The man strode up the hilly path toward us, clearly with a purpose in mind. “I was just attacked by a buzzard,” he said calmly. “He only swooped at me once, though. Last year when I was walking on this path, buzzards were swooping at me for about an hour.” Passing through a gantlet of swooping buzzards didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but we couldn’t turn back now. My husband, Ed, and I were walking along the new Wales Coast Path, which runs 870 miles around the compact country’s coastline. We were about 10 miles into an 18-mile day, and it looked like it was going to rain any minute. We had to push on, apparently right into buzzard territory. Thanking the man for his warning, we marched on.
Sheets of rain soon began to fall, but when we finally reached the buzzards, they weren’t interested in toying with hikers any longer. Thank goodness. But even if they had done a little swooping, it wouldn’t have dimmed our enthusiasm for the hike.
In Your Bucket Because
- The Wales Coast Path links up with Offa’s Dyke Path, which runs along the Welsh-English border, meaning you can hike around the entire country’s 1,030-mile perimeter.
- The scenery is gorgeous.
- Good for families, outdoors enthusiasts, nature buffs.
Opened in 2012
If you’ve never given much thought to the Welsh coastline, hopefully their new Coast Path will change that. Running along the Irish Sea, the path offers hikers stunning coastal views: cliffs, crags, sandy beaches, hidden waterfalls and more, coupled with an incredible variety of flora and fauna. It also runs through picturesque, colorful seaside towns and past ancient castles as it winds its way through two national parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 11 National Nature Reserves and 23 sites on the Register of Historic Landscapes.
Although the Coast Path was officially unveiled in May 2012, it isn’t entirely new. Certain areas of the country had already created public walking paths along their coastlines, namely the Pembrokeshire and Anglesey Island regions. Then, in 2007, the government decided to open up the entire coast to the public by patching together these segments, and the Wales Coast Path was born.
Picking a Path
So where to begin? The path is divided into eight geographical sections. Not surprisingly, the views and terrain can differ dramatically depending on which stretch you hike. Ed and I tackled the Ceredigion section in Wales’ middle coast, which is fairly strenuous — the often-narrow footpaths wind up steep cliffs and then down into secluded bays over and over again. The payback for all your work? Incredible scenery. How can you beat rocky cliffs that plunge into the sea, waves rumbling onto slate beaches, heather-covered uplands and fields upon fields of purple foxglove?
Of course, all of the sections sound stunningly beautiful. Before you set out, read descriptions of them all and see which suits your tastes and abilities. Then strap on your boots and go. Hopefully, the buzzards will ignore you.
- July and August are the best months to walk, although they also tend to be the most crowded. Spring and fall can also be nice.
- It rains a lot in Wales, so always be prepared with rain gear.
- Depending on which section you’re walking along, the terrain can be quite steep. Trekking poles are helpful.
- Plenty outfitters offer walking packages, and more are opening all the time. If you’ll be walking several days in a row, there are also various services available to ferry your bags ahead to your next night’s lodging.