213 Aberystwyth to Borth and Ynyslas

Aberystwyth faces west. This fact makes for stunning photography in the evening, but in the morning the photos aren’t so good, as the coast is shrouded with dark-blue shadows. I look at the steep cliff I came down yesterday, and am glad I’m not heading up that difficult climb today.

01 yesterday's walk down into Aberystwyth, Ruth's coastal trek

I walk along the seafront, past the old castle, and into the next bay. This northern section of Aberystwyth is lined with some grand houses. Ahead I see an intimidating mound of land. That is Constitution Hill and I will be climbing up it shortly.

02 today's walk towards Borth, Ruth Livingstone on the Welsh coast

First, I walk past the pier, which is not particularly attractive.

03 sad pier, Aberystwyth, Ruth trekking on the Ceredigion Coast Path

I know Aberystwyth took a pounding during the terrible series of storms that swept in over the winter of 2013/2014, and some of the esplanade has been recently repaved. There is still some reconstruction work going on.

At the end of the esplanade you can turn right and take the funicular railway up to the top of Constitution Hill. Or you can walk. There are several walking routes to choose from but I take the one that continues on from the end of the promenade.

04 Constitution Hill, Ruth's coastal walk, Aberystwyth, Wales

Signs warn me that this is not a public footpath, although it is a permitted route. And ‘the path may be affected from time to time by unexpected slippages of rock and stone‘. This warning, of course, makes the route irresistible!

It’s steep. I haven’t got very far before I come across this beautiful arrangement of objects. At first I think it must be a memorial to someone who has died – maybe a walker hit by falling stones, or a young student who committed suicide by leaping off the cliffs. But, in fact, it’s a shrine ‘dedicated to Our Lady of Craiglais. 2009’ . An unusual thing to come across.

05 shrine to Our Lady of Craiglais, Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth, Ruth Livingstone

The path winds up the hill, crossing over the funicular railway at various points. On one of the bridges I take a photo looking down the railway tracks and with a good view of Aberystwyth spread out below.

06 view from Constitution Hill, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Aberystwyth

At the top of Constitution Hill is the largest camera obscura in the world. Apparently on a clear day you can see the whole 60 mile stretch around Cardigan Bay. Well worth a visit.

07 camera obscura, Aberystwyth, Ruth's coastal walkThe coast path winds around the side of the slope, but I climb up to the summit.

08 beacon at the top of Constitution Hill, Ruth in Aberystwyth

Standing right on the top of the hill is a millennium torch. Although I’ve seen many of these around the countryside, and several at strategic points along the coast, this is the largest and most impressive I’ve come across so far.

A plaque says it was erected with the support of a number of agencies, the council, British Gas, the Funicular Railway, Jewsons, and others.

It is turning out to be another splendid October day. Blue sea, clear skies with a smattering of fair-weather clouds. (People warned me it rained all the time in Wales. That certainly hasn’t been my experience.)

Ahead the path stretches out, looking irresistible. As is often the case, I’m alone. Nobody else about. Strange, given the wonderful weather.

09 coastal path to Clarach Bay, Ruth walking the Ceredigion Coast Path, Aberystwyth

The first place I come to is Clarach Bay, which seems to be one huge holiday park, dominated by caravans.

10 caravans at Clarach Bay, Ruth walking to Borth, Wales

Past Clarach Bay and the path climbs up cliffs, running close to the sea, wild and remote, the coastline unspoilt by development. It’s lovely.

Ahead I see a wide, blue bay, but find the topography confusing. Is that Borth in the distance? I thought Borth was situated on a flat spit of sand dunes, but that town looks as if it’s nestled against a range of mountains. Strange.

11 coast path to Borth, Ruth Livingstone walking the Wales coast

Between Clarach Bay and Borth, the only building I come across is a large, white house at a place called Wallog. Below the house a sandbank, covered in stones, points into the sea. The bank is called Sarn Gynfelyn and at low tide it’s exposed as a causeway leading out into the waves, stretching for miles and miles. This has given rise to a number of local legends about sunken kingdoms.

