How to walk the Pembrokeshire section of the path by public transport
A practical guide with useful hints and tips by...
A practical guide with useful hints and tips by Vivienne Crow
Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer and photographer. She has written more than 20 guidebooks including two of the official guides to the Wales Coast Path.
The idea of moving on to new accommodation every day might put some people off walking the Wales Coast Path, but using public transport opens up the possibility of completing long stretches of it from just one or two bases. I’ve done it myself on some sections of the trail, including in Ceredigion, and I’ve always found it enjoyable and surprisingly easy. The T5 bus from Aberystwyth to Cardigan formed the key to this, with the 512 bus (and trains) providing links with the northern part of the trail.
The Ceredigion Coast Path runs for 60 miles (96km) from the Dyfi estuary in the north to Cardigan (Aberteifi) in the south – the central part of the coastline that hugs the massive Cardigan Bay.
I’d recommend breaking down this section of the Wales Coast Path into at least five days’ walking: Ynyslas or Borth to Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth to Llanon, Llanon to New Quay (Ceinewydd), New Quay to Aberporth, and Aberporth to Cardigan (Aberteifi).
Because of its good transport links and the wide range of accommodation available, you might want to consider staying in Aberystwyth if you’re planning to use public transport to complete this section of the trail. That’s exactly what I did, arriving in the vibrant university town on a direct train from Wolverhampton. There’s something here to suit most budgets, including luxury hotels, budget hotels, a hostel, guesthouses and B&Bs of all shapes and sizes, a bunkhouse, self-catering cottages, seafront apartments and campsites. And, at the end of a long day’s walking, I found there was no shortage of restaurants and pubs in which to refuel and relax.
Other than on the first two days, staying in Aberystwyth to complete the Ceredigion section of the trail involved catching buses at the beginning and end of each day. With the T5 service starting early and finishing late in the afternoon, daily except Sunday, this is perfectly achievable. To check times, use the route planner on the Traveline Cymru website.
There’s also the option of dividing the route into more than five days by breaking the stages at Llanrhystud, Aberarth and Aberaeron, all of which are served by the T5. The longest single journey, Aberystwyth to Cardigan, is one hour and 48 minutes.
I really enjoyed my long bus trips – they gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery from a different perspective and, on the return journeys, reflect on the day I’d just had – but if you’d rather not spend so long on the buses, you could choose two or even three different bases. Accommodation options are good in Aberaeron, the seaside resorts of New Quay and Aberporth, and in Cardigan, the jumping-off point for the next part of the Wales Coast Path – through Pembrokeshire. Between Cardigan and New Quay, as well as the T5 service, there’s the option of the Cardi Bach coastal village bus service (number 552) which runs throughout the year, stopping at Aberporth, Tresaith, Llangrannog and Cwmtydu.
The suggested itinerary below is based on five days’ walking, staying each night in Aberystwyth:
Purists walking the full Ceredigion Coast Path, like I did, need to catch the 512 bus to Ynyslas and start their day from the Dyfi National Nature Reserve visitor centre in the dunes on the south side of the Dyfi. The official Wales Coast Path, on the other hand, is joined at Borth, also on the route of the 512, or a 15-minute train journey from Aberystwyth. (Starting the day at Borth cuts the total distance to 6 miles/10km.)
Beyond Borth, the coast path heads out along the top of rugged cliffs, providing walkers with a taste of things to come as the views south open up. The clifftop walking ends at Constitution Hill, home to Aberystwyth’s famous funicular railway and its camera obscura.
There’s lots to see on the walk out of Aberystwyth. This is, after all, the largest town on Cardigan Bay, and one with a long history. There’s the oldest pier in Wales, the mile-long Victorian promenade and the ruins of the 13th-century castle.
When I managed to tear myself away from the town, I found the coast path took on an increasingly remote, isolated feel as it made its way along cliffs, across rolling farmland and over heathland.
Ancient routeways have worn grooves into the grassy hillsides as they pass solitary farmsteads and ruined buildings on the way to Llanrhystud and Llanon, both served by the T5 bus back to Aberystwyth.
After catching the bus to Llanon, there’s a fairly gentle start to day three, partly on a balcony path occupying a broad ledge on the hillside. I’d timed my walk so that I could enjoy lunch in charming Aberaeron, where colourful Georgian buildings line the harbourside. I’d recommend the burgers in The Cellar. Beyond this, the route follows cliff-top paths, dipping in and out of hidden ravines and passing through shady woodland.
At low tide, you can walk the final few miles into New Quay on the beach – or use the high-tide alternative to pass the site of the “shack at the edge of the cliff” where poet Dylan Thomas lived with his family in the mid-1940s.
From Aberystwyth, the bus back to New Quay takes about an hour – time to gird your loins for the toughest and, in my opinion, the best day on this section of the Wales Coast Path. To say it’s undulating is an understatement.
High, windswept cliffs tower over secluded beaches and jagged offshore sea stacks, the highlight being the dramatic, exposed cliff path south of Cwmtydu. (A bad-weather, inland alternative is available for vertigo sufferers.) It’s not all hard work though; pubs and cafés at Cwmtydu, Llangrannog, Penbryn and Tresaith provide opportunities to kick back for an hour or two. Just don’t forget about that bus!
Another long walk awaits, although the climbs aren’t as brutal as on the previous day. As you make your way over rugged cliffs carpeted in wildflowers in spring and summer, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including dolphins, grey seals, choughs, peregrine falcons and a variety of seabirds.
For me, one of the highlights of this section was the picturesque beach and medieval chapel of ease at Mwnt. After this, it’s just a few gentle miles into Cardigan for the long bus ride back to Aberystwyth – and a chance to revisit the coastline you’ve just spent several days walking.
A practical guide with useful hints and tips by...
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