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Buen Camino Adventure on Anglesey

July 26, 2019

A Buen Camino on an Adventure on Anglesey

  • Hidden in ferns in a cow pasture near a seaside castle.
  • Inside a Wendy House beside a lighthouse.
  • At a mile-long sloping campground above a beach in town.
  • Inside a caravan full of ivy and snails in the yard of a pub.
  • A campground near a vineyard.
  • A campground on a sheep’s pasture with views of the ocean and the ferries coming and going  from Dublin to Holyhead.
  • A garden in a parsonage.

These are all places where we slept as my son and I backpacked for eight days and 90 miles August 2018 going from the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch train station to the Holyhead train station along the Wales Coastal Path on the Island of Anglesey or Ynys Môn.

I have always loved walking – exploring the world on my own two feet. As a child, I was into everything – climbing what could be climbed, peeking through to see what could be seen. When I was 12, I started backpacking, and when I was thirteen I decided to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail – which I did in my early 20s.


But I never went backpacking in Europe; there was always so much to see and do in the Western United States closer to home.

Until I realized I had to do something to get my teen off of his X Box. With my son game for adventure, we loaded our backpacks and headed for Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago.

Along the way, we made a mad dash around Dublin on a long layover where we jumped on a Viking ship and yelled ARGH,  joined a bus full of ghosts to learn about the plague, and drank a Guinness at the Gravediggers Pub.

We landed in London, but my backpack did not, so no camping near Stonehenge for us, just a hotel. Reunited with my pack and sleeping bag, we hosteled in London, then headed north by train to stay for a few days with Nancy, a college friend who had settled near Chester: she would take us to the Welsh town my great-grandfather Bowen Matthews left at 17 wearing a red vest his sisters and mother made for him and promising his sister to name a daughter after her: that daughter would be my grandmother, Gwendolyn, and I am named for her.

My great-grandfather came from the town with the train station with the longest name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a Welsh word which translates to “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave” located on the island of Anglesey.

On a rainy day, Nancy drove us to the island of Anglesey, and we took obligatory photos at the train station. Then we headed to the closest, oldest church, the  Church of St Mary’s which is along the Wales Coastal Path and its small churchyard where we inspected every grave until we found the one for my great grandfather’s sister, my namesake.

Our name Gwendolyn is an unusual name one in the US with so many consonants oddly juxtaposed. In Wales these consonants combined and flowed naturally off people’s tongues. Everywhere I saw words that reminded me of my name. This was my heritage.

Back in Chester, I searched for flights to Spain which was in a heat wave. Prices were on fire too.

At a BBQ, a friend of Nancy’s gave me a book about the Wales Coastal Path that hugs shore. “You should do that one day,” Ian encouraged me.


As I struggled to figure out how we were getting to Spain and where we should start our Camino, his words haunted me. I kept seeing the path by the church, until finally, I knew The Path we needed to take – that our pilgrimage was in Wales, not Spain.

Near Penmon, we met up with Colin from Holyhead who was on his final two days of circumnavigating the island alone. Knowledgeable about the Coastal Walk, he was happy for our company, and we for him, but try as he might, we never learned how to properly say “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch”

While we never made it to Spain, we still had a buen camino.



Now I am preparing for another journey– I fly to Amsterdam on Sunday, then to Tanzania on Tuesday where I will be climbing Mt Kilimanjaro starting on Saturday! 

Watch for more news about this summer’s adventure! (Make it easy on your self and SUBSCRIBE!)



2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2019 12:31 pm

    Wow, what a memory you’ve made with your son! So cool that you were able to find the other Gwendolyn’s grave site and discover where your family originated. I can’t wait to read about your trip up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Be safe and have a hell of an adventure!

  2. Peculiar permalink
    August 10, 2019 3:14 am

    Wow! Those Stone/Rocks are magnificent. Wanna be there also.

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