Wales boasts the world’s first continuous walking and cycling route along an entire national coastline. The North Wales coastal path stretches from Bangor to Prestatyn, around 60 miles in all. We have been exploring the section between Pensarn, close to where we live, and Rhos-on-Sea to the west. This section of the path is about 7 miles long and passes through Llanddulas and Colwyn Bay before entering the charming seaside resort of Rhos-on-Sea or Llandrillo as it is also known.
Our walk begins at Pensarn's small promenade where there is ample parking. The path runs next to the railway line at this point and is traffic-free except for cyclists (beware!); several parts of the Wales Coast Path are designated sections of the National Cycle Network. There are good views of Gwrych Castle high in the wooded hills at Abergele as we leave the car park. Passing the Castle Cove Caravan Park we are reminded of just how densely populated the area is with caravans. The cafe on the park serves freshly cooked food at reasonable prices.
There are great sea views all along this walk with an abundance of wildlife and fauna. Information boards are regularly positioned to explain the different species and history of the area. At around 2 miles we reach Llandullas. Close to where the River Dulas flows into the sea is Tides Cafe Bistro, located at The Beach Caravan Park, no shortage of refreshment stops on this route! Llanddulas Beach, similar to Pensarn, is mostly rocks and pebbles with the remains of wooden groynes, at low tide there is a beach. After following the route of the Dulas for a short distance, we pass a private house that until 1932 served as the Llanddulas life-boat station.
The path now rises and presents a sharp incline as it traverses the Penmaen (meaning stone head) headland. As the pathway winds and lowers back to sea-level, the landscape is dominated by concrete sea defences known as 'dolos'. Each block weighing approximately 5 tons, some 22,000 structures were used in a major coastal protection project in the 1980s to protect the area and especially the adjacent A55 expressway road.
There is a reminder of the intense quarrying of this area as we approach Raynes Jetty, constructed to transport limestone rock onto freighters via a conveyor belt system. In 2011 five lives were lost when the freighter MV Swanland sank in stormy weather after collecting 3,000 tons of cargo. Shortly after in 2012, the MV Carrier hit rocks adjacent to the jetty and was eventually dismantled on the spot. Another short incline brings us to a disused stone structure that was an ammunition store for the quarries.
Our view from this elevated position is of Colwyn Bay's coastal sweep through to Rhos-On-Sea, a wide expanse of beach and the Little Orme headland in the distance. The path joins the promenade at Old Colwyn and leads us past Porth Eirias, part of The Colwyn Bay Waterfront Project. Opened in May 2013, this facility for water sports enthusiasts offers kayak and canoe hire in addition to lessons in sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and power boating. It is home also to a bistro designed and developed by Welsh Celebrity Chef Bryn Williams. The initiative to redevelop and upgrade the sea defences here have provided an attractive waterfront; a key attraction for visitors and an important asset to the local community.
Sadly, standing out as a sore thumb in this otherwise modern and impressive environment is the now abandoned Colwyn Bay Pier. The Grade II-listed Victoria Pier closed in 2008 and its future was cast in doubt amid acrimonious ownership battles, failed restoration attempts and ultimate abandonment. A partial collapse of the pier in 2017 gave the local council the opportunity to receive permission for a full demolition which is scheduled for 2018.
The beautiful new promenade stretches into the small village and seaside resort of Rhos-on-Sea. A small harbour, created by the formation of a rock breakwater that protects the village from flooding during high tides, presents a serene scene of moored boats and harbour jetty with the coastline stretching beyond. A wide variety of seabirds including oystercatchers, dunlins, red shanks, cormorants and many more can easily be spotted here. Our walk ends at Britain's smallest church, Saint Trillo's Chapel sits on the harbour path and is named after a 6th-century saint. Services are still held here and has seating for six.
All photographs were captured on an iPhone 7 Plus. All images © Adrian McGarry 2017.