After eight miles, we descended into the village of Rhuallt, with the promise of a sit down, a cup of coffee and a snack at a hostelry called The Smithy Arms. But there was no sign of it! After a futile search around the tiny village, we dejectedly determined that a detached house now stood where our guidebook was unequivocal about the site of The Arms. The afternoon proceeded in a somewhat irritable and hungry fog. However, dappled sunshine accompanied us on a steady climb and then descent into the hamlet of Sodom.
We enjoyed a substantial breakfast in Plas Ifan. Plas Ifan itself turns out to be a converted chapel with a mature, peaceful garden. We chatted at breakfast with a foursome who had just completed ODP (Offa’s Dyke Path) south to north, and it was impressed upon us that we were in for a muddy fortnight! As we set off in earnest, the weather was very overcast but dry. After the initial steep climb out of town, the going was fairly easy but with plenty of stiles – Julia counted 43 for the day! We passed three Dyke ramblers going the other way: father, mother and son. The parents were completing the last leg of the Way which they had started in Chepstow in 1982! They had raised a family in the meantime. They were looking forward to celebratory fish & chips in Prestatyn; we expressed the opinion that they deserved to wash it down with champagne.
We stayed at Fron Haul, an isolated B&B run by the formidable Gwladys Edwards. (I cannot see that Fron Haul is still providing B&B – 2021). She put us up in a new bungalow just down the road from the main farm house, an abode that was being prepared for her retirement. Although I do not know her, I got the impression that Gwladys would never retire! So, for the second night running, we were alone in a large private dwelling.
We enjoyed a luxurious wallow in the bath, before walking down to Bodfari, a village no more that a mile and a half from our lodgings. We made a note that the village shop (the Forge Stores) had closed; this would be a recurring theme on our walk. “Downing Arms” is the village pub – we were disappointed to discover that it was not a haven for pacifists despite its name. (As well as Fron Haul, The Downing Arms also appears to have gone – 2021). The Arms proved to be cosy with a good menu and excellent food. Julia and I enjoyed halibut and Welsh rainbow trout after whitebait and prawns, accompanied by a bottle of Pinot Grigio. The estimable Mrs. Edwards picked us up just as we were beginning to contemplate a warm bed – the instinct of an experienced landlady!
Before going to bed, we watched the weather forecast on the giant TV in the bungalow. This promised extremely wild weather coming into the area before dawn. As if addressing himself specifically to us, the presenter warned, “You really don’t want to be up on those Welsh mountains tomorrow!”