The Coastal Way
Running along the entire sweep of Cardigan Bay, from Aberdaron in the north to St Davids in the south, the 180-mile/290km Coastal Way is one of three Wales Way national touring routes.
Rather than a rigid set of directions, each ‘Way’ is a jumping-off point for exploration, with plenty of opportunities to venture off the main path and create your very own personal journey.
This three-day itinerary highlights some of the most striking landscapes and breathtaking views to be found on and around The Coastal Way from sandy shorelines and rocky sea cliffs to misty mountains and atmospheric ancient sites.
Get started with a trip around the dramatic coastline of the Llŷn Peninsula, a wild and compelling Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that juts arm-like into the sea. Follow the northern shore to Aberdaron at Llŷn’s dramatic ‘land’s end’ before driving along the southern coast towards the looming peaks of Snowdonia with Cardigan Bay’s blue waters at your shoulder.
Next, take a scenic tour through the skyscraping Snowdonia National Park, following a route from Porthmadog which takes you through Beddgelert, Capel Curig and Betws-y-Coed, before heading south past the historic ‘slate capital’ of Blaenau Ffestiniog to the A470. Just before you reach Dolgellau, turn onto the A496 to follow the Mawddach Estuary towards Barmouth. Bounded by tree-covered hills and misty mountains, it reveals jaw-dropping vistas as it winds its way towards the sea.
Suggested overnight: Barmouth.
Take the coast road via Aberdyfi and the Dyfi Estuary (another mountain-meets-sea scenic gem) to the bohemian market town of Machynlleth. Drive south on the A487 and B4353 towards the coast. Between Ynyslas and Borth you’ll pass Cors Fochno, a rare area of raised peat bog alive with unusual plant species like the carnivorous sundew. If the tidal conditions are right you may also be able to spot an otherworldly submerged forest of millennia-old trees poking out from the sand at the shoreline.
Continue on down the coast to Aberystwyth, before rejoining the A487 and heading towards Aberaeron, soaking up the stunning sea views over Cardigan Bay as you go. Finish your day at magical Mwnt, one of Ceredigion’s hidden gems. The sheltered sandy beach is perfect for paddling, while a walk to the top of Foel y Mwnt is a must for dolphin spotting and lovely views of Cardigan Island to the west as well as northwards towards Snowdonia.
Suggested overnight: Cardigan.
From Cardigan, follow the coast road via St Dogmaels to Poppit Sands for a walk on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to rugged and remote Cemaes Head.
Continue on to the fashionable seaside town of Newport, before following a minor road south into the haunting Preseli Hills. About a mile along the road to Cilgwyn, you’ll find a large car park with a footpath that leads up to Carn Ingli. With a name that translates as ‘Mountain of Angels’, this atmospheric Iron Age fort sits on a rock-strewn summit 1,135ft/346m above Newport.
Return to the A487 to travel past Fishguard and on to Strumble Head or Pencaer. Dominated by Strumble Lighthouse, perched on a tiny island just off the coast, it’s an untamed location with a bird observatory, making it a favourite spot for wildlife watchers.
Extend your adventure further by exploring Fishguard and the surrounding area, including the Gwaun Valley whose most famous resident is Bessie Davies, the owner of the Dyffryn Arms or ‘Bessies’. Make a detour onto the Preseli Hills where the landscape changes to wild moorland, heath and grassland and is home to a wide range of plants and invertebrates some of them quite rare.
Onwards along the Coastal Way
Pembrokeshire is at the southern end of the Coastal Way, which then runs through Ceredigion to Snowdonia Mountains and Coast (in the county of Gwynedd) in the north. Don’t miss out. Follow it all the way.
Experience more of The Coastal Way with our suggested itineraries including adrenaline-field adventures, exploring our history & culture, walking that takes your breath away and our delicious local food and drink that awaits you around every corner.
The Coastal Way guide will give you more ideas and inspiration for your trip – Download it here.