12 looking back to Wallog and Sarn Gynfelyn, Ruth Livingstone hiking the Wales coast

I begin to meet other walkers. A couple of ladies warn me the path ahead is very steep. And they’re right. The stretch of coastal path between Wallog and Borth turns out to be both taxing and strenuous. But it’s also very, very beautiful.

13 ahead to Borth, Ruth trekking in Wales

The photo below gives an impression of the rollercoaster nature of the route. As soon as I climb up to the crest of a slope, then I find I’m heading down into yet another dip.

14 rollercoaster hills, Ruth hiking the coast path from Aberystwyth to Borth

Ahead the view becomes clearer. I can see Borth lying as I expected on a flat piece of land. The town beyond, the one nestled against the mountains, is… well, it must be Aberdyfi.

15 coming down into Borth, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

[Aberdyfi is the Welsh name for Aberdovey. Most places have two names around here and the signposts usually indicate both. But, after some confusion on my part, I realise that Aberdovey is only always called by a single name: Aberdyfi.]

I’m getting close to Borth, but the landscape has one last trick to play me. A huge drop – down to sea level – followed by a steep climb up the other side.

16 war memorial, Borth, Ruth's coast walk in Wales

At the top there is a war memorial and a great view down to Borth, a sleepy, spread-out village. Behind, a little separate from the other buildings, is an imposing church.

17 Borth, Ruth on the Ceredigion Coast Path

Lunch time. In Borth I stop at a café and sit outside in the sun. My light lunch (a Ploughman’s) turns out to be more substantial than I expected. My appetite has shrunk following my recent diet and I am unable to finish my plate.

From Borth, a long spit of dunes and marshes reaches up towards the Afon Dyfi estuary. Unfortunately, the only way to cross the estuary is via a long inland trek to the nearest bridge, at a town called Machynlleth. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do when I reached Borth, but it seems I have a choice of 3 routes.

  1. Follow the Wales Coast Path, which turns inland at Borth and, although running nowhere near either coast or estuary, eventually reaches Machynlleth.
  2. Stick to the Ceredigion Coast Path, which runs parallel to the beach but 1/2 a mile inland of it along the course of a drainage ditch. The Ceredigion path comes to a dead-end at the edge of the estuary, a place called Ynyslas.
  3. Or, following my rules and staying as close to the coast as I can, walk along the coast road until it comes to a dead-end at Ynyslas.

Options 2 and 3 would both require me to follow roads inland from Ynyslas, in order to pick up the Wales Coast Path and so continue onwards to Machynlleth.

Or… as the tide is out, I realise I have an even better option. I can walk along the beach! Normally this would be too difficult because of a series of high groynes stretching across the upper sands.

Of course, I choose to walk along the beach. And it’s glorious. Three miles of walking, mainly solitary, with just the gleaming sands for company.

18 Ruth walking along Borth Sands, Wales

I pass the end of Borth. One of those houses is a youth hostel.

19 Borth Sands, Ruth's coastal trek through Wales

I’ve never been to Borth before, but my husband brought our children here for a youth hostel holiday many years ago, while I stayed at home and worked. (This was back when we were unable to have holidays together because we couldn’t find a locum GP to cover our practice.) The children still have vivid memories of the long, flat beach.

Walking on, I see some rocks interrupting the smooth flow of the sand. Strange rocks. Twisted into shapes like… maybe dying crocodiles, or strange sea monsters. Organic forms. As I get nearer, I realise what this is: a submerged forest. Thousands of years old. How wonderful!

20 Submerged forest, Borth sands, Ruth Livingstone

I spend far too long taking photographs, and then realise I must move on. I still have a long way to go.

