Barmouth to Dyffryn Ardudwy 21.10.21

A rainbow appears as we set off along Barmouth promenade, which is very long and completely featureless. A row of bedraggled palm trees, locked tightly into their planters, is the only attempt to liven up the front – we decide to walk along the beach as far as we can.

After 20 minutes or so we are forced to leave the beach, walk over the railway line and up onto a busy road. From here it’s heads down, trying to ignore the noise of the traffic wizzing past.

So much so that I nearly miss these brazen creatures, perched on the high stone wall on the other side of the road.

A Welsh dragon in all its glory…………………………………………………………………………

On we go……….past a sign informing us that we are on the fringes of Snowdonia National Park although it doesn’t exactly feel like it.

At one point we stop to rest and watch a sheep scratching its back on some thick electrical leads overhanging the wall. by the time I get the camera out he had been going at it for at least 3 minutes.

At long last we are in sight of a turn off left which will take us through a caravan site and back to the beach. This is not the official path but we can clearly see that the tide is out far enough to continue on the sand to the next holiday village, where we will have to turn right and walk inland again.

We walk back over the railway line and through the deserted caravan site.

The beach is a joy to walk on, firm and only slightly damp – massive boulders have been transported here to act as sea defences. Sea worn stumps of wood fringe the rocks like a row of rotting teeth.

At the next holiday village we turn off right, up a minor road, past rows of huge static caravans and chalets. I walk into the main reception building which houses a swimming pool and ask politely if I can use the ladies. The receptionist looks me up and down and reluctantly opens an automatic door leading to the toilets. I feel I have to say that I have nothing against taking advantage of a convenient bush when I have to, but it is getting increasingly difficult to haul myself up again from a squat.

From here the path leads through fields, over stone walls, until we meet another minor road down to the beach and the extensive sand dunes of Morfa Dyffryn.

Here we follow the boardwalk down to the beach and find a bench and table in the sun – the perfect spot to have our rather late lunch.

It is now getting late and we have to go home to London tomorrow. The map shows me that the next stop where we could get a bus or train back to Barmouth is Llanbedr, which is 6 miles away along the beach. Despite the glorious weather we decide to call it a day. Following the next path through the dunes we make our way back to Dyffryn Ardudwy, where we are lucky enough to catch a free rail replacement minibus back to Barmouth.

The last photo of this wonderful stretch of beach reminds me of the classic quotation attributed to Chief Seattle, a 19th century native American chief of the Duwamish tribe. Apparently he was so well known that the city of Seattle was named after him.

“Take only memories, leave only footprints”

Distance: 8 miles

Barmouth to Llwyngwril 20.10.21

I will not bore you with the logistics off this walk so let’s just say it was VERY complicated due to the fact that the main road bridge into Barmouth was closed, and we were not sure whether the ferry was running. So……………this involved a bit of research which ended with us driving to Fairbourne on the one side of Barmouth harbour, parking the car, and taking the ferry over to Barmouth and back. This also involved some very good seafood chowder and an utter drenching. But it was all worth it and the ferryman was a chatty fellow that had been sailing back and forth over this narrow stretch of water for 30 years – so he was not going to be put off by a bit of rain.

It is also possible to take the single gauge railway from Fairbourne village out to the ferry but we found out too late…….others were luckier.

So that was yesterday – today we drive the car to the ferry point at Fairbourne, leave it in the carpark and turn our backs on Barmouth to walk south to Llwyngwril. Fairbourne itself is a grim desolate place, sitting on featureless marshland but it is surrounded by the foothills of Snowdonia National Park. A wiki tells me that the village has been identified as unsustainable to defend, given the predicted rise in sea levels. The best estimate at present is that the area will be abandoned between 2052 and 2062.

Fighting the rain Damian and I walk along the concrete path back into the village until we reach the seafront. Time for a wet selfie…..

Along the entire length of the front is a row of stone plinths, locally known as dragons teeth, which during the Second World War were intended to trap any German tanks that might roll up onto the beach.

At the end of the beach stands the cheery Welsh Coast path sign directing us left, under a railway bridge and up onto the main road.

There is only a short stretch of road before we are directed up right into a patch of woodland.

This part of the walk is lovely, despite the rain. Autumn leaves soften the path as we walk across streams in full spate, tip toeing across wobbly stepping stones.

After a while the landscape flattens out into bare rain soaked country – we are back to the dry stone walls.

We pass a few ancient standing stones and cairns and stop for a while to look back over Barmouth Bay.

