“My friend just canceled on me. Want to go to Wales in 7 hours?”
“Ummmm . . . yes, please!”
Does anyone have a summer bucket list? Before I left, I created a short list that I thought I could accomplish within the 7 weeks I’d be backpacking. And what was one of the very first ones?
🔲 Take a Spontaneous Trip
I generally have a pretty strict itinerary when I travel. I like to know when I’m going to be somewhere and where I’ll sleep. I like my trains to be reserved in advance (they’re also cheaper that way). Usually, I’ll give myself at least a week in places so I’m not scrambling around once I get there, but I’ve never been one to just change plans.
Only now, I had a week left in London and didn’t know what I was going to do. So when a friend (who I had just met the previous day at a solo meet up put on by the hostel) came up to me at 11pm and asked the magical question, I barely even hesitated. It was time to go pack!
We left early Saturday morning. 5:30am, to be exact. But that’s alright – the sun rises an hour earlier in the summer anyway. Yep, as in 4:30am. I haven’t slept in weeks 🤣
To get to the north of Wales, take the correct high speed train from London Euston that has only two stops to Crewe . . . or you can accidentally take the regional train that stops at every single town in between. From Crewe, take the train to Chester. After Chester, find the train that stops at Llandudno Junction. There are probably many ways to get there and, while this one was certainly a process, it was great to just go with the flow and figure things out when the time came.
Stop 1: ZipWorld
A.K.A. The fastest zip line in the world. Not in Wales. Not the U.K. The world. Are you ready to soar over Penrhyn Quarry at over 100 miles an hour?? I wasn’t.
It’s been a few weeks and I still can’t believe I did it. My family probably still doesn’t totally believe me, even though I have the photos to prove it. No, I didn’t back out. Yes, I still have an extreme fear of heights. Yet, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
After they put you into the full body harness, you walk to the first zip line – the baby zip line that is supposed to get you comfortable and ready for the larger, longer, and faster zip line of your life. When it’s your turn, lay on the hydraulic bed and stare down into the beautiful, but terrifying, quarry. Everything is double and triple checked but, as you’re suspended there waiting for the final countdown, there are a lot of things going through your mind. There will be many “why me,” “these people are crazy,” and, my personal favorite, “*@$&!”
The first one is slow and you’ll end it feeling like a champ. Now all you have to do is wait for the bus to take you up to the top!
The ride is slow and rocky but the views are fantastic. Once you finally make it (and can no longer feel your toes due to the adrenaline overload), you can stop for a photo opt. (Our final destination is that tiny little white patch near the center of the photo . . . with only one way down . . . )
Truthfully, the waiting is the worst part. The anticipation builds and builds, when really you’re only zip lining for just over 2 minutes in total. Would I recommend it?Heck yes!! It was absolutely amazing and I had the biggest smile on my face at the end. It’s the closest thing to flying I’ll ever get to. Would I ever do it again? Haha, probably not. However, if I had been alone, or the one to book the trip, I would have never even considered it in the first place.
We had a beer at the cafe at the bottom, while we were still giddy from the excitement of it all. It was the best beer of my life.
Stop 2: Pen Y Pass Hostel
I had no idea while booking it (I just thought the name sounded cute, but it is not actually pronounced penny pass, which would have been so cute), but Pen Y Pass has literary history. Alexander Huxley and Robert Graves both stayed at the provincial hostel. Were you ever forced to read Brave New World back in high school? Graves, on the other hand, was an English poet/novelist/historian/ and a captain during the first World War. Some personal letters addressed to him are on display in the Welsh Military Museum in Caernaforn.
We opted to dish out the £6 for a hot breakfast the next morning considering that we were in the middle of nowhere. After a bit of a rest (ziplining is, in fact, extremely exhausting even though all you really do is lay there), we took a short hike to wait for a quite magnificent sunset.
Stop 3: Caernaforn
Castle time! Caernaforn was certainly, by far, my favorite castle we saw. The tour is self-led, so it’s up to you where to go. Explore dark hallway, stone towers, and a chapel that overlooks the bay. The town is also adorable and definitely worth the time to sit down and have a coffee or two.
Stop 4: Conwy
We took a cab straight from Caernaforn to Conwy. The castle there isn’t as intact as Caernaforn, but it is still certainly majestic. Careful though! While these are historic landmarks, they are still very old and can be dangerous. I don’t know if the Welsh are short, but the safety bars overlooking the highest walkway only came up to my mid thigh.
The king’s “head” is still in his chambers. Also, look for the staircase in the Chapel Tower that leads to the secret room where the king would watch services alone – his own royal toilet is still intact.
We ended up stopping by the tourist center for some postcards and asked for directions to the train station. The walk from Conwy to Llandudno Junction is only around 20 minutes (30 because we stopped a few times for lots of photos).
If I learned anything during this trip, it’s that I’ll be headed back to Wales soon!!
Embrace the unknown! It’s always great to get out of your comfort zone every now and then – and this was exactly what I needed for my trip. I challenged myself in more ways than one, and it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. Thanks a million, Alana! ❤
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Summer Bucket List
✅ Take a Spontaneous Trip
Until next time,