Aberaeron and its colourful houses at night

Vivienne Crow hikes along a quiet stretch of the Ceredigion coast on the Wales Coast Path    

THE 18 KILOMETRE STRETCH OF THE WALES COAST PATH between Llanon and New Quay was, in terms of variety, something of an eye-opener. One minute I’d be wandering along field edges or the back of a pebbly beach, thinking: “Well, this is perfectly pleasant… but a little uninspiring.” Then I’d gain a little height and find myself on a broad ledge on the hillside, striding out along a gorgeous balcony path, with the waves crashing far below. It was at these moments that I discovered a broad grin had sneakily crept across my face and remained fixed there.

After getting off the bus from Aberystwyth, I didn’t linger long in Llanon; I was eager to catch a glimpse of the medieval fish traps further south before the tide came in. These pools were built by the Cistercian monks of Strata Florida Abbey. With low walls on three sides, they became submerged at high tide, trapping the fish when the water later receded.

Medieval fish traps

Unfortunately, the traps had already disappeared by the time I reached them, so I pushed on. Dull farmland soon gave way to steeper, higher cliffs and one of those wonderful Ceredigion paths that seem to be so old, they’re as much a part of the landscape as the hills themselves. In places, the incessant passage of travellers has, over the ages, worn a groove into the otherwise smooth, grassy slope. Here and there, particularly further north, near Aberystwyth, centuries-old hedgerows growing either side of the path have united to form an archway.

The next few miles were typical of the day: spectacular cliff paths divided by occasional lanes, field paths and campsites.

Colourful Aberaeron

The town of Aberaeron, about half-way to New Quay, was another one of those lovely, smile-inducing surprises. I’d been walking along a dull, stony beach with row upon row of caravans to my left when I reached the edge of town. The rather forlorn-looking terraced homes didn’t bode well. But then I reached the harbour and my opinion of Aberaeron did an about-turn… Either side of the mouth of the Afon Aeron are brightly coloured Georgian buildings, the homes of the captains of ships that sailed in and out of this once thriving port.

Suddenly, my pace slowed. I’d been marching for the last couple of miles, but this I wanted to savour. Bars and cafés lined the waterside and the main road through the town. I bought myself a snack, found a bench in the sun, and sat… And then I sat some more.

New Quay, on the Wales Coast Path in Ceredigion

New Quay, on the Wales Coast Path in Ceredigion

Eventually tearing myself away from this laid-back town, I regained the coast path and continued southwest. The next few miles were typical of the day: spectacular cliff paths divided by occasional lanes, field paths and campsites.

Seaside waterfall

The route crossed many beautiful ravines, including the idyllic, wooded valley of Cwm Clifforch and the Afon Drywl. The latter is a charming spot: the stream comes tumbling down the gorge, the steep sides of which reveal layers of sedimentary rocks uplifted over time. It then plummets over the lip of the cliff, dropping into the sea about 30 metres below.

Before long, the broad, sandy beaches of New Quay appeared ahead – day’s end. The colourful homes of the town itself were stacked up, layer upon layer, hugging the steep slopes leading down to its sparkling bay. I eventually dropped on to the beach. With families playing on the sand or soaking up the sun behind windbreaks, I felt a little overdressed with my rucksack and walking boots. Not wishing to stand out, I removed boots and socks, and walked the last mile or so barefoot through the surf.

Vivienne Crow

Outdoor writer and photographer Vivienne Crow

This article first appeared in The Great Outdoors (TGO) magazine in May 2015, and is re-published here with the author’s permission. © Vivienne Crow 2015. All rights reserved.
Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specialising in travel and the outdoors. She has written almost 20 walking and travel guidebooks, contributes regular features to newspapers and magazines, and does copywriting for conservation and tourism bodies. Vivienne is a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, and is available for commissions.
Contact: viviennecrow@hotmail.com