Slowly we descend the track which then morphs into a narrow tarmac road to take us down into Llwyngwrill and the churchyard where we set off for Aberdovey 2 days ago.

Thanks to a friendly taxi driver we are reunited with our car and start the journey up the estuary to Barmouth. As the main bridge is closed we take the opportunity to drive across the weathered boards of the toll bridge.

And twenty minutes later we are checked into our very quirky hotel, full of strange artefacts, and regulars who look like they’ve been there since it was built.

If you are ever in Barmouth, stay here at The Royal – it’s cheap, comfortable and run by very down to earth staff – food is a bit dodgy though.

Distance: 8 miles

Llwyngwrill to Aberdyfi 18.10.21

Despite the fact that Welsh speakers were few and far between in mid Wales where I grew up, I still pride myself on the fact that I can work out the pronunciation of most Welsh place names – NOT THIS ONE. Llwyngwrill is in a class of its own, especially when you’re trying to establish bus and train timetables from someone speaking from the other side of the country.

Anyway, here we are on a dull overcast day at the bottom of a very steep lane that winds up past the churchyard, over slippery cattle grids until a Welsh Coast Path signs leads up to the right through bright damp green fields dotted with fluffy white sheep.

We walk through the soggy fields for an hour or so before reaching and crossing a minor road where an imposing house made of local stone stands proudly in its own grounds.

Having crossed the narrow tarmac lane we scramble up through the fields behind the house, over beautiful drystone walls until we reach a collection of ruined houses – the entrance to one of them is fenced off but it is still possible to peer into the interior and dream of who lived here and how.

The upstairs fireplace is still intact as is the kitchen range.

More stone walls – this time there’s a step ladder – other times larger stones have been selected to project out of the wall at an angle to help us oldies to climb over.

At some point the landscape opens up and we are faced with an unwelcoming path up into a coniferous forest or right down to a farm. The sign is ambiguous so we consult the map and confirm with the only human we have seen up til now, a passing farmer in his landrover.

I see no ships………………..

The track turns into newly laid tarmac to service the farm – easy to walk on. We march slowly and steadily down the lane, almost hypnotised by the miles of beautiful dry stone walls.

Eventually we reach flat land and are starting to feel weak from lack of food – but we are yet to find a good place to stop for lunch. As luck would have it the railway line up the coast from Aberdyfi is closed until December for “engineering works” so we take advantage of the bench on the platform at Tonfanau.

We tear into our sandwiches like pine martens in a hen house – nothing has ever tasted better.

……………….passing cyclists all have a joke up their sleeves “….next train 1st December!” or “You’ve got a long wait til the next train” It raises a chuckle.

After lunch we carry on down the road running parallel to the coast, crossing a bridge over what is apparently a salt water lagoon called Broad Water.

Running parallel with the footbridge is the railway bridge which usually carries the trains which run up and down this part of the coast. I find it very encouraging that all the small coastal towns and villages are serviced by a railway running from Aberystwyth right up into north Wales.

And then we hit the coast proper and start the long haul along 4 miles of sand, which by- passes Tywyn and eventually takes us to Aberdyfi. I’m hoping it’s not going to be soft sand.

A couple of pebble shrines catch my eye…….

And a poor dead seal…..I wonder what killed it……

On we go up the beach, the light dying and both very tired. This is in fact a beautiful walk and one Damian has done before on a warm summers day but coming at the end of a long day’s walking it is a little difficult to appreciate it. I start to flag ……….but finish the walk we must and I’m sure Aberdyfi must be just round the next corner no?

……..and there it is, the railway line crossing which allows us to come off the beach into the outskirts of the village.

The light at the end of the tunnel……..

Distance: 12 miles

Aberystwyth to Borth 17.10.21

The last time we were here was back in July when we were struggling with the heat. This time the sky is grey and overcast with a promise of rain. I am pleased to see a man and his dog collecting litter from the beach.

I am also grateful that I am lucky enough not to have to camp out in this weather.

From our guesthouse overlooking the promenade we turn right and walk towards the first climb up the cliff.

Fortunately, as far as I can see, the easiest way up is to take the cliff railway which trundles up the very steep slope to the top of Constitution Hill. Opened in 1896 the railway used a water balance system (look it up) but was electrified in 1921. At the top is a park, a cafe, a gift shop and the largest Camera Obscura in the world, which is closed.

The photo below is not mine but by the time we get to the top it is tipping down and very difficult to see anything at all.

