First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A blowy day at Nash Point on the Glamorgan coast, with the sea breaking in wrinkled lines on unseen reefs far out into the Bristol Channel. A bell buoy clanged a dolorous warning as it swung with the waves. Exmoor lay extended along the opposite shore, with Dunkery Beacon a landmark whaleback. An enormous red container ship was pushing upstream against the tide, making for the docks at Avonmouth.
A group of Afghani men conversed excitedly in staccato shouts at the edge of the cliff. They were competitive kite flyers, down from London for the day; experts at the manipulation of air, their brilliantly hued kites swooping and clashing out over the sea as each flyer strove to tangle or cut his rival’s strings. A scene of pure exhilaration, colour and skill, from which we turned away grinning with delight to start the walk eastwards along the cliffs.
The twin Nash Point lighthouses and their monstrous black foghorns were soon left behind. Long leafless spikes of sea buckthorn lined the cliff path, coated in piccalilli-yellow lichen. In the cornfields, larks were singing. Newly emerged daffodils raised golden trumpets to the wind, as though in honour of St David’s Day.
Celandines and early bluebell spears bordered the way as it dropped through trees to the rocks and pools of St Donat’s Bay. From here at low tide the coastal landscape looked starkly apocalyptic, the fractured strata of the grey and yellow cliffs worn ragged by the sea. We teetered along the shore as far as Tresilian Bay with its pirate cave and solitary white house.
Back at St Donat’s we made our way towards the homeward path through the grounds of St Donat’s Castle. In the 1920s the castle was thoroughly done up by its owner, American newspaper tycoon Randolph Hearst. George Bernard Shaw, one of a string of eminent guests, remarked appreciatively, ‘This is what God would have built – if he had had the money.’
Start & finish: Nash Point car park, Marcross, Glamorgan CF61 1ZH (OS ref SS 916683)
Getting there: Bus service 303 (Bridgend-Barry) to Marcross.
Road: Marcross is signed from B4265, 2 miles west of Llantwit Major (reached via B4270 from A48 at Cowbridge). Lane beside Horseshoe Inn to car park.
Walk (Option 1 – 6¼ miles; Option 2 – 5 miles. Cliff and field paths, rough rocky beach extension; OS Explorer 151): Pass lighthouse; east along cliff path for 1½ miles, descending to St Donat’s Bay (935678). Cross concrete aprons. Option 1 (low tide only; rough and slippery) – continue ½ mile along shore to Tresilian Bay (947676), returning along cliff top. Option 2 – follow coast path up from St Donat’s Bay for 500m to kissing gate in wall with ‘St George’s Field’ plaque (940679). Left up side of field (‘Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail’/VMHT). Left at road (941682); pass Atlantic College gates; in another 200m, left (936685, VMHT) down drive into college grounds.
Just before St Donat’s Castle, right (935682, VMHT) down path. Just before church, right (934681, VMHT) on woodland path up Cwm Hancorne to road at Parc Farm (932685). Left; in 50m, left over stile; follow VMHT to cross stone stile and follow wall. In 100m, right over stile (930684); diagonally left across field, aiming for Marcross Farm. Cross stile and kissing gate (927686) into lane; turn right. In 300m VMHT turns left (927688), but keep ahead here along lane to cross road (927691). Field path to cross lane at Lan Farm (927695); across field with earthworks to cross lane at Pen-y-Cae Farm (925696). Follow field path south-west, parallel with lane to lighthouse, for ¾ mile to coast; left across mouth of Marcross Brook (915685) to return to car park.
Conditions: St Donat’s Bay – Tresilian Bay optional shore walk is low tide only. Tide times: http://tides.willyweather.co.uk
Lunch: Plough & Harrow, Monknash CF71 7QQ (01656-890209); Horseshoe Inn, Marcross (01656-890568, theshoesmarcross.co.uk)
Accommodation: Mehefin, Siggingston Lane, Llanmaes, Llantwit Major CF61 2XR (01446-793427)
Nash Point Lighthouse: opening times, visits 07850-047721, nashpoint.co.uk
Info: Bridgend TIC (01656-654906); Llantwit Major (01446-796086), Easter-Sept
The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99).