The first leg of the Anglesey Coastal path section of the Wales Coastal Path is reasonably easy with the best sections being on Ynys Cybi and the final section between Porth Trwyn Mawr and Church Bay. The Church Bay Inn was certainly a highlight! The down sides was escaping from Holyhead (no signs – found one in town centre then nothing until we finally got off tarmac) and the huge caravan parks before Porth Trwyn Mawr.
We started off from Holyhead Station, but realised that we didn’t know which direction to take! Instinct took us through the station and over the impressive footbridge into the town centre where we found our first footpath sign pointing in the direction in which we’d come.
So back over the bridge and we found ourselves back where we’d started. A few minutes with the map and we realised where we needed to go, a right hand turning towards the roundabout and the Edinburgh Castle pub before turning left uphill and into a vaguely industrial area before finding our first waymark and finally felt as if we were on the coastal path, with Caergybi and the Dublin ferries behind us.
The whole route, not just the first day, is generally very easy to follow by keeping an eye out for the distinctive coastal path waymarks. They may take on the guise of a proper wooden finger post, or a much smaller circular identical circular emblem tacked onto a post or stile. There’s also an arrow on these that you should observe very carefully! If it points a little to the left, the contractor hadn’t imbibed a little too freely at lunchtime. No. They actually point to the direction the path takes and were by and large accurate for the whole trip. If in doubt, stop at the waymark and try and spot the next one, easy.
Of course, this being the first day and hindsight being all well and good, we were unaware of this and started to veer a little off path, but were soon on the proper route and walking on the coast proper. This first section takes in some nice enough coast, for which the cliché of ‘nice’ seems appropriate. It’s steadily along and over Traeth Penrhos, complete with sand which I’d not expected until we reached the ‘real’ coast later on!
Penrhos Coastal Park is tame, but at this stage of the walk it was a most welcome warm up, along with a burger van that obligingly pulled into the car park at Beddmanarch Bay just as we were leaving. We were tempted, but with about 20km yet to cover today (and a long lunch break in the pub anticipated!) we marched stoically onwards and across the Stanley Embankment and the Old A5. A main road is never welcome on a trip like this, but the path was wide and the leg rather short.
Short it may have been, but it became longer and suspicions rose as we approached Valley and realised we’d gone wrong somewhere. Thanks to some guy who’d parked his white van (not a value judgement, it was both a van and white at the same time) hiding the waymark.
The next section, one of many, far too many along the trip that took you along shingle or pebble shorelines. The only comfort is that it’s neither on tarmac or crossing farmland, and if you slow down your pace I found it easier going. This was all the more poignant as after just over a kilometre, we were back on tarmac for a 4.5k road yomp to cover a ‘gap’ in the path. In all fairness, the local authority appear to be trying to open a new footpath along the estuary in order to take you directly to Llanfachraeth, something they’ve already succeeded in doing along many parts. My 2006 map of the path was hopelessly outdated as they’ve opened numerous new stretches in that time.
The less said the better, and a pint in the Holland Hotel would be our prize for that thankful section. Unfortunately, it was closed and we had to make do with some drinks from the local shop instead. We cared little as we knew that the next stage would be fully coastal and we’d be at Church Bay in time for a few pints before settling in for the night. The path initially crossed some salt marshes, before some rather boggy farmland and finally a seaweedy but mostly sandy beach at Traeth y Gribin.
It was a natural lunch spot, watching the Holyhead ferries before setting off on the final leg to Church Bay. No sooner did we feel we were on a proper walk when we arrived at the manicured and well kept caravan sites at Llanfwrog. Finally, past the caravans and the jetskis (who still made an annoying appearance every now and then further up the coat), Porth Trefadog marked the point beyond the route quietened down and proceeded to become a little wilder, a process that would continue all the way to Carmel Head and beyond.
It was over a few more headlands, the few bungalows of Porth Trwyn and we arrived at Porth Swtan and camped up. Swtan refers to the thatched and whitewashed cottage next to the carpark which you can visit if it’s open. The day had seen over 25km covered, and the feet were complaining loudly, so a few pints at the Church Bay Inn were certainly welcome. This section had been an easy introduction to the walk, and while not overly spectacular, it had been pleasant and easy with the exception of the significant road walk. We were already excited in anticipation of tomorrow’s section which I expected to be the highlight of the entire walk.
I was testing out a new Nemo GOGO EX Tent that turned out to be a bivvy. This got some strange looks from the caravanners in the site, but it turned out to be a decent bit of kit with a review to follow soon.
Sleep was easy to come by, but I was occasionally awoken to the noise of the waves crashing nearby. There was a discernible background roar as well, which appeared to be the multiple waves crashing on the coves nearby (presumably!) and wasn’t something experienced further along the coast.
Onwards to Day TwoYnys Mon