After that bit of excitement we struggle into our waterproofs and heads down set off along what we assume is the coast path. After 15 minutes I take a look at the map and realise that we have missed the turn so back we go.

Up on the cliff now the path follows the coast, up and down, quite steeply in places – I can feel I haven’t done any serious walking for a few months. In Clarach Bay we walk past acres of caravans – great for those who enjoy having a place by the coast but still a bit of scar on the landscape.

The landscape around us now is wild and remote and the only building we see on our walk is a large white house overlooking Wallog Beach. From the beach a long pebbly groyne reaches out into the sea which is apparently completely natural and extends for miles. In the grounds are remains of a disused lime kiln. Lime was shipped to the beach to be treated and then spread over the fields of the Wallog Estate.

Next to the house is a pretty waterfall…….

We are now beginning to see Borth in the distance but we have one more very steep hill to climb. At the top is a war memorial and a great view of Borth, although somewhat obscured by the greyness of the day.

Walking along the high street we come across something I had not expected to see – along with the churches renovated as homes, the Midlands accents and the half decent pubs, this “boutique cinema” is yet another sign of the gentrification of towns and villages in this area.

Some of the incomers seem to have got a little carried away with their home improvements.

We find the railway station and sit and wait for our train back to Aberystwyth. The weather has not been as bad as we expected but I am looking forward to my dinner and bed.

Distance: 7 miles

Tre’rddôl to Borth 16.10.21

The community cafe in Tre’rddôl is open this time, as we start our short walk to join a few dots left hanging from last time we were here in August 2019. A lot has happened since then…….

Leaving the car in the carpark we turn left up the main road until we reach a Wales Coast Path sign pointing right up a minor road and then a path through woods and open fields. The terrain is flat and the sun is shining – it’s a good start to our 5 days planned walking in what we think will be mostly in the rain.

After a mile or two the landscape to the right of us opens up to an extensive peat bog know as Cross Fochno, which is apparently one of the largest and finest remaining raised peat bogs in Britain. The bog, known as Borth Bog by the locals, forms part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve.

At one point our path intersects with another trail starting in Borth and ending at Devils Bridge.

Here is the link ……..

I know I have been there because it is spectacular, but can’t for the life of me remember with whom or when – maybe on a school trip. Anyway, it’s not for us today.

Soon we begin to see the the very long row of houses that lines Borth seafront – it’s what I remember from childhood holidays, along with the stoney beach. We cross the railway line, up a side street and here we are.

To watch the sun go down with a pint of lager.

Distance: 5 miles

LLanrhystud to Aberystwyth 19.7.21

First mistake of the day is driving down to where we started yesterday for our walk back to Llanon. I had not studied the map carefully enough and thought we could just turn right but no there is a river to cross and no bridge over it. Back we go up the minor road, park the car and follow signs for a caravan park, after which we turn off right on to the coast path.

It’s another hot day and we have quite a long walk with no comfort stops so our bags are full of sandwiches and biscuits but most of all water, lots of it.

The climb up on to the cliffs is very very steep and to make matters worse we also manage to get lost in a field (yes – it can happen). We eventually rejoin the path which is now lined with prickly thistles – delightful when you’re wearing shorts.

Some time later the landscape opens up and flattens out and we make good progress, although our stomachs are growling and there is no shade to stop for lunch. I find myself envying the sheep.

Eventually, after what seems like forever, we find a spot with partial shade from some snarled, twisted trees that overhang a sunken grassy lane. Underneath the vegetation are stone walls – it reminds me of a lane I walked along years ago which I later learned was an ancient highway – enchanting.

I peel off my rucksack, and after clearing any stray nettles, we settle down for a welcome rest. I later discover I have no photo of the spot so I’ve used one from a fellow walker who decided to stop in the same place. Hope she doesn’t mind.

A mile later we start to see our destination in the distance.

But before we get to the long curved sweep of the shingle beach we are faced with an extremely steep descent down a narrow, stoney, dirt path with no steps – I’m very glad I have my pole with me.

As I pick my way gingerly down the steep slope I can see a path off to my right which curves around the cliff and looks like we may not have reached the town at all – my heart sinks. Fortunately that is not the case, as there is a stone bridge across the river and a road through the town, leading down to the seafront where we think there may be a few pubs.

We don’t actually make it that far as a side street beckons with cold beer.

This has been a wild walk where we have been pretty much on our own – it’s now unfortunately time to go home to London.