Beyond the submerged forest is nothing much. The groynes on the upper beach change from stone to timber. Clouds come over the sky. I see gulls and oyster catchers…

21 Borth Sands, oyster catchers, Ruth Livingstone trekking in Wales

… and suddenly spot a dark shape moving through the waves. It arches up and then disappears again, only to reappear many yards further along. Smooth and graceful. It’s a dolphin. A solitary one.

22 dolphin, Borth Sands, Ruth walking the Wales Coast

I manage to snap the photo above. It’s movement is hypnotic, gently up and down again, like a needle threading through the water.

The sands eventually come to an end. I walk over a patch of stones and come to the far end of the land. Over the water, looking so close, is Aberdyfi. It looks as if I could just wade across! But I know it’s going to take me two days of walking to get around this estuary.

23 Aberdyfi from the end of the dunes at Ynyslas, Ruth hiking the Wales coast

I set up my camera on the stones for a self-portrait. A reader of this blog complimented me on my ability to take timed portraits of myself, but of course I don’t normally share the disasters. This one (below) wasn’t so successful!

24 self-portrait, Ruth Livingstone on coast, Ynyslas

From the end of the sands I turn inland towards the dunes. This area is usually underwater, and so the surface is beautifully rippled and very, very soft. My boots sink deep into the sand and leave a line of impressive footprints.

25 footsteps in soft sand, RUth at Ynyslas

I reach a car park on the edge of the dunes. This is the Ynyslas Nature Reserve and now I’m standing at the end of the official Ceredigion Coast Path.

I follow a track and walk along the edge of the marshes. To my right are the vegetated dunes of Ynyslas. To my left is an extensive bog. Ahead is the Afon Dyfi valley and, 9 or 10 miles away, is the nearest bridge crossing. It’s time to make my way inland.

Ynyslas nature reserve, Ruth walkin up the Afon Dyfi estuary

I cross over the  end of long drain, where I part company with the wonderful Ceredigion Coast Path. Now I join the B4353. It’s as quiet and empty as I hoped it would be.

27 long road into Tre'r-ddol, Ruth hiking in Wales

My plan is to follow this road until it meets the A487 at a place called Tre’r-ddol. I’ve chosen this as my destination because here I can rejoin the official Wales Coast which passes through the village. I won’t be joining the path today, of course. When I reach the main road at Tre’r-ddol I plan to catch a bus back to Aberystwyth.

I always find the final few miles of any walk the hardest and the  longest. And this road is no exception. It’s only 3 miles and I make good progress, but I find the surface very hard underfoot and I’m suffering from mysterious stomach cramps.

The straightness of the road makes for boring walking. I’m relieved to reach the occasional curve and get a change in view.

28 evening light, Llancynfelyn, Ruth walking the coast of Wales

It’s a relief to arrive in the village. But there’s only 2 minutes to spare before the 16:57 bus is due to arrive. The next one isn’t for 90 minutes, by which time the sun will have set.  I can’t see a bus stop, but I know the bus stops outside the pub, so I stand on the main road beside the pub and wait. And wait. Might I have missed it?

I look down the road and see the bus approaching. Thank goodness. I bend down to lift my rucksack and, when I look up again, the bus has disappeared. What?!

Suddenly I realise it’s turned off the main road and is trundling down a back street. Yes, it does stop at the pub, but at the back of the pub. I run like a maniac down an alley way. The bus is just about to set off again.  I risk death by running into the road and so forcing the driver to stop.

Additional information:

The shrine on Constitution Hill: turns out to be a shrine to a pagan goddess, rather than to the Virgin Mary.  You can watch a YouTube video of the shrine, embedded at the end of this post.

The submerged forest on Borth sands: was uncovered in the 2013/2014 winter storms. And you can read more about the forest on this archaeology website.

Miles walked today: 15 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 587 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,194 miles

Route today:

My route shown in BLACK.
Ceredigion Coast Path (where different) shown in RED.
Wales Coast Path (where different) shown in GREEN.

