Guest Post: Wales-walking
I’m Grace Hughes, and I love writing, traveling, and everything outdoors. I’ve been writing about my travel experiences plus more on my website since 2004, and hope to have many more adventures with my husband Kevin in the years ahead.
My husband Kevin and I love to travel, and in the almost eleven years that we’ve been married we’ve taken some wonderful trips.
We live in Springfield, Illinois, right in the middle of the United States, and because it isn’t cheap to cross the Atlantic, we haven’t been on a lot of overseas vacations. Yet.
The year after we were married, in 2007, we took a cycling vacation along the Danube in Austria. It was a fantastic way to see the countryside close-up, and two years later we took another bike trip, this time in some remote areas of Scotland. Because I didn’t start exercising much until I became an adult I don’t think of myself as particularly athletic, even though I now love working out, especially outside. I was hesitant about biking along the Danube, but Kevin pointed out that it’d be pretty flat, which it was. But Scotland? Very very hilly, and this was, according to the travel company that booked out trip, an “easier” ride. Yikes. But it was beautiful and wild and I loved every minute of it, even though it was an especially wet summer and the hills were so very hilly. I learned the “power of one” – staying in first gear on the many steep climbs.
For a change of pace we tried hiking on our next trip in 2015. We chose the coast of Wales because Kevin discovered he has some Welsh ancestors, and we’d never been to Wales, and we’d loved the parts of the UK that we’d already seen.
Our cycling trips had been self-guided tours – a company arranged the route and the lodging and transported our bags from hotel to hotel, but we were on our own out on the road. We enjoyed that, and found a company called Macs Adventures that offered many choices of self-guided hiking trips in Wales. We chose the “Best of Pembrokeshire” – the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a national park, roughly 193 miles long, and we certainly didn’t want to walk the whole thing. The section we hiked was supposed to be the most beautiful; it was an eight-night, seven day trip, but we actually only hiked for six days. We started at the tiny town of Dale in the south of Wales (it’s so tiny that Welsh people we met had never even heard of it) and ended up in St. David’s, the “smallest city in Britain.” In addition to planning the route for us, Macs Adventures also sent us a guidebook all about the Pembrokeshire Path as well as a detailed hiking map.
This is the lovely old inn where we spent the night before the hike; it’s called the Allenbrook B&B, and it turned out to be the most charming place we stayed. It was old and sprawling, with peacocks and chickens out in the yard, plus a beautiful garden.
We walked into the center of town for a pre-hike dinner. Since there are only about 200 inhabitants, there weren’t a lot of dining options. Like I said, very remote.
We had dinner in a pub where I had freshly-caught fish, a glass of pear cider, and for dessert a chocolatey ice cream creation called a chocolate knickerbocker. Yum!
It turned into a chilly evening and I worried that it’d be cold on our hike the next day, and planned to wear tights under my zip-off walking pants, plus a sweater and a jacket.
The morning was sunny and glorious, and we set off at the crack of 9:30. This first day was supposed to be 11 miles of hiking; we’d travel south around the Dale Peninsula and then back to Dale and up to the next little town called Marloes, where we would spend the night. We were in a rental car and planned to leave it in Dale and collect it after we’d finished our last day of hiking.
Here’s the view of the harbour from the little road leading to the path.
This is the gate where we officially started on the path. I had some anxiety about the hike because where we live in Illinois is about as flat as it gets. We had taken quite a few practice hikes around town and out in the country, but there just aren’t hills in central Illinois.
It wasn’t chilly at all – as we hiked we got more and more warm and I was glad I had decided against wearing so many layers. I was also anxious about the path because the guidebook had lots of dire warnings about staying away from the cliff edges, and that people die doing that. But we never encountered any spots that were right on the edge – I think you’d have to do something pretty foolish to actually fall.
This spot along the hike was the least-marked part of our entire journey – there was just sort of a path in the grass. Off in the distance are some holiday cottages.
We walked all around the peninsula in about four and a half hours, and that’s Dale again off in the distance.
There were steps on some of the steeper sections. There’s Kevin in front of me, people way down on the beach, and somebody had pitched a tent in the field.
At this point we very hot and tired, and we had a choice to make – should we keep hiking to Marloes, or stop in Dales, get our car and drive to Marloes? We had only hiked about five or so miles, and we figured it was another seven or eight to Marloes, so we concluded that if we hiked all the way, (1) it would be dark, and (2) we would be dead. So we decided to cheat and skip the second part of the hike.
We stopped to look at a very old cemetery at the edge of Dale, and were so very happy that we successfully made it through our first hike.
We didn’t regret for one minute skipping the last section of that first day and were happy to get into our little car and drive the short distance to the next town. We quickly adjusted to hiking longer distances after this first day, and it was never as hot, either, which made a big difference. The hiking was arduous in places, but never impossible, and the scenery was incredible 100% of the time.
Walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path was an incredible experience, and I hope to hike more of it someday in the not-too-distant future. On this trip we also visited Ireland for a few days, and some other beautiful places in Wales. If you’d like to read more detail about this trip, it’s in the “wales 2015” section of my website, www.graceuncensored.com.
Thanks again to Grace for this wonderful post about Wales.