In the late Seventies my parents took my three older brothers and me to north Wales for a fortnight. I’ve no idea why they identified this place as a holiday destination; I can’t understand how anyone chose a holiday before the internet. Did we really just walk into a high street travel agent and ask them what they had on offer?
These days I like to check every review on Tripadvisor, every image on Google Earth and every video on YouTube before I even think about committing a deposit. In the Seventies, you just got in your car, crossed your fingers and headed out into the great unknown.
I was just a baby on this Wales trip. Apparently, I cried all the way there in the car and throughout most of the holiday. Anyway, despite this, I’m told everyone else had a great time. It gets talked about quite a lot, perhaps because it was the last time our family went away together and created what might have passed for golden memories before my parents split just a few months later.
Many times I have heard tell of that wondrous fortnight spent playing in rolling sand dunes and on sprawling, sandy beaches. I’ve heard about the walks through magical woodland, the waterfalls, the friendly people and the steam train rides. I remember none of this, of course, but it’s always lived as an idyllic fantasy in my imagination.
So, this year, I decided to try and recreate it with my own little family. Obviously, I researched the shit out of the whole trip for months in advance before hitting the road in the last week of August. Still, I didn’t quite know what to expect. My kids (15 and 10) were clearly underwhelmed by the prospect of a summer holiday that didn’t involve flying anywhere with your passport. So, I really needed north Wales to over-deliver.
The drive out of London, up through the Midlands and across the border into Wales was not immediately exhilarating. The kids sulked in the back with their headphones in. Then Snowdonia National Park emerged on the horizon and the sun crept through the clouds. Eventually, through gaps between the mountains, we saw the coast. It was breathtaking. The sort of aesthetically enchanting arrival you just don’t get from touching down outside a tatty arrivals terminal in Spain.