Travel: Beautiful, unique, secluded and friendly - Welsh camping at its best
Perched on cliffs above a pristine secluded beach on the Llyn Peninsular in North West Wales is a gem of a caravan and camping site.
Just a few miles south of the popular tourist village of Abersoch, via winding countryside roads and farmsteads, lies Nant y Big Beachside Holidays.
Location wise you can’t get much better.
Situated in the county of Gwynedd, it’s a five hour drive from Lancashire including a stop for breakfast in Llandudno and plenty for the eye to take in along the largely coastal road.
The National Trust’s Porth Ceiriad beach faces south east into Cardigan Bay, accessed directly from the campsite, it takes ten minutes to walk down to.
Another 15 minutes up to the headland offers views of a beautiful, shimmering blue expanse of water topped in the background by the mountain ranges of the Snowdonia National Park.
We - my wife and two children, aged 8 and 4 - arrived at the start of what would be Nant y Big’s hottest, driest week for six years, wall to wall sunshine from dawn until dusk.
The site is spread out over a fairly large area, and offers pitches for tents, caravans and tourers, and long term leases as well.
There are one or two self-catering holiday chalets for hire too.
The more adventurous camper may want to head up to the cliff side campsites, where several fields reveal stunning panoramic views of the bay and mountains.
I’m yet to see a campsite offering a better vista than this.
We opted however for the ‘family campsite’, despite the friendly recommendations of the site manager that the ‘panoramic’ field was something to behold.
We initially drove up there to have a peek and it was indeed spectacular, but the high winds at the time and option for electric hook up in the family field swayed us back down the hill and on to the flatter, more sheltered, inland field.
We’d certainly go for panoramic if we were staying for a shorter time perhaps without the kids.
Facilities wise the site is basic but clean - two toilet and (warm) shower blocks and washing up areas, and a reception/enquiries office.
What more do you need?
It never felt busy, even though it was half term, and a water point in the middle of the camping field was a convenient extra and was well used in the 25 degree heat.
Exploring and body boarding was the order of the days to come.
Porth Ceiriad has a decent surf, but in early June the water is still pretty cold.
The outgoing tide however leaves calf deep pools and rivulets on the beach, that, after a couple of hours in the sun, are lovely and warm and great for a splash and a body board ride, especially when you’re aged four!
The beach sits below a section of the Welsh Coastal Path, with walking access to many of the former fishing ports and villages dotted around Cardigan Bay.
St Tudwal’s West, and Ynys Tudwal Fach (St Tudwal’s Island East), a small archipelago off Tremadog Bay, can also be seen from the headland.
The east island is currently owned by author Carla Lane and the west was recently purchased by adventurer Bear Grylls and converted into a holiday home, coining it the name, ‘Bear Grylls Island’.
I took a couple of hours’ out to walk to Abersoch along the rugged coastline, an idyllic stretch of path suitable for all ages.
The scenery was breathtaking and there were more people to be seen on boats in the water than there were on the land.
On our second day we headed around the bay, via Abersoch, Pwlleli and Criccieth (which has a stunningly intact castle) to the famous Portmeirion village.
The site was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village, and is now owned by a charitable trust.
The colours and shapes, detail and design, humour and intricacy, and the relationship between the built up area and the natural environment make Portmeirion a magical place to vist.
The kids enjoyed the free circular train ride into the forest, throwing plastic ducks into a pond, sitting with a big golden buddha, exploring the hidden paths and follies, and splashing bare-footed in the warm pool in the central garden area.
And, of course, devouring Portmeirion’s excellent own brand ice-cream.
Entry is £11 for adults (£10 online) and £8 for children (£7 online).
Well worth a visit, and it’s near to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways station for exploring even further afield.
That same afternoon we barbequed on the beach back at Porth Ceiriad, building a small fire afterwards of driftwood found on the beach, and toasting marshmallows under blankets long after the sun had gone down.
Abersoch is a bustling tourist village, with watersports playing a key feature on its beach.
Hundreds of boats create the appearance of organised chaos in the bay, and the beach is very popular, and very busy.
It has a useful Spar and Londis shop (the nearest supermarkets are in Pwlleli), a Fatface clothes shop, plenty of cafes and bistros, and independent retailers.
We ate out twice - once at the Robinsons owned St Tudwalls, where we had a not bad at all fish and chips supper and a good pint of real ale in its sunny outdoor terrace, and once at the Crust Abersoch Pizzeria, new for 2016, neat the entrance to the harbour.
The food here was particularly impressive. We ordered a 12” Seafood Crust, with King Prawns marinated in chilli & garlic, anchovies & rocket, a 12” ham and pineapple and a 12” garlic bread with cheese, all cooked in a clay pizza oven.
Delicious was putting it mildly, and we ate every last crust.
Back at Nant y Big the pace slowed down again as we made one last early evening amble down to the beach to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive pod of 30 or so dolphins seen often in Cardigan Bay.
Alas, it was not to be, although we spoke to a family who said they’d seen them just a couple of hours earlier.
Surely it’ll be our turn next time.
And there will most certainly be a next time.
Leaving the campsite after a four night stay (roughly £130 for a family of four with a car, tent and electric hook up), the site manager remarked that the staff were like a mirror, with respectful campers getting respect in return.
It’s a place to respect. Beautiful, unique, secluded and friendly, the “no noise after 11pm” and “keep your camping area tidy” rules were fully adhered to by everyone on the site.
This was by far one of our favourite family camping holidays.
Visit www.nantybig.co.uk for more information.