a letter from: bangor

With my workload about to creep up, and the magic of Christmas and New Year fading out, I really wasn’t looking forward to January. A ten minute discussion with Meg, a quick scout through AirBnB, and a double check of the calendar, and we’d booked a trip to Bangor. The plan was to start the year on a high, outdoors, and doing something fun and spontaneous. And it was exactly that.

We found a cheap and lovely looking AirBnB in Tregarth (I’d much rather be somewhere homey where I can fully relax and not be bothering anyone) deciding on North Wales as we’ve both been before and loved it. Meg actually went to Bangor Uni and it was my second choice, pipped to the post in the end by Bath.

I’d already set my mission of more adventures and spontaneity at this point, so I was excited to be booking something for a weeks’ time, and only vaguely planning out possibilities of what we could do.

With it only being a couple of hours away, we decided we wouldn’t rush to set off after work on the Friday, and instead managed to miss the rush hour traffic, enjoying a scenic (very dark) drive to our destination. We’d packed a crate of prosecco (emergency rations, just in case…) and spent the Friday night planning our next two days.

We decided as we were only 10 minutes from the centre of Bangor to head into town on the Saturday morning, before driving up to Anglesey to visit Newborough beach (where we ended up going for a swim – much to the amusement of everyone around us), then headed up to South Stack Lighthouse, eating chips whilst watching the sun go down, before driving back to the house. If you’ve never been up this neck of the woods, I’d definitely recommend. As a creative person, there is so much inspiration on every road, or in every building (or sheep) you drive past.

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Newborough is fab, and the tide is never fully in so there is always beach to be played on. Top tip: there’s a rope swing nestled at the very end of the woods on your right as you’re walking to the far end of the beach. It’s close to the edge of the trees so you can see it when you get near, and it is incredibly fun. Surprisingly, not many of the people we saw knew about it. We couldn’t resist giving it a spin (and I can vouch for it being lots of fun!) The parking is £5 for all day, and it is very clean and well maintained. There was even a hot drink/food van, too, for after our January dip!

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South Stack is about a twenty minute drive from Newborough, and neither of us had been before so we thought it would be a good chance to go. It was fab, and we deliberately timed it so we’d get there to see the sunset as backdrop.

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We stopped at a local chippy on the way, stocking up on chips with curry sauce to keep us warm whilst we sat, practically on the edge of Wales, watching the world fall asleep. There’s not a huge amount around to do, but the views themselves are stunning. Definitely worth a pit stop if you’re in the area.

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A few of Meg’s friends from uni were around that evening so we planned to meet them in Bangor for a few drinks and some boogieing. A pizza, some prosecco, and a film later, we got ready and headed out to meet them. I love the simplicity of Bangor town. There’s nothing extravagantly fancy, and if there was it would quite simply be out of place. It’s homely, and welcoming, and the pubs we went in were all full of character (and sold Guinness – a definite win.)

On the Sunday we got up, said goodbye to the lovely cottage we’d made our home (and the most amazing beds in the WORLD!) and headed back to Bangor to collect Meg’s friend, Rob, who joined us on our adventure up the Watkins Path of Mount Snowdon.

A top up of oil and some screenwash (for the car) and we were on our way, tootling up and down, around the windiest roads with the prettiest views. After a reasonably chilly Saturday, we were surprised by the mildness that arrived on Sunday (good news as the whole point of us going up this route was for a dip in the Watkin pools on the mountain.)

We parked on the A498 outside of Beddgelert, just at the bottom of the path. There is a proper car park on the opposite side of the road, but there’s also a little lay-by you can stop in just before the path on the left side. We arrived around lunchtime and there was lots of space left. We took lots of layers with us (prepared to be freezing after our swim) along with snacks and flasks of tea, and set off.

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We weren’t planning on summiting Snowdon, our main aim was to manage a swim in the pools before coming down to warm ourselves back up. The walk up to the pools is only about half an hour. You follow the donkey track over several bridges and woodland until it opens out and you are fully surrounded by mountains. To get to the pools you need to take a path that cuts below the main path, towards a bridge and waterfall which you can see from the main trail. We crossed the bridge, went over a style and we were there. The water in the pools was a Mediterranean blue and looked so beautiful in the surrounding mountains. We already had our swimming cossis on, prepared for a quick dip without getting too cold. The main path up the mountain was slightly above us so we were passed by lots of interested walkers who were a bit surprised to see three eager swimmers in January.

