Words and photos: Lilah May McKim
In light of Covid-19, it has become difficult and, in some cases, impossible to do certain things. This includes travelling, especially to far-away exotic places.
But you don’t have to go to the far-away corners of the world when travelling. Although travelling closer to home has little boast-value and doesn’t look as good on your Instagram, it can be just as enjoyable; there is also the added caveat of being more environmentally and economically friendly.
This summer, I was lucky enough to be invited by my best friend Tara and her family on a holiday to Snowdonia in North Wales.
Driving west from Oxford in their red campervan, we finally arrived at our stop for the first night in a border-town. It was an old antiquated collection of farm buildings, and an eccentric couple greeted us on the driveway. They were kind and happy for company: and with the help of tea and biscuits, acquaintances were easily made. After exploring the garden acres and the house, with low ceilings and the warnings of rats, we headed off to dinner. Unfortunately, the local pub was in a bit of a sorry state but at least it provided us with good comedy material as we made our way back to our beloved temporary home. That evening, the owner regaled us with tragic stories of his family’s past, and we felt the years creaking in the timbers above.
Back on the road, we made a slight detour to check out a salvage yard. After a nerve-racking drive on a labyrinthine pass up a hill, we arrived at our cottage in the middle of nowhere. Sheep were our closest neighbours. We were one hour and a fourteen-minutes’ walk to the nearest pub, had no TV and a temperamental phone signal, and it is here that we began our holiday!
The next day consisted of me throwing up the wild mushrooms we received from our eccentric hosts the night before: we are not best pleased. I spent most of the day in bed and only when my self-pity subsided did I venture downstairs to join the family and play silly scrabble by the fire.
Barmouth was our next destination for a day of wandering and artful snooping. No masks were needed in the shops in Wales, which was jarring. I scoffed Mediterranean food and Baklava from a very chatty food vendor; there was a lot of self-discipline involved in not getting an ice-cream. Then we retired for drinks in Dolgellau (a name we butchered with mispronunciation every time) beside the building where -we are told- they tried “witches” in the gruesome Salem witch trials of 1693.
Early morning rise and shine. Tara and I and her little Jack Russell, Reggie, have braved Snowdon. Peanut butter and crystalized honey sandwiches have hit the spot and we march on up the mountain with some single-use friends. At the top we queue for what feels like hours to get the generic summit picture. It’s been two and a half hours up, and two and a half hours down. Part of our speediness is our desire for a much-needed hot chocolate at the Café. We are tired now, and doze in the back of the van, not forgetting the stop off for chips from the nearby town of course: Hello bed my old friend!
The next day we caught a Steam Train from Madog. I felt like I was going to Hogwarts: beautiful views, yummy snacks and cheap champagne. Coffee cake and hot chocolate (again!) in the stop-off place. It’s very disappointing charity-shopping in Madog and we are crushed to learn that having arrived in town at 4:55, most shops shut at 5. We decided to stroll around Portmeirion. A fairy-tale, Italianesque village, it seems very out of place in the Welsh countryside. The 1967 British TV series ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed here: blues, pinks, oranges, greens and whites all form part of the synthetic-like landscape.
On the final day of our staycation we had croissants, toast, boiled eggs, coffee and tea for breakfast. A fine way to start the day. We decide to walk up to the top of the valley. There, looking out below the surrounding hillside, I could have sworn there are at least a hundred different shades of green. Tara had led the way as she wanted to see if a walk she had done once before would lead us in a nice loop. It didn’t. Everyone’s mood deteriorated as we lost our way. In a fairy-tale fashion we knocked on the door of a nearby cottage and asked them for directions. They politely obliged. It didn’t help that we didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the cottage we were staying in. We decided to go back the way we came after a quick sip of tea and some unsuccessful map reading. It was hot chocolate and pasta back at our short-lost ranch. The last night of our welsh adventure is spent playing delirious rummy and scrabble, a fitting end to our lovely holiday.
Holidaying from our doorsteps is something we will have to get used to. Whilst we all desire to explore the far-away corners of the world, travelling closer to home can be of the same quality.
Despite popular thought, the grass is just as green on this side of the channel.