Section Four - Llanrhystud to New Quay - Ceredigion and Wales Coast Path
Distance - Around 14 miles (23km) Grade – 6.5 miles moderate and 7.5 miles easy grade walking – Low shingle banks & short cliff sections before coastal uplands and woodlands cut by deep stream valleys. What these grades mean
An easier day today after the strenuous efforts since Aberystwyth, much of which is on long sections alongside shingle and mud bank, through an area of flat, wide coastal plain. There are a couple of climbs over high cliffs, but nothing like the ups and downs you have endured so far – or those to come.
Start by clunking over the stones at the back of the beach for a short distance on a pebble banked storm ridge.
You quickly pass an unusual set of 4 stocky old lime kilns in woods at Craig-Las. These were significant in their day, with coal and limestone stores adjoined, as well as the remains of a beer store for the thirsty workers. As you emerge from the wood you can still see parts of the old jetty where materials for the kilns were offloaded from ships.
Gentle walking to Llansantffraid follows, across lush green coastal fields and pasture just inland of the shoreline, where the medieval towered church dominates the scene. It is dedicated to St Ffraid, the patron saint of dairy maids, which reflects the more arable nature of the land you are walking through. A glance around the graveyard reveals a less pastoral history however – it is said that there are over 70 graves here of local sailors who died at sea, most on voyages to the other side of the world, far away from this quiet corner of Wales.
Near the hamlet of Llannon you will pass through Morfa Esgob or ‘The Bishops Strand’, a well-preserved and complex system of medieval strip-farming known as slangs: narrow strips of land given over to feudal peasants – there are over 140 here that survive intact. It’s at this point that you are forced to cross the River Cledan where it snakes and spills out over the pebbles to the sea and there is a short walk along the pebble ridge to enjoy as you approach.
There is a medieval feel to this area and at low tide it’s incredible to be able to spot the remains of ancient fish traps or goredi, low walled enclosures out at sea which trapped hapless salmon and mullet as the tide fell. Still visible are the footings – these had removeable wattle fences fixed to them as the tide went out. The back of the beach is eroding year on year…but these medieval fish traps have remained in place since the 6th Century!
Beyond Llannon you briefly leave these fertile plains and the nearby foreshore to climb into a section of high cliffs at Graig Ddu. At the height of the traverse, massive cliffs suddenly appear from the gorse and you find yourself very close to large drops. After carefully rounding them you descend back to the low shingle banks at the larger village of Aberath, where the Strata Florida Monastery had its water mill and fishing activities. Here you travel inland, but gladly so, as it’s a place of pretty cottages and a lovely bubbling river, the Arth, crossed by a footbridge below a series of cascading waterfalls and steps.
From here you can make a ½ mile diversion to the church and see the Viking hogback stone – the only one in Wales.
The push is now on to the vibrant harbour at Aberaeron, firstly along low clay cliffs, before you are dumped onto the shingle to crunch along on the final approach to town.
Click Here for information on overnight options in Aberaeron on The Ceredigion Coast Path
Arriving on foot from the coast, you head inland past the colourful stately buildings which brighten up any traveller’s day as you traverse first the outer and then the inner harbour.
There are great eating places here, making it the perfect lunch stop. Note the pink Limestone Weighing House - just one of many functional industrial buildings, ordered neatly around the grid-like harbour and town that seems to ooze quality and order – in distinct contrast to the fun and disorder of anarchic New Quay at the end of the path tonight!
Happily, after refuelling at Aberaeron, it’s good to feel the path rising again through grassland, interspersed with occasional patches of woodland, before reaching Cilfforch, where the first of two steep valleys (cwm’s) are crossed by little wooden bridges.
The dramatic descent today is into and - of course - back out of the second cwm at the Afron Drywl valley, a stunning spot with steep sides, some dark forest and a lively stream that tumbles in front of your feet, over the rocks to oblivion (well, presumably to the inaccessible beach below!).
The rocks revealed by the charging steam have amazing block patterns – it’s a lovely hidden vale. The cliffs in this section have lots of birds swooping, landing and resting on the ledges, so keep a sharp eye out.
Thoughts now are ahead to New Quay, which appears in the distance across the bay and wide grassy tracks through the gorse and brush above the cliffs take you towards it.
First divert briefly to Llanina Point, where the pretty Afon Gide stream tumbles out of the woods and over the beach to meet the sea. You can visit the lovely church dedicated to Ina, 7th Century King of Wessex and the master builder of mighty Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. This tiny church was built after locals rescued King Ina from a terrible shipwreck and nursed him back to health. He vowed to build a church in thanks and was good to his word, although shifting coastlines mean it has moved inland several times - this is now the 7th version.
It is said you can still hear the bells at night tolling from the sunken predecessors. It’s a lovely little church, dating from around 1850, with a graveyard full of bluebells in the spring and it sits right above the beach.
The final mile or so into New Quay now depends on the tides. If you are lucky and it’s low to mid-tide, you can walk right around the bay on the sands and arrive in the harbour on foot from the foreshore. At high tide you must divert inland to arrive through the higgledy-piggledy little lanes and backstreets of New Quay, but it’s a pleasing introduction to the place, passing through the garden of the Black Lion Inn, a favourite haunt of Dylan Thomas – and it seems rude not to have a quick drink on your arrival in his honour.
Click Here for information on your overnight in New Quay on The Ceredigion Coast Path