So this year I get to spend my birthday walking the Anglesey Coast Path on a glorious summer’s day with one of my favourite people in the whole world. How lucky can a girl get?
I’ve always loved having a June birthday because at least you get the possibility of celebrating outdoors. I’ve been fortunate that the weather has been warm and fine for the past few years, and it seemed I was going to be lucky again this year.
After cereals and a filling cooked breakfast (full English for Harri, scrambled egg on toast for me), delivered directly to our breakfast table in The Loft, by Victoria, it was time to return to the coast.
Church Bay apparently gained its name from English-speaking sailors who identified places along the coast for their maps using obvious landmarks. The high steeple of Llanrhyddladd Church is easily visible from the sea, so Church Bay it was!
We had hoped to have a quick browse in the Swtan Heritage Museum, which is housed in a gorgeous 16th-century thatched cottage but unfortunately it was too early.
Today’s scenery was very different from the outset, with rugged cliff tops paths and magnificent views out to the Skerries. These sparsely populated islands lie three kilometres off the coast of Anglesey; the distinctive lighthouse sits on the highest point. We’d been able to see the outline of the Skerries on the horizon since we’d set off yesterday, but now we could see them clearly.
We were still struggling to get used to our heavy rucksacks, especially on steep, uneven, uphill sections. Don’t believe anyone who tells you coast path walking is easy! Unless you’re planning to cover a long flat section like the Millennium Coast Path at Llanelli, all that upping and downing is hard going and really saps your energy.
Fortunately, as we left the relatively sheltered Holyhead Bay and headed around Carmel Head, the spectacular scenery and dramatic cliff-top route made the effort worthwhile and I started to understand why the Anglesey Coast Path is so popular with hikers.
Unfortunately, those same rugged cliffs have long made the north Anglesey coast a treacherous place for shipping as the presence of the lighthouse on the Skerries, white beacon on West Mouse (Maen-y-Bugail in Welsh, meaning The Shepherd’s Stone) and several day markers near Carmel Head testify.
Farther along the north coast, just short of Wylfa nuclear power station, we arrived at Cemlyn Bay, which is very popular with tourists judging from the number of parked cars and people wandering around.
The beach itself is crescent-shaped and very pebbly (thus difficult to walk on). Behind it lies a lagoon, which is fed by several small streams and regulated by a weir at the western end.
The lagoon provides a breeding ground for around 1,500 pairs of sandwich terns (the third largest colony in the UK). The on-site warden encouraged us to take a look through her telescope and it was fascinating to watch so many birds landing and taking off in a relatively small area (a bit like Heathrow airport on a miniature scale).
By now, the afternoon was so balmy we might have been in southern Europe, and this sun-loving hater of cold and wet weather was in her element. Cemlyn Bay was abuzz with families and walkers. Why couldn’t every day from May to September be like this, I wondered? Sunshine made the world a nicer place, encouraging people to go out and about and interact with one another.
The site was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1958, is part of the Anglesey Heritage Coast and the Isle of Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
After the beauty of Cemlyn Bay and its lagoon, we headed towards Wylfa nuclear power station with heavy hearts. We’re sufficiently realistic (yes, even me) to know that not every step of a long-distance route is going to be picturesque and beautiful, but our Hinckley Point experience was still fresh in our minds and the last thing we wanted to do was get lost on another inland detour around a nuclear power station.
So what did we do? Get lost on another inland detour around a nuclear power station. I won’t go into the gruesome details but we managed to miss some of the signage for the diverted path and ended up walking around in circles.
Eventually Harri managed to get us back on track and we arrived in the picturesque little seaside resort of Cemaes Bay just after 5pm for our first proper rest (and drink) of the day (it turned out to be our only drink as by the time we reached our hotel, we were far too tired for more birthday celebrations).
Cemaes Bay’s claim to fame is that it is the most northerly village in Wales. Once a thriving port where local limestone and marble, bricks corn, lime and ochre were exported, the small fishing village with its two sandy beaches is today popular with tourists and walkers.
It was hard to pull ourselves away from this lovely little place but we still had some miles to cover before we reached our destination of Bull Bay.
I’m not madly keen on bulls (Harri usually keeps mum when he spots one in a field for fear I’ll insist on doing a massive detour), but fortunately Bull Bay gets its name from the Welsh Pwll y Tarw (‘the bull’s pool’). Its claim to fame is having Wales’s most northerly golf course, opened in 1913 by a local aristocrat. A less obvious attraction is the 570 million year old rocks which line the coast, among the oldest in Wales.
Having scoured those ancient rocky inlets as we approached, I was happy to conclude Bull Bay was a bull-free zone and proceed in an easterly direction.
We arrived late at our overnight accommodation – Trecastell Hotel – exhausted and ready for bed.
After two days ‘on the road’ we were already getting used to our new lifestyle. I just hoped the rain would hold off… and I wouldn’t get blisters.
‘Never too old to backpack: O Fôn i Fynwy: a 364-mile walk through Wales’ by Tracy Burton is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store and other online bookstores priced at £2.99.