By the time I leave Llangrannog the blue sky is dotted with fluffy, white clouds. Ahead the tall peak of Pen-y-Badell seems to be on fire, as the sun suddenly catches the bracken on its slopes.
Up on the top of Pen-y-Badell lie the remains of an iron age fort and settlement, called Pendinas Lochtyn. There is evidence that people have occupied this site since 500 BC and the landscape has a mysterious and ancient feel to it.
I was planning to climb up and take a look at the site of the fort, but I feel too tired and decide to stick to the official coast path instead, which skirts around the base of Pen-y-Badell. Below the path is a flat peninsula of land, running out into the sea with the island of Ynys Lochtyn at its tip.
It’s a beautiful and popular place. I meet strollers on the path, and joggers.
Rounding the corner, and the path becomes narrower. Ahead I can see the coastline stretching out in a north-east direction. Those cliffs look high! And I can see the coast path snaking across their steep slopes. Somewhere, not far away, is Cwmtydu, which must be hidden inside an inlet because I can’t see any sign of it.
Cwmtydu is my stopping place today and I should make it in plenty of time to catch the one and only bus of the afternoon. But now I’m worrying about the difficulty of the route ahead. And I’m right to be concerned, because on the other side of Pen-y-Badell the path climbs up a field with a very, very steep slope.
I puff and pant my way to the top. Then take a photo looking back down. Crikey! It might have been easier to come over the top of the hill instead.
At the top I meet a group of friendly Welsh people out for a Sunday stroll. (Actually, everybody I meet in Wales is incredibly friendly.) They ask me about my intended itinerary, and warn me of the steep slope ahead. I point down the way I’ve just come. Steeper than this one? Oh, yes. They smile and nod.
They’re heading for Llangrannog, but they aren’t going to climb down my precipitous slope. Oh no. They’re just going to stroll around the corner of the hill. It’s the easy way down, they tell me. If only I’d known!
The view from up here is tremendous. Again, I can see the full, panoramic sweep of Cardigan Bay, with distant hills that are well beyond my current OS map.
But now I must focus on the path ahead. Whatever happens, I mustn’t miss the one and only bus out of Cwmtydu.
Down the slope I go and into the broad valley. And here I come across something rather incongruous – a dry ski slope.
On the other side of the valley the path winds close to the sea, where a couple of strollers are very excited because they’ve spotted a seal. It’s floating just off the shore and blowing bubbles out of its nose, making a very rude, farty noise.
Sadly, I feel rather underwhelmed by seals these days, having seen so many around the Pembrokeshire Coast, so I can’t raise much enthusiasm when the couple point it out to me. I’m really hoping to see some dolphins. But they remain annoyingly elusive.
Now the path begins to rise up the slope. It is certainly steep. And bare. It’s obviously been deliberately cut into the slope to make a route for walkers and I should be grateful, but I find the going very difficult.
Perhaps I’m tired from several long days of walking. Perhaps it’s the sun, which has come out again and is beating down on my head. Perhaps it’s just the monotony of the path – going on and up and on and up, seemingly for ever. Whatever the reason, I find this section a struggle.
To make matters worse, the path has crumbled and a diversion is in place, but the diversion is even steeper than the original and, at the top of particularly gruelling climb, begins to descend again in order to meet up with the previous lower route.
At one point I sit down in the limited shade I can find under the plants that line the edge of the track, and swig my water. It takes a lot of self-control not to finish the whole bottle.
Despite my discomfort, I can appreciate the path is truly beautiful. Pink candy-floss of willow herbs. Golden bracken. Blue sea as flat as a mirror.
Onwards. Up I get. And up I go. Up and up. It’s just over a mile on my map. And it must end soon.
I meet a couple of women walkers coming down towards me. They pick their way carefully and we stop for a chat. They seem surprised I’m walking alone. I tell them it’s because I’m very antisocial, but they just laugh.
Up. Up and Up.
[Below is a painting of the route, based on the photo above, by my wonderful Artist in Residence – Tim Baynes]
Finally, I’m there. At the top. I’ve done it! And I have plenty of time to spare before the bus arrives. I know Cwmtydu must be just ahead, although I still can’t see it.
The sun has gone in and the air is cooler. And now the path is flat, running alongside a dry stone wall. I feel much better.
I see some strange ripples in the sea below. And hear a splash. At first I think it is a diving bird. But then I see a flash of grey and see… a dolphin!
Not just one, several of them. Three or four. They arch out of the water and dive back and disappear, leaving ripples behind. Dolphins! I pull out my camera, but can only manage a few blurry shots. They’re moving fast and they won’t keep still!
I begin to trot along the path, trying to keep up with them. All my tiredness is forgotten. Of course they can swim faster than I can trot, so they soon begin to leave me behind. But I can follow their wakes all the way up the coast and across the mouth of the little inlet at Cwmtydu – until they finally disappear from view.
I’m so pleased to have seen dolphins. At last. How wonderful. What a perfect way to end the day.
Below me is Cwmtydu, lying in a deep and narrow valley.
The walk down is beautiful. The path heads inland along the side of the valley, through woods, and then down wooden steps and bridges, until I reach the floor of the valley.
Where there is a café. And it’s open!
I have 45 minutes to wait for the bus. Unable to decide what I want, I order both a pot of tea and a cold drink. The sun comes out again and I sit outside to catch the last rays before it dips below the hill.
While I’m waiting, a friendly couple offer me a lift. But they’re going in the opposite direction to my B&B, so I decline and wait for the bus.
Yes, it’s been a perfect day.
Miles walked today: 11 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 543 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,150 miles
Route today from Aberporth to Cwmtydu: