In our first ever guest blog post, Cerys Symonds laces up her boots and sets out to explore the Ceredigion section of the Wales Coast Path.
The Wales Coast Path has been on my list since it officially kicked off in 2012 – and the Ceredigion section, at about 60 miles long, seemed like a good place to start (with a bit extra starting from Mach). I decided early on to do it alone so I could stomp on at my own pace and booked into hostels and B&Bs along the way – rather than carry a tent!! (The Cab-a-bag scheme looks handy for anyone looking to have their luggage carried from stop to stop… but think that’s perhaps more suited for groups and families with more baggage to lug about – plus I was determined to travel by legs alone!)
When planning 4 days of walking in October I’d been told to expect strong, blustery winds and soggy boots, so packed waterproofs and plenty of warm layers! But (thankfully) they were wrong! And whats more, I had the path almost all to myself.
The Mach – Aber section is probably best skimmed over. It’s not entirely what you’d call coastal and although there are some lovely forest tracks and views across the Cambrian Mountains, it included a bit of tarmac bashing which was hard on the feet, lots of climbing and basically got in the way of me and the coast. But when faced with the Dyfi estuary it was the only way round… plus the road and railway line took up the coastal location years ago so the path had no chance.
The next day was a definite favourite. Leading out of Aberystwyth along the beach the sun was starting to peek out and the town was deadly quiet (after what was probably a heavy Saturday night for most people!). There’s a steep hill at the end of the beach but once you’re up the views are amazing – I could see all the way down to what I presumed was Pembrokeshire and up into Snowdonia; worth heading up there if you’re in the area for that view alone.
From Aber to Llanrhystud is the most peaceful and beautiful 9 miles of footpath, up high on the cliff tops. My schedule flew out the window due to incessant stops to take photos, post to Facebook (bragging!), and sitting down to soak up the sun (and rest a while… quite hilly in parts this section!). From Llanrhystud the path flattens out a bit and you get up close and personal with the sea – arriving into Aberaeron as the sun went down and the fairy lights along the harbour lit up was a fantastic welcome.
As someone travelling on the cheap, Aberaeron proved a bit of a problem but the B&B I stayed in felt like luxury and the owners made me entirely welcome, so it was worth it in the end! Plus the Harbourmaster is an amazing place for meeting up with friends in the evening and reliving the day over a drink or two!
The walk from Aberaeron is much more gentle than the previous day although still has its ups and downs. The path began to get a little busier and once I arrived in New Quay it was quite bustling with visitors. And so this is where I either lie and preserve my dignity or confess and tell the truth. Admittedly I’d covered about 40 miles over the last 2 days and when planning the trip I hadn’t quite realised that the path would be quite as hilly as it had been. What I’m trying to say is that when faced with New Quay and the prospect of an early finish, I grabbed it with both hands. Plus the Cardi Bach bus runs throughout the year and took me right to Llangrannog sea front for a couple of quid – definitely worth looking up if you fancy a days walking on the path and don’t want to double back on yourself.
Llangrannog is quite honestly perfect. I am already planning to go back. I’d seen pictures previously and thought that perhaps I’d built it up to be better than it would be, but I was not disappointed. I stayed in the Pentre Arms which is situated right on the seafront and once I’d unpacked and run round taking way too many pictures sat on one of the pub benches right by the beach and watched until it went dark. For such a small place it is full of life and the pub was busy with locals and visitors alike. The people working there obviously loved the place where lived and worked and wanted everyone else to love it too.
But what really topped off my stay here was the next morning at the breakfast table the chef came dashing out with my breakfast in one hand and pointing with the other hand to show me the dolphins that were swimming across the bay. Needless to say the food went cold before I sat down to eat!
The next day was on to Poppit Sands… my final day. The sun still continued to shine with breezes just enough to keep you cool on the move. The next section leaving Llangrannog goes past some stunning beaches – and very secluded hidden coves (which I’m remembering for next Summer).
Arriving in Cardigan for the last mile of the Ceredigion section I felt quite sad to be back in a bustling town full of people and traffic, and to top it off it had begun to rain. Once in the Youth Hostel at Poppit Sands I spent the evening chatting with an Aussie man about his walk along the Pembrokeshire path. Cliff paths, stunning views and fantastic wildlife all featured with the only real difference between our two experiences being that he met numerous people along his way including a group of lads out on a stag do whereas I can count on one hand how many I met walking the path! So perhaps in order to keep the Ceredigion path unique in its tranquility, its best if I kept it a secret!!
More about activities in Ceredigion: