The third rule of my coastal walk is this: I must start each walk at the point where I stopped the coastal section of my previous walk. This means I have to get back to the car park at Hell’s Mouth.
There is no direct bus to Hell’s Mouth, and the bus that goes to nearby Llanengan has been diverted. But I’ve done my research and discovered there are two buses a day that will take me from Aberdaron to a place called Saithbont. Saithbont isn’t even a village. It’s just a corner of the road, but I can walk the 2 miles from there to Hell’s Mouth. Not ideal. But the best I can do.
I drive to Aberdaron, park my car, and find the bus stop easily. I’m early.
While I wait, a fine-looking heron flaps down onto the road, and keeps me company. It seems like a good omen.
Of course, I should have realised that nothing about the bus service on the Llyn Peninsula is straight forward.
Suddenly I catch sight of a bus going past the end of the street. What? It must be the bus I need. I grab my rucksack and run but, by the time I get to the corner, the bus has disappeared down the coast road.
I’m furious and return to the bus stop to examine the timetable. There is another bus stopping here soon, but this one goes nowhere near the coast.
Or maybe it does? I pull out my map. Yes, it goes through a village called Botwnnog. That’s a mile away from Saithbont.
When the bus arrives I ask the bus driver if he will drop me off a Botwnnog. He promises to stop at the right place.
And so, eventually, I find myself walking down a narrow road that links Botwnnog with Saithbont. On the way I pass a quaint little church at a place called Llandegwning. It’s so small it looks like a toy church.
The road ends and I follow a farm track. This isn’t an official right of way, but nobody tries to stop me. Unfortunately the track is very muddy, and I’m pleased when it comes to an end.
I meet the coast path, which is doing one of its inland detours. It’s muddy too. Very muddy.
But at least I’m heading towards Hell’s Mouth although, irritatingly, I know I will have to turn around and retrace my steps as soon as I get there.
The car park comes into sight.
There’s a refreshment van parked nearby and I stop for a cup of tea and a chat. The refreshment man thinks I might be able to walk along the beach, if the tide is low enough. That would be better than retracing my route along the muddy fields.
Hell’s Mouth beach looks totally different on a calm day in the sunshine. Beautiful.
But I can see the beach ahead is already cut off by the waves. And the tide is still coming in. I walk along the top of the low cliff for a while…
… but landslides have carried the path away and I am forced to turn back and return to the car park.
By this time I’ve walked over 4 miles and got, precisely, nowhere. It’s a good job the sun is shining. It’s hard to feel aggrieved on a sunny day.
I head inland along the Wales Coast Path, retracing my steps. Past sheep fields…
… and then I decide to follow a bridleway that runs, roughly, parallel with the official path. This leads me through a farm-yard. Luckily the cattle are still penned up for the winter.
But the bridleway is disused and the local farmers have clearly decided they don’t have to maintain a right-of-way. So I’m forced to climb over locked gates. And then it takes me some time to find the coast path again.
I’m thinking uncharitable thoughts about farmers when I come across a dead lamb. The carcass of its mother lies nearby. I remember the weather yesterday and wonder if the poor things died from hypothermia.
The inland diversion is only a couple of miles, but takes a long time to navigate. The main problem is mud! I meet a couple of walkers coming towards me, but they seem in a grumpy mood – maybe it’s the mud – and barely acknowledge my greeting.
I’m relieved to reach a road. Now the walking is easy for a couple of miles.
Just before a place called Rhiw, the path turns off the road and follows a track. I’m above the end of Hell’s Mouth beach and here I sit down on the grass for a drink and a snack, and realise I’m only 3 miles away from the car park – if only I’d been able to walk along the sands!
There is a footpath down to the beach at this point, according to my map. But the path seems to have disappeared in another landslip. Perhaps it’s a good job I couldn’t walk along the beach after all, because I might not have been able to climb up the crumbled cliff.
I follow the track, which leads past holiday homes and a National Trust Property, Plas yn Rhiw. A sign points to a tea-shop. It’s tempting, but I don’t dare stop. There’s a long way to go.
