170 Barry Island to Llantwit Major

It’s another dull day. My rules say I don’t have to walk around islands, but today I’ve decided to walk around Barry Island before heading up the coast.

On my right are parked cars and terraced houses. On my left, between the road and the water’s edge is a broad strip of waste land, strewn with litter and rubble. Across the water is the new development, where I sat to eat a snack yesterday.

01 looking across to Barry, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path, Barry Island

My feet are hurting from yesterday’s prolonged road walking. Now I am back trudging along hard pavements again. And the view is hardly inspiring. Perhaps my plan to walk around the island is a mistake?

When I reach the far eastern tip of Barry Island, and can peer over the fenced-off allotments that line the slopes, I have a smog-obscured view of the industrial sprawl of Barry. Hmm. Maybe this really is a mistake.

02 Industrial area, Barry Docks, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

A little further on and I get a better view over Barry docks. In the distance is Sully Island. The tide must be in, because Sully Island is definitely an island today.

view over Barry Docks from Barry Island, Ruth walking in Wales

I continue walking around Barry Island and discover the best part is on the south side. This is Whitmore Bay, a lovely semicircle of sandy beach.

04 Whitmore Bay, Ruth walks around Barry Island, Wales coast

Even on this dull, February day there are people out and strolling about.

I cross the beach and walk out to the cairns on Friars Point, before heading up the west shore and back towards the causeway. In the muddy bay are several rotting ships.

05 causeway from Barry Island to Barry, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

A short walk across the causeway takes me back from Barry Island and into Barry itself. Here I turn left and follow residential streets, sticking as close to the coast as I can, until I reach The Knap.

The Knap is a pretty area of Barry, with a pebbly beach, a wide promenade, and a large lake on the landward side.

06 Cold Knap beach and lake, Ruth walking in Barry

While I am walking along here, a group of swans swoop down above my head. Their wings make a thrumming sound. They are elegant in flight, but their splash down on Knap Lake is an untidy landing.

At the end of the promenade, a Wales Coast Path sign points straight up a cliff. It’s a grassy bank, but a very steep climb. At the top I am rewarded by a panoramic view over the Knap and Cold Knap Point, with Friar’s Point (on Barry Island) visible as a finger in the top left of the photo below.

07 view over Knap and Barry Island, from Wales Coast Path

It’s a shame that, yet again, the light is too dull for good photography. [All the photos on this blog page have been edited and enhanced!]

From here the walk changes and becomes rural. I pass through wooded areas and walk past a railway viaduct. What a view the train passengers would have!

08 Porthkerry Viaduct, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I make a mental note to sit on the right side of the train when I make my return journey at the end of today’s walk.

loose rocks stay away, Wales Coastal Path

path through woods to Bulwarks Fort, Ruth walks the Wales Coast PathFrom here, the Wales Coast Path takes me over a rough area of stones and marsh.

‘Loose rocks!’ says the sign. Yes, but its impossible to obey the ‘Stay away’ order, since this is where the path leads me!

Then up a wooded slope. And I end up in a large, empty field. How strange.

I stumble around for a while, not sure which way to go. There is an array of airport landing lights on the other side of the field and I realise I am on the edge of Cardiff Airport. Surely I’m not supposed to walk through the airfield?

Checking my map, I realise that this empty field is the Porthkerry Bulwarks fort, an Iron Age site. With some help from my Garmin, I work out the Wales Coast Path goes straight through a neighbouring caravan park. There are no signs to guide me, but my Garmin never lies.

10 Wales Coast Path leads Ruth through a caravan park

The caravan park is large and empty of residents, but full of workmen and mini-construction equipment: diggers and rollers. It’s winter and, therefore, maintenance time.

On the other side of the park, I take a photo looking back towards Barry Island.

11 Ruth walking around caravan site, Barry Island in the distance

I’m walking along the top of a cliff. To my left is the sea, to my right is a series of lakes, with new development on the far side. I  wonder if these lakes are flooded quarries or, perhaps, old open-cast mines? No evidence of industry now.  I imagine this area would look very pretty in the sunshine.

12 new development near Rhoose Point, Ruth on Wales Coast Path

The cliff is crumbling and so the seaward side of the path is fenced off. I reach a signpost and realise I have reached another milestone. I am standing on the southernmost point of Wales. Rhoose Point.

13 Rhoose Point sign, Ruth walking the coastline of Wales

A little further on and I see a mysterious circle of stones around a tall pillar. A Welsh version of Stonehenge? No – a modern sculpture marking Rhoose Point.

14 stone monument at Rhoose Point, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

The next section of the walk is very enjoyable. This seems to be old industrial land that is being reclaimed as parkland. And in this area I meet a few other walkers, the first I’ve seen since leaving Barry. Ahead, I can just make out a tall chimney peeking above the gentle roll of the cliffs.

15 Wales Coast Path near Font-y-gary, Ruth's coastal walk

At Ffontygari Bay I turn inland and head up a path towards the village of Font-y-gary, where there is a pub. Lunch time. But first I look back the way I have come and take a photograph of the impressive cliffs. They stretch back to Rhoose Point.

