Updated: Nov 19, 2019
A mentally challenging few days as I start the 2nd half of my 600 mile walk. Passing beautiful beaches such as Mwnt and Llangrannog, quaint villages and towns like Aberporth and Aberaeron I find myself feeling lonely and it’s a tough week to keep my head high.
What a beautiful day! Feeling rested after an evening of good food and company (local Parkinson’s support group), as well as a lovely, soft bed, I was ready to start the day. Coming out of Cardigan Bay, the low tide brings bobbing boats to a stand as they rest on the shallow sea beds. It’s a beautiful area, and the town seems a friendly, happy place to live.
Our first standout moment of the day was Mwnt Beach, a fantastic little cove that is protected from the full force of the Irish Sea. I sat on my little stool for half an hour looking for signs of dolphins, as they are known to often be in the area. Alas none came to say hello so I carried on North toward Aberporth, keeping an eye out across the sea.
My days are spent watching wildlife as I walk, most too quick and too far away to capture any decent footage on my phone. Small kestrels, buzzards and sea birds galore! I’ve encountered many bugs, frogs and rabbits (which Tegwen tries to chase right next to cliff edges). It’s all part of being in the country and it’s a great distraction from the long walk, allowing me to take 5 minute breaks to watch nature at play.
I arrive in Aberporth and meet many dog walkers on the beach. We have brief conversations and some are even kind enough to then donate to my cause. I spend far too long checking emails and writing blog stuff in the local pub, I’ve only got a few miles to go till camp but I didn’t factor in the massive hill I had to climb just before my campsite! Not what you want to be doing at the end of your day.
Arriving at my campsite, Fforest Coast, it is deserted as it has already closed for winter. It is a lovely place but the emptiness brings about a bout of loneliness as I routinely set up my tent and start cooking. Normally I’d be offered a cup of tea by a friendly Jenny or get chatting to other campers but instead I’m surrounded by a dense woodland, sitting alone in a narrow valley and it’s started to rain. After a long day’s walk and with the thought of only just passing halfway of my journey, I feel far away from my finish line and the people I love. I’ve on the whole been felt quite positive since starting the walk but tonight, I admit, I fall asleep with a few tears shed.
Waking up to rain after another bad night’s sleep doesn’t kickstart any motivation engines, making breakfast and putting the tent away is a wet event. I push through 3 miles up and over the headland to arguably one of Wales’s most beautiful beaches, Llangrannog. It has multiple coves, surrounded by fern filled hills and is overlooked by a quaint village with a few pubs to view the beach from. Most notably the popular Pentre Inn where I stopped off for a drink to dry off.
There are several well known beaches and sights along the Welsh coast but for every stand out beach like Barafundle Bay or Llangrannog, there are numerous small beaches and views that are equally breathtaking and worthy of a mention, they just don’t have a name. They are wild, untamed and emit a sense of wonder as they are always unexpected, I’d recommend you to walk the Welsh coast just to experience these..
I finally arrive at Newquay hoping to catch a glimpse of some dolphins. I waited a half hour, the most I could spare if I was to finish my day before it was dark. But once again they alluded me, I had raised my hopes and it left me a little disappointed.
My last stop of the day is Aberaeron and the weight of the day, the wet humid clothing I’m wearing and setting my tent up in the dark leaves me in a self-defeated state again. This challenge I set myself wasn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows, I knew that, but at the end of a long, tiring day it’s hard to be rational. Fortunately I have a wonderful Mum who messages to remind me how far I’ve already come and how proud she is of me. This helps lift my spirits and allows me to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
Thank the Lord! A dry morning. I was eager to start my weekend so I packed up quickly and had one last look around town to see the colourful, Georgian style houses of Aberaeron in daylight.
Today’s walk is relatively flat, unlike the ups and downs of Pembrokeshire, it gives less to a dramatic scenery but instils a sense of calm as you see your path stretched out in front. The day doesn’t have too many ‘wow’ moments but Aberystwyth is my goal and that’s all I care about for today.
The most common question I’m asked about my journey is ‘What do you do whilst walking for so long?’. People expect it to be boring or monotonous but this walk has been very much like my travels, in such that it gives me time to reflect. We all face challenges in our lives, whether it’s in your social life, your work or your ambitions, after travelling I always come back charged, ready with ideas and solutions to many aspects of my life. My day is also filled with beautiful sights at every corner, so I’m often appreciating that, or I’m keeping an eye out for Tegwen so she doesn’t roll in poo. You’ve then got food breaks, adjusting your bag, briefly walking with other hikers and then campsite chores to keep you busy until it’s time for bed.
