Bridge Tours: Waterloo and Menai

Wales trip progress – approximately day eleven of nineteen.

Our Telford tour continued the next day as we awoke in the pretty village of Betws-y-coed (pronounced Bet-oos-er-koyd), although unfortunately for the children, we were in the world’s most dull, geriatric campground. Perfect if you want time away from home in a quiet setting. Terrible if you have four loud children who want to climb stuff, run wildly, and bowl cricket balls. We bundled them out there as fast as possible, making them walk along the Hollyhead road (built by Telford) towards the ancient Pont-y-pair bridge.

Built in the 16th century to cross a section of river nicknamed the cauldron, the gorgeous old bridge is almost identical to its original form. From there we followed the information centre’s recommended short walk along the river with a bonus kid’s quiz. The walk followed a board walk, promoting No2 to shout gleefully, “Sweet. I love boardwalks.” Who knew that a simple wooden structure could illicit such excitement? The quiz turned out to be too easy, and the older two children ended up arguing with the map as it wasn’t drawn perfectly accurately.

View from the Boardwalk

“On the map it says the badger should be there, but it’s over there. Can these map people even draw?” Can the children even read? Yes, the map was incorrect, but only marginally. This kept us entertained over the course of the walk.

From here we dismissed the idea of paying £2 each to walk to a waterfall (only in the UK does one have to pay to visit specific sections of nature?). Instead we walked back through the village to the other end to visit the famous Telford built Waterloo bridge. An impressive iron structure built in the same year the battle of Waterloo occurred, this bridge is elegant and still in use as part of a major highway today.

Having seen all the sights of the Hollyhead road as it passes through Betws-y-coed, we stopped at the miniature railway so the children could enjoy a ride while we had bad coffee. In the end, we decided against the coffee, and felt terribly English as we drank tea and waved at the kids as they trained past us.

Excitement done, we strapped everyone into the truck and drove along the Hollyhead road to the Menai Bridge. This impressive structure is an early cast iron suspension bridge, built by, you guessed it, the master road engineer Thomas Telford. Cast iron is fragile, at least compared to steel, and this bridge has since been rebuilt in steel, although it retains the same design. We drove across and back. We walked over it. We tried to walk under it (no access). Eventually we exhausted all options and retired to the neighbouring pub for lunch. Phew, three major bridges before lunch! No wonder we were famished.

The rest of the afternoon passed in quiet contemplation (or as much of that as is possible in our family) at a campsite on Anglesey Island named Tyddyn Isaf. It came with a huge kids playground, and apparently with wifi, not very fast wifi, it turned out. We gave up and walked to the beach instead. This beach had some sand, plenty of stones, and frigid water. That didn’t stop the children from stripping off their shoes and wading in up to their knees. Or perhaps it did stop them, since none of them attempted to swim! An interesting phenomenon on this beach is the presence of clay near the surface of the sand. Little bits of the clay break off with the action of the waves and are rolled into bullet shapes by the sea water. They pick up smaller rocks as they roll, creating odd sausage shaped bricks after they dry with little rocks embedded in them.

The view from the campsite was brilliant, and the weather not too bad with hardly any rain, and even patches of blue sky. Our weather expectations for this trip have been quite low, I mean one doesn’t go to the uk for good weather or decent beaches, and we probably did alright on the weather front with no major rainfall, just drizzle each day and constant grey skies.

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