The Wales Coast Path near Shell Island, Gwynedd, photographed by Charles Hawes

Wales Coast Path: Llanenddwyn to Harlech

May 18, 2014 · 16 comments

Date walked: 3rd April 2014

Distance walked: 11.3 miles

Cumulative total of miles walked along The Wales Coast Path: 535

The official website of the Wales Coast path is

OS map required:  OL 18 – Harlech, Porthmadog & Bala

I get all my maps from Dash4it. They are well discounted, and delivery is free and fast.


I had stayed the night at the Cadwgan Hotel  at Llanddwyn – a hamlet with a railway station serving nearby Dyffryn Ardudwy. Breakfast was unmemorable which sort of sums the place up; I didn’t have strong feelings about it. Outside the sky was overcast but not threatening; it didn’t look like there were going to be any nice cloudscapes or magic light in my photographs today.

Dyffryn Seaside Estate general store, photographed by Charles Hawes

You know what a caravan park looks like by now so here’s a pic of their shop

The wide track that runs to the beach, passes through a caravan park and then peters out as it meets the wide expanse of sand dunes. I picked my way through the dunescape, choosing the firmer tracks where grasses were binding the soft sand together.

San dunes  near Llanenddwyn, Gwynedd photographed by Charles Hawes

Sand dune country

And then there was my first sight of the coast of the day- always an exciting moment, even on a dull day. The dunes are very steep so I just slithered down to the firm  sand below.

The beach near llanenddwyn, photographed from The wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Once again, I had the place to myself

I was back on The Wales Coast Path, well sort of  – it doesn’t actually take the beach as it’s route but rather that more difficult to walk terrain above the High Water Mark.

Beach near Llanenddwyn, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

All that sand- just for me.

For two miles I walked by the gentle sea, my attention alternating between the washed up pebbles and shells and the breaking waves. As meditations go it was very effective, my mind empty of thought.

My best find was a piece of antler.

Antler on the beach near Llanddwyn, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I’ll admit I moved it a little to take the pic (but how come it was there at all?)

I picked it up and it seemed heavy as stone and I imagined for a moment that it was fossilized, but I think that its slightly spongy inside was saturated. On the other hand, the surface seemed more stone than bone like. I wish that I had put it in my bag now.

Part of the beach was given over to the skinny dippers. The Cicerone “Ceredigion and Snowdonia Coast Paths” guide says that naturism has been practised here since the 1930’s and “it can be quite busy here on a summers day”. I had never thought that taking ones clothes off  requires much practice.

Naturist swimming sign on beach near Llanenddwyn, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Anyone for tennis?

 The only takers this morning were a small flock of what I think may have been Sanderlings. 

Sanderlings on the shore near llanenddwyn, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Naked, every one.

At the end of the beach the path heads inland passing by the edge of Shell Island.

Shells on Shell Island, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Notice how many of the shells have holes in them, presumably savaged by birds?

Not an island at all this, area is a massive camping ground, with not a tent to be seen at this time of year.

Camping ground at Shell Island, Gwynedd, photographed by Charles Hawes

There’s something quite eerie about an empty campsite

Our dear friend Karen spent many a childhood holiday here, throwing herself off the steep dunes by the beach.

Sand dunes near Shell Island, Gwynedd, photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Wheee!!!! Plop.

I allowed myself a wander round (all right, I got a bit lost) and eventually found myself at the main entrance and complex of buildings serving the hoards.

Entrance to Shell Island, Gwynedd, photographed by Charles Hawes

It wouldn’t be a Welsh seaside without a Yucca or Cordyline

At low tide a causeway provides a route across the marshy estuary near the entrance but the tide was in so I had to circumnavigate the site to find a path on higher ground. And what a great path it was.

Reed-lined Wales Coast Path near Shell Island, photographed by Charles Hawes

Fabulous reeds – dunno what sort.

Newly surfaced and surrounded by a forest of tall reeds I would have happily accepted this as an inspired garden planting. The asphalt path became an older concrete one,  the incoming tide gurgling through pipes running under the causeway.

