First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Out in the remote north-west corner of the Isle of Anglesey, the shingle bank of Esgair Gemlyn runs west in a shapely curve, guarding a brackish lagoon where hundreds of sandwich terns raise their young each year. Under our boots crunched smooth flat pebbles – grey and crimson, jade-green, apricot and snow white, enough shapes and colours to gladden the heart of any princess who might peep over the castle-like walls of Bryn Aber.
Bryn Aber lies low beyond the beach, a house in a brambly demesne surrounded by sturdy double walls of sun-paled brick. The walls were built in the 1930s by Captain Vivian Hewitt, flying ace (he made a pioneering flight from Anglesey to Dublin in 1912) and passionate ornithologist. Hewitt planned to conceal himself in the space between the walls, to observe without scaring the terns, gulls and waders breeding in the lagoon he created for their benefit and his own pleasure.
Sea kale’s leathery pale leaves and the big crinkled flowers of yellow-horned poppy shivered in the breeze along the shingle. The slim shapes of grey mullet flickered through the gaps of the causeway below Bryn Aber. We crossed the inlet and made west along the coast path, looking forward to the prominent seamarks of the White Ladies on Carmel Head and the squat red and white lighthouse out on the long reef of the Skerries a couple of miles offshore.
Up close the White Ladies proved an angular pair, tall and thin, their triangular buttresses like grey cloaks held out to catch the wind. Below them the point of Carmel Head was a jumble of quartz and rusty iron rock, and of ancient gneiss pushed up and over the underlying rocks – the oldest exposed rock in Wales. Out at sea a pair of porpoises were hunting the agitated waters of the tide-ripped sound, and we sat to watch their curving backs and thorn-shaped fins breaking the sea.
On past a series of deep, dark coves, the path narrow and vertiginous round their unguarded edges. By the rock stack islet of Ynys y Fydlyn with its black wave-cut arches we turned inland between fields of sheep and cattle, a landscape rolling south to the crumpled peak of Mynydd y Garn. Over the pastures to Tyn Llan and its little chapel tucked behind a field wall, and down again to Bryn Aber and the bird cries in Captain Hewitt’s lagoon.
Start: Cemlyn Bay car park (east side), near Cemaes, Anglesey, LL67 0DY approx. (OS ref 336932)
Getting there: Cemlyn is signed from A5025 Holyhead-Cemaes road between Llanrhyddlad and Tregele.
Walk (9½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 262. NB: online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Walk Esgair Gemlyn shingle bank to west end at Bryn Aber (329936); follow coast path for 4 miles via Carmel Head to beach at Ynys y Fydlyn (292917). NB closures – see below. From beach, head inland (yellow arrow) with trees on left; over open land for ½ mile to car park (303914). Left along road. In ½ mile, at right bend (308918), keep ahead (‘Mynachdy, Private Road’). At Mynachdy, through gate (309923); right along wall by barns; on along stony track, past derelict lodge on left, to gate/stile (314925). Ahead to gate into road (317926). Immediately left through iron kissing gate (‘NT’); path to coast (319929). Right on coast path round Hen Borth, through gate at far end and on to next gate (321931). Half right to gate near chapel (322932); across field to kissing gate to left of Tyn Llan farmhouse (323933). Ahead down lane; in 500m, left (328932) across causeway and past Bryn Aber; across Esgair Gemlyn to car park.
Conditions: Esgair Gemlyn shingle bank, April-August – please walk seaward of wooden posts to avoid disturbing nesting birds.
NB Coast Path immediately north of Ynys y Fydlyn is narrow, slippery and vertiginous, with sheer drops. Walk this section at your own risk. It is a permissive path, courtesy of the landowner, and is closed between September 15 and 31 January. Alternative return route from Carmel Head – footpath SE to Mynachdy; then as detailed above.
Accommodation: Harbour Hotel, Cemaes Bay LL67 0LN (01407-710273, angleseyharbour.co.uk)