Poppit Sands near Cardigan, photograph by Charles Hawes

Wales Coast Path:Ceibwr Bay to St Dogmaels and Cardigan

October 27, 2013 · 26 comments

Date walked  4th   September 2013

Distance: about 9 miles

Map required:  OL 35 -North Pembrokeshire

Suggested walking guide-book: Pembrokeshire Coast Path by Jim Manthorpe

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path Officer is Dave MacLachlan. His email is DaveMac@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk. The path starts (or ends in my case) at St Dogmaels.

The Pembrokeshire Coast is also a National Park which is  responsible for planning decisions


The regular readers of this blog will have noticed that where I started this walk was not where I left off the day before, so I had better explain. 

Yesterday Neil and I had stayed the night at Cnapan County Guest House in  Newport but I had walked past the town to a point a few miles further along where Neil had picked me up.

My intention today was to ask him to drop me off near where I had left off. But come the morning I was feeling a bit feeble. I had a headache which for once was not a hangover and just, well, not myself.  So as we were approaching the point where I would have got out, Neil suggested that he drop me instead where the little road passes Ceibwr Bay near Moylgrove and I readily agreed. 

By my reckoning this cut nearly two miles off the days walk.  It doesn’t sound much but it produced quite a lot of internal debate about whether I would return to do those two miles at a later date if I wanted to claim (or indeed feel) that I had walked the whole of The Wales Coast Path.

The even more careful reader might interject that I had already cut a mile or two off the path when I was near Marloes sands. And at Pembroke I took the train to the dock rather than start again in Pembroke High Street where I had left the path on that leg. As of now, I think that no reasonable person (myself included) would quibble over a few miles in the overall context of the 870 mile length of the path, but we’ll have to see what my psyche does with all this in due course.

Charles Hawes at the finger post on the Pembrokeshire Coast path near Moylegrove

Hey, Neil, I’m smiling!

This was what was occupying my mind as I waved Neil goodbye and then climbed up the very steep side of  the bay and looked back towards where I should have walked.

View towards Newport, Pembrokeshire photographed from the Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

So that jutting out bit and the two lumps behind it is what I think I bypassed.

Ahead were several more dramatic headlands and associated deep gullies and I was reminded of the comment by Manthorpe that this would be the most challenging part of the whole Pembrokeshire section of the path. Today certainly felt like a continuation of yesterday’s strenuous walking.

Pen-Yr-Afr, Pembrokeshire, in the distance, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Dramatic cliffs mean tough walking ahead.

After passing the hill called Foel Hendre there was a good view ahead of  Pen-Yr-Afr, and its spectacular cliffs.

Pen-Yr-Afr, photographed from The Wales Coast Path in Pembrokeshire by Charles Hawes

You can already see the contorted rock strata from here.

But before getting a closer look there was one more sharp decent at Pwllygranant, where a footbridge crosses a little stream.

Valley near Pwllygranant in Pembrokeshire, photographed from The Wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

You can make out the path climbing up the other side. Puff puff.

The closer up view of the cliffs was mind-boggling. How layers of rock that were once horizontal could get twisted and turned into such extraordinary patterns I found  impossible to comprehend even if  I understood the theory.

Folded rock strata of Pen-yr-Afr, Pembrokeshire, photographed from The wales Coast path by Charles Hawes

Folded Palaeozoic strata, caught up in the Caledonian Orogeny (in case you were wondering)

Having rounded that promontory the path continued to climb to the highest point of the Pembrokeshire path at 574 feet. Not high in absolute terms but relative to the drop to the sea below it felt pretty dramatic. I was glad that from here the path levels off then begins to descend as it reaches Cemaes Head, passing an abandoned and rather quaint  look-out building.

Look out building at Cemaes Head, Pembrokeshire, photographed from The Wales Coast Path by Charles Hawes

I couldn’t find out anything about it, so all information welcome.

After Cemaes Head a new bay appears and off the coast on the far side of it, Cardigan Island.

