I have on many occasions referred to the South West Coastal Path – the longest coastal path in England and the now planned England Coast Path and I have suddenly realised that I have only ever once briefly mentioned the Wales Coast Path. So in Wales 2018 – Year of the Sea and with apologies to any followers from Wales or anyone with Welsh Ancestry here goes.
The Wales Coast Path officially opened six years ago on 5th May 2012 and it made Wales the first country in the world to have a formal trail the whole way around its coast. Furthermore, the path, which is 870 miles long joins up with Offa’s Dyke National Trail to provide 1,030 miles of walking opportunities right around the Welsh border. The Coast Path winds its way through towns and villages, across cliff tops and sandy beaches, sometimes darting inland before emerging once again at a sheltered cove or tiny hamlet that you would forever miss when travelling by car, bus or train.
It will take you from the mouth of the River Dee, along the north Wales coast with its seaside towns, over the Menai Strait onto the Isle of Anglesey, from the Llyn Peninsula down the majestic sweep of Cardigan Bay, through Britain’s only coastal National Park in Pembrokeshire, along miles of golden sand, via Gower with its stunning scenery, along the waterfront of Cardiff Bay and Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, to the market town of Chepstow.
The path encompasses two National Parks, 11 National Nature Reserves and dozens of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. I have been fortunate to walk a good few miles of the coastal path particularly on the Isle of Anglesey, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and the Gower Peninsula but have still to step out on the Offa’s Dyke Trail so in this post I will concentrate on the coast.
Isle of Anglesey
On Anglesey, we start at Aberffraw which means “Estuary of the River Ffraw”. Historically, Aberffraw was once a very important port. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, it was one of the most significant towns in North Wales, home to the Princes of Gwynedd, including Llewelyn the Great. At times it could justifiably claim to be the capital of all Wales. The estuary gradually silted up, leaving the present coastline of sand dunes. The dunes range as high as 30 feet and more.
On the edge of the Snowdonia National Park the Traeth Mawr (Welsh for “big sands”) is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by embankments near Porthmadog. It was formerly the tidal estuary of the Afon Glaslyn, and many travellers sank in its quicksands trying to cross it. Much of it is between high mountains. Pont Aberglaslyn is at its upper end. The image above was captured from The Cob a man-made causeway built across the Afon Glaslyn by William Alexander Madocks and opened in 1811. The mile-long causeway carries the road, together with the Lôn Las Cymru cycleway and the Ffestiniog Railway. The Cob celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2011.
The image above of Cardigan Bay is somewhat different to my normal style of image but I couldn’t resist capturing the wonderful sunset from Mwnt in Ceredigion. The Bay is a large inlet of the Irish Sea, indenting the west coast of Wales between Bardsey Island, Gwynedd in the north, and Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire at its southern end. It is the largest bay in Wales. Cardigan Bay has numerous beaches and unique marine life. From the Coast Path, it is often possible to observe Bottlenose Dolphins, porpoises and Atlantic Grey Seals. The Bay has the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the UK.
Moving on to Pembrokeshire we reach Barafundle Bay. Barafundle Bay is a remote, slightly curved, east-facing sandy beach and is set between cliffs to the north and south; it marks the end of the carboniferous limestone cliffs of the Castlemartin peninsula to the south-west and the beginning of the old red sandstone of Devonian age at Stackpole Quay to the north-east. Barafundle Bay has been included in a list of the Top 12 beaches in the world.
In Carmarthenshire, we stop at Laugharne. Even if the poet, writer and broadcaster Dylan Thomas who only lived at the Boathouse in Laugharne for the last four years of his tragically short life, it is a truly remarkable place to visit. The Boathouse offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary and the Gower beyond; a haven for egrets, lapwings, herons, oystercatchers, seals and otters with fishermen and cocklers continuing the ancient traditions.
Next up we are on the Gower Peninsula and Three Cliffs Bay. This must surely be one of the most beautiful bays in Britain. It has a wide mouth into which the massive form of Three Cliffs Rock juts from the eastern shore.
Last but not least it’s Tresillian Bay which is located along the 14-mile stretch Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Known for its limestone cliffs and stunning scenery and overlooking the Bristol Channel. The beach at the bay lies in front of a valley in which the Nant Tresillian flows and empties in the sea. There is a distinctive white house, Tresillian House, located at the bay at the end of the valley in front of the pebble beach.
I hope you have enjoyed this belated look at some of the scenery and sights of the Wales Coast Path. More images from the coast can be seen in the Wales landscape photography galleries.
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