The Llyn Peninsula with a newborn: Our first family holiday

I don’t suppose I’ll be the first woman who gets pregnant, and then makes a mental list of all their less than favourable traits, in the hope that they do not pass them onto the baby. For me, as well as wishing for a healthy and happy child, I didn’t want him or her to be irrationally scared of the dark, at 5, 35, and probably still at 65. I wanted them to be adventurous with food, and not denounce whole food groups without trying them, just because they looked weird. I didn’t want them to be dis-proportionally concerned with what others thought of them. I didn’t want them to have my wonky teeth and varicose veins. But predominantly I hoped that our baby wouldn’t grow up to be an inane worrier like I am, which of course would mean becoming less worried myself.

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My first holiday!

Now Tom is here, I think I’m managing to strike some kind of balance. Yes, if he starts crying I’m generally fussing over him within 3.5 seconds. I will routinely reel off a list of questions of things that have piqued my concern during the day, the minute Chris gets through the door. These range from the sane and balanced; “if that rash doesn’t go, shall I ring the doctors?”, to bordering on unhinged; “do you think his big toe is too big?”. Between us we’ve misdiagnosed a few common baby ailments: tetanus (a small cut whilst nail trimming), measles (dribble rash), and my personal favourite; trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder (self-soothing). However we’re managing to get through most days now without ringing 111, sending my Mum blurred photos of imagined rashes on WhatsApp, and turning up at the out of hours doctors because he’d spat quite a lot of milk up.

All that said, (and I’m getting to the point now, I promise) – nothing will make new parents more fretful and discombobulated than spending their first family holiday in a caravan in North Wales, during the most intense and prolonged UK heatwave since 1976. When the hottest temperature in the UK (at that point) during the heatwave was recorded in Porthmadog in late June, that’s exactly where we were. I imagine it’s a very nice place, but I wouldn’t really know, as my memories are of desperately trying to find some shade to feed Tom for the third time in two hours, having to change him on the ground in a gravel car park because Chris’s car was like being in a greenhouse on the equator, and eventually, of giving up to having a pleasurable day out and going for a walk round Aldi because it had air-con.

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Porthmadog harbour

Whatever preconceptions I may have had of what our trip would be like…many gorgeous family photos of us, Tom in the lovely new clothes people had bought him, day trips around coastal North Wales and its famed beaches, and Chris and I enjoying a beer on the decking once Tom was in bed – I can assure you that these were all quashed once the thermometer approached 30. For a start, Tom didn’t wear clothes for a fortnight. I wore the same dress for days, until I’d wiped so much sick-up off it with baby wipes, I’d started to disgust myself.

Day trips used to mean being out for most of the day, usually taking in a relaxing meal, a decent walk, and a good few drinks. Day trips on this holiday meant being out on average around two hours, taking in a visit to somewhere with air con (I can provide a list of supermarkets on the Llyn Peninsula), and walking for around seven minutes before I became convinced Tom was going to burst into flames. There was no sitting on the beach. Large parts of each day were spent lying under the tree next to the caravan trying to keep us all cool. I have never been on a holiday before where talking to Siri for 20 minutes was classed as a reasonable afternoon activity. There was no sitting on the decking. Tom wouldn’t go to sleep, because it was like putting him to bed in a microwave. When he finally went to sleep he woke up again, several times. The monitor beeped constantly at us to tell us it was too hot in his room (really?!). None of this made for a relaxing decking experience.

Now I don’t want to be accused of moaning, but it was too flaming hot. That said, we did still have an enjoyable family time. The Llyn Peninsula is a beautiful part of the UK, and one we’ve foolishly overlooked in favour of the Lake District time and time again.

If you’re thinking of visiting, and especially if you’re thinking of visiting with a newborn in a heatwave, here are my recommendations and top tips:

Hafan Y Mor holiday site (Haven) and Pwllheli

Take the time to walk round the site, particularly along the coastal path at the top of the site. We did a walk one morning at 7am due to the heat (did I mention the heat?), and the views across the sea to the Snowdonia range were unrivalled. Do check the site map when booking and book one of the areas that has a version of that view if possible.

Do not forget to take enough beer for your first night, until you’ve been to the supermarket. It is nearly £8 for four cans of Heineken in the mini market. Do not use the launderette, take travel wash. It is £6 a wash and smells strange in there.

Pwllheli itself has a lovely promenade, and a decent walk you can do from the harbour and town centre area, right to the other end of town. Whilst there are some lovely looking homes and impressive coastal townhouses, the whole area by the beach does have a bit of a ghost town feel to it. There are a couple of little pavilions along the way to get some shade and feed your baby, if like me, this is what you spend a large part of your holiday doing.