View to cardigan Island from Cemaes Head, Pembrokeshire, photographed by Charles Hawes

That’ll be the next walk, then.

As the path joins the little road that goes to Cardigan, some 4 miles off, the path changes in character. Gone are the cliffs, replaced by a more domesticated rural landscape with occasional properties. The road continues down hill past a youth hostel to a large car park by Poppit Sands where the RNLI have a Lifeboat Station (how do they launch when the tide is out?) and where (which was of more interest to me) there was a cafe where I bought an ice-cream.

Poppit sands, photographed from The Wales Coast apth by Charles Hawes

It must be very hard work dragging out the lifeboat along those sands at low tide.

Still walking by or on the road, its another mile and a half to St Dogmaels, where the Pembrokeshire Coast path officially ends (or begins). For most walkers getting to this point, if they had started at Amroth some 186 miles back, this would feel, quite rightly like a fairly momentous occasion.  For me, I can honestly say that I felt very little as I paused to take a picture of the slate faced monument, though I thought it worth a quick tweet and received a congratulatory reply.

The start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in St Dogmaels, photographed by Charles Hawes

186 miles for some – about 350 for me.

A new footpath sign appeared, but quite what it signified I couldn’t establish.

Footpath sign in St Dogmaels, Pembrokeshire, photographed by Charles Hawes

I did a bit of googling but couldn’t find this sign.

After passing the abbey at St Dogmaels (i didn’t stop, sorry) I failed to find the little footpath that on the map promised a river side stroll to Cardigan.

View of the River Teifi, photographed from The Wales Coast path in St Dogmaels by Charles Hawes

I found the path here but then I lost it.

Instead I had to make do with walking by the busy road until it crossed the river by the castle.

Path by the River Teifi in Cardigan, photographed by Charles Hawes

Rough translation: “Please take your rubbish home with you”

 I had arranged with the very helpful people at the Tourist Information Centre in the theatre that Luggage Transfers Ltd would pick up my bag from Newport that morning  and leave it with them.  When I introduced myself at the desk they were very interested in where I had come from and gratifyingly impressed by how far I had come to date.  They very kindly gave me a little map to show me how to get to the bus station.  I had arrived in time to get an earlier bus back to Carmathen (where I had a train connection to get me to Chepstow).

It was a very nice thought that I would be back in time for me to have supper with Anne (and that she would pick me up from the station). And it was a very nice experience to take my boots off as the bus bounced and shuddered out of Cardigan and change into more comfortable sandles.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Thorpe October 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

I’m quite glad to be reminded in this post that the walking can be hard and you’re not always feeling at your best – I think these aspects are often underplayed by walker-writers and then ordinary people like me are disillusioned when they find that walking is not all just views and ice-creams. So well done for bashing on – and the end of the Pembrokeshire section definitely does mark a notable achievement.


Charles October 27, 2013 at 8:06 am

It seems I had an infection. I went to the docs a week later and she reckoned I had an infected bite and treated and investigated for Lyme disease. I didn’t have it, and the antibiotics (lasting two weeks), left me feeling just as wiped out.


Dru October 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

Congrats on finishing… it looks like you missed out the bit where the path goes over the arch at the Witches Cauldron, Pwll y Wrach, just south of Ceibwr. One day I’m going to try swimming into it… For another time, perhaps!



Charles October 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

Thanks Drusilla. Yes, The Witches Couldron is the bit I missed. Good luck with the swimming. Very impressed. Wonder if anyone has swum the whole of the Wales Coast?


Anne Wareham October 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

Hmm… need to think about the cheatings. Might take the shine off the finish. Maybe you could get a twitter vote on it at some point. Xxx


Charles October 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

“cheatings”. Sounds very harsh but that is how some people might think.


