Unfortunately, the bus driver doesn’t understand my pronunciation of Abergwyngregyn, so I’m reduced to saying ‘the next village please’. We hurtle along the A55, The North Wales Expressway, before veering off into Abermumblewhatever.
I walk out of the village and pass a police car parked on the verge of a deserted country lane in the middle of nowhere. What rural crime have I committed? I try not to look guilty, wondering why police cars always have that effect on me. Half a mile later I discover I’m going the wrong way and turn back, only to discover the police car is still there. Is it just my imagination, or does the officer give me a long, hard stare?
I wander around Abergwyngregyn for a while, until I finally work out how to cross the A55 and find the coast road. This means I have to pass close to the police car – yet again.
After such a bad start, I’m feeling lonely and missing my hubby – and so I’m pleasantly surprised to find a companion on the road, even if it is only a rather cheeky sheep.
He (or she) decides to follow me. I remember the policeman and wonder if I’m going to be accused of sheep rustling. Luckily the animal soon loses interest in me and starts munching on the leaves of a particularly tasty bush.
It’s a dismal morning, spitting rain and with low clouds covering the hills. But I’m happy to reach the nature reserve of Morfa Aber, where I parked my car yesterday, and pleased to be back on the shore again.
I soon realise this section of the coast consists of a number of interconnected nature reserves, all linked via the coastal path. After leaving Morfa Aber I come to Morfa Madryn.
I’m walking with my big green umbrella. It’s a little hard to control in the breeze, but I manage to take a self-portrait beside another nature reserve at Glan y Môr Elias.
The next nature reserve is not marked on my map, but a sign says it’s called Traeth Lafan. [Later I learn Traeth Lafan is a new area of low-lying land, formed from the debris created when the tunnels carrying the A55 were excavated. I will reach those tunnels all-too soon.]
Another sign tells me I must keep off the spit of new land, called Shell Island, during the bird breeding season between March and August. I don’t fancy walking there anyway. It looks very muddy.
Inland the marsh is covered in green and puddled with pools of brown water. Wild flowers dot the landscape. It’s really very attractive – for a swamp.
It stops raining. I begin to meet dog walkers and soon reach a firm promenade. Marsh gives way to a mix of sand and rocks. Groynes – in advanced stages of decay – march across the beach. Ahead is the Great Orme, still looking like an island.
The promenade leads to an area of parkland, a boating lake, and a village tucked under the steep slope of a hill.
Assuming I’ve reached the village of Penmaenmawr, where I was planning to have lunch, I’m surprised to find I’m well ahead of schedule. I stop for a meal in a decrepit looking café, where the food takes a long time to arrive but turns out to be nicer than the décor.
During lunch, I pull out my map and realise my mistake. I’ve only reached Llanfairfechan, not Penmaenmawr, which is still 3 miles away.
The seafront is attractive, with painted houses and an open area of greenery…
… but I soon have to turn inland, passing under a railway bridge and walking through residential streets.
Llanfairfechan seems rather a sad place. Houses that once would have enjoyed a sea view now overlook the thundering traffic along the A55. The hill above (called Penmaen Mawr) doesn’t even lend its name to the village it overshadows, but gives it to the village on the other side instead. Yet the hill dominates as a dark presence and today its peak is cloaked by low-hanging clouds.
The noise of traffic grows louder. I see the mouths of tunnels ahead and here the coast path crosses over the twin lanes of the A55 via metal bridges.
A plaque commemorates the opening of these bridges – Pen-y-clip pedestrian/cycle bridges – in July 2009. Only 7 years ago. I wonder how you walked the coast before?
[Later, I discover that in 2003 David Cotton walked through one of the tunnels, along a pavement beside the road, when he walked this section.]
The cycle path runs upwards and then along the side of the hill, giving great views over the sea. It’s a pleasant route, away from the thunder of the road, with wild flowers colonising the walls on either side. Surprisingly I meet nobody else up here. No walkers. No cyclists.
Rounding the corner of the headland, the path dips down to join the road again for a short while. Ahead is another hill called, Foel Lus, with its top covered in clouds, and the village of Penmaenmawr lies below.
