219 Llanaber to Llanbedr

After two days of glorious walking, I guess I shouldn’t complain about a not-so-good day. It starts badly when I park in the wrong place and, even worse, forget to pack my OS map. And then there is the boring trek along a road, under a dull sky…

Road to Harlech, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Snowdonia

… for three miles (it seems like longer) before I get the chance to leave the main road.

finally I leave the road, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

After tramping around a house and eventually discovering a hidden stile, I continue across fields and realise today is going to be a day of climbing over dry-stone walling.

one of many stiles, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

Through a kissing gate and I find myself in a very muddy field.

kissing gate and muddy field, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

The cause of the mud? Cattle.

I take a hurried photograph – blurred because I have to keep moving to stop myself sinking into the slurry, and also blurred because I’m nervous in a field with cows and young calves.

reason for the mud, cattle and calves, Ruth in Wales

Beyond the field, and over the railway line, I walk through an endless holiday park. There are no holiday makers about, but there is plenty of maintenance activity. I hate this section, knowing I must have lost the path, irritated by the lack of scenery, and expecting to be challenged for trespassing at any moment.

 lost in holiday parks, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I find a road and am pleased to pick up the Wales Coast Path again, only to lose it as I wander through another maze of static homes.

still lost in holiday parks, Ruth trying to walk the Wales Coast Path

After backtracking, and walking in a complete circle, I still can’t find the path. But I know I have to head inland, as there is a river ahead and the only way to cross it is via the bridge at Tal-y-bont.

Feeling despondent, and wishing I had my map, I regain the road and walk inland, crossing over the railway line at the unpronounceable Tyddyn Goronwy. I cheer up when I manage to snatch a photo of one of the very-infrequent trains passing underneath.

Station at Tyddyn Goronwy, Ruth on Wales Coast Path

When I reach Tal-y-bont bridge, I’m pleased to catch sight of the familiar Wales Coast Path symbols once again. You can see the signpost just to the left of the photo below, where the path emerges from a side alleyway to join the road. Where’s it been?

 Bridge at Tal-y-bont, Ruth's coastal walk, wales

The path soon turns off the main road and finds another holiday park to navigate. After passing some rather nice wooden lodges, I walk through a city of tin boxes.

more holliday parks, Ruth walking in Wales

no cars sign, Ruth walking under railway bridge, Wales Coast Path

This time I manage to stick to the correct route and don’t get lost.

Just beyond the park I join a track which takes me back under the railway line. The bridge is very low, barely high enough to pass under without bending my head.

The sign carved into the concrete says:

I wouldn’t want to try to drive through here.

The path continues, and runs along tracks through fields. I’m pleased to find myself walking next to the river. On the other bank is the holiday park I was wandering through half an hour ago.

along Afon Ysgethin, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

There are low sections in the bank where the river runs shallow – possibly old fords. If I’d known I might have waded across and avoided the inland detour to find the bridge.

I climb over another rickety wooden stile and then… and then my path peters out. It’s a dead end.

footpath peters out, Ruth trying to walk the Wales Coast Path

Where’s the coast path gone? Frustrated, I turn back and find a private track heading vaguely in the right direction, but with unwelcoming “Keep Out” signs. That can’t be it.

Continuing back along the way I’ve just walked, I spot a Wales Coast Path post poking above the dry-stone wall – and realise I’ve missed a stile. Well, would you have spotted it? It’s cunningly disguised as a piece of the wall.

secret stile, Wales Coast Path, Ruth Livingstone hiking

The next mile is a meandering walk through a grassy landscape crisscrossed by dry-stone walls. There are numerous stiles to climb over, many of them again so cunningly disguised that several times I lose the trail and am forced to backtrack.

From the top of every stile, I catch tantalising glimpses of the sea. It’s just behind a line of dunes to my left.

 sheep fields and dunes, Ruth's coastal walk, Walkes

It’s infuriating not to be so near and yet so far from the shore.

In the final field, I come across this flock of sheep. They look comical, like clowns, with back-ringed eyes and black noses.

clown sheep, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I think they’re Beulah Speckled Face Sheep, a Welsh breed. But I’m not sure.

Now I’m back on a road. Another mile of boring walking, nowhere near the sea.

 on the road again, Ruth hiking in Wales

Past another holiday camp… and then a car park and… I’m standing at the end of a long wooden walkway. It carries me up and over the ridge of dunes and, suddenly, there is the brilliant sea.

 beach at last, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, near Tal-y-bont

I stop at a handy picnic bench and have lunch, along with a quick self-portrait. You can see how pleased I am to be back on the coast again.