Distance: 11 miles

Llanrhystud to Llanon 18.7.21

A half day walk to day to shorten the long walk to Aberystwyth tomorrow. There is no real road access on the stretch from Llanrhystud to Aberystwyth and it’s too long a walk from Llanon. These kind of logistics are an integral part of coast walking and take time to work out but anyway dear reader I’m sure you don’t really give a damn. We drive to Llanrhystud leaving the car at the top of the track leading down to the coast.

There are quite a lot of people around, most of them from the nearby camping site, and although the beach is mostly shingle, there are stretches of sand.

At the end of the beach the path leads us off left – Damian thinks we can walk the whole way on the beach but after consulting the map I decline.

We walk first on a grassy bank above the beach and then through fields until we reach a track that leads down to a church. On either side of the path are high hedges which means we can’t see the cows who nevertheless hail our arrival with slobbery snuffling and occasional low mooing.

I suddenly realise that we are on the outskirts of Llanon – there are a few pretty cottages and a bridge over a stream where I sit and wait for Damian who never misses an opportunity to talk to a cow.

We then walk up to the high street to catch the bus back to our car. Back in Aberaeron that evening we go on the hunt for food and find a pop up restaurant in a tent close to our Bnb. The food is Asian fusion and tastes absolutely wonderful. We later discover that the chef has worked for Gordon Ramsey in a previous life. Beer is provided by the pub across the road with the sensational window box and hanging baskets. Life is good.

After dinner we take a stroll down to the harbour to watch the sun set, an experience only slightly marred by a message on a lamp post – well I am half Welsh…………………..

Distance: 3 miles

New Quay to Llanon 17.7.21

It is another gorgeous day as we set out in the opposite direction from yesterday to do a walk via Aberaeron to Llanon. It is an easy start past the small leisure boats bobbing up and down in the harbour, along a long stretch of sand/mud where a few families are paddling, children playing with their own small plastic boats.

No-one is swimming and this is probably the reason why………………I know they can’t kill you but they can inflict a nasty sting.

A short while later the path turns right away from the beach and up into a patch of woodland which then joins a minor road.

We come to a junction – a camping site in one direction and back up onto the Ceredigion Coast Path in another. It is easy walking along the top of the cliffs – time to appreciate the crystal clear sea below with its myriad hues of blue and green.

Not so in the water we encounter running down through the next valley. There does not seem to be an obvious culprit, no industrial buildings in sight and when I check the map all I see is an activity centre at the top of the valley. Hmmmmm………….maybe they were having a mega clean up with some sort of disinfectant. Whatever it is it doesn’t look healthy.

A little later we are approaching what looks like a holiday village named Gilfach yr Halen on the map. There are stables at the entrance to the village where a horse stands wearily in the midday sun ……………why is it not inside in the shade?

Down the hill is an outdoor pub/restaurant, a playground and a tennis court. The place is completed deserted so I take the opportunity to sneak into the toilets and douse my cap with cold water – a short lived pleasure.

Further up the hill is a smattering of ugly bungalows which we had the pleasure of witnessing twice as we went the wrong way and had to retrace our steps to get us back onto the cliffs.

From here on the path dips down into two small valleys and soon we are able to see Aberaeron in the distance, our lunch stop. However, we are by now, dangerously close to melting point so before we explore the town we rip off our clothes apart from the boots and trudge over the pebbly beach into the cold water. Bliss…………………..

Boots now soaking wet we leave them in the car and change to trainers for the rest of the walk. I think I have been telling myself for at least two years that I need summer walking boots but I’m very attached to my old leather ones and anyway what if I should suddenly have to cross a muddy field?

Aberaeron is a pretty old fashioned town with no sandy beach. This is probably why it is not swamped with tourists like New Quay and still manages to retain its Welsh character.

I visited the town before when I was 15 or so – my best friend and I came to stay here in her auntie’s caravan. As we leave the town we walk past a caravan site – maybe it was here? I cannot remember a thing……………….

Onwards we go, now bouncing merrily along in our trainers, past the groynes, on a path running parallel to the shingle beach.

It doesn’t take long before we reach Aberath where the path runs up into the village.

Here we have a few minutes of indecision before plumping for a narrow street running down past a row of cottages overlooking the river.

Back on the cliff path again we make good progress until we catch up with a flock of bewildered sheep that have escaped from their field somehow and now too scared of us to turn back. The path is too narrow – there is nowhere for them to go.

Finally the path opens up and they scamper off to the right …………………………

The landscape now changes and opens up into a wide flat valley – we can see Llanon in the distance. After losing our way for a while where we can be seen contemplating crawling through a small hole in a fence, we cross a small wooden bridge and find a straight narrow path running parallel to the shingle beach. This brings us into the village.