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Pwllheli promenade

Morfa Nefyn

On paper, Morfa is a small village with few attractions, bar what has to be the best view from a golf course I have ever seen. Visitors can park by the club and take a short pram friendly walk through the course and onto the headland, with views out across the bay. The main draw of this walk is the Ty Coch Inn, a traditional pub on a small beach that can’t be reached by car if you’re a member of the public.

Whilst we didn’t have a drink there due to, of course, the heat, and the crowds – I am certain that BT (before Tom), we’d have happily spent a good couple of hours there enjoying watching the fishing boats twinkle in the sunlight on the bay. AT (after Tom), there are plenty of lovely benches you can frantically feed your baby on, with your other half hovering over you with a parasol, whilst everyone else sits in the sun and drinks. Which are broadly similar ways to spend the afternoon.

Abersoch

Don’t pull up on the car park directly next to the beach to feed your baby in the shade, discover that he’s pooed all over the car seat, change him and clean everything up, by which time you’ve lost interest in Abersoch and just want to go back to the caravan and lie down. You may find you accidentally spent half an hour there, but didn’t pay for a ticket because you didn’t consider it properly parking. You will return home to two parking fines, one in English and also one in Welsh. You’ve been warned.

Criccieth

Home to a castle, a short promenade, and both the best chips and best ice cream I ate all fortnight, Criccieth was my favourite place to visit in this area. A small town overlooked by its castle on the hill, this little place had it all. The beach was lovely, and there was also a big grassy area for sunbathing and picnics if sand isn’t your thing. You can have a very pleasant stroll if you’re pram-bound, and the homemade ice cream cart on the front was an absolute winner. I had an elderflower and raspberry blend and it was delicious. Head up the hill to the chippy on the right hand side. It has a brief opening window at lunch and tea, but well worth making a trip to.

Barmouth

Barmouth has been on my ‘must visit’ list for a number of years. A very special place to my friend Sarah, it was a priority for us to go and have a look at the place she holds so dear. Whilst we didn’t make it on the walk she recommended, the prom stretches nearly 1.5 miles and as it was a slightly cooler day, we still had a long walk and really enjoyed the views out to sea and behind us into the Cader Idris mountain range. Barmouth itself was the liveliest place we visited, with the usual seaside attractions but not the tacky edge of many resorts. I saw a funfair and a candyfloss stand, but no stag dos. This seemed a good combination.

Llanbedrog  

Again, on paper there isn’t a great deal here, but we spent a gorgeous afternoon with an uncharacteristically sleeping and settled baby at the National Trust property on the hill, Plas yn Rhiw. We ate really good butties, it was licensed (though we didn’t indulge), and all in lush tree filled surroundings looking out to sea. It’s also got an art gallery and is home to the tallest tree on the peninsula. Well worth a visit.

 

Aberdaron

Aberdaron has a beautiful little beach on the southern tip of the peninsula, which is both a nice drive from Pwllheli and a lovely destination. For such a small place it has a disproportionate amount of places to get a drink, have a snack and buy a bucket and spade. It’s also home to an incredibly small promenade, around the length of a supermarket aisle. It was just about long enough to partially walk off a piece of cake from the café by the river, and stretch our legs before getting back in the car.

Betws-y-Coed

Towards the end of our stay the weather cooled off ever so slightly, and we felt brave enough to venture a little bit further. We drove into the Snowdonia National Park and into Betws-y-Coed. Whilst the town itself is predominantly outdoor shops and a convenient base for walkers setting off into the mountains, it’s a pretty place to stroll around. It is hugged by dense trees on all sides, which rather than making you feel hemmed in, felt to me like being in the heart of a beautiful forest. If you walk up to the top of the town there are a number of different trails through the woods.

All told, I think we did pretty well to spend a fortnight in such intense heat and still see and do as much as we did. The area has so much to offer, for all types of holiday and visitor. I could easily imagine how we could return as a group of family or with different friends, on a serious walking trip, or again as our little family of three for some relaxation and quality time together. It’s so accessible from Lancashire that even with stops for feeding, and to free Tom from his polystyrene prison, we did the journey in around four hours.

Despite my initial reservations about Haven, we enjoyed it so much that we’re off to their Filey site tomorrow. The weather is looking far more appropriate for the school holidays – slightly grey, damp and under 20C.

My final words of advice – if you are planning to take your 12 week old baby on holiday in a heatwave, try and also do it during a World Cup. It is the perfect excuse to sit inside on a hot day, eating crisps and drinking the occasional Aldi lager, without feeling remotely guilty about it.

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