Beginning near the Dee Estuary on the Welsh-English border and stretching 1,400 kilometres, the Wales Coast Path (or Llwybr Arfordir Cymru) offers unbroken and breathtakingly-beautiful walking around the entire Welsh coast.
In fact, Wales is the only country in the world to have a continuous path around its entire coast.
Launched in 2012, the route was developed over six years by the Welsh government, the Countryside Council for Wales, sixteen local authorities and two National Parks.
A lot of work was done in a short amount of time to get it up and running with new coastal paths being created and existing paths improved. Where coastal access was lacking, and busy roads were the only option, paths were created alongside roads. Altogether, an extra 210 kilometres of new paths were created.
The trail traces the North Wales Coast, past the spectacular Great Orme and Conwy Castle, and then runs along the Menai Strait.
After circling the Isle of Anglesey, the Path heads past Caernarfon Castle to round the remote Llŷn Peninsula then pushes south along the coastal fringe of the Snowdonia National Park and on through Ceredigion and the long sweep of Cardigan Bay. After this, it joins the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and passes through Britain’s only coastal national park.
After passing through Carmarthenshire and the Gower Peninsula into Swansea Bay, walkers head into Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
From there, a short hike takes you down to Chepstow on the border. Needless to say, there’s plenty to see en route in terms of nature. Considerable amounts of the coast path fall within the remit of National Parks and other conservation areas.
If you don’t want to take it on in its entirety dip in anywhere along its length and you’ll still get outstanding views, unforgettable encounters with nature and thousands of years of history.
- Nowhere else in the world can you walk the entire length of a country’s coastline
- Experience the very best of Wales from stunning scenery and thriving wildlife to stirring history, and local culture
Nearby Chester is well-served by main roads and trains from major cities in Wales and England. From here you can take local transport or an organised transfer to Queensferry to start the hike. For anyone coming from further afield, Liverpool airport is less than 20 kilometres drive away and Manchester is 55 kilometres.
Getting home, there are direct trains from Chepstow to Birmingham, Cardiff, Cheltenham Spa, Derby, Gloucester, Newport and Nottingham. Connections are available at Newport for London, Manchester, Swansea and all parts of Wales.
If you’re heading back overseas, the nearest airports are Bristol and Cardiff, both less than one hour’s drive away.
Plenty of people take on the full 1,400 kilometres but only the fittest and most determined walkers can hope to complete the entire Wales Coast Path in six weeks.
This would require averaging at least 32 kilometres on any given day. Instead, most people opt to walk at a more leisurely pace and savour this amazing coastal path in sections in a series of day walks, spread across weekends and holidays.
If you do want to complete it end-to-end but want to get the most out of it, you should allow around three months for the whole trip. This will allow enough time to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the views and take time out to swim or relax.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
The Welsh coastline encompasses a huge range of habitats from beaches and dune systems, to tidal estuaries and mudflats, to heather moorlands and rocky scrambles.
As a result, the walking is extremely varied and it’s worth taking this into account when boot-shopping.
Having said this, no part of the Welsh coastline is particularly difficult, and simple planning of the long or remote stretches will serve you well.
The trick is to know where food, drink and lodgings can be found, and where these are absent, to know where you can catch a bus off-route to get to them.
The best thing to do is set realistic daily distances and think of it as a series of enjoyable one-day walks strung together. Doing so, the journey should be achievable for an ‘ordinary’ walker.
Despite being a coastal trail, the Wales Coast Path is no glorified beach walk.
There are plenty of low-level and easy sections but these are balanced out by cliff-top roller-coasters, with lots of short, steep ascents and descents.
The variety is what makes it so exciting, but you should be able to take on rugged cliffs, rocky coves and long and sandy beaches as well as road-side paths and the occasional grimy industrial interlude.
No real hiking experience is needed but it’s worth doing a handful of long-distance trails in the months prior to setting off. Stay within your comfort zone and leave enough reserved stamina for the day after.
There are no permits needed or fees to pay to walk the Wales Coast Path or any subsection of it.
Guided or Self-Guided
The Wales Coast Path is best taken on self-guided, particularly if you want to do the full route, so you have ultimate control over where and when you stop.