Ruth happy, hiking the Wales Coast Path

To the north dark clouds are gathering ominously over the hills of the Lleyn Peninsula. But shafts of afternoon sunlight slant in from west and light up the dunes. I’m looking forward to a wonderful three-mile walk along this beach.

walking up the beach, Ruth Livingstone on the Morfa Dyffryn beach

I look back towards Barmouth. It’s not far away. I seem to have walked for hours this morning without making much progress.

 looking back to Barmouth, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

The tide is out and I cross the sands to walk close to the water. On the vast expanse of beach I only see two other human beings.

Number one: a man riding his bike close to the dunes. The photograph below was taken on full zoom. In reality, he looked like a tiny insect crawling across the sand.

cyclist on beach, Ruth Livingstone

Number two: another man, who walked past me while I was eating lunch and strode briskly up the beach. I thought he might be a proper coastal walker, but a short while later I see him walking back again. Only a stroller, after all.

walker on the sands, Morfa Dyffryn, Ruth hiking in Wales

The sunshine of yesterday has gone, but the views are still staggeringly beautiful.

 empty beach, Morfa Dyffryn, Ruth in Wales

After a wonderful hour of beach walking, the dunes give way to low cliffs, and the sand gives way to shells. Thousands of shells. All sorts and sizes.

shells everywhere, Ruth walking the coast in wales

The official Wales Coast Path veers off the beach, crossing the dunes and heading inland to Llanbedr. But I’m reluctant to leave the beach. I see a man sitting high on the bank and ask him if I can continue along the shoreline. He says yes, it’s possible if the tide is out.

I stumble on, but the ground becomes rocky and difficult, and I can’t see the way ahead due to the curve of the shore. Without my map I’m not sure what lies around the bend. But I do know the tide is coming in.

where's Harlech - Ruth walking in Wales

After a while, I chicken out and decide to climb up the bank, at the top of which I find  lawns of green grass, threaded with narrow roads.

Shell Island holiday park, Ruth Livingstone in wales

I follow a road up a hill and reach a complex of buildings where workmen are hammering and machinery is growling. I realise, with sinking heart, that I’ve stumbled into another holiday park. Shell Island. But strangely I can’t see any mobile homes. Maybe it’s only for campers?

I need to get to Llanbedr, inland, but am separated from the village by a wide area of marsh. To avoid the boggy ground, I stick to the park’s roads, but their routes are confusing, as they loop around, never following a straight line. After wandering around in what seems like circles, I’m very pleased to see the familiar coast path sign up ahead.

 back on the Wales Coast Path,Ruth on Shell Island

Everything seems better when I know I’m back on the right track. I follow a lane, and then follow path signs. Now I’m walking on a tarmac path through marshland, heading northwards The reeds are tall and crowd on either side.

causeway over marshes, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

My path becomes a raised walkway above the grasses. It curves across the marshes, taking me – I hope – towards Llanbedr and the train station.

more causeway, Ruth's coastal walk, near Llanbedr

This morning I drove to Llanbedr in order to catch the train to Llanaber and the start of my walk. But the walk from the car park to the train station was somewhat further than I had anticipated from looking the map. When I got to the platform, I noticed the name on the station sign was completely wrong – Dyffryn Ardudwy – what?!

I suddenly realised I must have pulled off the main road too early and parked in the wrong place. Now I was standing at the wrong station. And at this point I realised something else. I’d left my map behind.

What an idiot! I’m really not a morning person.

Anyway, with the train approaching, I only had a few minutes to make up my mind, and I decided to catch the train to Llanaber and start my walk as planned.

Walking across the marsh, in the late afternoon, I know I must now catch another train to get back to Dyffryn Ardudwy and my car. I check my watch.  Plenty of time.

My path joins a road and I realise this is the main route to Shell Island, but it’s a tidal causeway. They haven’t bothered to chalk up the opening times.Would I have got through if I’d continued my walk along the shore? I don’t know.

Tidal Causeway to Shell Island, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

The road takes me inland, past sheep, cows, and a small airfield. It’s over a mile and I walk quickly, not wanting to miss the train, relieved when I see the railway-crossing signs ahead.

 Llanbedr station, Ruth on the Wales Coast Path

Llanbedr is another tiny, request-stop-only station. I arrive 25 minutes early, but the train arrives 20 minutes late. It seems a long, long wait and I have plenty of time to think about the walk I’ve just finished.

It’s been a funny old day. Nothing went quite as planned.

Distance walked today: 12 miles
Along Wales Coast Path: 659 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,266 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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24 Responses to 219 Llanaber to Llanbedr

  1. Wales appears to be a delightful country. You journey reminds me of some of the jaunts i have done in total different parts of the world…there is always that stick or rock that has a small note or other pointing the way to where-you-never-thought-the-trail-was-going-to-be. On a lighter note, I am still confused why anyone would ever want to spend holidays in a metal box surrounded by other metal boxes with people who will never relax in such a dreadful place. Give me the sea, the beach, the freedom to breath the air. To quote a line from Ned Devine, “I would rather float in the cove for free.”

