Foot travel is contemplative, all the points connecting. Driving, it's easy to miss things; they slip by. We are conscious to make the drive a road trip, to carve off slivers of experience before re-embarking.
A morning visit to the Glaslyn ospreys opens a birdwatching world, eager volunteers relating the two nesting couples' years of romantic history as we peer through telescopes and watch the newest lady blink through the webcam as she sits atop her eggs — due to hatch any day now.
Barmouth is a carnival of a town. "Ferry for Fairbourne! steam railway!" The ferryman calls as he pulls his skiff up to the concrete stairs. At the beach prosecco bar, it's £20 for the bottle. Quayside, a family has small crabs in a bucket of water. Down the way, a woman is singing happy birthday into a phone.
Machynlleth has a free modern art museum featuring an exhibition of a Vietnamese-Welsh artist riding English-style through UK landscapes, and a blacksmith artist who has sculpted metal organs to heal from abuse. Poking through back rooms, I find a tapestry quilt made by the community, hand-embroidered scenes from the area. Another room is full of binders collecting oral histories and hand-drawn maps from 42 communities just around the area at the turn of the millennium.
The National Library of Wales is a gem set into the crown of Aberystwyth, commanding a panoramic view of the seaside room. On level two, an exhibition walks through the history of Welsh language revitalization, especially the fight for Welsh-language television. Upstairs, a room filled with black and white prints smells of lacquer and tea leaves. I peruse prints from historic Eisteddfod celebrations: dancing and singing, girls in flower garlands dancing circles, Princess Elizabeth meeting the Archdruid. The photo locations are now familiar: Porthmadog, Pwllheli, Caernarfon Castle.
There is ice cream on the beach, a young pair of students flirting, a ruined castle, slate headstones, a standing stone circle — Aberystwyth. (Aber = estuary or river mouth, Ystwyth = the river's name.)
We are too early for the daily feeding of once-rare red kites at Bwylch Nant, but we see them all day driving down the coast. Their swallow-like tails twist as they circle green fields above sea cliffs.
Ceredigion is Mid-Wales, the coast from Snowdonia and the Llyn to Pembrokeshire. As we drive, we watch the rugged peaks and cliffs subside to rolling pastureland. We walk a section of the beach at Aberaeron, then turn inland.
All told, the drive itself is only a couple of hours. We go from the country's north to its south, and again rejoin the coastal trail.