North Wales Coast and Dee Estuary Coastal Path:
The North Wales and Dee Estuary section of the Wales Coastal Path stretches some 74 miles from the City of Chester, on the English border, to the City of Bangor, on the banks of the Menai Strait.
Chester to Talacre:
The path runs alongside the banks of the River Dee as far as Connah’s Quay before diverting away from the river for the 3-mile hike to Flint.
The magnificent ruins of the 13th Century Flint Castle mark the return to the riverbank, from where the path skirts the marshlands of the Dee estuary as far as Point of Ayr at Talacre. The Point of Ayr Nature Reserve is marked by the prominent lighthouse and stands among the sand dunes and miles of golden sands at Talacre.
Talacre to Pensarn:
From Talacre the Wales Coastal Path continues through the seaside resorts of Prestatyn and Rhyl before leaving the county of Denbighshire and entering Conwy County at the mouth of the River Clwyd at Kinmel Bay.
Note the sea-defences alongside the path at Kinmel Bay and its neighbouring towns of Towyn and Pensarn, where, in February 1990, an inundation of the sea caused flooding to both the thousands of homes and the caravan parks that stand alongside this section of the coastal path.
Today there is little evidence of the disaster other than the new sea wall at Pensarn.|
The promenade cafes at Pensarn are popular for al-fresco refreshments both with holidaymakers and walkers.
Pensarn to Rhos Point:
From Pensarn it is some two miles to Llanddulas on a pleasant stretch of the coastal path. Note the impressive castle situated among the trees some ½ mile to the south of the path. However, this is not a typical Welsh medieval castle – this is Gwrych Castle a 19th Century faux castle, once a rich man’s residence, now nothing more than a ruin, albeit a magnificent ruin.
A caravan park fronts the beach at the first of the two stops at Llanddulas, and a beachside café offers refreshments and a varied menu. Rounding the headland the path borders the River Dulas in a pleasant park-like location. But continue on a hundred yards and this changes to a drab car park area – but it does have the benefit of a Public Convenience.
Leaving Llanddulas the path takes a short but sharp climb over the quarry bank, one of the few climbs along this part of the coastal path. Once home to two quarry jetties, as of 2012 just one remains.
As we near Penmaen Head we pass the surviving quarry jetty, Raynes jetty, and, subject to tidal conditions, walkers have the opportunity to sea the limestone aggregate being loaded into the quarry boats. The MV Carrier was ship wrecked alongside the Rayne’s Jetty in 2012, making the headlines nationwide.
Walkers might also wonder what the heck are the thousands of strange anchor like concrete structures (dolos) lining the coastal path between Llanddulas and Penmaen Head. The dolosse, plural, were laid during the construction of the A55 road in the 1980’s – to protect the new expressway from the force of the sea.
Rounding Penmaenhead the wide sweep of the Bay of Colwyn comes into view. King Richard 11 of England would have enjoyed this view before being captured here and taken into captivity in 1399. Supporters of Henry Bolingbroke ambushed the English King at Penmaenhead as he returned to England from Ireland. Following his capture, he was taken to Flint Castle and forced to surrender the crown to Bolingbroke, who became King Henry IV. Richard died soon after while imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, and so began the War of the Roses.
The Bay of Colwyn is home to both the Porth Eirias Watersports Centre and the Rhos-on-Sea Watersports Centre at Rhos Point. Colwyn Bay Pier, once the central attraction, is now a derelict eyesore awaiting attention, whether it’s from the demolition gangs or the restorers I couldn’t say.
Check out the new beach however, with half a million tons of sand pumped ashore in 2013 the beach is as popular today as in the towns heyday in the mid 20th Century.|
As with much of this North Wales section of the Wales Coastal Path, the path is shared with the cycle track as it passes by the Bay of Colwyn en-route to Llandudno and beyond. This is not a problem on the wide sections of the Colwyn Bay promenade, but I can foresee conflicts between cyclists and walkers on narrow sections of the shared path in the future.
Several promenade kiosks offer al-fresco refreshments – and a brasserie with a celebrity chef is destined for the new Porth Eirias Waterfront Project in the heart of Colwyn Bay promenade. I do not know if sweaty cyclists and walkers with backpacks will be welcome in the new brasserie, but they will always be welcome in the promenade kiosks.
Refreshments are also available at the Rhos on Sea end of the Bay, with several cafes and restaurants – some with fine views of the picturesque Rhos Harbour. |
Nature lovers and bird watchers would be wise to time their arrival at Rhos Point to the lowest tides – 6.00 p.m. at the time of a full moon – to appreciate the sea birds and marine life visible at the Point.
Rhos Point to Conwy:
Leaving the bay the path rounds Rhos Point before heading toward the Little Orme, but pause awhile to visit the tiny chapel of Saint Trillo’s located at the tip of Rhos Point. The old chapel holds but six people and is a ‘must see’ with its 6th Century Holy Well.
Back to the path and we take the raised walkway/sea defence works which offer fine views of the Ganol Valley, Bryn Pydew, and the distant Carneddau range to the south; the Little Orme headland to the west; and the rock strewn beach to the north.
Despite its name, the Little Orme is a huge limestone outcrop, and the path zigzags its way over the hill to Llandudno. However, do not rush over the hill as two short diversions deliver the finest views of the coastal path to this point. One, a hundred yards diversion to the north, leads to Angel Bay (OS Map – Porth Diniewaid), where seals and an array of seabirds are a common sight. Another alternative – a scramble to the summit – affords fantastic views of both Llandudno Bay and the Bay of Colwyn.
From the summit, the path descends via the B5115 to Llandudno promenade. The wide curving promenade, open to both pedestrians and cyclists, is separated from the roadway by a strip of garden. The town is proud of its Victorian heritage, which is reflected in the preserved facades of the hotels and the magnificent Victorian Pier, which projects into the Irish Sea.
Llandudno Pier sits in the shadow of another huge limestone outcrop, or should it be ‘mountain’ – the Great Orme looms over the Victorian Pier, and indeed dominates the town of Llandudno itself – and guess what? Yes, the Wales Coastal Path weaves its way around and over the Orme.
Actually, the ascent is not too difficult and the fine views of the Conwy Estuary and the hills of Snowdonia are well worth the effort.
Following the descent of the Great Orme the path follows the line of the North Wales Cycle Path – alongside the Conwy Estuary. Heading south through the village of Deganwy there are great views of the medieval walled town of Conwy and the impressive fortress of Conwy Castle, a World Heritage Site.
Conwy to Bangor:
Conwy Castle stands on a rocky promontory on the banks of the River Conwy and dominates the small town. The coastal path skirts the walls of the castle and it might be worth considering diverting from the official route and “walking the town walls”. It is a relatively small diversion and, besides affording pleasant views, it gives you a feel for the old town. You will not have missed any part of the official route, as you will rejoin the coastal path on the quayside as you exit the town walls.
Leaving Conwy behind there are two options, the flat coastal route, or the uplands detour that takes you over Conwy Mountain and through the foothills of the Carneddau Range, before dropping back down to the coast at Llanfairfechan.
The uplands detour is the more scenic route and the historic remains of the Druids Circle on the hills behind Penmaenmawr are worth the climb alone.
The landscape is literally dotted with prehistoric sites and I would recommend taking an OS map to identify the many ancient sites scattered around the moorlands.
Following the descent to Llanfairfechan, the path rejoins the Wales Coastal Path alongside the Lavan Sands Nature Reserve, a wide expanse of sands at the entrance to the Menai Strait.
Nature lovers and birdwatchers will particularly appreciate this section of the path where it follows the banks of the Menai Strait to Aber-Ogwen (the mouth of the River Ogwen). At Aber-Ogwen, the path diverts away from the coast for a short way, and skirts the broadleaf woodland of the lower Ogwen Valley, en-route to Tal-y-bont and Llandygai. At Llandygai, the path descends into the wooded dell of the Afon Cegin and meanders back to the coast at Port Penrhyn.
The path then skirts the mud flats en-route to Bangor Pier (try the delicious scones at the end of the pier café), before following the banks of the Menai Strait to the magnificent Menai Suspension Bridge.
At the bridge, the Wales Coastal Path separates into two sections, one option heads north to Anglesey, crossing the Menai Strait, while the other perseveres in a westerly direction alongside the Menai Strait toward the Llyn peninsula.