Seven months ago, I spent 18 days travelling around England, Scotland and Wales with my best friend Hannah. It was the trip of a lifetime – my “Rapunzel’s lantern dream,” if you will. And the fact that I got to experience it with my best friend, who shares so many of my Anglophile obsessions, made it absolutely perfect. We had some mishaps, of course, but to be honest: I really don’t think anything could have made the trip better.
When I came back to the US, the number one question I was asked was: “What was your favourite place?” It’s understandable; I saw three countries in less than three weeks! Picking favourites is always hard for me because I’m much more apt to like things than criticise them. Therefore, I like a lot of things. And when it comes to my trip to the UK, I almost feel bad praising one place above the others because I don’t want to downplay how incredible the entire trip was! But the more I think back on everything I saw, the more certain I am that my favourite place (which I would have never guessed before the trip) was Dunraven Bay, located along Southerndown Beach in Bridgend, Wales.
Now, Doctor Who fans know this beach better as Bad Wolf Bay; and actually, this location has been used for several different scenes throughout the new series, though the tearful goodbye between the Tenth Doctor and Rose is definitely the most notable. Hannah, the aforementioned best friend, was the one who got me into Doctor Who (I’m pretty sure she regrets it now) and we both have an undying passion for the love between the Tenth Doctor and Rose. So of course, Dunraven Bay came up while we were planning the trip.
“It’s really far from Cardiff,” Hannah pointed out at one of our ‘sit down and get hours of planning done’ sessions. We both had some different priorities when it came to what we wanted to do, but the two places I wouldn’t budge on were London and Cardiff. For those of you who have been to Cardiff, you’re now staring at your screen and asking “Why????” And my reply is that you severely underestimate my dedication as a Doctor Who fan. (Forgive me, non-Whovians; Cardiff serves as the central city for filming the new series of Doctor Who that began in 2005).
Anyway, as Hannah and I pored over maps and bus charts, I agreed that Southerndown Beach looked pretty far. We abandoned the idea of going to Dunraven Bay pretty quickly, and I found lots of other Doctor Who filming locations we could visit within Cardiff instead. But every time I searched for popular locations associated with the sci-fi show, Dunraven Bay kept popping up.
So the next time Hannah and I met to plan, I brought it up again. I kind of expected Hannah to shut down the idea; I’m always the idealist, and I need Hannah to beat some reality into me sometimes (thanks Hannah, love you)! But instead, we both looked more seriously into the practicality of actually getting to Dunraven Bay from Cardiff. We discovered that we could easily take a train to Bridgend and then get on a bus from Bridgend to Southerndown. (I miss British transportation so much.) Just as the idea started to seem like a real possibility, we ran into a big problem: the tides.
“We won’t be able to see anything if it’s high tide,” Hannah said as she did some more research. She found a blog post where another Doctor Who fan had gone to Dunraven Bay, which was what first brought the issue of the tides to our attention. (Thank you, Erica!) “It looks like low tide is really early in the morning,” Hannah continued, going off of the tide times of the year before. The precise tide times weren’t available until it got closer to the date.
“That works out,” I said. Another of our concerns had been sacrificing the entire day for Dunraven Bay, meaning we wouldn’t be able to visit all the other filming locations.
Hannah looked at me over her laptop. “How early are you willing to wake up for this?”
I shrugged. “As early as it takes.”