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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21 Responses to 213 Aberystwyth to Borth and Ynyslas

  1. justinfenech says:

    This takes me back! I’ve been to Aberystwyth many times to visit family and Borth has a charming little animalarium which was unfortunately damaged in recent floods. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. Not a gypsy... says:

    Beautiful! 🙂 And suddenly I’m so very homesick for Wales.

  3. patriz2012 says:

    Wow! You are covering some distances these days. The submerged forest looks mysterious – I used to go to Borth on holiday with my family as I grew up in mid Wales.

  4. jcombe says:

    You’ve certainly been spoilt with the weather – so many wonderful views and photographs. Very much looking forward to this section. I’ve not been to Aberystwyth but heard that it is nice – it certainly looks it from your photos. After this walk, you are back now on a stretch I have walked – from Borth I’ve walked to Aberdovey via Machynlleth. Whilst much of the route of the Wales coast path along this bit is not exactly coastal, it was a walk I enjoyed very much. Hopefully you will too!

    • I check the long-range forecast and book at the last minute. But even so, I wasn’t expecting such relentlessly sunny weather. Isn’t is supposed to rain a lot in Wales? Just written up the next stretch and your’re right, it’s gorgeous walking.

  5. Tudor Brown says:

    Ruth you just walked through my hometown! Good reporting. The Dovey is the boundary between South and North Wales which is why from here northwards it will be all in Welsh!
    Good luck on the next beautiful stretch.

  6. A good 15 miler considering the ups and downs. From my journal: “At Borth huge rocks are being transported across the North Sea in barges from Norway to build sea defences. I was told this is cheaper than transporting by road from sites in the UK”.

    I followed the drainage ditch on cropped turf and was delightfully accompanied by reed warblers, but your beach walks looks equally pleasing if not more so.

    • Hi Conrad and interesting you were there as they were constructing the sea defences and the groynes. The beach walk is only possible at very low tide, because of the groynes, so I was lucky to have timed it right for a change.

  7. Marie Keates says:

    I was one of those people who said it always rains in Wales. It certainly has every time I’ve been so you were lucky with the weather. The mysterious shrine was a great find and the strange submerged forest. Glad you caught the bus!

  8. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth just back from a lovely 6 mile stroll from Borth to Aberystwyth with my daughter Nicola. I had purposely left this section “to do” so we could enjoy it together. The weather today was beautiful and very similar to when you passed through last October. Forgot about the shrine on Consititution Hill, but did learn something new. Apparently there is a long-standing tradition that once you get to the end of the Prom in Aber you “Kick the Bar”. I attach a YouTube link so you can see what it’s all about! Anyway, after “kicking the Bar” we retired to the local ‘Spoons for a roast Sunday lunch.
    BTW, I have now reached Llangrannog, just 18 miles short of Cardigan, which means leap-frogging down to Amroth.

    • What a lovely walk and how wonderful to do it with your daughter. I knew nothing about kicking the bar. Shame. Interesting video.
      Good luck with the continuation of your walk. I’m waiting for a decent run of weather- I’m such a coward when it comes to rain and wind 🙂

  9. jcombe says:

    Did this walk myself yesterday although the other way round (from Borth to Aberystwyth also going to the end of the beach at Twyni Bach).

    That fossil forest truly is amazing isn’t it? (I’m afraid I did not remember it from your blog, but see you saw it too). I had forgotten it was there and realised I was seeing the remains of trees. They were so well preserved I could even see the rings in the wood still. It was only when I checked on the Internet later I found how old these trees actually are. Incredibly well preserved and astonishing to think they are (I believe) more than 3000 years old!

    • It was amazing, and glad you saw it. I remember someone told me that particular area of fossil forest had only just recently been uncovered, after the storms of the previous winter. So, sadly, I guess the wood won’t stay so well-preserved for much longer.

  10. Bob Melia says:

    Very enjoyable Ruth

  11. Karen White says:

    How incredible and fascinating to see the fossil forest,

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