I leave Portmeirion behind and rejoin the Wales Coast Path. It follows a somewhat tortuous route around the perimeter of the village.
The wonderful thing about this area of Wales is the wealth of footpaths and bridleways to choose from. I climb a hill and come to a crossroads with a signpost, and wish I had time to go off and explore other walks.
But I spent longer in Portmeirion than I anticipated and need to get on with my coastal route. From the high ground on top of the hill I get a great view of the Afon Glaslyn, with the causeway that leads to Porthmadog.
While to my right is a wonderful view of Snowdon.
I work my way down the hill, through fields full of sheep and baby lambs. It looks like the farmer is fed up with lost walkers rambling through his land and has added some homemade signs to a gate.
The hillside becomes wooded and the path leads into a track that curves down the side of the slope, heading towards the river valley.
I really enjoy this section of the walk. To my right, among the trees, I hear a drilling sound. Workmen? No a woodpecker. I catch a brief glimpse of it flying around, but don’t manage a photo.
At the bottom of the hill, the path crosses a railway line. This is Boston Lodge Halt and part of the same Ffestiniog line as the Minffordd station I came across earlier. Nearby are some engineering sheds where carriages and engines are serviced and repaired.
I join the A497 and follow a joint walking/cycle pathway alongside the road as it runs across a causeway. I’ve lost the sea view, but to my right is an expansive plain of marshland, threaded through with water ways and with a wonderful mountainous backdrop. On the far side of the plain is a large quarry.
The causeway is a mile in length, but seems longer. Although the path is shielded from the road, I can hear the constant rush of traffic on my left. The railway line also runs close the path, and I wonder if a train might pass by. But there seems to be nothing running on the line today.
At the end of the causeway stands an impressive wooden figure. It’s a tribute to William Maddocks, who built the causeway in 1811.
Also at the end of the causeway is the Harbour Station and the end of the Ffestiniog line. I stop and have lunch at the station café, eating it outside in the sunshine in my t-shirt. Not bad weather for mid March!
Next weekend is Easter weekend, and the whole of West Wales seems to be in a frenzy of preparation for the start of the holiday season. There are people painting windows, men on scaffolding, hammering and banging everywhere.
I walk along the harbour, wondering who owns all the smart yachts in the water. The locals don’t seem particularly affluent.
The path follows a street that passes behind the back of shipyards, chandlers shops, marine storage areas, etc. I see a giant crane lifting a yacht out of a yard. Yes, everyone is getting ready for the summer season.
Further along is a lovely cove, name unclear on my map. Borth-y-Gest?
And then the path meanders along wooded slopes. Through the trees I catch glimpses of rocks and little beaches below.
I reach a place where the path ahead is closed, and a sign says the route has been diverted. The map displayed is far from helpful. Am I at point A or C? I pull out my OS map and my Garmin, but still can’t make sense of the information. There is no scale and no indication of where I am now.
I follow the diverted route, but soon lose the waymarks, and meander aimlessly through a camp site until I eventually hit a road. I seem to be miles away from sea. Am I still following the diversion? I don’t know. There are no clear signs.
After walking along the road for a while, I come across a lane which is promisingly called ‘Beach Road’. After a mile, the road turns into a track, and then… I’m back on the shore and standing on the edge of an amazing beach.
This is Black Rock Sands. I have the thrill of leaving the only footprints on this part of the beach as I walk along virgin sand, close to the waves.
Inland are dunes, the occasional glimpse of a holiday chalet, and behind are the mountains. The beach is a couple of miles long and virtually deserted, apart from the odd car and dog walker.
At the far end of the sands I turn inland and follow a minor road as it leads up to the high ground of a headland. I walk past fields of sheep with their new lambs. They are very noisy, filling the air with their bleats as they constantly call to each other.
When I reach the top of the hill, I have a wonderful view across the sunlit dune system and back along the beach. In the distance is the far bank of the estuary and sands of the Morfa Harlech nature reserve. .
I follow a track through farmland and down the other side the headland. I’m walking into the west, with the sun in my eyes, so photography is difficult. But I do manage to catch a shot of the little train as it rumbles past.
My path joins the railway. This isn’t the Ffestiniog line, but part of the national railway network. In the golden light of the afternoon, everything – including the tracks – is coloured russet and tinted with gold. It’s beautiful and slightly surreal, like something out of the American west.
I’m on the edge of another area of reclaimed wetland. And I can’t believe this is Wales in March. It’s beautiful.
Blinded by the low sun ahead, I have to turn around to take photographs. Behind me the view is pretty impressive.
I wish I could say the approach to Criccieth was beautiful. The path narrows and I become sandwiched between fences…
… before eventually emerging onto the promenade. The sun is sinking behind me and the view to the east is wonderful, with the clouds just beginning to turn pink.
Criccieth has a castle in an impressive position on a promontory. I walk through the town in the dusky light.
It takes me a while to find the station, where my car is parked. I’m tired but deeply happy. It’s been another glorious day of walking.
More information on the Porthmadog Causeway:
William Maddocks built the crossing to Porthmadog, called The Cob, and it was completed in 1811. He introduced a toll, which The Maddocks family collected for over 150 years. An act of parliament set the cost of a car crossing at one shilling (5p). In 1978, the causeway was bought by a charity called the Rebecca Trust, who continued to collect the 5p toll and distributed the monies to local charities.
25 years later, as people were fed up with the terrible queues that formed as a result of the toll booth, the Welsh Assembly Government finally bought The Cob and abolished the toll. The last 5p was collected on Saturday, 29th March 2003.
Miles walked today = 14 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 686 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,293 miles