I’m not sure, when I put it in my diary, that I realised that our scheduled weekend away camping with friends fell immediately after party conference in Brighton…
… but by golly am I glad it was. A weekend spent with close friends in the still of the Snowdonia National Park was just the tonic after a frenetic week spent with fahsands of Lib Dems in Brighton.
We drove out to Shrewsbury on Friday night, overnighted and continued on to Shell Island on Saturday morning.
Other people, for example, reviewers on this camping website, have patchy experiences of camping on Shell Island. I have come to the view that how good a time you have depends on two factors: what the weather does, and whether you end up, amongst the hundreds of acres of beautiful campsite, next to a group of people you judge to be behaving badly.
Thankfully at the end of September, the site was very quiet, and we managed to find a pitch a good distance from any other sign of humanity. By the evening, a slightly noisy group revealed themselves a couple of hundred metres away, but nothing too seriously annoying.
And the weather? Some of the best I have ever had on the island, in six years or more of visiting. Saturday it blew a gale (about Force 5), but was not otherwise too cold. Come Sunday morning, the gale dropped, and it started tipping down instead. But the rain didn’t last long beyond breakfast time (*my* breakfast time, anyway) and after that, the rain stayed away and we had baking sunshine – so much that it was at times too hot to sit in direct sun. I had not really envisaged sunshine, so my packing had been lots of jumpers etc., and I forgot both sunglasses and suncream. Rather foolhardily, I accidently left my anorak in the office, but being there for a whole weekend without any waterproof clothing at all wasn’t a problem this time.
It’s been over a year since I was last there, and during that time I have been recommending to other people to go. I started to doubt why I was such a keen advocate of the place, but this weekend reminded me. It’s beautiful. It’s a little remote, and therefore peaceful. The journey there through the Snowdon National Park either by rail or car is breathtaking. Standing on the 8-mile sandy beach that stretches all the way from Llanbedr to Barmouth, you are surrounded on three sides by mountains fading away, and sea wherever there’s no mountain. Although I’ve taken many great pictures over the years, nothing quite does the scale justice.