16 cliffs towards Rhoose Point, Ruth walking the Welsh coast

After lunch, I set off again. The Wales Coast Path follows the cliff top and runs in front of a holiday park of static mobiles. The chimney ahead is growing larger.

17 caravan park, power station ahead, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

At the end of the holiday park, the path passes close to a railway track, and I’m taken by surprise when a long goods train clatters by.

goods train, Ruth's coastal walk in Wales

But now I am leaving the high ground as the path begins to zigzag down towards the shore. Ahead is a beautiful area of lakes and marsh and shingle. The best view of the day!

18 Andrews Pant towards Leys Beach, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

By the time I reach the bottom of the slope, I realise there’s only 3 hours of daylight left and a lot of walking to do. So I stride quickly along the path, which passes by lakes and marshes. It’s very pretty. And empty. Nobody in sight.

All the while the tall chimney is steadily growing nearer. A covered bridge takes me over a small estuary – and suddenly I am walking in the shadow of  huge power station. Yes, that black hill is really a huge mound of coal – so large it has roadways coiling up its slopes to allow dumper trucks to offload more coal at the top.

19 Power station and giant heap of coal, Ruth on WCP

At first the views of the industrial landscape are interesting. But then the path turns a corner and… well, all I can say about the next half mile is… grim, grim, grim.

20 horrible walk around power stationI’m walking down a long, narrow walkway, hemmed in with a hostile fence on one side and a concrete wall on the other. Can’t even see the sea. This is the worst type of walking  – boring, monotonous, with hard concrete underfoot.

Weirdly, the concrete path is dotted with dog poo. Every few feet there is another deposit. It’s very unpleasant. Why on earth would anyone take a dog walking here?

And it’s all somewhat intimidating. If I met a strange person there is no way of keeping a safe distance, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

As I reach the other end, my heart lurches because I see three people coming towards me. Two young men are walking along the top of the concrete wall. They take no notice of me, and are having an awkward type of conversation with each other. And a woman – some hundred yards behind them – is walking along the path, with a dog!

I pass them all without incident, but I find it all most odd. Why walk a dog here? Why come here at all?

At the end of the walkway is a rocky beach with road access and a handful of parked cars. Various men seem to be loitering. Maybe they are going fishing? But I don’t see any fishing rods. It’s all a bit strange and I do wonder if its a gay pick-up zone. For that reason, I don’t take any more photos until I’ve left the area.

From here, the official Wales Coast Path heads up the lane and then across fields. The sea is some hundreds of yards away, on my left. It’s pleasant walking, but a shame you can’t walk along the shore.

21 Wales Coast Path, across fields, Ruth Livingstone

After a mile, the road dips back to the beach and there is a short section which involves a precarious scramble across rocks. Is this really a proper path?  Yes. I head for the signpost at the far side.

22 across rocks near Calofan Sea Watch Centre, Ruth in South Wales

Back on the top of the cliffs and I pass a brick building – the Canolfan Seawatch Centre. Then I am walking across a brown field and am frustrated to find myself on the wrong side of a hedge with no view of the sea.

23 boring field walking, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

A short while later and I realise why the path keeps away from the edge. The cliff is crumbling. There have been recent falls. Some fence posts are left dangling in mid-air.

24 crumbling cliff, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path near Llantwit Major

After a half hour of field walking, as the light is growing dim, I meet the first person I’ve seen since the power station. He’s a runner. We say hello when we pass each other.

Shortly after this encounter, the path rounds the crest of a hill and I see a lovely stretch of walking ahead. I think this is Stout Point.

25 sea view at last, Ruth walking the Wales coast

I enjoy a mile of glorious walking along the top of the cliffs with great views over the sea and the rocky shore beneath. Unfortunately the light is fading fast and I am growing increasingly anxious of being caught in the dark. I have a small torch in my rucksack, but didn’t bring my head torch.

Despite my anxiety, I can’t resist this photograph showing these amazing concentric rock formations on the shore.

26 amazing rocks off Pigeon Point, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path
It’s a relief to reach the river valley and the tiny beach of Llantwit Major. From here I still have a mile and a half of walking to do, heading inland to reach the railway station in the village.

27 Beach at Llantwit Major, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

I cross the beach and walk up the ridge on the other side. Here I follow a long distance trail, marked VMH on my map, and arrive in Llantwit Major railway station at 5pm, a few minutes before sunset.

At the station, I discover I’ve just missed the 4:56 train and have to wait in the cold and dark for an hour until the next one arrives. I don’t bother sitting on the right side of the train, as I planned. It’s too dark to see anything anyway.

[Note: This is the longest walk I’ve ever done on my coastal trek, so I felt very proud of myself when I checked my Garmin and discovered the distance!]

