The north Welsh countryside in the springtime was awash with colour and life. The warm breeze that swept along my cheek via the open car window sent rivulets of nostalgia dancing across my mind. Sunny days smelling of freshly-cut grass and dainty star jasmine heralded what was soon to come: sand, sea and short-wearing opportunities! I felt a shiver down my spine, of the good variety. And for the next couple of days, it was all about this.
My better half and I were in Gwynedd, possibly the most interesting place in the British Isles, to me at least. As far as I was concerned, this was where the juiciest bits of British history were conceived, including Arthuriana, not where the conventional historians popularly claimed. This was the birthplace of the Apple Isle and so, as usual, dragging my obedient boyfriend behind me, this was where I had to explore.
A small 5th century town on the River Conwy was our destination. Famous for its tumultuous Llewellyn the Last-versus-the-Bishopric-and-Edward-I struggle for independence, it also featured the equally ancient and history-laden abbey… our bed for the night.
We drove up the winding drive and parked outside the front entrance. Standing outside the imposing granite edifice, I sensed an air of damp mystery. My uncomfortable feeling continued after we checked in and made our way up the creaky grand staircase to our room. (As an aside, the porter reminded me of that sinister character who always features on the Scooby Doo cartoons!)
We were given a family room with high ceilings and an enormous poster bed. It smelt funny, like old wooden pews in a church. But it was time for dinner, and after a delicious coursed meal, accompanied by a necessary bottle of wine, my sense of foreboding was reduced to a vague, fleeting memory.
We retired for the night and I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep almost immediately.
It was quiet… a ‘heavy’ quiet. The type of quiet that makes you feel like something’s pressing down on you just short of smothering. The old wooden pew smell… the crowding darkness… the creaky floorboards – they all converged like a well-executed military manoeuvre ready to trounce an unsuspecting enemy regiment.
A slow-moving mist began to gather at the lower left corner of the room, emanating from the adjoining bedroom. As it grew in volume, it swelled and rose until it began to take shape. Its movements stopped momentarily. A few minutes passed as the mass seemed to throb and lose consistency, almost as if it was debating whether or not to continue with its present course. During this time, the room’s temperature dropped decidedly; breath turned icy and, subsequently, a soft sigh broke the stone silence of the room. The mass, shifting suddenly in response to the sound, resumed its previous metamorphosis. The mist stretched and warped until it relaxed into an undulating humanoid form. Solidity progressed until finally, there stood a heavy-set silhouette donning what appeared to be a nun’s habit.
The ‘nun’ made no further movement, just regarded the two warm bodies lying blissfully unaware, hands clasped before her. When the male stirred, sat up and looked straight towards her, she did not sway in her resolve; she was here merely to observe. Sensing no immediate threat – she meant none – he laid down and fell asleep once again.
She smiled to herself. This was the one.
The morning shone in the bedroom window bringing with it the faint aroma of meadow flowers, and fried eggs and bacon. We arose to slightly foggy heads but refreshed nevertheless. Breakfast over with, we packed up and shipped out. Halfway away during a dubious discussion relating to the spookiness of the abbey and how it was indubitably haunted, my other half dropped the bombshell that he’d seen something during the night and was waiting for us to be far enough away to tell me, lest I get the heebie-jeebies.
Needless to say, I was nun too happy!