Our plan for the last day in England involved driving from Dorchester to Holyhead in Wales. We estimated about 8 hours of travel, including time for rest stops. Following the M5, the route would take us through Bristol, Gloucester, Birmingham, Chester, and Bangor before reaching our destination on the Isle of Anglesey. We had pre-booked a nice BnB for the evening. A large, beautiful Georgian type home built around 1829. Since it was promoted on AirBnB as the “Perfect stopover to Ireland in a Friendly Home” and we planned to take the ferry to Ireland early next morning, it felt right.
Having gotten used to driving in England for a few days, the drive up to Wales should be uneventful. For some reason, I thought traffic would be light. Not so. When driving north in Canada, the highways are fairly empty. Not so in England. People are everywhere.
Signs of Trouble
Before reaching Birmingham, we received an email from Irish Ferries advising us to call them regarding our scheduled sailing. Because of inclement weather, they cancelled the morning ferry. The email informed us that if we were to call right away, they would reschedule us for the following afternoon sailing at 2 PM. This was not ideal for us. We only allotted one day in Dublin before driving to Waterford. Taking the afternoon ferry would mean we would arrive in Dublin early evening, leaving us no time for site-seeing. Not that we thought we would see much anyway in one day.
After a short discussion, we called the ferry office. The lady who answered the phone informed us that the administrators were still in a meeting and haven’t yet decided what to do with the 10 AM passengers. She told us to call back in 30 minutes. As we weren’t taking a car on the ferry, we figured there wouldn’t be any problem getting on the later sailing.
As we were getting hungry, we figured it was time for a lunch break, and we stopped at a service centre along the M5. Unlike in Canada, we have to keep an eye out for exit signs to the service centre. With all the trees lining the highways, one cannot see what’s coming up ahead. In Canada, service centres are visible from down the highway. After a bathroom break and a quick bite to eat at Burger King, we are on our way again.
Long Night Ahead
Now it’s time to call Irish Ferries back. Too late. No room left on the following afternoon sailing. Their only suggestions were to take the 2 AM sailing that night or wait for the following day. We had no choice. Though it meant sleeping at the ferry port, we told them we would take the night-time sailing.
After getting off the phone, we immediately emailed our BnB host to let her know the situation. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we would not be staying at her place that night. She kindly offered us a warm meal on arrival and a place to rest until we had to leave for the ferry. She said the walk from her place to the port was only 10 minutes. People walk it all the time. Though tempting, we declined. Certainly, we wouldn’t get our money back if we accepted her offer. Maybe we wouldn’t get it back anyhow. Also, the weather forecast did not look promising. Though it was sunny mid afternoon, the forecast called for major thunderstorms from the south that night. Hence the rescheduling. I didn’t want to be walking after midnight in a strange town in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Best Place to Eat in Holyhead
We arrived in Holyhead around 5:30 that afternoon. Holyhead is the largest town on the island of Anglesey and mainly known for its busy ferry port. Luckily, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car station was still open. Before anything else, we dropped the car off. While making small talk, we mentioned the situation to the manager at the rental station and asked him if he knew any good restaurants in the area where we could hang out for a while. Without hesitation, he highly recommended Sea Shanty Café in Trearddur Bay. And he offered to drive us there.
At the restaurant, we could only get a table until 7 PM without a reservation. After that, the restaurant was fully booked. We said, “Okay”, thinking we would figure it out during the meal. On a Thursday night, the place was hopping. I ordered Calamari to start and the Chicken & Smoked Bacon Carbonara pasta. Carole had the Local Welsh Sirloin Steak. Both meals were incredible. It was easy to see why this place gets its 5-star rating.
Trearddur Bay – A Photographer’s Paradise
After supper, we strolled around the bay. Even though it was windy and cool by then, local kids were still playing in the water along the beach. And parents cooked hamburgers in small BBQs while the sun slowly set behind heavy clouds. The bay looked gorgeous in the evening light.
I spend over an hour climbing the rocks and trying to avoid puddles, each time finding a better spot to photograph. I could easily spend days here snapping pictures. And though the day didn’t go as planned, this made it worthwhile. If we had stuck to our original schedule, we would have never found this incredible location and restaurant.
Find a Comfy Couch and Sleep
We headed back to the Sea Shanty Café around nine o’clock for a warm cup of coffee and called a cab to take us to the ferry port. During the drive, it started raining and was just pouring by the time we arrived. The place was mostly empty this early in the evening. Fortunately, the WH Smiths Café & Shop was still open. We spent some time browsing, bought a few snacks, and found a comfy couch in the café to sit and watch some TV. And I slept for an hour or so.
Shortly before the departure time, we made our way to the gate, passed customs, and boarded the ship. We settled in one of the lounges, and by the time we left port, the thunderstorm was full-on. Amazingly, I could barely feel the ship as it moved through the water. I slept at least two hours, but Carole didn’t at all. Then, as day broke, we arrived in Dublin. But that’s for another story.