207 Moylgrove to Cardigan

This morning I catch the bus from Cardigan to Moylgrove, and then walk along the narrow road that leads towards the coast.

01 road from Molygrove, Ruth's coastal walk

There is a lovely, relaxed feel to this part of Wales. I pass a driveway with bags of fresh apples for sale (£1 per bag, in an honesty box). The next driveway has cartons of fresh eggs for sale and another honesty box. And another offers free horse manure, but they want the sacks back, please.

Cornish flag in Molygrove, Ruth's coastal walkOne house is sporting a familiar flag – a white cross on a black background. The symbol of pirates and smugglers? No. The Cornish flag. Strange to see it flying in Wales. But the Pembrokeshire coast really does remind me of Cornwall, so perhaps not so strange after all.

While I walk, I ponder a mystery. A group of young men were dropped off by minibus at the bus depot in Cardigan, and caught the same bus to Moylgrove with me this morning.

I wonder what they are planning to do? It seems an odd place to come, because there is nothing in the tiny village – no pub and no cafe, and no bus back until late afternoon. The men looked half asleep (possibly hung over) and seemed ill-equipped for walking because they were wearing ordinary shoes and only had one light rucksack between them. I hung around for a while to see where they might be heading, but they seemed in no hurry to leave the bus stop.

I arrive at Ceibwr Bay. There is a notice pinned to a post warning visitors to stay away from the baby seal pup on the beach and requesting people keep their dogs away too, so as not to scare the young pup or its mother. But, disappointingly, I see no sign of the pup today.

 Ceibwr Bay, Ruth walking the coast in Pembrokeshire

I join the coastal path and walk around the outskirts of the bay, before undertaking the steep climb up the cliffs.

The slope is covered in a shrub with pretty pink flowers which give off a gentle perfume. I recognise the plant. It is Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant that crowds out native species and is regarded as a major nuisance..

03 Himalaya Balsam, Ruth walking the welsh coast

At the top of the slope I pass a farm. This dog barks ferociously, but his aggressive stance is a fake front. He is betrayed by his wildly wagging tail.

04 dog on cliff, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast

From here the path winds ahead, along the edge of cliffs, over peaks and down into valleys. It’s a truly beautiful landscape, lit by intermittent bursts of sunshine, and I enjoy this part of the walk tremendously.

05 path towards Dogmaels, Ruth hiking in Pembrokeshire

Unfortunately, because the cliffs are north facing, they remain stubbornly in the shade and my photographs fail to capture the true splendour of the scenery. (I remember I had the same problem when walking in North Devon.)

The first major headland is Pen yr Afr, from where sheer cliffs fall into the sea.

06 Pen yr Afr, Ruth's coastal walk in Wales

I make steady progress. Below, coming from areas of exposed and pebbly beach, I hear the distinctive cries of seals. Eerie and haunting.

07 Ruth hiking towards Cemaes Head, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

By midday I reach the headland, and I decide to stop for a snack, sitting on a tuft of soft grass and perched above the high cliffs. On the beach below are a group of seals, camouflaged against the grey rocks. I spend some time watching them through binoculars – they are easier to spot when they are moving about.

08 seals in Traeth Godir-coch, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

I can see strollers on the cliff tops – a sure sign there is a car park somewhere nearby, and a couple come walking along the path. I show them the seals and lend them my binoculars.

Further along and I reach Cemaes Head, where there is a ruined hut and the remains of what might have been a lookout station.

09 old hut, Cemaes Head, Ruth's coastal hike

Cemaes Head is the most northerly point of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. I feel sad, knowing I am nearly coming to the end of this wonderful National Trail.

10 Cemaes Head, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, St Dogmaels

But around the headland I can see the next bay. This is where the River Teifi enters the sea, and the river forms the boundary line between Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. Across the bay I can see Cardigan Island, and the coastline of Ceredigion, where I will be walking tomorrow.

11 looking over Cemaes Head to Cardigan Island, Ruth Livingstone

Yes, my time on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path might be coming to an end, but there is the Ceredigion Coast Path yet to come, and people have told me it’s beautiful too. Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, I hear more seal noises. I peer over the edge of the cliffs, gingerly because the steep drop makes my head swim, and take more photos. These seals are easier to spot here, lying conveniently on green-covered rocks.

12 more seals, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

Out in the bay is a strange rippling circle. Too slow to be a whirlpool. Too persistent to be formed by a speed boat. Perhaps it’s caused by the incoming tide meeting the outflowing river?

