Wales Coast Path: Cardiff Bay Barrage to Barry

August 13, 2012 · 12 comments

Post image for Wales Coast Path: Cardiff Bay Barrage to Barry

Walked May 25th 2012

Approximate distance: 10 miles

I had begun this day’s walk at the Premier Inn, Cardiff City South just 3 miles away but there was a lot to say about that early part of the walk in Cardiff, so I divided the post into two.

After the barrage The Vale of Glamorgan are responsible for the footpath: their Rights of Way officer is Gwyn Teague, e-mail: 01446 704810

Starting at the Barrage, the path now follows the road up the hill – yes a real little hill. As it reaches the top, fork left into Paget Terrace, becoming Paget Place. If it’s a hot day you will be glad of the shade from this tree lined road. You pass Headlands School on the left. The school is for children “who have difficulty managing their behaviour”. I observed a couple of them who appeared to have no difficulty climbing over the railings with staff in hot pursuit.

Bear left onto St Augustine’s Crescent. At the brow, by a bus stop, you have reached the highest point on the Path so far- a giddy 262 feet above sea level.

The path turns down Penarth Head Lane, and enters a little park from which on a clear day you can have very fine views over the sea. On a misty day you can just about make out Penarth Pier. Walk down through the park and turn left down Bradford Place and then left again down Kymin Terrace. At the bottom the path runs alongside a park called The Kymin. Turn left at the bottom of this steep path into Beach Road.

The view of the Pier and the two mile stretch of coastline that as you turn the corner of Beach Road is a delightful surprise.

Penarth Pier from the sea frnt: The wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

The Pier was opened in 1895 and is 219 yards long. It is open all year. The (rather shabby) turquoise roofed entrance was added in 1929. The path passes several cafes and restaurants and then follows the road which climbs gently to a wide open park. At the top, Cioni’s cafe sits opposite a mini golf course. This is your last chance for refreshment for a few miles.

At the end of the park the asphalt path becomes a grit one and you pass through some scrubby trees.  On the right are now arable fields. Your sea views are mostly obscured by the thick hedgerow of (mostly) hawthorn. But there are occasional openings to encourage you on.  Suddenly, the only sounds that you can hear are sea birds (and the occasional plane as they land or take off from nearby Cardiff Airport). It is surprising just how used to the noises of traffic and urban hustle and bustle you have become during your circumnavigation of Cardiff.

The path drops to beach level and rises again. Covered in Ivy on the cliff top is a small building known as the Marconi Tower. It was here that the Italian born and recently British based inventor, best known for his development of a radiotelegraph system, Guglielmo Marconi, assisted by George Kemp (who was a Cardiff based Post Office engineer) transmitted and received the first wireless signals over open sea between Lavernock Point (which is where you are) and Flat Holm island about 3 miles out to sea.

It is said that a line drawn from Lavernock Point to Sand Point in Somerset marks to division between the Severn Estuary (to the left) and the Bristol Channel (to the right). This is not without significance as it from here that it has been proposed in the past to construct a barrage across the Severn Estuary from here to Brean Down.(primarily to generate electricity). Former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain recently resigned from his post on May 14th 2012 order to devote his time to getting the project off the ground. It remains to be seen how successful the MP for Neath will be. There is no doubt that there will be much opposition as such barrages potentially cause havoc to marine wildlife, bird habitat and  fishing and other marine industry.

Shortly after you pass the tower the path takes a right hand turn onto a minor asphalt road and passes St Lawrence Church.

St Lawrence Church, Lavernock, photographed from the Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

The church closed for services in 2008 and is being maintained by volunteers.

There follows a detour inland slightly around one or two large holiday parks of static caravans. The first is called the Marconi Holiday Park. At the back of which is a nature reserve. Shortly after passing the reserve you come across the abandoned ruins of the Lavernock Fort. This site has a longer history than you might imagine.

In the 1860s Lavernock Fort gun battery was built by the Royal Commission and completed in 1870, with three 7″ muzzle-loading cannons to protect the channel approaches to Cardiff and Bristol shipyards during the short-lived war between Britain and France that followed the French Revolution. Sometime before 1895 the gun battery was reinforced with a fourth cannon only for all four guns to be replaced eight years later by two rapid fire six-inch former naval guns in 1903.

Lavernock Fort, Lavernock on the Wales Coast Path. Walking in Wales.