    • Hi there, and I totally agree about the metal boxes. I guess when you’re in them on a summer holiday with your family, and surrounded by entertainments, it must seem better. In the dead of winter they look most unappealing 🙂

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, what a day! It happens to the best of us. I used a small free car park about 300m from Llanbedr station. A real shame you missed the Alpacas around Tal-y-Bont I will have a photo when I write my walk up. The section where you go inland is complex and it is a case of hunt the footpath sign. I had my map out for the entire section checking etc.. The “muddy” field was indeed very bad, cattle and footpaths just don’t mix, especially at gate exists.

  3. Jane Morgan says:

    Good to see you back out there again and in my favourite part of the world. We decided to do our coast walk while we were on holiday in Pwllheli and did the prom there as our first walk. It didn’t take long! We were out last week on walk 50a. Walk 50 took us over the Thames from Gravesend to Tilbury and we will pick up there in the summer but we did the first section of the added walk into London from Gravesend and the first four river crossings.

    • I remember the Tilbury to Gravesend crossing – the ferry was going sideways with the current, quite terrifying! The walk into London from Gravesend must have been interesting. Lots of things to look at, I imagine.

  4. jcombe says:

    I’m looking forward to getting to this stretch of the coast. It is very very beautiful. The rail service also makes it nice and easy to plan (albeit it only runs once every 2 hours) and as you have pointed out, there seems to be a station every mile or so, whether there are any other buildings nearby or not! Although I haven’t (yet) managed to go to a different station than intended!

    • The coastline itself is not as rocky and scenic as Pembrokeshire or Cornwall, but the mountains inland make up for it, creating spectacular backdrops. I really am loving this section, and the quirky little railway. Going back this week for another few days 🙂

  5. theresagreen says:

    Funny how the seemingly most straightforward routes can quickly become convoluted, especially in rural Wales. Worth it for those views and having that glorious beach almost to yourself.

    • Sometimes I think the Wales Coast Path planners enjoy a good joke! I guess all the minor hiccups with the route will be ironed out as time goes on. This particular section provided a rather frustrating experience, made worse by the lack of a decent map – which was all my own fault, of course.

  6. We walked this section in September 2014. I noticed you didn’t meet any sunbathers on the naturist section of Shell Island beach! Too cold this time of year, I suppose!! We have to avert our eyes when we were walking through there!!

  7. If it’s any comfort I still get lost or miss the path, but these days I seem to realise the error sooner than I used to.

    Approaching that rocky area I asked advice from a caravan site proprietor. He said, “if you have slip out there you’ll be drinking soup through a straw for the rest of your life.”

  8. I’m loving these new posts, thank-you Ruth.

    If you feel like taking a break from the coast path while you’re in North Wales you’d probably find a walk to the summit of Mount Snowdon highly enjoyable on a fine clear day. I’d recommend taking the Miners Path. Go up early in the morning if you can, arriving at the summit before the first train to beat the crowds.

    • It’s very tempting Gary. I’m really enjoying Wales and keep making detours. Maybe if the weather stays fine I’ll try a bit of mountaineering. (I did walk up the Miners Path once, when I was about 15 years old. It was pouring with rain and the summit was covered in fog. So reaching the top was a huge anticlimax. I could have been down in the deepest valley – couldn’t see a thing!)

  9. Linda Jackson says:

    Hello Ruth:
    I came across your wonderful blog quite by accident a few days ago and quickly became hooked. I had started somewhere mid-journey so went back and started at the beginning and have devoured it since then! I’m now caught up and I really enjoy your dry sense of humour and your wonderful photographs. I notice several things – you don’t seem to talk about getting blisters any more, you seem to walk longer distances with greater ease. How much fitter do you feel now than when you started? I’ve now subscribed to your blog and eagerly await your next adventure.


    • Hi Linda, thank you for saying such nice things about my blog 😊
      I do still get blisters, but not as many as I used to do. I’m better at predicting where I’m going to have a problem, and stick on Compeed or equivalent before things get too bad. And, yes, I’m much fitter now from the point of view of walking. Prior to this I was quite fit, playing tennis several times a week, but you use different muscles when walking. I also try to go for longish walks at the weekend in between walking trips (8-10 miles), to keep my legs in walking shape!
      Nice to meet you and hope to have some more walks to write up soon 🙂

  10. Marie Keates says:

    I have lots of days like that. Like you I dislike walking through caravan parks. I never know if I’m really allowed or not.

  11. Karen White says:

    I love those sheep! Beautiful photos (as were those in your last post – I forgot to say).

I welcome your views

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