St Tanwg's church, Llŷn Peninsula

This walk is a treat for nature lovers with a gentle stroll through a nature reserve

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Start and Finish

Harlech beach car park to to Llanbedr via Llandanwg

Distance

4 miles or 7 km one way

Along the way

Starting from the beach car park, walk towards the sea through the Morfa Harlech National Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most important dune systems in the country and a haven for plant and animal life.

In spring and summer, you might spot colourful maiden pink or rare bee orchids, alongside nesting ringed plovers, skylarks and stonechats, while autumn brings an array of unusual fungi and wading birds like oystercatchers, dunlins and sanderlings.

The walk continues south along the Wales Coast Path, climbing up over the train tracks on a winding route known as the Zig Zags (with fantastic bay views at the top) before descending into Llandanwg.

After you’ve visited the church, the path continues through fields and along the flood bank that borders the River Artro, offering some lovely views across the mudflats and estuary out towards Shell Island, one of Europe’s biggest campsites, surrounded by sand dunes lying west of Llanbedr.

After Pensarn Station, the path follows the road for a short distance before leading you through fields, over the footbridge and onto the car park at Llanbedr.

From here you can turn left to visit the village, turn right to catch the train back to Harlech or simply retrace your steps back to the beginning of the walk.

About the Sacred Heritage Place

Nestled amid the dunes just metres from the sea, St Tanwg’s church is knitted into the coastal landscape. Since its foundation in the 5th century it has been frequently dug out of the encroaching sand that threatens to bury it, while the waves can be heard from its stone interior on even the stillest day.

Despite its tiny size (just 57 foot or 17.4 metres by 23 foot or 7 metres) it’s packed with fascinating features that illuminate different periods in its long history.

Inside you’ll find inscribed stones dating back to the 5th century, an 8 foot or 0.3 metre pillar stone lying by the altar – thought to have make its way here from the Wicklow Hills in Ireland – a 13th century nave and 15th century oak rood screen. In the churchyard you can also see the grave of Welsh poet Sion Phillips (a contemporary of Shakespeare) who drowned while crossing from Shell Island to Llandanwg in 1620.

Essentially abandoned in 1840 when a new parish church was built in Harlech, St Tanwg’s is still in use with strong local support and exudes a powerful spiritual energy.

Find out more about St Tanwg's church

Walk highlights

Rhys Gwyn Roberts, Wales Coast Path Officer says, “This walk is a treat for nature lovers. Look out for a wide range of wildflowers, insects, birds and lizards among the dunes of Morfa Harlech National Nature Reserve and keep your eye peeled for swans, seabirds and the occasional seal along the Artro river and estuary.”

Need to know

There are public toilets at the car park at the start of the walk and you’ll find plenty of pubs, cafés and shops in both Harlech and Llanbedr. Both ends of the walk are linked by regular train services which also call at Llandanwg and Pensarn (perfect if you’d prefer a shorter walk).

Itinerary and map

You can also download the printable the walking itinerary and the route map to take with you on your walk.

Cydnabyddiaethau

  • This walk was developed in partnership with the National Churches Trust. Visit their website www.explorechurches.org/cymru to find out more including bookable tours and experiences.
  • Many thanks to Molly Lovatt (Natural Resources Wales) for helping on this walk.