A two unit searchlight battery was added during the Second World War protecting the Atlantic shipping convoy de-grouping zone between Cardiff, Barry and Flat Holm. Today the remaining main section of the gun battery has been listed as an Ancient Monument, which includes the gun emplacements, director-rangefinder observation position, crew and officers’ quarters.

A little further on   a Royal Observation Corps Observation post which was later converted into a nuclear bunker sits on the top of the cliff above St Mary’s Well Bay.

Nuclear bunker on the top of the cliff above St Mary's Well Bay on the Wales Coast path. Photograph by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Just around the corner, the path skirts another holiday park –  don’t be tempted to take what appears to be a path keeping to the cliff top. It runs around the back of the Bay Holiday Park directly by their gardens and then stops. It feels very intrusive to walk past (twice!) people enjoying their sea views. At the back of the holiday park you join a minor road, the double yellow lines  announcing a little local visitor hot spot. Half a mile further on you arrive at the hamlet of Swanbridge with its pebbled beach and very large and very welcome (and very popular in the summer) Captains Wife pub.

The Captains Wife Pub, Swanbridge on the Wales Coast Path photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Sully Island, just offshore, is directly opposite the pub and is the site of an ancient fort.

Sully Island, Swanbridge on the wales Coast Path photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Passing the pub, after passing by yet another holiday park, the path keeps to the coast side of a sports field, and then passes Sully Sailing Club, and then a cricket ground. You are not far above sea level and the path runs between some back gardens and the beach.  It’s an uncomfortable path here of mostly large pebbles.

After half a mile or so the path reaches the corner of hospital grounds and turns right. Turn back and have a glance at the sea- you’ve some unpleasant few miles to come before you are facing open water again.

The path joins the perimeter road for an extensive site for light industry and then joins the main road though Sully.

Turn left at the roundabout (keeping to the path on the right hand side of the road) and walk along the east side of the industrial complex. After half a mile of this dreary trudge you reach a roundabout. If you are desperate for a pee or refreshment, there’s a McDonald’s at the roundabout.

McDonald's at Sully on the wales Coast Path, photographed by Charles Hawes. Walking in Wales.

Cross over the road just before the roundabout and keep left, joining the even busier A4055 which runs into Barry.

At this point I took a road up to the right which took me to Cadoxton Station from where, changing at Cardiff, I returned to Chepstow. My feet had held up surprisingly well, but that was enough for one day.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wareham August 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

Love the descriptions you get mousing over the pics – almost like jokes. XXXX


Charles August 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Thanks lovey! Will try to make you smile each time! Xx


John August 13, 2012 at 9:30 am

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the area around Sully Island it is worth mentioning that, at low tide, the causeway (which can be seen in Charles’ photo) leading to the island may be a tempting diversion. Be warned, though, that this is dangerous. Do not ignore the warning signs about the suddenness, speed and strength of the incoming tide. Even people who know the area get caught out, as a former schoolfriend of mine found out to his ultimate cost!


Lynds August 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

How did I miss the mousing comments – Thanks for pointing them out Anne- time out taken to go back over all posts and enjoy even more 🙂


Charles August 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Am trying to make the pop up captions over the hyperlinks and pics fun sometimes! So wiggle that mouse!


Charles August 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Thank you! Am really pleased to get a comment that adds to the worth of the blog. More welcome!


Paul Steer August 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I love the photograph of St Lawrence churh, and the wonderful fact that it is maintained by volunteers … if they read this guide (I hope at some point they do) well done and God Bless you .


Charles August 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the comment Paul. And I am sure the volunteers will appreciate it, too.


Glen January 18, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Great job with this blog – super helpful. I walked this section of the path this weekend – although very muddy, it was lots of fun and lovely views. I look forward to walking more of the path and using your blog as a reference. Barry to Llantwit Major next!


Charles January 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Hi Glen. Really pleased that you have found the blog useful. Do comment if you find anything wrong factually – or indeed if you disagree with what I have to say.


Richard Evans October 29, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Hey Charles, this is a fantastic review of the route. As a runner from Cardiff (now living in Hereford) I am really keen to give this a go 🙂
I might make a day of it and start off a little further away, like Splott (born and bred). Thanks again!


Charles October 31, 2016 at 10:35 am

Thanks a lot, Richard. I am glad you enjoyed it. You must give it a go.


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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)