HALF MOON BAY, Calif., May 16, 2012 — The next time you consider a trip to Wales, don’t forget to pack your hiking boots.
The Wales Coast Path officially opened on May 5, joining many existing paths throughout the country. The 870-mile Wales Coast Path makes Wales the first country in the world to have a formal hiking trail the entire way around its coast.
Navigating from north to south on the Wales Coast Path is often as simple as keeping the water on your right. For the more difficult moments, signposts are scattered along the trail, so you come across them right about the time you’re thinking, “Which way now?”
While parts of the trail are along beautiful open space, there’s a town or city within reach in order to grab a meal or find a place to stay during a multi-day trek. Many sections of the path are easy to tackle as day walks. There are also those who choose to walk the entire trail. Wales guide Amanda Whitehead is planning three months to cover the entire distance, allowing extra time to visit sites just off the path, but she says “Two months would still be non-epic” to allow for leisurely hiking days.
On my recent trip to Wales, I didn’t have two weeks, let alone two months, but during my short visit, I followed portions of the Wales Coast Path on the Great Orme (a limestone headland near Llandudno) near Beaumaris and Moelfre on the island of Anglesey and along the Llyn Peninsula near Nant Gwrtheyrn (a former quarry village now home to a Welsh language center). Spending time in a classroom allowed me to realize that the language isn’t quite as intimidating as it looks, and I still remember a few words.
Along the north part of the Llyn Peninsula, the Wales Coast Path intersects with the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, which connects holy shrines and wells and ends at Bardsey Island. The island was a focal point for the Celtic Christian Church, and it’s believed that St. Cadfan began building a monastery there in the 6th century.
As the path runs along the north Wales coast, it veers near ancient castles, along coastal cliffs and sandy beaches, and across pastures where sheep and cows slowly shift to get out of the way. Birders linger to spot feathered life, and history buffs seek out the prehistoric Druid’s Stone Circle. And at the end of the day, a pint of ale is waiting next to a warm pub fire.
For those who need more hiking mileage than the Wales Coast Path’s 870 miles, the trail connects with Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, adding up to a total of 1,030 miles of walking opportunities around the Welsh border.
For more information and to plan your ideal trip along the Wales Coast Path, visit www.walescoastalpath.gov.uk.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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