When we started The Winding Trail, we knew that we wanted this to be a site where we shared the stories of our adventures in the outdoors, but also some of the people, places and spaces that inspire us. Sitting in a stone cottage overlooking the Atlantic on the Azores, we sketched out some of the things that we just knew had to be included on the site, and right near the top of that list we wrote two words: Outdoor Alternative.
The quick introduction of Outdoor Alternative is that it is sustainable and responsible accommodation and camping for active people at the southern end of Ynys Gybi / Holy Island, off the north coast of Wales. They have bunkhouses, camping pitches and a caravan, are a short walk to the beach, sea cliffs and the Anglesey Coastal Path, with dark skies and – when the weather plays along – fabulous views across to Eryri National Park (Snowdonia). That would and should be enough to persuade anyone looking for a place to stay as a family or group of friends, but it can’t quite do justice to what this place means to us.
It has taken a year to write about Outdoor Alternative for The Winding Trail because we wanted to wait until we’d been there again, having had our most recent trip cancelled due to the pandemic. Paul has been coming here since he was a small child, and when he got together with Katrin it was one of the places he really wanted to experience with her. Lotte was about two months old when she visited Rhoscolyn for the first time, continuing the family tradition. This Easter we returned, and as always seems to be the case, it felt like we’d never been away.
Outdoor Alternative opened in 1985 by Ian and Margaret Wright, Paul’s Uncle and Aunty. A few years ago they stepped back from day-to-day operations, and the company is now owned by Paul’s cousins, with Jacqui and her partner Mark in charge of operations. Over the years the site has changed and developed, and there always seems to be new projects in the pipeline. This most recent visit a few weeks ago was no different. But while some things change, others remain, not least the memories and stories connected to this special place.
One of the first articles we published on The Winding Trail was about our favourite walks, and for Paul it was a walk out from Outdoor Alternative and along the coastal path…
“We walked with this view and we walked with memories. Some of us had been coming to this place at the very edge of Wales for all our lives, and the headland held amongst its heather and gorse the stories of games played and maps drawn, of fires on the beach and the kayak trips that led out from the main beach towards the open water. Some were stories we told again as we walked, no less enjoyable for being told for the hundredth time. Others we held close, not for sharing. When you return to a place time and again, the stories pile up on top of each other, and each turn in the path or kissing gate crossed was another trigger for memory…”
But beyond these deeply personal memories of a place, Outdoor Alternative inspires us today not just for these stories, its landscape and setting, but because of how it is being run as a business. On seven acres of sustainably managed land they have wildlife areas and produce gardens, are working towards (and will almost certainly achieve) carbon-neutrality, and they donate 1% of their turnover to environmental charities, currently the North Wales Wildlife Trust, Plantlife and British Trust for Ornithology.
When we go to Rhoscolyn we tend to spend our time going for walks, enjoying the views across to the mountains and making the odd trip out to South Stack or over to Eryri / Snowdonia. Outdoor Alternative is also the home-base of B-Active Rhoscolyn, run by Andy Short, who offers courses in kayaking, including sea kayaking, and coasteering, as well as guided walks… what Andy doesn’t know about geology, local history and folklore is probably not worth knowing.
In the end, there are probably not enough words to do justice to this very special place and all the things you can see and do there. The only thing that’s for sure, is that over the decades we have taken many people to Outdoor Alternative and no-one has ever been disappointed. We’ve been back home for two weeks, and we’re already plotting when we can return. So book your stay and go. But just remember, it’s North Wales. Don’t forget your waterproofs.