This was it, the last time we would be meeting up to walk the Wales Coast Path. This time it was going to be slightly different. As we had walked north Wales out of order we had to do the section from Llanfaglan (just south of Caernarfon) to Conwy before we could walk the final stretch into Chester. Therefore this was going to be a two centre holiday. To begin with we would be back at The Victoria Hotel in Menai and then, after four days walking, we would transfer to The Springfield Hotel & Health Club at Pentre Halkyn near Holywell.
By now I was getting demob happy. It had become a tradition, or perhaps a necessity due to forgetfulness, that at dinner the leader would tell the party what they would be doing the next day, ie time to meet, distance and difficulty of walk, don’t forget your bus pass, etc. To add some spice to my evening briefings I decided to begin by announcing how far we had to go to Chester. So keeping with that spirit I will do it in this blog as well.
Monday 9 September 2019 – Llanfaglan to Y Felinheli: 8.1 miles (13.1 km) +96m -112m
46 miles to go.
We were going to use a combination of cars and buses this week and today was no exception. Due to the intermittent service of one route we didn’t need to leave the hotel until 10:30. We drove to a car park in Caernarfon and then had two buses to get to Llanfaglan where we finished in May 2018.
A road walk took us to the Strait and then we walked along a road by the coastline that led us into Caernarfon. Just before we we got to the castle we had lunch and it was at this point that we had passed 1000 miles.
We the crossed the bridge over the Afon Seiont and walked around the magnificent Caernarfon Castle. and into Victoria Dock. The remainder of the walk was along a cycleway to Y Felinheli.
Tuesday 10 September 2019 – Y Felinheli to Bangor: 7.0 miles (11.2 km) +263m -254m
38 miles to go.
From Menai we needed two buses to get to Y Felinheli where we commenced our day’s walk. Fortunately for us the Coast Path had recently been diverted. Originally from Port Dinorwic it kept along the road for over a mile inland before heading back towards the Strait avoiding the Vaynol Estate. The new route now went through the park and kept on the coast. A much more pleasant route.
From Y Felinheli we walked to Port Dinorwic and into the Vaynol Estate.This was a pleasant walk on a new footpath with viewpoints over the Straits.We then walked under the Britannia Bridge and managed to see the lions on the far side. The original Britannia Bridge, built by Robert Stephenson and opened in 1850, was a box structure for trains only. There were a pair of lions guarding the entrance on both sides. In 1970 the bridge caught fire and was destroyed. It was rebuilt and fully open in 1980 as a combined rail and road bridge.Unfortunately the lions are now obscured by the new superstructure.
We then walked to the Menai Bridge where we made the link with the Anglesey Coast Path. The Path followed the A5 before it dropped down past Bangor City FC to a path with many steps, mainly down, to the foreshore where we had lunch. The Path then climbed back up but as there was a low tide we continued along the shore all the way to Bangor Pier and then on to a car park which we would be using the following day. As we didn’t have our cars we had to walk into Bangor to get the bus back to Menai.
Wednesday 11 September 2018 – Bangor to Llanfairfechen: 9.6 miles (15.4 km) +293m -296m
31 miles to go.
This section of the Coast path takes a long and winding route to avoid Penrhyn Park. Looking at maps and Google Earth I thought that there must be an alternative. Could we walk through the park? I contacted the National Trust at Penrhyn Castle and was told that the park wasn’t theirs and I would have to contact the Estate Manager. This I did and after a couple of phone calls had permission, not to walk straight through the park as it would disturb the animals, but to walk as far as Penrhyn Castle and then exit the park through their access road. I then spoke to the NT again and they said that they would ensure the gate between their property and the Estate was unlocked. There was just one problem, I was told that we should call in at the castle to show them our membership cards and anyone not a member would have to pay £8.80 for the privilege of walking through their grounds. As about half of us were not members and it would take no longer than 12 minutes to walk from the castle to the exit I decided to abandon the whole project and keep on the official path.
We drove to the car park where we stopped the previous day and after walking to the Penrhyn gatehouse we turned south and inland on a disused railway that was built to send slate from Bethesda to Port Dinorwic. The Path took us all round Penrhyn Park to the nature reserve at Aber-Ogwen. In spite of my reservations this part of the Path had been a really nice walk.