The Wales Coast Path near Shell Island, photographed by Charles Hawes


On such a misty day, the path disappearing into the distance, it would be easy to imagine getting drawn into a different world. But the path soon returned to a metalled road and this road runs along the edge of the disused Llanbedr airfield.

Llanbedr Airfield, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I’m sure someone would have a use for it.

Crossing the railway line again, the path leaves the road to cross the River Artro just outside Llanbedr.

Bridge across the River Artro near Llanbedr, photographed from The Wales Coast Path Charles Hawes

Thank you for this nice new bridge

The smart new bridge was just a stones throw from the busy A496, but thankfully today I was only required to walk alongside it for a few hundred yards. At Pensarn station (so many stations on this line- this was just a half a mile for the last one) the official route passes through a boat club where a group of school kids were donning wetsuits for an afternoons’ paddling around on surfboards.

Estury of River Artro, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawe

Much as I like the occasional candid people pic, I think I’d have been arrested if I showed them changing

A large sign said that the path was closed but offered no alternative. An instructor volunteered that the bridge had gone but that I could get around it if I climbed onto the railway embankment. Well there were no trains running due to repairs on the line so this was advice I was happy to follow.

Footbridge over the River Artro, Gwynedd, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Sorry I couldn’t manage a selfie of my fearless crossing

In fact, having good balance, I risked a soaking and managed to make the crossing on the bridges girders. It may have been a dull day but I love these estuary landscapes and the mistiness only added to the atmosphere of the place.

Estuary of the River Artro, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

There’s always a football isn’t there.

The estuary-side section finishes at a little park at Llandanwg, the mediaeval church of St Tanwg sitting right at the edge of the dunes.  I must apologise for not taking a better picture.

St Tanwg church, Llandanwg, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Still, it’s quite a nice shot of the side isn’t it?

I walked by the side of the church looking for a way in but its little door was locked.

St Tanwg church, Llandanwg, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

This seemed like the front door but it was at the back

The official route takes the road through the village but I fancied staying by the beach.  Several properties had steps down to the pebbly beach but after a few hundred yards the beach stops and the shoreline becomes a low rocky cliff, buttressed by large boulders, the railway line sitting on its top.

Beach at Llandanwg, Gwynedd, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think I knew this might not get me to Harlech but I was feeling stubborn

I hate re-tracing my steps and knowing that no trains would be passing I resolved to climb the embankment and try my luck by the railway line. I had quite a fight through thick bramble and scrubby trees, and somewhat scratched but otherwise unscathed I eventually emerged by the railway line.

Railway line at Llandanwg, photographed by Charles Hawes

Please don’t write in and tell me how bad I was.

I must emphasize again that I did know that no trains would be passing and  I would not wish to encourage you to follow in my footsteps! It was only a few hundred yards before I reached the point where the official path descends from the village to cross the railway line and drop onto the breach.

The Wales Coast Path crossing the railway line near Llanfair, Gwynedd photographed by Charles Hawes

Stop, look, listen

Once again I was looking at miles of sandy beach, a solitary fisherman trying his luck in the surf.

Fishing in the surf at Harlech, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

Some people know how to have fun

 The Coast Path only takes the beach for a mile before heading inland to Harlech, the beach ahead becoming a wide  impassable bay.

The beach at Harlech, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Yes, well spotted, this is looking back along the beach

The approach to Harlech is through Royal St David’s Golf Course and then along a little road which arrives at the A496. The view of the castle on the top of the hill was impressive even on this dull day.

Harlech Castle photographed from The wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I see no ships

The view of the Queens Hotel was not (impressive).

The Queens Hotel, Harlech, photographed by Charles Hawes

In fact, lower Harlech (if it is referred to as such), was pretty shabby all round.

Lower Harlech, photographed by Charles Hawes

Not Visit Snowdonia’s finest advert perhaps?

I had decided that Harlech was going to be big enough for me not to worry about booking anywhere to stay. It was obvious that the action was going to be in the upper town, so I climbed the steep road up to the castle and Harlech’s main street. The  attractive Cemlyn tea shop took my eye which was also advertising Bed and Breakfast but sadly they were full. However, the ever so friendly tea- makering lady suggested that Byrdir House was my next best alternative.  Harlech is not as big as I had thought and although there were other potential alternatives I was relieved to find that it had a double en-suite room. Sorted. And in time for tea. And scones, natch, at the tea shop. And then a snooze before supper. Bliss.