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Rob braved it first, dipping his feet in and paddling around the rocks to the edge of the main pool bit. Meg followed, and then me.

It was freezing, there’s no denying that, but the adrenaline meant I felt on top of the world and was having the best time, ever.

I was first to properly get in, sinking my body under the water a little at a time so it wasn’t a huge shock. Meg and Rob also joined, and we spent fifteen minutes giggling, pulling the weirdest faces, and gasping in response to the freezing temperature.

After ten minutes laying in the pool, I was bright red and frozen. I looked like I’d been sunbathing without suncream for a whole day. Luckily we’d brought several thick extra layers and so we all got dressed and then sat on a rock across the bridge, overlooking the ‘valley’ like view surrounding us. We had brought mini bottles of prosecco (this seems to be a growing theme to the trip…) and enjoyed sipping between them and the flasks of tea, warming up with food and full winter accessories.

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I’d definitely recommend doing it (although I’m sure it’d be more comfortable if it was above 1 degree in the water). If January is your bag, don’t forget the flasks and extra layers (and I’d recommend the prosecco for celebrating being complete nutters after.)

Let’s hope the New Year continues this way, with lots more wild swimming, prosecco drinking, and spontaneous adventures! And here’s to visiting Bangor again many times, because it was blooming marvellous!

love sophie

new year, new me (and other lies we tell ourselves)

I’ve made it my mission this year to ignore the mass of new year resolutions and appreciation posts I’m seeing over social media, deciding to just take this year as it comes and just simply live it, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, there is no ‘new me’ this year, and the idea of giving up something I like isn’t screaming out at me.

I have nothing against people wanting to set challenges for themselves, or plan things to look forward to in the new year, but sometimes it’s just a little too much. I’ve done it before, for many years, but the sense of failure looms greater than the sense of achievement I should be feeling if I don’t actually manage to see my resolution through. The pressure of being perfect all year, and doing lots of good things just gets too much.

This year, more than any others, I’ve also realised how much time I’ve spent on my phone and social media rather than what I should be doing in the moment. There are so many times, looking back, where I wish I’d have just put my phone away, or said yes instead of no to a crazy idea because I was too busy or had no money (I think we’re all guilty of that sometimes).

Those of you that know me will know that I keep a few ‘essentials’ in my car boot ‘just in case’, and I’m going to make the most of using them this year (and make up for the wasted petrol I’ve used up lugging it all around.) You might have your own set of ‘essentials’ and if you don’t, I’d recommend getting some. Having them on hand when you’re out and about somewhere is great.

My essentials are made up of:

  • walking boots (a given if you know me – there’s always a mountain to be climber or a path to be walked, and – if I have the time – I’m going to do it.)
  • wellies (for all those puddles I love jumping in, and boggy fields that need walking through. Life is too short to care about a bit of muddy water splashing your jeans.)
  • a swimming cossi and a towel (because wild swimming – even in winter – is my favourite thing ever and should be done at every opportunity – spontaneous swimming is the best swimming.)

I also have some sun cream, an empty flask and several pairs of warm socks chucked in for good measure.

I’m hoping 2019 will see these things used more and more (or at least that’s the plan.) It’s such an easy way of adding a bit of fun to a trip, and – as a lover of spontaneity – it is amazing

I got comfortable saying no to things this year, or at least not saying yes to enough, partly because I was too busy writing a book and finishing my Masters (no biggy), but I’m going to let that mentality go (where possible) and make the most of my time I do have when I come home from work.

I think having a job has definitely put time into perspective (it definitely makes you realise how many hours there are in a day.)

And now I’m used to the 9-5 malarkey (the longest hours I’ve worked, ever!) I’m actually awake after work and can happily make plans. Here’s hoping lighter evenings come soonish because hi-vis is not a good look for me.

And here’s to a year of being present and doing all the things we say we’re going to do. A spontaneous trip to Bangor this weekend should dust the cobwebs off (and I might even get my swimming cossi out!)

love sophie