From Aber-Ogwen to Llanfairfechan the Path was along the shoreline with a lot of birds out in the Dee estuary including nine herons standing like statues on a sand bank. At Lairfairfechan we had an ice cream and then got the bus back to Bangor.
Thursday 12 September 2019 – Llanfairfechan to Conwy: 8.5 miles (13.6 km) +315m -310m
We drove to Llanfairfechan and didn’t follow the official route as it went back into the town. Instead we walked along the promenade and picked up the Path at the west end of the town. Today’s walk was going to be mainly on tarmac but it was one that I had wanted to do for a long time. Each time we have driven along the A55 I noticed the Path as it wove its way between the mountains, A55, railway and the sea. This was my chance to walk it. I should also say at this point that there is an alternative official Path that goes up into the mountains. I don’t think we ever considered this option.
Some thought it was boring but I found it very interesting, especially the engineering involved in constructing the road in such a narrow space. After lunch we walked along the beach around the headland, past the marina and through the entrance to the walled town of Conwy. After passing the narrowest house in Britain we arrived at the point where we started in October 2018. This was significant because we had now walked the full circle. Just a mere 2 days walking to go.
Friday 13 September 2019 – Flint Castle to Queensferry: 5.8 miles (9.4 km) +110m -113m
13 miles to go.
Today was moving day. We packed our cars and drove for an hour to Deeside Leisure Centre, Queensferry. We caught the bus to Flint and walked to the castle where we had a coffee before we commenced the walk.
There was an event going on by the castle and I asked a man from the RNLI if the path along the marsh was suitable for walking on. He said that as it was a high tide it was impassable. This was good enough for me so after a certain amount of disagreement we went my way along the the road. It only added about 3/4 mile onto the 3 miles of road walking we had to do. It wasn’t pleasant walking as the roads were busy but we finally turned towards the river and completed the day along the side of the river This took us to a point where we turned off the Path to get back to the Leisure Centre.
From here we had a 15 minute drive to our hotel at Pentre Halkyn. I had searched a long time for somewhere to stay in the area and finally came across one that was used by Ramblers’ Holidays. So I thought it must be good and would cater for our needs. The Springfield Hotel & Health Club didn’t disappoint. It rated along as one of the best hotels we had stayed at.
Saturday 14 September 2019 – Queensferry to Wales/England Border then Chester: 6.9 miles (11.1 km) +105m -87m
I thought today would never come, just 7 miles to go!
We drove to Deeside Leisure Centre and walked down to the river to pick up the Path. A couple of hundred meters later we crossed to the north side of the River Dee. From there we walked along the cycletrack/footpath that would take us to the border and the official end of the Wales Coast Path. Along the way we saw the Dee bore, I never it knew existed, which upset the geese on the riverbank and made them fly off. Minutes later hundreds of them flew back over us. As we approached the Airbus factory on the opposite bank an Airbus Beluga plane flew over at low level to land at the airfield ready to take wings manufactured at Broughton to Toulouse for assembly. A wonderful pan European co-operative venture.
When we arrived at the stones, identical to those in Chepstow, marking the end of the Coast Path we took pictures and continued on. The actual end of the Coast Path is at these stones but as they are on the side of the Dee in the middle of nowhere I had to decide where to go next. We could turn round, cross the river and go to Saltney or make our way across fields to Blacon and find our way back. The best way I decided was to keep on the path and walk into Chester. But where do we stop? I considered a number of options but decided that the most iconic place would be under the clock at the Eastgate.
As we got into Chester we found a children’s playground where we had lunch. After which we found the Roman city wall and walked on it as far as the Northgate. We walked past the Cathedral and onto the clock at Eastgate. My intention was to take a few pictures and then go for a celebratory coffee and cake. There were two things I hadn’t planned for. Firstly it was Saturday afternoon and the city centre was heaving and secondly not everyone of our party quite got the significance of what we had achieved. As is happened only 6 of the 13 remaining Coastwalkers had completed the full circuit. To some of the others it was just another holiday planned by someone else. Eventually we got the pictures we wanted and due to the crowds we caught the bus back to Queensferry and returned to the hotel where we did have cake because it was one of our lady walker’s birthday.