Backpack Benji


From London I drove with my friend to stay with his brother in the lively city of Cardiff, Wales. Driving on the left side of the road felt so different after a lifetime of driving on the right side.  As we rode around the city and the adjacent countryside, we witnessed the simple beauty and some of the ancient history of Wales. There are so many historic buildings, walls, and castles, that many are now repurposed to realign with modern needs, while maintaining the architectural value of their heritage.

One day, we drove out to St Donat’s Castle, a tired medieval castle complete with inner and outer courts, gardens, a moat, entrance arches, and of course a large tower keep. The castle and grounds were void of any tourists or employees so we had the entire fortress to ourselves as we roamed the grounds and breathed in the history.

From the castle grounds, we ventured down to the coast of the Bristol Channel and began hiking along the striking coastline. We soon found ourselves in the midst of dramatic landscape as we moved along an ancient trail which wandered through light forests, thick brush, lovely green hills and fields of livestock, and the spectacular coastal cliffs with waves crashing onto the jagged rocks far below.  We snacked on wild berries which we plucked along the trail as we marveled at the delightful views.

I ended my stay in Wales with a lazy tour of Llantwit Major, a small coastal town, where we discovered a laid back cluster of friendly centuries-old pubs dating back to the 11th century.

On my last morning in Wales, I asked my friends to drop me at the train station and told them I was going to work my way to Ireland since I was so close. As we waited for the train to arrive, we ordered an English fry-up, something I had come to appreciate during my time in the UK.  A fry-up is a piping-hot experience that promises to set you right no matter what situation you may have gotten yourself into.  The breakfast tradition typically consists of fried bread, eggs, tomato, beans, meat, and sometimes black pudding, or mushrooms accompanied by ketchup or the more traditional HP sauce. A very hearty breakfast indeed.

English fry-up.

My English fry-up.

With a belly full of happiness, I bid my friends a final “cheers”, and set off to the coastal community of Swansea in search of a boat that would take me to Ireland. If you make to Wales, find your way to St Donats Castle and the Glamorgan coast and countryside…truly a place worth exploring.

For a full-size rendering of this map, click on the expand icon in the lower right hand corner of the map.