5 Tips to Help You Plan Your Walk on the Wales Coast Path
I was lucky enough to be born in South Wales and raised with the beautiful Bro Morgannwg coast on my doorstep. In 2012, this would eventually become part of the world’s first ever continuous path to cover its country's coastline - the 870 miles of the Wales Coast Path. As a passionate Welshman who'd never seen what the majority of our stunning coast had to offer, myself and a friend decided it was time to get out of our comfort zone and experience the magic that Cymru has to offer. There’s no better way to appreciate nature and to get to know the locals than hiking, so we left to walk as much of the Welsh Coast Path as we could before heading back to University.
After over 7 weeks and 500 miles hiking, and raising £1,400 for Macmillan Nurses, a lot was learnt! Therefore, before you put on your walking boots and pack your waterproofs (trust me, you'll need them) consider the 5 tips below, so you can make the most of your own adventure!
1. Don't underestimate the route or your abilty!
When hiking the Welsh Coast, you won't have to worry about walking up huge mountains like you might in the Swiss Alps. That doesn't mean you're in for an easy ride, after all, the total rise and fall over the entire length of the Pembrokeshire path alone is approx 35,000 feet (10,688 meters) - which is taller than Mount Everest!
Additionally, if your plan is to spend weeks walking and camping across the coast, make sure you're mentally and physically prepared. Although I eventually got use to it, I was completely underprepared for my trip. I was too unfit and hadn't walked enough before leaving. I was in agony for days and unbeknownst to me, I had been walking on a sprained ankle for a few days and had to rest in Bangor for a few more (which meant I lost a good 70 miles off my trip).
Know your route and your ability!
2. There are plenty of maps and guidebooks for each section of the path - use them!
The Welsh Government have 7 official guidebooks for each section of the coast path. They're pocket sized and extremely handy with a great deal of detail. Whether you're walking for one day or one month, these guides are a must. You can purchase them in local tourist centres or online.
My essential companion throughout my escapade was "The Wales Coast Path - A Practical Guide for Walkers" by Katharine Evans and Christopher Goddard. It provides easy-to-follow route descriptions and contains over 80 hand-drawn maps. The book is full of additional information on sites of historical, geological and wildlife interest, alternative routes, public transport and B&B's. I would highly recommend using this if you're hiking the length of the path.
3. Wild camp where you can (within the guidelines)
Wild camping is a great way to save money and to experience nature in all it's glory. With much of the coastal path away from towns and cities, you can find some of the most perfect spots to camp. However, without permission from the landowner, wild camping in Wales is strictly illegal. Although I don’t condone camping without permission, there are many things to consider if you decide to camp away from other tents and caravans.
- Don't pitch up until later in the evening and leave early in the morning.
- Leave no trace that you've been there by clearing up your rubbish (including food leftovers) and only cook using a raised gas stove - not an open fire.
- Don't pollute the area with any non-eco-friendly detergents. Only use biodegradable items.
Choose your pitch carefully and avoid digging ditches, trampling plants and moving rocks and stones just to accommodate your tent. Wales has 76 National Nature Reserves, do not disturb these for your own benefit.
- If you're asked to move on, be respectful - they may help you find somewhere more suitable to camp!
4. Never underestimate the weather - even in the Summer!
If you're from Wales, you'll agree that the weather is some of the most unpredictable in Britain. If you decide to walk during the height of the Summer, there's no guarantee that you won't get 4 days of constant wind and rain which can then easily be followed by 25°c heat and sun!
If you're only walking for one day, make sure you check the weather the day you depart and, if you're on a longer hike, take waterproofs, sun glasses and suntan lotion! Who knows what weather you'll be walking in. Most importantly, the wind strength can change hourly, so stay away from cliff edges and be careful when climbing mountains. It’s always handy to have the emergency service numbers saved (999 or 112).
5. Trust the locals!
The Welsh locals can be some of the nicest people you meet. Without asking help from locals, fellow hikers, shop owners or campsite staff, we would never have completed as much of the path as we did. In fact, I'm still in touch with a few people who helped us along the way 4 years later!
In the most part, people are always happy to help! As a fluent Welsh speaker myself, I can also guarantee that learning a few of the basic words will go a long way to impressing your soon to be friends! Here’s a few words to get you started:
Hello = Helo / Shwmae (sh-my)
Good morning = Bore da (Bore-eh dah)
Good afternoon = Prynhawn da (Pr-in-haun dah)
Good night = Nôs da (gnaw-s dah)
Thank you = Diolch (dee-ol'ch)
You’re welcome = Croeso (Kr-oi-soh)
If you have any questions before enjoying everything the awe-inspiring coast has to offer, write a comment below!
© 2020 Rhys Russell