Miles walked today = 18.5 miles
Total miles walked = 1,691


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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22 Responses to 170 Barry Island to Llantwit Major

  1. paul sennett says:

    CONGRATULATIONS.. Looks like one of your longest walks so far…

  2. Gayle says:

    We had the very same conversation about ‘dog poo alley’ behind the power station. There’s a lovely walk from the local car park heading west, so why would you choose to walk through that hemmed-in alley? Our theory was because it’s where you can get away with not cleaning up after your dog.

    We spent the night (in Colin the motorhome) in the car park you thought to be suspect and the only activity we observed was people fishing, surfing and dog walking (gosh, that was one busy car park between 4pm and dark).

    I’m not sure whether I should disclose that you don’t need to follow the WCP inland from that point, where you said it was a shame you couldn’t continue along the shore. If you had carried straight on along the coast from the car park then you would have found a permissive path connects the dead-end public footpath with the WCP. Not one of those things you want to try, with the risk of needing to back-track, when you’re racing darkness though!

    • Hi Gayle. Your theory about dog poo alley is probably correct. Horrible place! And I wish I’d known about the permissive footpath. I saw the public footpath on the map, but it came to a dead-end as you say. Anyway, it’s a useful detail for others to know. Thank you.

  3. Wingclipped says:

    Ruth – Congratulations on your Longest Walk record! I am sitting at my computer at work reading your blog with envy. We’ve done no more since December but were supposed to be back down in Swanage this week, heading across to Weymouth. Then illness struck and that was that. Being at the office just isn’t the same, somehow. Nic

    • Hi Nic, and sorry to hear you’ve had to cancel a walking trip. You’ve got a lovely stretch of coastline ahead from Swanage, so hope the whole family is fighting fit soon.

  4. Congratulations on a new distance record!

    Looks like they’ve replaced the sign at Rhoose Point since I walked there; I couldn’t help but feel that any excitement about the most southerly point in Wales is somehwat lessened by the big wire fence. I do recall that some of what looks like random abstract art on the ground round there actually forms patterns designed to be seen from planes using the airport, which is a nice idea.

    • Yes, the wire fence is ugly and I wonder if it’s really necessary. (Most of us won’t fling ourselves off a cliff and those few of us who, sadly, want to do so will always find a way to get through the barrier anyway.) The abstract patterns are a very nice idea. They may still be there, just not sure I recognised them as such.

  5. John says:

    Well done Ruth, carry on enjoying the wonderful miles ahead of you.
    strangely i enjoyed walking round the power station, it just seemed so different.
    i did take the same route as mick and gale.
    these blogs are reminding me i need to find time to get out.
    cheers J.P.

  6. Marie Keates says:

    Eighteen miles is, for me, the beginning of the real tough distances so well done. I think this strange lakes you saw could have been salt pans, we went to Lymington at the weekend and visited the old salt pans and they look very similar. Perhaps that rocky walk across the beach was not quite so rocky before the cliff falls? I’m glad too I didn’t have to walk along dog poo alley.

    • Yes, they could have been salt pans – good idea, Marie. But they seemed very removed from the sea, unless the salt maybe settled there eons ago. 18 miles is definitely out of my comfort zone. I could have done without the mile and a half walk to the station!

  7. David Watts says:

    Staying in Penarth when in UK I’ve walked Llanwit Major to Cardiff Bay quite a few times. The llantwit Major Barry section I’ve done in two halves, braeking walk at pub Blue Abchor East Aberthaw. The small lakes near Rhoose formed from disused quarries. On one walk came across “Bull in Field” atteched to footpath sin, but no bull fortunately as I’d just walked across field. Enjoying your blogs David

  8. roamingspices says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Love your posts! Very descriptive and complimented with plenty of photos which always help build the picture. It would appear that I have pretty much done this route in reverse (well almost), commencing at Nash Point and ending at the Knap in Barry, where I currently live. Although a fairly hefty hike, I thoroughly enjoyed it especially the section between Nash Point and Aberthaw (the part mainly untouched by people). That said, the nature reserve at Rhoose Point is pleasant and I do love Porthkerry Park! Considering a Barry to Ogmore hike next. This should be an epic one! Best wishes and happy hiking!

  9. Hi there. I wish I could go back and do this walk again in better weather. The photos on the blog are really dull and don’t do the area justice. You are lucky to have lots of splendid walks on your doorstep, and hope you get to enjoy some great hikes.

  10. stephen dexter says:

    I enjoy reading about your walks. I am doing this one tomorrow. Best wishes steve

  11. Janet Eccles says:

    Well, seven years on and dog poo alley hasn’t changed. Like you I can’t understand why anyone would walk a dog down there. The power station has been decommissioned so it’s all very strange and quiet.
    I love reading your blogs before setting off on a coastal walk (5 more walks to go on the Wales coast path in the opposite direction to you though) Good luck with the rest of your walks in Scotland.

  12. tonyurwin says:

    I walked this section last week. There were a few joggers running along the top of the slippery sea wall. I thought it was a little risky, until I discovered why they were avoiding the alley! Lovely stretch though. A lot of interesting details, in addition to the fine scenery.

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