Harlech boasts several pubs and restaurants. The lady in the ice-cream shop opposite the castle had told me that if I was asking her out she would definitely choose the Good Food Guide listed restaurant with rooms, Castle Cottage (which was clearly a flirt if you ask me). Tea shop lady suggested the Caribbean Soul Food,  but that was closed so I had opted for The Lion Hotel, where the beer was good, the chilli was OK and the air was blue (mostly about how long they were taking to complete the new castle visitor centre).

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Steer May 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Perhaps the ice cream lady was one of the ‘Hopeful Lovers’ ?


Charles May 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Heh heh. Have you read it? BTW Plas B has most been redeemed.


Paul Steer May 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

If you have seen the redemption of Plas Brodanw then that for me is a must see. I’m half way through the book enjoying it and the solitude of our favorite holiday cottage in Newport Pembs.


Charles May 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Yes, Anne was quite put out and has resolved to amend a thinkingardens entry about it. It seems to be settling down but in my view is being over-gardened. And I still don’t think that the newish planting is up to much. Glad you like the book.


juia May 18, 2014 at 8:28 pm

like (nearly said ‘loving’) the dunescapes very much. Time seems to stand still on the coastal path – quite attractive in this day and age.


charleshawes May 19, 2014 at 5:52 am

Thanks Julia. You can love the dunescspes. But they and the coast are constanly changing. Sand and soft mud and rocks moving and collapsing. Really striking last week on the Lleyn.


Neil May 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

I don’t always think I’d like to have done a particular walk with you, some seem a little draggy (even if a day out with you is delightful, of course)…. But this one looks espescially lovely. As Juia says, looks a bit timeless, almost a dreamscape… The long path through the reeds espescially ‘other-worldly’… I would have greatly enjoyed this one, I think.
Must ensure you share the details of that ice dream shop, and where Castle Cottage is, when we next meet…. 🙂


charleshawes May 19, 2014 at 6:05 am

Yes, much to like from that day! And those reed lined paths through the marsh were fab. You can’t miss the ice cream shop. Say hi from me.


Neil May 18, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Actually, looking at the pictures quickly again, you have a lot very centred, many with path/railway travelling in a straight line away from you….Perhaps how the day felt? A lovely easy meditative walk into tomorrow….


charleshawes May 19, 2014 at 6:09 am

My very strong pull to symmetry. I have to force myself to focus off centre. Banal sometimes but pleasing.


Martin May 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Gosh, another fine post, I am enjoying these! Love the empty beaches, we have plenty of those on the Norfolk coast, where hopefully I’ll be wild camping in the dunes next week, weather permitting.


charleshawes May 19, 2014 at 6:00 am

Thanks Martin. I keep being surprised at how empty the beaches are. Many more to come. Thinking about some camping myself next month on the Lleyn.


rob grover May 23, 2014 at 6:54 am

A rather sombre day, with disused airfield, broken bridge and lost football.
I was waiting for the ‘finally the sun came out’ shot, but gained some substenance from the honey coloured church door with the sunburst surround.
You ponder about a use for the old airfields; the large acreage of flat grassland would seem tailor made for solar farms, with the runways, if necessary, retained for some hypothetical ‘defence’ purpose. So much less intrusive than turbines and easier to replace as the technology develops.
Wishing you blue skies and a light breeze


Charles May 23, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Hi Rob
Sombre at times abut with some excitements, too. What an excellent idea for the airfields. Maybe I should make an approach. Thanks for your good wishes.


Michelle September 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

We walked from Llanbedr to Barmouth last Sunday. There was quite a few sunbathers on that naturist beach, probably because it was a lovely sunny day. We didn’t know where to look!
The forest of reeds were taller & greener than in your picture & made an eerie rustling when the wind blew through them. It’s lovely to see your pictures at a different time of year. Michelle


Charles September 21, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Well, it’s not often that you see others naked; I think I’d look at what interested me most. There have been several parts where I am sure that it would be good to return in a different season,though I think I will keep my winter walking nearer to home.


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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)