Although one would think that navigation is easy along a coastal path – keep the sea to one side and inland to the other and you’ll be set- some parts of the Wales Coast Path drift far inland.
However, they have installed branded signposting and waymarking, using a dragonshell logo to differentiate the coast path from all other paths and tracks it crosses.
The trail’s website is also packed with information, including OS Explorer maps that can be downloaded and printed for free, or loaded onto mobile devices, and there is even a ‘Wales Coast Path App’ for the tech-minded.
As with any hike, a successful trip boils down to sensible planning.
If you don’t want the hassle of planning and preparing your itinerary, there are numerous companies that can organise an individual or group trip for you.
Naturally, few people are able to spare a couple of months to complete the path in one continuous walk and will walk a week or two here and there instead, gradually covering the entire coast.
Some stretches are based on coastal trails that have existed for a while.
These include the Anglesey Coastal Path, Llyn Coastal Path, Ceredigion Coast Path and the popular Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Whether you are completing the full Wales Coast Path or just part of it, the route can be broken down into the following key sections.
North Wales Coast Path
Completed over 6 walking days, with 1 recommended rest day at Chester, Conwy or Llandudno
Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path
Completed over 10 walking days, 1 recommended rest day at Beaumaris
- Porth Swtan
Completed over 9 walking days, 1 recommended rest day in Abedaron (consider booking a boat trip for a visit to Bardsey Island).
- Clynnog Fawr
- Pentowyn Dunes
Meirionnydd Coast Path
Completed over 6 walking days, 1 recommended rest day at Porthmadog, Harlech, Barmouth or Machynlleth.
Ceredigion Coast Path
Completed over 6 walking days, with 1 recommended rest day at Aberystwyth or New Quay.
- New Quay
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Completed over 13 walking days, with 2 recommended rest days at Marloes & St.Davids.
- St Justinians
- Broad Haven
- Marloes Sands
- Sandy Haven
Completed over 6 walking days, with 1 recommended rest day at Carmarthen.
Gower Coast Path
Completed over 4 walking days, with 1 recommended rest day at Swansea.
South Wales Coast & Severn Estuary
Completed over 10 walking days, with 2 recommended rest days at Cardiff & Chepstow.
- Port Talbot
- Cardiff Bay
- Lighthouse Park
- Newport Wetlands
If you fancy adding in some ‘extras’, you can choose to visit various islands along the way, but bear in mind that ferry schedules and the weather could easily throw off such plans.
There is no shortage of places to stay on the Welsh coastline – whether you’re looking for traditional coastal cottages or converted romantic lighthouses and barns.
Even if you are on a budget there will be something to suit, with plenty of cheap hostels and camping sites along the route.
Most of the hostels and bunkhouses provide bed linen, have catered or self-catered options and provide bike and equipment storage.
If you are working on a very tight budget or have limited flexibility with dates, it is worth booking some of your accommodation ahead of time.
As well as all of the various birds and mammals you can expect to see along the route, Cardigan Bay has one of the largest resident bottle-nose dolphin populations in the UK.
Numbers increase during the summer and early autumn, reaching a peak in September and October, so consider hanging around for a day or two to unwind and take to the waters on a boat trip. Other regular visitors to the area include common dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, porpoise, and even minke whale.
If you’re completing one of the shorter, circular walks, many of them visit places of interest just inland, such as the Aber Falls on the North Wales Coast, Harlech Castle in Gwynedd, or St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire.
In the final miles of the trail there are plenty of things that would be worth circling back to or lingering at. Chepstow is home to a beautifully-preserved fortress that could easily take up half a day just wondering around in the summer.
Many people will opt to spend a couple of days in Cardiff Bay, where you can take a tour around the Senedd (home to the National Assembly for Wales), go white water rafting, catch a show at the iconic Wales Millennium Centre or just polish off a pint in one of the city’s lively restaurants and bars.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Starts at||Queensferry, UK|
|Finishes at||Chepstow, UK|
|Length of route||1400 Km|
|Average time to complete||49 - 84 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||564 metres|
|Equipment needed||Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots|
|Countries visited||Wales, UK|