I finally reach my Airbnb which will be home for the weekend, offered graciously by my host Helen for free, in support of my walk. It’s cosy and warm, I spend the rest of my evening eating all my home comforts from M&S and watching films. I don’t even feel guilty about not exploring the town, I know my body needs rest and I eat my way into a peaceful slumber.
REST DAY! After a full 12 hours sleep, I felt somewhat rested, although I could have stayed in bed all day!
Aberystwyth is a historic market town that’s easily walkable, it’s full of independent cafes, restaurants and shops catering to both a large student population and families. It’s a great jumping point for the rest of Ceredigion and offers amenities for those less inclined towards rural holidays.
I meandered into town to meet some rugby friends who were in Wales for a short holiday, we met in a very dog-friendly cafe ’Sophie Bach Tea Room’. Sophie was super pleasant and perfect for dog lovers. In fact, the Welsh coast in general has been dog-friendly, with most pub signs and many shops making it clear that dogs are welcome.
I am later joined by my sister Sarah, her Fiancé Caolan and my Dad Phil. I guess to some degree, during my week of walking, I do feel a sense of loneliness. The Welsh people are inviting and easy to talk to, I meet and speak with bartenders, hikers and campsite staff but that doesn’t compare to being with loved ones. The stresses of my week melt away as we walk around town catching up, we spend the evening laughing, eating and drinking. It’s the perfect recipe for a rest day.
The day is spent eating so much! My normal diet during my walking day is porridge, sultanas and almond milk (as I’m lactose intolerant) for breakfast, during the day I have 2 tuna baps, along with some cereal bars and bananas. My evening is then pasta from a bag or if I’m feeling too lazy to cook I’ll treat myself to a pub meal, where I find the comfiest chair I can find to read my book. It’s pretty monotonous but requires little effort and is the lightest option for an already heavy bag!
Is it really week 4?! Now that it’s my last 2 weeks, where I’m closer to home and family, I feel re-energised and excited to make the most of the final chapter of my walk. It’s a wet and windy start to the day and so I fill myself up on a big breakfast. I find that it makes a big difference if you haven’t eaten properly, you start lagging much earlier in the day. It’s a conscious effort to eat so much but you want your body to be on best form when walking so far.
Heading round the headland north of Aberystwyth, we battle through strong gusts and wet weather. Normally a pleasant seaside town, Borth looks miserable and grey. Despite walking next to the sea and with Tegwen’s fondness to swim, today she stays well clear and tries to keep as dry as she can. I don’t blame her!
We make our way up the estuary, a full 12 miles away from the sea towards Machynlleth. It’s frustrating to walk so far from the sea when you’re supposed to be walking the ‘Coastal Path’. Even more so when you can see Aberdyfi only a couple hundred metres across the water, where you’ll be arriving the following day.
Arriving in friendly Machynlleth, the centre point of the market town welcomes you with a tall, stone clocktower. We don’t stay long as I’m joining my sister at the Centre for Alternative Technology which is dedicated to demonstrating and teaching sustainable development. Coincidentally she starts her masters the day that I’m in the area and I’m able to sleep in a warm bed for another night. Entering the centre requires taking a small train which works on the principle of ‘Water balancing’. It’s an inspirational place, which has demonstrations on sustainable architecture, farming and energy. I fully recommend a visit!
Walk it yourself?
Rating - 4*
Why? - With a more gentle landscape in comparison to Pembrokeshire, the views are still spectacular. With several beautiful beaches and common Dolphin sightings what’s not to like! The stretch before Aberystwyth may be a little tedious for some but the town offers a lively atmosphere to enjoy and feel young in as it’s lifted by the large student presence.
Highlights - Mwnt beach, Aberporth, Llangrannog beach, Newquay, Aberaeron, Aberystwyth
Tom’s Tip - The day’s walk before Aberystwyth isn’t all too exciting, although is still quite pretty. All of this walk if mostly following the coast and the challenging mini valleys from Cardigan to Newquay are great fun and offer some fantastic views. Do as little and as much as you wish, every small village and town is connected by local transport.
Accommodation - Small guest houses are find in most villages and towns along the way. More so in Cardigan and Aberystwyth.
Travel - Train stations are found all down the west coast of Wales, along with buses you’ll have no problem getting around.