There is an alternative route you can follow for the Wales Coast Path. The alternative way heads inland from Llanfairfechan, meets up with its old friend, the North Wales Path, and climbs over the hills to Conwy. But I have chosen the path that sticks closest to the shore. And, looking up at the cloud-covered peaks, I think it was probably a wise choice.
After reaching another ruined residential street, the path takes me down and under the A55 (what a roar!) and then over the railway, before leading down to the shore again.
I meet my first cyclist of the day. And have a good view of the Great Orme, which doesn’t look so big from here.
(When I was young I stayed in Llandudno when my family flew over from the Caribbean to spend a summer in Britain. In my memory the Great Orme was huge. What happened? Has it shrunk?)
I reach Penmaenmawr and walk along a wide pavement.
It’s attractive and I love the waterfall and the bunting, but is there anything sadder than a deserted paddling pool?
Penmaenmawr does, however, have an excellent graffiti wall, although the art work is clearly properly designed and commissioned. It advertises a skate park.
Beyond Penmaenmawr the official path/cycle route turns inland to run along the landward side of the railway line, but I choose to stick close to the sea, walking along a path that eventually peters out at a slipway.
I climb down to the beach, hoping I’ll be able to find a way back up and over the railway line a little further along. The map suggests there is a footbridge at a place called Dwygyfylchi.
It’s a wonderful stretch of sand, rippled by the waves. After a mile I’m relieved to see there actually is a bridge over the line. There it is, to the right of the photo below.
I cross over the bridge and rejoin the cycle route.
It’s hard to say anything nice about this section of the walk. The traffic noise is unpleasant. The pavement is hard beneath my feet. Everything is brick and concrete. Or metal. But at least I don’t have to walk through the tunnel, as the cycle route leads up and around the outside of the cliff.
The hill the path winds around is called Penmaen-bach, a smaller twin to Penmaen Mawr. I think it may be possible to walk around via the beach, if the tide is low, but I’m not sure.
On the other side of Penmaen-bach, the path dips down to run alongside the road for a few hundred yards, before crossing over the railway line via another footbridge.
The cycle way sticks to the higher land, but I climb down a low bank of dunes and walk along the beach. Ahead is a glorious two-mile stroll along soft sand.
Looking back, I take a photograph of the clouds dropping rain behind me, just over the lumpy shoulder of Penmaen-bach Point. Now, I can see the tide has covered the sands below the headland. Good job I didn’t try to walk around via that beach today.
This stretch of beach curves around to meet the Afon Conwy. It’s hard to tell when seashore turns into river bank; the sand remains bright and clean but becomes very soft and my feet sink with each step.
Across the other side of the estuary is a built-up strip bordering the shore. Daganwy, it’s called, merging seamlessly with neighbouring Llandudno Junction.
Halfheartedly, I had considered extending my walk across the bridge at Conwy to the other side of the estuary, but the effort of walking through the soft sand reminds me of something. I’ve managed to forget about my painful leg for most of the day, but now it’s grumbling again as I grow tired.
I reach a car park. It’s nearly 5pm. Somebody is packing up a kayak. Other people are arriving to walk their dogs. I sit at a picnic bench for a rest and a snack.
Beyond the car park I’m on hard surfaces again, making my way around the marina. It’s stuffed full of boats and the houses by the water look reasonably new. Quite a prosperous place, I decide, compared to Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula.
After a short stretch of road walking, I find a walkway that runs around by the shore, skirting an area of parkland called Bodlondeb Wood, another National Trust Property.
It’s a very pleasant – and popular – walking route. After about a mile, I round a bend and see Conwy castle ahead. An impressive sight.
The light is fading, Conwy is bustling with visitors, and I’m tiring. Time to stop walking.
I ask a couple the way to the nearest bus stop is. They turn out to be American tourists and haven’t a clue. I head for the railway station, knowing I’m likely to find a bus stop there… and I’m right.
It’s been a day of interesting and contrasting scenery, and another reasonably long walk. I’m pleased my painful leg continues to improve.
Additional info: I’ve assembled a collection of photos of the graffiti wall on my other walking blog, Ruthless Ramblings.Graffiti in Penmaenmawr
Miles walked today = 13.5 miles
Wales Coast Path so far = 1,010.5 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,517.5 miles