I park in the deserted beach car park at Porth Neigwl, otherwise known as Hell’s Mouth. On this sunny morning the name seems incongruous.
Buses are scarce in this part of the Llyn Peninsula, and I walk 1/2 mile inland to the tiny village of Llanengan, in order to catch the first of only two buses a day into Abersoch, where I plan to re-start my coastal walk.
But a sign at the bus stop tells me the bus route has been temporarily re-routed and the bus won’t be calling at Llanengan after all. ‘Sorry for the inconvenience,’ says the sign. Inconvenient? It’s a disaster!
I have no choice except to walk along the road into Abersoch. It’s a 2 mile journey, added onto the 1/2 mile I’ve already walked. Luckily the roads are quiet. The re-routed bus overtakes me just as I reach the outskirts of the town.
Abersoch is pretty and my spirits lift. I take a photograph of the little harbour.
The first section of the walk takes me round a headland, through residential areas and past boatyards. Every patch of spare land seems to have been turned into overpriced public car parks by opportunistic landowners.
The views looking north over the bay are lovely. There is the headland of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd and the long sands of Warren Beach, where I walked on the previous day of my coastal trek.
I meet a couple of women carrying hefty backpacks. They are trying to reach Warren Beach, but I explain they must walk along the road first. (Giving other walkers directions is a rare event and makes me feel like a professional coastal trekker!)
Rounding the headland, I reach the beach south of Abersoch, called Borth Fawr. It’s popular with families. The official coast path runs inland, behind the dunes, but the tide is low and I hope I can walk all the way along the beach, despite some impressive-looking wooden groynes at the far end.
Luckily, I make it without meeting an insurmountable obstruction. And take a photograph looking back.
Ahead is the point of Penrhyn Du, with a building (a private house?) perched on the end. Now the beach comes to an end and I must leave the sands and walk along a track over the low cliffs.
I never do get to the point, which appears to be private property. Instead, my track turns inland. Its surface is rutted and churned, presumably due to all the heavy rain that’s fallen this winter. I’m not surprised to see a sign saying the road is closed.
The path cuts inland, bypassing Penryhn Du, to reach the shore again just past the point. Here I follow a particularly lovely stretch of coast, climbing high above the sea. Apart from walking into a brutal wind, I really enjoy this section. Gorse is flowering. The sea is blue. And the mountains of Snowdonia form a rim in the background.
I’m not surprised to meet several groups of walkers. It’s only surprising that I have met so few before. The Lyn Peninsula is a glorious place and yet it seems virtually unknown.
Out to sea are two islands – St Tudwal’s Island East and St Tudwal’s Island West. One has the remains of a ruined priory (according to my map). The other has a lighthouse. In the distance I watch a storm as it races across the sea.
When I reach the next headland I meet the full force of the gale. The waves are whipped up by the wind and crash against the rocks.
Turning the corner of the headland, and blown sideways by the wind, I come across another beach. Porth Ceiriad. It’s much more remote than the one I’ve just left, and surrounded by impressive cliffs.
I would like to go down to look at the beach, but the wind is sapping my energy and I know it’s only a matter of time before some of the many rain clouds come scurrying my way. So I stick to the higher ground.
After walking through a field full of sheep, I’m surprised to find a warning notice that applies to the field I’ve just crossed.
‘CAUTION. BREEDING BULL.’
I look back. No evidence of a bull. Farmers often put up these notices, perhaps to deter walkers. In this case somebody has added their own thoughts to the sign.
I become aware of a couple of walkers behind me. I’m a slow walker, but I’m not keen on being overtaken, so I pick up speed.
The Wales Coast Path used to come inland at this point, but has been rerouted to stick more closely to the coast. I’m so pleased. This is a great walk, marred only a little by the blowing gale that makes every step hard work.
A couple of elderly walkers (in the photo above) remark it’s harder coming up than down. I remind them it’s harder walking into the wind.
Further along and I reach a place where there is a burial chamber marked on my map. A man and a boy are coming down the hill. I wonder if they’ve been to visit it? But I feel too tired to go exploring off the path.
I round another headland – Trwyn Cilan – and the wind is blowing behind me now, pushing me along. I should be pleased, but I see ominous rain clouds filling the sky with their dark bulks.
A white horse looks startled to see me. Its fringe is neatly parted by the wind.
Ahead is Porth Neigwl beach, Hell’s Mouth. It’s not far to my car now. But the sky is getting darker and darker.
I stop for a snack lunch, perching on a rock on the inside of a shallow quarry, to escape the wind. But no sooner have I opened my snack box… when the rain comes down. I take a few bites and pack up my lunch again, stow my camera away, fix the waterproof cover over my rucksack and pull up my jacket hood.
Just in time. The rain pelts down, driven sideways by the wind.
The next part of the walk is dramatic, with the path narrowing and sloping down the side of a steep cliff. The waves of Hell’s Mouth thunder below. The wind tugs me first one way and then the other. The path becomes rocky and treacherous, and I have to wade through a couple of small streams that splash over my feet.
During a brief lull in the rainstorm, and on one of the easier sections of the path, I can’t resist pulling out my camera and taking a photograph. But a static shot doesn’t capture the drama of the weather.
At the bottom of the slope, the path follows the top of a low cliff. By now the rain has whipped up again, driving horizontally in from the sea. My trousers are soaked and I feel the familiar and unpleasant sensation of rainwater seeping down my legs and into the tops of my boots, while my waterproof jacket seems to have turned into wet sponge.
I’ve walked further than I planned this morning, and my lunch was only a nibble. The cold wind has exhausted me and now I’m soaking wet. I begin to shiver.
Even worse, the path suddenly disappears. There has been a landslip. I look for another way round but there are barbed wire fences to my landward side, and water filled ditches. I realise I have no choice and must go down onto the beach.
The cliffs are only low and you would think it would be an easy climb down, but the soil was soft and crumbling – now it’s turned into clay, sticky and slippery with rain.
I make my way down the cliff with difficulty, using my hands and forced to do the occasional bum shuffle. Now I’m not only soaking wet, but covered in mud.
Ahead the beach of Hell’s Mouth looks bleak. Ruined farm buildings add to the dismal atmosphere. Spray from the waves is tossed up by the wind and drifts inland as mist.
The sea foams and boils. A lone life-ring looks far from adequate. No wonder this place is called Hell’s Mouth.
I find the sandy track that leads to the car park. A couple shuffle past me and stand, clothes billowing, facing the stormy sea.
A few seconds later a surfer passes me, dressed in a wet suit, heading for the shore. I wonder how long he will manage to stay out there? But I don’t hang around to find out. My teeth are chattering, my hands are stiff with the cold, and I feel chilled to the core.
It takes me some time to find the car keys buried in my rucksack. My brain seems to have gone as numb as my hands.
I’ve never been so relieved to get back into my car. And also relieved to remember I’ve brought a towel. But it takes me 20 minutes to stop shivering, despite the towel and my car being blessed with heated seats. It’s a lesson to me on the dangers of hypothermia. I’m so used to walking in the winter, I’ve grown complacent.
Miles walked today = 12 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 722 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,329 miles