Wales, UK: Coastal paths, Castles, and Countryside
These paths by the sea in beautiful Wales are great hikes
By Simone Fick
Unexpected journeys and amazing experiences are anywhere to be found. It might be right on your doorstep, that coffee shop you walk past every day or the mountain range across the sea.
My adventure took me to the lush green coastal paths, ancient castles, and interesting countryside events in west Wales. I would recommend a trip there to anyone and if you’re up for an adventure, this is just a scratch of the surface of what’s in store for you…
New Quay to Llangrannog
The 15km coastal path stretches from New Quay to Llangrannog, with a lot of attractions along the way. First on the list, if you’re starting from New Quay, will be Bird Rock down below with caves, then a look out point (which was used by the coast guard back in the day).
Amazing rock formations and green open fields are leading the path all the way, which changes to flowers and bushes in between. There are little trails that lead down to secluded beaches, most of the time with not another soul in sight. Some of these beaches will only reveal themselves when it’s low tide.
You’ll cross wooden bridges travelling over small trickling rivers, which all make their way into the ocean and if you haven’t turned around yet to make your route shorter, you’ll reach the village of Llangrannog and the picturesque Ynys Lochtyn (“Croc’s head”).
Ynys Lochtyn is a small island which from the side looks like a crocodile’s head. If you stand here for long enough you might just see the Bottlenose dolphins pass by.
New Quay to Aberaeron
Only a 10.5km walk from New Quay, this time heading in the opposite direction as the previous route. You can either decide to walk along the beach on a low tide and join the trail at the old church or take the road, which forms part of the Dylan Thomas route. This coastal path takes you through forests and past waterfalls that rush down into the ocean.
On this route I could see the magnificent transformation of nature going into autumn, everything was covered in warm colours, even the path through the forest was made out of an auburn mat of leaves.
Also known as St Ina’s church, are hidden in the woods but can be reached either from the road or the beach path that’ll take you a few meters through the woods to the church. There are many stories about this church and how it came to be, but the most common one, I heard, go as follows: A long time ago a king got shipwrecked on the beach of New Quay.
The local people were so friendly and helped the king to recover and fix his ship so that he can return home. To thank the people the king built the Church for them and they named it after his daughter Ina.
But apparently the original church is somewhere further out at sea. There is a lot of coastal erosion on that beach and they just keep on rebuilding the church further back every time.
Dylan Thomas route
Dylan Thomas was a famous poem and script writer that lived in New Quay in the 1940’s. They’ve created a trail that will take you across town to all his favourite places or inspirations.
In 2008 a film was made to portray his life, called, “The edge of love”, starring Keira Knightly and Sienna Miller. A couple of scenes were filmed in New Quay and a lot of the locals I met were used as extras. They are speculating that his famous play ‘Under Milk Wood’ was inspired by locals from New Quay. He named the town “Llareggub”, which reads differently backwards…
Cilgerran castle in Pembrokeshire had one of the most spectacular views for me. Overseeing a river and woods that stretch out for miles. For the age of the castle, it is amazing to see what is left. The first mention of the castle was in the 11th century where it changed ownership during battles over the centuries to come.
Some of the stone walls were only erected in the 13th century. For over 800 years, these stone walls and parts of the castle still exists. I can only imagine the stories that those walls carry and the secrets never to be told.
The main gate and other parts of Newcastle Emlyn Castle were only built in the mid-13th century, but previous structures were already built in the 12th century.
Only ruins of the castle that remain are the gatehouse, towers, and fragments of the wall. The river Teifi surrounds most sides of the castle.
It is here were the folktale tells the story of the last dragon in Wales and where it took its last breath from a soldier’s sword, hence the big wooden statue of a dragon.
Cardigan castle is believed to first have been occupied in the 11th century. Over the following centuries, it has been knocked down and rebuilt in stone.
The first Eisteddfod was held at this castle in the 11th century as a celebration of the completion of the castle’s rebuild. The castle is currently open, with a restaurant (which makes amazing food), accommodation, historical attractions and frequent events.
At Mwnt, there’s a little church. Now, I’m not the tallest of people but I could just about fit through the tiny wooden door that makes out the entrance of the church.
Inside they had old pieces of wooden panels that use to be part of the original structure of the church in the 14th century. There’s also a wonderful beach with much history behind it. You can see the dolphins swim by in season.
New Quay Honey Farm
The honey farm is situated outside of New Quay. Surrounded by a lush green forest and tranquillity. We went there to buy honey products and decided to stay for some coffee and cake (It must have been the coffee searcher in me). They have freshly baked produce and of course most of them with honey, which was delightful.