13 Cardigan Island, Ruth Livingstone in Pembrokeshire

Along here, I spot a rabbit seemingly asleep among the short grass. I sneak forward slowly, taking photographs, and expecting it to wake up and shoot off at any moment. But it doesn’t move. I get to within a few feet of the creature, but it stays still and keeps its eyes shut. It looks old and ill. Poor thing.

14 old rabbit, St Dogmaels, Ruth hiking the coast

A few yards further along and a border collie runs up to me, carrying a plastic dumbbell in its mouth. It clearly wants to play. I throw the toy. The collie brings it back. I throw it again. Back it comes. A couple – the collie’s owners – shout to me to ignore the dog. It’s a nuisance.

Actually, I have an ulterior motive for keeping the dog occupied. I don’t want it to spot the sleepy rabbit in the grass.

I walk with the couple – off and on – as we head down towards the mouth of the estuary and Poppit Sands.

15 walking down towards Poppit Sands, Ruth's coastal walk

They tell me they’ve never been to this particular area before, and decided to give the Pembrokeshire Coast Path a try. But it has been a disappointing experience.

Disappointing? The Pembrokeshire Coast Path? But soon – yes, I see what they mean.

We walk through a tacky yard, strewn with pieces of decaying machinery. From an open garage door, music is blaring from a loud radio. It’s jarring after miles of isolated walking, where the only noise is the sound of waves, the cries of sea gulls, and the spooky howling of seals.

From here on, the path follows a road. It may be a quiet road, but it is boring, with high walls and hedges. I have to climb up the bank to get an occasional view over the estuary below.

16 road walking to Poppit Sands, Ruth in Pembrokeshire

As we get lower, there are better views over to the coast on the other side of the estuary. It looks inviting.

17 looking across to Gwbert, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

And then I am walking down a lane and arrive at Poppit Sands. What a lovely name! And a lovely place. It has a lifeboat station, public toilets, and – most importantly – a café. I order a bowl of Welsh Cawl. It is, in my opinion, the best soup in the world and a meal in itself.

18 lifeboat house at Poppit Sands, Ruth's coastal hike

Afterwards I visit the public toilets. They are terrible. The cubicles are so small it is impossible to be inside one and to close the door without taking off your rucksack. Or without climbing onto the toilet itself. Who designed this? Crazy.

From Poppit Sands, the coast path seems to follow the road towards Cardigan. I am just setting off when the couple with the border collie come running over and offer me a lift. The road is narrow and not much fun for walking, they tell me. I thank them for their kindness, but explain I simply must walk. It would be cheating to catch a lift.

Actually, the walk turns out to be better than I anticipated. I follow the dunes to start with, and then walk along the sandy shore. The tide is coming in, filling the estuary with gleaming blue water and swinging the ships around.

19 Poppit Sands, up the estuary to Cardigan, Ruth Livingstone

Further along, and I have to abandon the shore. Now there is a long stretch road walking, and it’s tough on the feet and rather boring.

I pass a driveway where a man is loading golf clubs into the boot of his car. He is going away for a golfing weekend and we have a brief chat about the wonderful weather. I explain I’m walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

‘Then I must take your photo,’ he says. ‘By the marker.’ And he points across the road. I see a patch of green grass and a floating quay. Marker? That stone?

20 St Dogmaels, Ruth at the end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Yes. It’s the end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. (Or the beginning, depending which way you go.) And I would have missed it if my golfing friend hadn’t pointed it out.

21 Ruth Livingstone, end of Pembrokeshire Coast Path

23 end point of Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Ruth Livingstone hiking through WalesWe cross the road and he kindly takes my photograph standing beside the stone. I remove my hat and my glasses. Must look my best at this important waypoint.

Then I take a photo of the stone and the mosaic floor panel. ‘Amroth 300K’

It really doesn’t seem 300k, or 186 miles, since I stood beside the start marker outside the pub in Amroth. That was in mid June. Only 3 months ago. I’ve made such good progress this year.

Later, my Artist in Residence, Tim Baynes, produces this stunning painting of the scene behind the marker.

St Dogmaels-gif

Nearby stands a statue of a mermaid. I can’t resist a photo of her. She throws me a suspicious look.

22 mermaid at St Dogmaels, Ruth Livingstone

Onwards. I need to get back to Cardigan, where I’ve parked my car.