Dru October 27, 2013 at 11:13 am

Doesn’t seem like cheating from over here. Your walk is your walk. How you feel about it is what is important. (We hopped on a train and, later, a bus, on our great Welsh walk, it just added to the richness from my point of view (and got us to Conti’s Cafe in Lampeter for a late breakfast, always a bonus!)).


Charles October 27, 2013 at 11:20 am

That seems like a very sensible (and supportive, thank you) outlook. It’s not like there is anyone out there having to decide if you are eligible for a prize for doing the walk!


Anne Wareham October 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

Yes. It is how some people might think. Worse – it is how you might feel. Just a tiny bit uncomfortable when you look back at what will otherwise feel amazing! (if you finish…) It’s a risk. Only you can tell that though..Xx


Neil October 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm

The whole area was lovely. I suggest we arrange a return ‘non coastal path walking’ visit, and you can do the missing couple of miles. Glad to see the smiling practice has paid off… 🙂 xx


Charles October 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Glad you liked it. The hills behind Newport are supposed to be great walking, so that’s a good idea! The week after next week I’ve got smiling sheep!


Neil October 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Just looked at Dru’s link. That looks amazing. I reckon a short two car arrangement to visit this section.


martyn October 27, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I foolishly walked from lower Fishguard to poppit sands in one day! Never again!!! It was only the welsh cakes that kept me going in the end as I went very light headed towards the end


Charles October 27, 2013 at 7:02 pm

That is totally mad! Never mind your head, what about your poor feet!


Neil October 27, 2013 at 9:18 pm

???? What was that a reply to?


Charles October 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Ah, yes. Comment just moderated! Hopefully makes sense now.


Neil October 28, 2013 at 1:11 am

Ah… Another long distance walker… All clear now 🙂


Neil October 28, 2013 at 1:12 am

Another long distance walker… All clear now 🙂


rob grover October 28, 2013 at 8:59 am

I guess the ‘missing bits’ issue is mainly to do with how much of the path they involve. Short deviations can usually be blamed on poor signage, even if in fact it was inattention ( chatting) at a critical moment. We returned to fill in a gap round the headland at Llansteffan ( 3 to 4 miles) and it was a great walk with views, and, because it was short, we had time to explore the castle and have two cafe visits. Your building at Cenmaes looks like a victorian ‘rocket shed’, used for storing warning flares, with a 20th century (? 2nd WW) lookout built on, although these are usually better disguised. What does your guidebook say? Impressed with your knowledge of Orogeny zones.


Charles October 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Rob. I know what you mean, though there is still a kind of need to apologise or explain going on here, isn’t there? I mean it’s a bit mad having to come up with some justification for deviations. And its already the case that the “official” route of the Coast Path has been deviated several times (like at Kenfig) and that the route might still be changed in places. And then there are parts where one could take a walk out to a headland or to see some feature which isn’t on the official path. So all in all I think my approach is that I’m walking the Path as I choose and as circumstances dictate and overall I am not going to worry about bits and pieces. But this has been a useful dialogue to help me sort this out, thanks to all. Charles


julia October 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

little path looks v inviting – nice and enthusiastic as usual Charles which makes it a good read


Charles October 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi Julia. I think I must have lost my edge. “nice and enthusiastic” is not what I am aiming for! Mind you, I don’t think you’ll find that for the next three posts.


Paul Steer October 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I was wrong about the bay on your last post then as this is Ceibwr. I have walked this section many times and never tire of revisiting it.


Charles October 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the correction!


ALUN EVANS June 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Re the sign, if you had googled a bit more you would have found that the decorative part is 1/4 of the “CelticCross”….so in keeping with your Welsh coastal walk.Re the mystery building, I concur with what the previous writer stated, but also understood that they fired “small warning firework” pre the test firing of larger rockets from RAE Aberporth into Cardigan bay


Charles June 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Hi Alun. Yes I can see the sign now as part of the “celtic” cross. Of course, we could discuss whether the Celts existed as such or had much to do with Wales but that’s a biggy! Interesting about the building.


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