Further on and the track is closed where part of the roadway has slipped down the cliff, but luckily you can still walk past the obstruction.
I climb steadily uphill. The track becomes a path. Hell’s Mouth dwindles behind me.
This is a beautiful walk through an unspoilt area of open-access land, owned by the National Trust. I enjoy it tremendously and am surprised to meet nobody else.
Finally I reach the top of the climb. Over the brow of the hill I see the countryside fall away, and in the distance is another shoreline. I’ve reached the final finger of the Llyn Peninsula. Tomorrow I’ll turn the corner and be walking along that far coast.
Now I’ve reached a beautiful headland, called Mynydd Penarfynydd, also owned by the National Trust. It makes such a difference. No sheep-trampled mud. No fences. Just a wonderful area of stony heath. I stop by the trig point…
… and use its concrete surface to balance my camera and take a self-portrait. Hell’s Mouth (or Porth Neigwl, its Welsh name) is in the background.
At the end of the headland is a pile of rocks. I climb up as high as I dare, and sit down for a rest and a snack. In the distance I can just make out the snow-capped peaks of Mount Snowdon and, further around the bay, the white top of Cader Idris. I take photographs, but the mountains are too far away and too hazy for decent shots.
Ahead of me, somewhere, is Aberdaron. But I can’t see it yet.
Mynydd Penarfynydd seems popular. Several families arrive and start climbing among the rocks. Time to go.
The coastal path turns inland once again and joins a road for a short distance, before the path dips down into a pretty cove, Porth Ysgo, before meandering along the side of the cliffs. This is a new section of coast path, opened I assume after persuading the landowners to allow walkers across their land.
The sun is low and the view ahead is too bright for photography. I turn around and take a photo looking back to Mynydd Penarfynydd
I’m walking above waterfalls, rocky outcrops, and caves: Maen Gwenonwy, Clog Cidwm, Ogof Morlo, Ogof Llwyd. Welsh is a tongue-twisting language.
When I round the next headland I can see a beach ahead and, finally, Aberdaron in the distance.
I would have liked to climb down to the beach, but the cliffs are too high. Instead, the path turns inland and I come to a place where the farmer, obviously nervous of marauding walkers, has fenced off his fields on both sides. This creates a narrow track. And here I meet a tiny lamb.
The lamb panics when it sees me and runs down the track, bleating plaintively. I walk as slowly and quietly as I can, but it keeps bounding ahead of me. Meanwhile, sheep in the fields on the other side are reacting to its bleats. There is a cacophony of sound: hundreds of ewes and lambs are trying to find each other.
The track continues for a few hundred yards. I walk past several different fields. The lamb is still running ahead, bleating mournfully, and only stops when we come to a gate.
I shoo the lamb back down the path. My feet are tired, but how will this little baby ever find its mother again? I feel I have no choice but to drive it back to where I found it. There is no obvious way through the fence, and I don’t dare lift it over in case I put it in the wrong field. So I just have to leave it and hope for the best.
Walking back, I discover a recently dead lamb on the other side of the gate. Terribly sad. I wonder if, like my little lamb, it had got onto the path and ended up here, unable to find its mother. Without milk it would have died of starvation.
It strikes me the farmers are to blame. If they simply let walkers amble across their fields, instead of fencing us off, the lambs wouldn’t have been trapped and separated from their mums.
The path joins a road and I see a young man lurking in a hedge. I feel a pang of unease, until I realise he’s got the giggles.
Turns out he’s been trying to help his father drive some sheep down the road. But the sheep had other ideas, have turned off into a driveway, and are currently rampaging through somebody’s garden. The farmer is trying to round them up and has left his abandoned vehicle sitting in the road.
I pass a narrow valley where a group of cattle are huddled in the mud. They look so miserable! Obviously it was too early to let them out.
The road swings round a curve and heads downhill towards Aberdaron. I take a photo of the approach to the town – and the double-roofed church perched above the sea.
The light is low in the sky and I’m tired, having walked further than I planned today. It’s time to find my car.
Miles walked today = 17 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 739 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,346 miles