On a day of adventure we ended up at Stackpole Quay, where you can do kayaking and coasteering among other outdoor activities, but we went for the walk and view. I saw some of the biggest jellyfish ever, drifting around in the bay. Stackpole Quay is part of the National trust, which also includes Barafundle bay and the Bosherston Lily ponds, which I’ll talk about next.
A short walk from Stackpole Quay, over the green mountainside that overlooks the ocean, you get to Barafundle Bay. According to Wales Online, it was ranked the number 1 best beach in Wales in 2013. It’s very secluded and can only be reached by Foot, with a very dramatic green landscape surrounding it. A flat white beach, with calming, blue waves that are perfect for families, romantic getaway or just to catch some sun.
Bosherston Lily Pond: National Trust
The Lily pond is just one of those places where it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo. From all the different angles you get to see the pond, the wooden bridge crossing it, on top of the hill overlooking it or the stone arch bridge taking you to different paths in this beautiful landscape.
You are bound to fall in love with nature and beauty of it all. The swans nest under the bridge and glide over the calm pond waters. We knew there was a path that leads to a hidden beach somewhere, so after getting lost and doubling back we managed to find it. Who wouldn’t want to find such an amazing sight?
These outstanding natural waterfalls can bring a sense of calm over anyone. Walking the 2 trails you can hear the rumbling water somewhere out of site, and around every corner, you get there’s a different view of these falls falling into the abyss. The trails take you down steep rock mountains and again up in between the seemingly evergreen vegetation that leads you past the waterfall and back to the hotel at the top. Here you can find refreshments and food and quietly reminisce in the beauty you just experienced.
Tug of war event Aberaeron Harbour
This event was so much fun to watch! The different groups stand on either side of the harbour wall, where the boats will normally come through. There were hundreds of people standing around to watch this age-old competition. At one point the Old rope snapped! Apparently the first time ever in 150 years! So they tied the ends together and hoped for the best.
You could see the amount of power it required to hold that rope. Some of the competitors face turned blood red, to snow white as they pulled as if their life depended on it. Some of the teams jumped into the ice cold harbour water. I presume it was a nice cool down after all that hard work. Like most big events, the crowd’s energy and motivation is contagious and you live yourself into every second of it.
Coffee #1 Cardigan: coffee shop
I love searching for coffee shops where ever I go. Be it the best in town or a small hidden gem only locals know about. We were out on an adventure one day, which turned into a rainy street walk and we ended up at Coffee #1 in Cardigan. The warm vibe of comfortable couches and coffee in the air. A definite must, as their coffee, cakes and deserts are some of the best.
PizzaTipi restaurant: Cardigan
Next to the river in Cardigan, there’s a place called Pizza Tipi. Here we had delicious handmade wood fire pizzas while the sun was setting in the background. They’ve got big Tipi tents set up with tables everywhere, big space for a bonfire and you can get local beers, wine, cakes and a couple of other things.
Another nice feature is the live music that they offer. Because it’s next to the river you see a lot of interesting things, boats passing by and we had a big group of paddle boarders comes drifting past into the sunset. The calm vibe of the outdoors, with the smell of pizza and live music is definitely something to go back for.
Llangrannog ski centre
Coming from a town where we don’t really get much snow, we rather go for surfing or sandboarding, but skiing has always been on my list. The closest I got to it was when we went to Llangrannog sports centre. I had to take a ski lesson first. Instead of snow, they had a dry slope.
We started very low to learn the basics of foot movements and stance, then slowly moved up to get some speed and confidence. I must say that it killed the legs because you have to step up sideways to get back to the practising point. Finally, after a bit of a wobble and laughs, we could take the easy way up a bit higher to see how we’ve progressed. It was a little bit scary but so much fun and you just want to do it over and over again. Next time I’ll test it on snow.
Tenby is definitely a tourist town which is very busy compared to the others I’ve seen. Still standing are the 13th-century medieval town walls, surrounded by small cafés and tiny shops to peak for tourists. One very interesting thing was the lifeboat station that they converted to a 4 bedroom vacation home. Overlooking the beautiful ocean and spectacular town lights at night.
A live changing trip, with so many memories, history learned and friends made. It made me so much more excited for the second trip there this year. New adventures to be explored.
Simone Fick is a freelance Marine Mammal Observer/Passive Acoustic Monitor, who travels and volunteers across the world. She’s from South Africa.