224 Abersoch to Hell’s Mouth

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.

car park, Hell's Mouth, Ruth in Wales

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.

01 marina at Abersoch, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

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.

02 beach, Ruth Livingstone walking the Llyn Coastal Path

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.

03 Borth Fawr beach, Ruth walking in Abersoch, Wales

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.

04 Penrhyn Du, Abersoch, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Lleyn

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.

05 Machroes, Ruth hiking the Llyn Coastal Path, Wales

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.

06 walkers on the Wales Coast Path, above St Tudwal's Island, Ruth Livingstone

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.

07 rainstorm behind St Tudwal's Island West, Ruth walking in Wales

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.

08 wild weather, St Tudwal's Island West, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

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.

09 Porth Ceiriad, Ruth hiking the coastal path, Llyn Peninsula, Wales

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.

10 bull sign, hiking in Wales, Ruth Livingstone

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.

11 towards Trwyn Cilan, Ruth walking the Lleyn Peninsula

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.

12 near Mynydd Cilan and burial Chamber, Ruth hiking the Wales Coast 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.

13 looking across Porth Neigwl, Ruth walking the Llyn Coastal Path

A white horse looks startled to see me. Its fringe is neatly parted by the wind.

14 horse on the coastal path, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

Ahead is Porth Neigwl beach, Hell’s Mouth. It’s not far to my car now. But the sky is getting darker and darker.

15 rain over Hell's Mouth, Ruth hiking to Porth Neigwl

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.

16 path down to Hell's Mouth, Ruth hiking Porth Neigwl, Wales

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.

17 landslips, Wales coast path, Hell's Mouth, Ruth Livingstone

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.

18 ruined cottages, Hell's Mouth, Ruth walking Wales Coast

The sea foams and boils. A lone life-ring looks far from adequate. No wonder this place is called Hell’s Mouth.

19 boiling sea, Hell's Mouth, Porth Neigwl, Ruth's coastal walk

I find the sandy track that leads to the car park. A couple shuffle past me and stand, clothes billowing, facing the stormy sea.

20 beach road, Ruth hiking the Llyn Peninsula, Hell's Mouth

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

Route:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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22 Responses to 224 Abersoch to Hell’s Mouth

  1. paul Sennett says:

    What a glorious walk..and write up

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I don’t comment often but want you to know how much I enjoy following your adventure and how much I appreciate living it through you. Thank you, Ruth
    Cheryl, Seattle, WA USA

    • Oh, thank you Cheryl. I get such a boost from knowing that people like you read my blog and I hope I’ve managed to get across an impression of the walk. Maybe one day you’ll come over here and experience some of our coast for yourself 🙂

  3. Fran Clarke says:

    I’ve done this walk too, we were lucky with the weather though. Beautiful whatever the weather. I enjoyed reading your blog, had just the same reaction as you to the breeding bull sign.

  4. Sion says:

    The ruined farm buildings used to be a part of a farm known as Tyn Don Bach where my great grandparents resided. I am in my early forties and can remember the farmhouse. My grandmother could remember two fields between the farmhouse and the sea. Although it can be bleak and desolate it can also be sunny and stunning. Please return on a sunny summer’s day.🏄🏻

    Sion

    • How amazing to think your family used to live there!
      And sorry if I’ve given a bleak picture of Hells Mouth. It was just an incredibly windy, wet and cold day, and the nearest I’ve come to hypothermia! When I returned the next day it was lovely 😀

  5. gill says:

    I’m another who doesn’t comment very often but I do enjoy reading about your walks, thank you for taking the time to share. I enjoy walking myself but don’t have much time to go too far.There are so many places in the UK I’d like to visit and walk, and hearing about how you make it happen is very inspiring. I think you’re brave to walk some of the more remote areas alone, you’ve had quite a few diversions along the way and dealt with them. I should push myself to explore more on my own instead of waiting for someone to be free to walk with me!

    • Hi Gill. Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, you should definitely try some solo walks.. You can go at your own pace, think your own thoughts, and you notice much more than if distracted by chatter!

  6. I can sympathise with you about the wind & rain after experiencing it myself on the North Pembrokeshire coast but agree that the coastline is dramatic to see in these conditions. I wouldn’t like to experience it too often though!!

  7. Jean says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog Rut, and I am always really struck on your walks by how well you handle the route changes that suddenly spring up, or like this one the bus being diverted. Stunning scenery on this walk too. Lovely to see the comments from the family member who had relatives who farmed the area too.

  8. Jean says:

    Sorry I realise I have a typo Ruth

  9. babsandnancy says:

    The end of your walk sounds as dramatic weather wise as the last one of ours I wrote up! I saw on your tweet that it’s your six year anniversary of the start of your walk today. I can’t believe how far you’ve got – it’s incredibly impressive. I wish we could go more often but fitting it in around kids schedules and full time jobs is a logistical challenge before even planning the walk itself. It’s great to read where you are up to but also really interesting to read your posts for the stretches that we’re now experiencing ourselves. Thank you

    • The weather has certainly been ‘interesting’ recently 😀
      It’s difficult to fit long walking treks into a busy life, isn’t it. Luckily I am now fully retired and the only thing that keeps me at home is a bad weather forecast!

  10. theresagreen says:

    An impressive walk, great report and photographs Ruth. I applaud your determination to keep going through the worst the weather threw at you. I would probably have burst into tears of relief once I got back to the car!

  11. theresagreen says:

    Forgot to say, got the location of Bear Gryll’s holiday home wrong – he owns one of the islands off Abersoch; Carla Lane owns another!

    • Ah yes. I discovered he owns the one with the lighthouse and was in trouble recently for installing a long metal slide down to the water, without planning permission. I didn’t realise Carla Lane owned the other island.

  12. Marie Keates says:

    I’ve had a few wet and windy walks like that. It’s surprising how cold you can get so quickly. I’m glad you made it back safely,

    • I found it quite terrifying how quickly I could change from a competent walker into a shivering wreck. It was an important lesson. Thank goodness I had nearly reached my car.

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