I have no photos of this last part of the walk as we are both too hot and tired to take them. Let’s just say that the uphill slog to the pub was trying but the pint of Carling divine.

Distance: 12 miles

New Quay to Cwmtydu 16.7.21

New Quay is a busy little town and full of tourists. As there is zero parking we leave the car in a carpark up the hill and walk down to the seafront for coffee. It is going to be a short walk today as we need a bit of a rest.

Setting off west towards Cwmtydu we think we find the coastal path up on the cliffs but find ourselves coming to a stop just above New Quay’s seafood processing plant which has been in trouble over the years due to the number of shells it deposits on the town’s beaches. Whelk shells are apparently sharp and are not only a nuisance for soft bare feet but also interfere with boat engines. Two thousand tonnes of shells deposited per year is rather a lot……………………

After a bit of a meander we find the path again and continue up along the cliffs. From here on the walk is beautiful with wonderful views. At one point the path branches off down some steps to a lookout station which we’re told is a good place for dolphin spotting. Inside there is a bench and posters of sea birds and other wild life – we stop for 5 minutes but see no dolphins.

The halfway mark for our walk is the nature reserve Craig yr Adar where we stop for a drink and a rest.

We are then treated to short stretches of cool shade – a little respite from the blazing sun.

…………and soon we find ourselves on the steep, narrow path leading down to the beach at Cwmtydu.

It is a stony beach but we are so hot and sweaty that we take a dip – boots and all.

Distance: 3 miles

Cwmtydu to Aberporth 15.7.21

The small cove of Cwmtydu is accessed by a minor road which winds down through dense woodland. Our taxi drops us in the “high street” and we are lucky enough to find an open cafe run by a gruff but benign Welshman serving coffee, tea and Welsh cakes. He entertains us with stories of people that have come to grief on the precipitous cliff path – lifted off by a helicopters from Llanelli (on the south coast of Wales).

I visit the public toilets which are immaculate while Damian investigates the container accommodation pods mostly used by kayakers.

Following the signs for the Welsh coast path we walk behind the toilets and up into woodland. Llangrannog is probably a good place to stop for lunch.

Coming out of the lovely forest walk we’re back onto the cliffs onto a wide grassy path.

This does not last long however and soon the path narrows, winding up and down and around the small inlets. At one point we walk past a dry ski slope which is named on the map as the Urdd Centre – all sorts of activities are on offer for groups of young people and families. The website makes it look very exciting and what a location.

We are now nearing Llangrannog – you can just about see the narrow path winding around the headland and after a steep descent we are back to civilisation.

It is always a bit of a shock to arrive on a busy beach after hours of silence and isolation – we wonder if we should stop for lunch but decide to carry on and find a quieter spot.

We walk across the beach resisting the urge to wrench off hot heavy leather boots and find ourselves up on the cliff in the company of St. Crannog, a sixth century saint who stands and watches over the village. This bronze sculpture is the work of Sebastian Boyesen who may be Scandinavian with a name like that but he is based in Wales and known for a number of site specific sculptures all over the country. The link below is for his website.

A couple of miles on we are getting near to Penbryn Beach but before we get there we experience a spot of drama. The farmer has just been here to give the calf some milk and also drive off the white cow which seems to be preventing the mother from getting near her calf.

We do our best to help but later discover that the mother is actually experiencing some sort of post natal indifference and the white one is a concerned aunty.

Oh well – it reminds me of a time in Scotland when Damian and I came across a cow lying on its side on a hard pebble beach making futile attempts to get on her feet – we thought she needed righting. After several attempts with a rope and sticks we decided to go and inform the local farmer…………….he was completely disinterested.

Penbryn has toilets, a car park and a cafe called the Plwmp Tart – I did wonder why Damian decided to take a photo of me at this point!

From here we follow a path up on the cliffs running parallel to Penbryn Beach – a mile long stretch of golden sand.

Until we reach Tresaith – a sweet little beach where we stop for an ice cream to fortify us for the last haul into Aberporth.

The landscape from here on is covered with caravan sites and holiday cottages – some of which have been fashioned from old railway carriages – a great idea.

And eventually we reach Aberporth, the tide is out so we pick our way over the damp sand, hopping over rivulets that criss cross the beach to reach the car.

My feet are hurting and I need a cold shower but this has been a lovely walk.

Distance: 11 miles