First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
We’d plotted the tides as well as we could, so it was a relief to descend New Quay’s steep streets to the harbour and find the beach section of the Wales Coast Path still passable. We skirted the slippery rock promontory that makes a barrier to walkers at high tide, and went on round the classic curve of sand that rims New Quay Bay.
Looking back from the far point, the prospect of New Quay was of parallel streets running across the lower slopes of a fine green hill. Those straight horizontal streets were once interleaved with ropewalks where cables for ships were laid and braided. The days are long gone when the little town on the southern curve of Cardigan Bay was a ship-building centre and a bustling port; these days it’s the holidaymakers who bring life and colour to these streets.
Pale grey cliffs banded with extravagantly squeezed and distorted strata formed a backdrop to the beach. Tiny fingernails of fractured shells paved the sand. Beyond the headland a stream trickled out of the woods, and we sat by the stepping stones to watch pied wagtails flitting and hovering above the water to snatch their insect feast mid-air.
Halfway along the stony beach of Little Quay Bay we found steps leading up from the shore. A glance back at the kayak paddlers in the shallows, and we climbed a shady lane through the woods. In a garden at the top lay a venerable railway carriage, now with a second lease of life as a summerhouse.
The Wales Coast Path ran through steep pastures with the sea sighing low on our left hand. Jackdaws swooped and played over the slopes, and in the woodland sections speckled wood butterflies basked on the path with open wings, milk chocolate in colour with pale lemon spots.
Ahead the great curve of Cardigan Bay was clouded and hazy, the distant finger of the Lleyn Peninsula lying on the sea like a bar of mist. Down in the cleft of Oernant a stream came sparkling down through falls and spillways it had carved in the rocks, Clumps of pink thrift and white sea campion danced alongside in the sharp wind.
Down to cross stream clefts by wooden bridges; up again to breast the next brackeny hill. Finally a view from a summit gate over Aberaeron, planned shipbuilding and trading port, laid out in Georgian elegance around its harbour on a grey stone shore. We dropped down the hill and crunched over the pebbles, making for a well-earned cup of tea.
Start: Church Road car park, New Quay, Ceredigion SA45 9PB (OS ref SN 387599)
Getting there: Bus T5 (Cardigan-Aberystwyth)
Road – New Quay is signed off A487 (Aberystwyth-Cardigan) between Llanarth and Plwmp.
Walk (6½ miles, moderate coast path, OS Explorer 198): Down Church Street to the harbour. If high tide means beach impassable, continue up Glanmor Terrace road to B4342 (388597). Left; in ¼ mile left down Brongwyn Lane (390596) to shore. If beach passable – walk round curve of New Quay Bay to the far point (405599). Continue along beach for 400m to Cei Bach road end (409597). Up steps; right up road; just past caravan park, left up drive (409595, ‘Coast Path’/CP. In 100m, left before farm building: through gate (‘CP’): follow well-marked CP along coast to Aberaeron.
Return by bus T5.
Lunch/Accommodation: Harbour Master Hotel, Pencei, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA46 0BT (01545-570755, harbour-master.com) – stylish, friendly, bustling place.