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Home Travel StoriesShell Island Shenanigans

Shivering At Shell Island

Ride Date - 26 October 2018

By Ren Withnell

I've sort of been to Shell Island before. I can't recall when but I do remember I was on my own and on a motorcycle, the rest is lost to me. I wonder if it'll be on the blog somewhere? I only got to the gatehouse as I was simply wandering around, I remember that much at least.

This weekend several of our friends will be there. Apparently this is the last weekend of the season and as such the people who run the Shell Island campsite organise a party, a bit of a do. I look on the website and notice there's music and bands and fireworks so I'm guessing there'll be a fair few people there, it won't be an "intimate" affair.

Damn Sharon and her work. While she's only part time she appears to do full time hours, go figure. On Friday she'll not be finished until 1600 or 1700, I can never keep up with her weird shifts. Anyhow this being late October and Shell Island being about 2.5 - 3 hours easy ride away then making the Friday night's festivities is a non-starter. It would be cold and dark  and almost over by the time we got there.

So we set off on Saturday morning instead, this is much more civilised. The forecast is dry which is good but of course dry in late October equates to clear skies hence damn cold at night. We have foil emergency blankets, hot water bottles and thermal everythings as well as our usual camping kit. Bring it on winter - we're ready for you this time.

Sharon is looking at her phone next to the motorcycles amidst trees and gorgeous sunshine
Get off ya phone and let's get going!

The motorway allows passage through Cheshire and drops us on to the more interesting tarmac through Mold and into Ruthin. Time is on our side so we stop for a brew and a nibble, I enjoy my riding so SO much more when we have all day to do a handful of miles. No rush, no stress, no clock watching just ride when we ride and rest when we rest.  

Just before Bala we turn north onto the A4212. It is a lovely road this, it flows through the countryside gracefully. There's just enough bends to keep it interesting yet not too many thus allowing the landscape to be fully observed. The autumnal sun seems to be picking out the details in the rocks and the hardy grasses. There's a layer of snow, strangely some of the mountain tops but not all. Wales has it's finest attire on for us.

One rounded mountain in North Wales has a good layer of snow under light cloud and blue skies
The snow is already here in Wales, cold yet delightful.

I turn left onto the A470. Then after a mile I realise the sun is in the wrong place. I stop to consult the phone. Yeah. Damn. Should have turned right not left. Not to worry we'll ride through Barmouth then north to Shell Island rather than through Maentwrog and south. That's the advantage of having time on our side. The countryside continues to stimulate.

Barmouth is busy. I should have realised but yes, it's half term so there will be countless families making the most of the last break before Christmas. There also appears to be a motocross beach race too. I think about stopping to watch a while but there's nowhere to park, not even two motorcycles. We push on through the mire.

Barmought beach on a very cold autumn day, it is almost empty
While the roads are busy the beach is quiet, it's a bit nippy for sunbathing.

North of Barmouth I spot a cafe, "Norbar" (North of Barmouth, gerrit?!). We're not far from the site yet time is with us and there'll be a lot of pitching to do before I can replenish the levels of tea I need to survive. Norbar is a rather posh (perhaps just a smidgeon pretentious) bar, restaurant come cafe. It 'ain't cheap so we'll just be having 2 teas please. We look on enviously as meals arrive on tables beside us. 

We make do with crisps and a butty from a small Spar shop before we arrive at Shell Island. 

The site is huge. Apparently there's 300 acres of camping and as I ride around looking for our friends I can see it is true. Fortunately Bernard has furnished me with vague directions and like himself his tent is quite distinctive. With the sun in the sky and after a few man-hug greetings I put up the tent. I can already feel blood in my tea-stream, I'll be needing another dose soon.

With tea inside me, the tent up and all thermals in place Sharon and I set out in search of a reception to book in - I've already paid online. It takes a while to find reception - only to find it's closed. We have no idea what to do. Stuff it, sod 'em, we have paid, we are here and I'm not chasing around the campsite trying to tell someone that I've already paid.

Instead we wander around the site as the sun starts to set. The mountains are imposing with a sprinking of snow atop the what we suspect is Snowdon. The sea is calm and the sun brightly reflects off it. The site is busy yet mercifully it is so large it does not feel overcrowded or cramped. I sense that when the sun finally drops over the horizon it's going to be cold tonight, damn cold.

In the far distance we can see the Welsh mountains across an open marshy plain
The low setting sun casts wonderous shadows.

Indeed it is. But not to worry. There's "lobby" to be eaten in Sue's warm campervan. Billy's camper has the heater on and the kettle's on the boil. Within Bernard's tent there's a stove. If it's going to be cold it's good to have friends like these, it could have been a miserable evening without them.

2 chaps are fooling around in the warmth of a small campervan
Tea, fooling around and a heater, what more could I want?

At around 1900 the fireworks go off. I'm expecting a few pops and whistles, instead we're treated to some very dramatic, colourful and occasionally very loud explosions. This is far more than I expected, colour me impressed. The marquee is rammed full, there's a massive queue for the bar and the music is blasting. I'm happy to be here laughing and messing around with my friends for a couple of hours. 

I'm impressed once again (a rarity for me). Yeah the music and band and so on are good but that's not what has impressed me most. It's the fact it's all winding down before 2300. It has been a proper party with dancing and singing and much merrymaking but does it really need to carry on until 0400? I guess I'm old, I think a 2300 curtain call is most humane. 

Between the festivities the tide is coming in. So what? Shell Island is only an island twice a day and that's only if the tide is making an effort. We spend a very cold hour watching the water slowly slowly slowly rising up to the road. I give up, this is worse than watching grass grow and the icy breeze has made my ears sore.

The bright moon illuminates water lapping over the road as the tide comes in
Sharon's image of the tide coming in over the road. 

We retire to the warmth of Bernard's teepee tent to chew the cud and tease each other. Billy talks so much we are trying to figure out how he breathes. Lorraine thinks there's something wrong with the stove because it's smoky. There's a little liquor going around but no-one is poop-faced which helps keep the mood jovial rather than aggressive. I am comfortable, warm and relaxed.

Sharon and I retire before midnight. It is now bitterly cold away from Bernard's stove so I boil some water for the hot water bottles. Erm, well Sharon thinks her hot water bottle is the best thing ever to happen in a cold tent. Me? Well being a hardened cynic I'm not so sure. I remain to be convinced that having one small well warmed bit of my body will convince the frost-bound parts they are not cold. 

We shall see... 

There is one good thing about having a blog. If you recall at the start of this post I could not remember when or why I'd been to Shell Island before. A cursory search brought me to the trip I made alone in 2014. Tywyn 2014  

If you'd like to share your shivering adventures here on Bikes And Travels contact

Shivering At Shell Island It may be cold but it's a beautiful autumnal day to be riding through North Wales' finest scenery. There's warmth to be found in the evening too.
Wandering Home From Shell Island Do hot water bottles work in sleeping bags? Will the dynamic muppets ever get off the island and back home? No-one really cares.

Reader's Comments

Rod said :-
Pleased to hear you are at least trying the hot water bottles this year Ren.
I believe they are a better cold weather investment than expensive sleeping bags.
31/10/2018 05:09:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You'll have to wait for the next exciting instalment Rod, I shall offer my experiences then.
31/10/2018 08:22:12 UTC
Sue said :-
I don't know anyone else who uses words so eloquently as you do ! Well, maybe Sharon 2nd and Bernard 3rd ??X
01/11/2018 09:17:59 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Its cos I learnt fert speak proper Sue.
02/11/2018 08:30:27 UTC

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