The tiny Welsh town of Trefor sits snug in the shadow of three huge hills on the North coast of the Llŷn Peninsula. I’d experienced rural Wales before, but not rural Wales like this. Driving into the village, it reminded us all of something out of a horror film – the lack of people, the grey cottages, the wind and rain. This was isolation on another level, and I felt about as far from London as it is possible to feel.
The cottage we were staying in sat right on the cliff edge, buffeted on all sides by the intense weather. I was reassured that it was decidedly cosy within, but it looked precarious nonetheless. Inside the tiny living room, a warm fire was already burning; the landlady had anticipated us. We made tea, fought for the chair closest to the fire, made ourselves at home. From the front room window, we had an uninterrupted view of the sea, an intimidating mass of grey that, at times, blended with the clouds to make the horizon indistinguishable. Ireland was somewhere there across the Irish Sea, and when I looked at a map later it turned out we had spent the weekend looking out at the town of Wicklow, 65 miles away across the expanse of water. In fact, Ireland was so close that our radio received Irish channels, a peculiar circumstance that somehow made us seem even further away from civilisation. The radio, along with a few board games, provided the only entertainment in our wifi-less cottage.
The ocean exacted a pull on us, and soon after we arrived we were once again drawing on all the layers we had and venturing down to the beach, or wherever else the wind wanted to take us. Our cottage sat on the Welsh coast path, the only uninterrupted coast path in the world. Today though, there wasn’t a soul on it, and despite the comfort of the village just 700m behind our small home, it felt like we were the only ones around for miles. The beach itself was rocky, not sandy, which made the landscape even less earth-like. The large hill behind us was a quarry, and from here we could see the abandoned mine perched halfway up the side, another set straight from a horror film. I left my companions behind and rushed straight to the sea edge, squarely facing the waves. Their strength was overwhelming; I was told ‘don’t get pulled in’. A small joke, but the deep, thundery sound of rocks being pulled on top of one another as the waves retracted from the shore made the threat seem real.
We spent the weekend walking – across the cliffs, into Trefor itself, up the hill to investigate the quarry. The wind was everywhere, at all times, tugging at your heels. On the cliff edge, our shouts and yells were stolen away before anyone heard them, and walking up the steep path to the quarry it became harder to breathe as the wind beat at our lungs. We could see our little cottage from the quarry, a small dot of white amongst the fields, and in front the looming Irish Sea, expanding for miles. The quarry, now abandoned, used to mine granite from the hills, and strewn upon the ground were pieces of machinery that would sometimes creak in the wind. The structure itself looked more intimidating up close than it did from the beach, more of a fortress than a quarry building. We climbed boulders and prepared for the long walk down, comforted by the thought of warm tea and chocolate when we got back.
The forecast had predicted sunny skies for our final day, but when we woke it was only marginally brighter than the previous day. The sea was calmer though, and we had a final walk to the beach before leaving. The walk across the stones was preferable to the walk up the quarry of the day before. To walk on this beach required concentration and balance, rather than brute force and strong legs. Your mind is prevented from wandering as you decide where to place your feet, testing to see if each stone will wobble and send you toppling over.
We sat for the final time facing the sea, watching and listening to the waves breaking, then bubbling at the shore, and finally the water sinking into the stones.