First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A cool, showery day over the hills of mid Wales, but a strip of blue sky and an onshore breeze were forecast for the coast of Cardigan Bay.
Clouds like grey cannon smoke rolled across the hilltops inland of Blaenplwyf. The Friesian cattle at Rhosfawr farm stared moodily at us as we passed. One cow was wearing an e-bell on her collar, designed to warn her away from the electric fence around the pasture.
In the rushy fields approaching Pentre we spotted a hornet in the grass, its wings too soaked with the morning’s rain to allow it to fly. Two dogs came barking to the farm gate, soon retiring after making their point. We followed a stony lane over the ridge and down towards a royal blue sea.
This section of the Wales Coast Path runs along cliffs of spectacular formation, undercut by the sea, bulging out in dark brittle rock topped with even more shaky clay. The string of coastal farms is threatened with ruin as the clifftops erode and crumple.
In medieval times this coast belonged to the rich and powerful Strata Florida abbey. Mynachdy’r Graig, ‘the monks’ house on the rocks’, was one of the abbey’s granges or outlying farms. Today, abandoned as a working farmhouse and less than forty metres from the ever-advancing cliff edge, its plain square dwelling and slate-roofed sheds are in the care of the National Trust.
Everything was utterly quiet and peaceful, the only sound the gentle wash of the sea on the rocky platform at the feet of the cliffs. A bevy of young choughs went cackling by, swooping like fighter planes. Outcrops beside the coast path were rock gardens of stonecrop, bell heather and wild thyme.
The path rose and fell for mile after mile, the cliffs and promontories of Cardigan Bay spread out from the Llŷn peninsula down to Pembrokeshire. As we stopped to admire the view, a big bird of prey came gliding by far below. Too bulky for a kite, too masterful in flight to be anything other than an osprey on a fishing expedition from its base up the coast at the Dyfi Osprey Project.
Its wingtips downturned, an arc of white feathers across its shoulders, it gave not a single flap, just cruised the wind, bigger and more powerful than anything else aloft. A most magnificent spectacle.
How hard is it? 7 miles, moderate one-way coast walk
Start: Blaenplwyf, near Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales SY23 4DJ (OS ref SN 576755)
Finish: Llanrhystud, near Aberaeron SY23 5DQ (OS ref SN 539697)
Getting there: Bus T5 (Aberystwyth – Cardigan)
Road – Blaenplwyf is on A487 between Aberystwyth and Llanrhystud
Walk (OS Explorer 213): From bus stop south along A487. At end of houses, right (boulder, green cabinet) up lane. In 100m through gate on right (573754); keep right of Rhosfawr farm sheds, then right up field track to road (570755). Left; in 100m, right (stile, yellow arrow/YA) to road at Pentre (568753). Right; in 50m right up lane beside Llain Bach. In ½ mile, meet Wales Coast Path/WCP near Ffos-lâs farm (560755). Left on WCP. In 4½ miles, with caravan site in view ahead, descend long slope; through gate (535705), right (WCP) to kissing gate, then fingerpost (534703). Left off WCP here; follow YAs to Banc (539703). Down drive; in 50m right (gate, YA), anticlockwise round scrub patch to stile in corner (YA); down scrubby hillside with hedge on left. In 200m hedge turns right; left over stile in corner here (539701, YA); right down green lane to road (538699). Left to A487 and bus stop in Llanrhystud. Bus return to Blaenplwyf.
Lunch: Black Lion, Llanrhystud SY23 5DQ (01974-202338, @blacklion.llanrhystud.9)
Accommodation: Aelybryn, Llangwyryfon, Aberystwyth SY23 4EX (01974-241744, aberystwythbedandbreakfast.co.uk)