I walk along roads through St Dogmaels, and then the path dives off and I follow a zig-zag route down a slope. The railings are not as solid as they look – some of the supporting soil has been washed away.

24 secret path into Cardigan

On the outskirts of Cardigan I come across a map. It shows the point at which I came off the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. And it shows me the point at which I will pick up the beginning of the Ceredigion Coast Path. But this stretch of path is… nothing. It has no name.

25 map showing beginning of Ceridigion Coast Path, Ruth in Wales

I reach the bridge over the river and stop to take a photo of the quay on the other side. I ate in the yellow coloured pub yesterday – The Grosvenor – and plan to eat there again tonight. They start serving food at 6pm and I’m hungry.

26 Cardigan, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Wales

Once Cardigan was a busy and wealthy port, exporting and importing both goods and human cargo, as from here many emigrants left to start new lives in the New World. The value of goods coming in and out was second only to the great ports of London, Bristol and Liverpool. It’s hard to imagine now.

Highlight of the walk: Finishing the magnificent Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

What happened to the young men on my bus? No idea. I never saw them again.

Miles walked today: 11.5 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 518 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,125 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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16 Responses to 207 Moylgrove to Cardigan

  1. John says:

    The poor rabbit may have had Myxomatosis, very sad.

  2. theresagreen says:

    Well done, even if it is a little sad to leave this glorious section of the path! Poor bunny does look in a bad way,rabbits keep the paths grazed so are an important link in the ecology chain in many places, but suppose there’s no accounting for what is done by private landowners.

    • Funny how completing a section of path, or reaching a particular point, can give you a real sense of achievement and sadness combined. I felt the same way coming off the South West Coast Path – more emotional, I think, because I’d spent so long on the SWCP!

  3. Marie Keates says:

    How sad to co e to the end of such a lovely path and to see the blasted balsam has invaded Wales too. It is so pretty but such a pest.

    • Part of my brain says, ‘lovely flowers, nice scent’. Then the other part kicks in and says, ‘damn invader, how horrible’. It certainly does damage to natural plants and clogs up waterways. Further on I saw some signs inviting people to sign up for balsam-clearing days. Would be tempting if I lived locally.

  4. John Brogden says:

    Good to read of your joys of walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. I walk from Dale to Cardigan every September and it’s the highlight of my year! I also feel some sadness when arriving at Poppit Sands and knowing my walk along the path is at an end, but am already looking forward to next year’s walk along this most scenic of coastal paths.

    • Hi John and what a wonderful way to spend September! It’s a truly beautiful walk. In fact, I would love to go back and do it again one day… but at the moment I must press on and finish the Wales Coast Path.

  5. john says:

    I am sat on the bus going to work absorbing the feeling of walking along these beautiful paths, remembering my yearning to walk and be outside near the sea.

  6. jcombe says:

    Did this walk today. I wasn’t lucky enough to see (or hear) seals, but the cliffs were lined with bluebells, which made for a lovely splash of colour. I don’t just mean in one area, but for miles! I was quite surprised, because usually they grow under trees, not in the open and it’s quite late for them, I guess it has been a cold winter.

    The farmyard full of junk you mention with the blaring music was exactly the same – including the blaring music! I hurried through and agree it is jarring after all that lovely peaceful coastline.

    • jcombe says:

      Also meant to add, it was rather a pleasant surprise to discover that the buses whose route number is prefixed with a T (short for Trans Cymru I think) are completely free of charge to everyone (all ages) on Saturday and Sunday. I used the T5 from Cardigan was surprised not to have to pay anything at all, a first for me. There are details about the scheme here, and the routes covered : http://www.trawscymru.info/free-travel-on-weekends-1/

      • It’s a bit early for seals yet, because I don’t think they come ashore until later in the summer to have their pups. How wonderful to see bluebells. I’m in Scotland at the moment and they are everywhere, even on exposed banks. (Usually you only see the continental invaders outside of woodland, but the ones i’m seeing in Scotland are native ones.) I had no idea the T buses were free at weekends. What a great idea!

        • jcombe says:

          Ah that would explain the lack of seals, I actually didnt know they didn’t come ashore until later. It was the native bluebells I was seeing I think, My mum tells me the native type have a scent, the Spanish ones do not and I could smell them.

  7. Karen White says:

    How lovely it’s been to follow your route along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Now I’m looking forward to your posts from Cardigan’s path. I wonder how long it will be before I catch up with you in Scotland!

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