lleyn Peninsula, they don’t tend to tell you. Once you’ve been there you’ll probably feel the same – some things are just too good to be shared. Wild, rugged and windswept, this is Welsh Wales at its best. The deeper you drive into the far reaches of this cape, the less English is spoken and the more enigmatic things start to become.

Signs to the finest beaches aren’t obvious or don’t even exist. We started to wonder if this was a ploy by the locals to keep the best bits for themselves. And it’s easy to see why they would want to when you find your way down to the vast expanse that is Hell’s Mouth - Porth Neigwl. The breakers are as scary as the name suggests. It’s said to be one of the best surfing spots in Wales, but we had cold feet and decided to head for Porth Ceiriad beach, a windswept nook of a cove protected by rolling hills, for our surf action.

We were teased by twisting country lanes that kept threatening to deliver us to the coast and then didn’t, but finally we reached a token-operated barrier that gave us access to a grassy clifftop field that drops to the choppy swell of rumbling stones that is Porth Ceiriad. This is the place to be if you love body-boarding, surfing, sea kayaking or just watching others tame the waves with varying degrees of ineptitude or success.

If you prefer bucket and spade to board and wet suit, there’s the seaside-chic of Abersoch. This boutique-busy, café-packed family resort has a sandy beach that, when you walk it, seems to go on forever. The restaurants here, from Thai to Italian, aim to please all. But we went in search of the day’s catch at a hot tip for fresh fare we’d been given.

The Gwesty Ty Newydd is at the northern end of Aberdaron, the northernmost town on the Lleyn. It was early evening when we pushed through the pub door with crab salad in mind. The owner gestured to the chef, who got on the phone to a fisherman, who like the man from Del Monte said ‘yes’. Supper, we were told, would be served in an hour and a half or so. We sat till then on the terrace and looked out to Bardsey Island, Ynys Enlli. Its monastery was once a place of religious pilgrimage and back in the day three trips there were consider the equivalent of one to the pope’s Rome. Today it’s a birdwatcher's paradise and in summer it’s a pleasant place to take a boat trip.

Our crab salads were immense and more than worth the wait. We tackled them while watching the comings and goings of Ty Newydd’s clientele – a mixture of local twentysomethings impressing the girls at the bar and holiday-makers who’d scrubbed up nicely and were lounging on the brown leather sofas while their catch was sourced.

If you have the cash to splash, retire to Plas Bodegroes, a country house-cum-boutique hotel that is rightly renowned for its restaurant and service. If you want your pound to stretch as far as possible, Hafan y Mor Holiday Park is a great base, especially if you have kids in tow. Sunny and rainy-day entertainment abounds, with shows, adventure playgrounds, sports and an indoor pool complete with slides and wave machine.

Wherever you stay, make time for a day at Porth Oer, the jewel in the Lleyn Peninsula’s crown - and possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. Edged by sea-sculpted boulders and hills of shocking yellow gorse, and with water that is clear and inviting, Porth Oer is reason alone to make the Lleyn your regular weekend getaway.