I groaned as my alarm went off at 6:00am. It might not seem that early, but after you’ve spent five days straight trying to discover every inch of London and then travelling to Reading, Newbury, and Bath in rapid succession, your feet hurt. Actually, your everything hurts. And you’re tired. So, so tired.
Still half-asleep, I stumbled into the tiny bathroom in our Airbnb to change into the outfit I had carefully chosen the night before. I wore my black sleeveless shirt that depicts a minimalist design with faded white stars and the outline of the TARDIS. Thin, capital letters read: “Explore the universe.” It was important to me to wear that shirt because 1) it’s Doctor Who, duh, and 2) I was doing exactly what the shirt said: exploring the universe (or what part of it I could reach, anyway). I also put on green cargo pants from Uniqlo, great for walking and hiking, and my brand new lace-up Sanuk shoes that had been bought just for the trip. Finally, I shrugged on my warm, versatile blue coat, as it was pretty chilly outside—especially for a Floridian!
Hannah and I walked through the deserted streets of early morning Cardiff to get to the train station because the buses didn’t run that early in the morning. To be honest, I don’t remember getting to Bridgend very well because I was still waking up, but the train ride was peaceful and not too long. Before we knew it, we were in Bridgend, and it felt like the temperature had dropped several degrees from what it had been in Cardiff. We got no help from the sun, as it was covered by a thick layer of grey clouds that spread its grasp all the way to the ground with a sheet of heavy fog. And so we walked, shivering, to the Bridgend bus stop and waited in the cold for several minutes.
Eventually the bus came, and we were able to use our phones to help us figure out at which stop we should get off. After about a 20 minute ride we caught glimpses of the ocean (and lots of sheep) and came to the conclusion that we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We were proved correct when we were deposited across from a pub, just about the only piece of actual civilisation around. After a bit of debating on which way to go (since there was no helpful sign that said “Beach this way!”), we headed off down a steeply sloping road. There was no sidewalk, but we only encountered maybe five cars the entire trek there and back again.
We came upon a little neighbourhood on the right side of the road and I wondered what it would be like to live there. I guessed it must be a blissfully quiet life, filled with the sounds of the waves and bleating sheep. (If you haven’t noticed, there were sheep everywhere.)
It was a pretty long walk down that road. Hannah and I kept wondering if we had gone the right way because we couldn’t see the beach. But then I remember the moment so well when the ground sloped down and the beach very suddenly came into view.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an actor in real life, or been to a place you’ve only previously seen in movies, but it’s an indescribably strange feeling. It makes you realise how different they make things look on a screen; but then that’s also the weird part, because it also somehow looks exactly the same in reality.
That was the feeling that struck me when I caught my first glimpse of Dunraven Bay. I gasped, and tears instantly sprang to my eyes. All of a sudden I was taken back to when I cried my eyes out watching the end of Doomsday because…there it was. Right in front of my eyes. I started squealing and jumping up and down, yelling something like “There it is! There it is!!!” Hannah and I both wish we would have recorded it.
Before visiting Dunraven Bay, I’d had no idea what a bay looked like, or even what it was. I had in my head just a picture of a beach; and if you’re from Florida like I am, you probably have this picture of golden sand stretching out for miles beneath a sunny sky like I did. This place was just about the exact opposite of that.
The bay was so small that it would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so mesmerising. You could walk across it in probably about 3 minutes. There were thousands of grey rocks leading up to the moist brown sand–later, when we actually got down to the beach, I’d realise that they were very smooth. Cliffs surrounded the bay, cutting off the sand. On the far side, the mountain looked almost like an arm reaching out into the ocean. I could see the layers in the rock of the cliffs, where the waves had worn the surface away. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
On that morning there wasn’t even a thought of sun. Fog reigned in the sky, pressing down so you couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the mist began. It was the definition of eerie gloominess.
And it was, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
I barely remember walking the rest of the way down the road and into a nearly empty parking lot; there still wasn’t a soul in sight. A sidewalk led down to the beach and we followed it to the water. We debated on where to leave our shoes, but eventually decided on a place that we thought was a good distance from the water line.
Hannah went to step on the beach but I told her to wait as I pulled out my phone. I brought up a song I had downloaded just for this purpose: Rose’s Theme by Murray Gold. Even if you’ve never heard of Doctor Who, you should listen to this song now. It’s pretty much the perfect soundtrack for Dunraven Bay. It has a beautiful, melancholy feeling that fits the setting like it was written for it–and in a way, it was.
I pressed play on Rose’s Theme, and as the first gentle piano chords played, Hannah and I set foot on Dunraven Bay.