Adventure Travel - Wales: Fresh Tracks through History
Beachside trek meets pub crawl meets castle tour on Europe's newest long trail, the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, officially opened last May. Want to be among the first to hike it all--or its highlights? We sent our scout to find the best sections before the guidebook even hit the shelves. He returned with beta on two 100-mile routes that each fit neatly in a week's vacation, plus a few surprising lessons about backpacking in King Arthur's homeland.
Barney Scout Mann
St. Dogmaels to Dale View the full GPS track. Day 1: From the PCP starting monument in north St. Dogmaels, hike 15 miles to Tycanol Farm Camping (caravancampingsites.co.uk/pembrokeshire/tycanolfarm.htm) near Newport.
Day 2: 13 miles to Fishguard (Hamilton Lodge; hamiltonbackpackers.co.uk/).
Day 3: 19 miles to Trefin (Old School Hostel, a 1-mile detour; theoldschoolhostel.co.uk/).
Day 4: 11 miles to Whitesands Bay (St. Davids YHA; yha.org.uk/hostel/st-davids).
Day 5: 12 miles to Nine Wells Caravan Park (ninewellscamping.com/) near Solva.
Day 6: 12 miles to Little Haven (Atlantic View B&B; atlantic-view.co.uk/).
Day 7: 14 miles to Westdale Bay (cross peninsula neck to Dale for lodging).
Aberystwyth to Porthmadog View the full GPS track. Day 1: From the boardwalk in the town of Aberystwyth, hike 17 miles to Morben Isaf Touring Park (morbenisaf.co.uk/default.aspx) near Dovey Junction (a one-mile detour).
Day 2: 16 miles to Aberdovey (Awel y mor B&B; awelymor-aberdovey.co.uk/).
Day 3: 16 miles to Cae Du Camping Park (.3 mile off the trail; 01654 711234).
Day 4: 13 miles to Coast Caravan and Camping (hendremynach.co.uk/) or a guesthouse in Barmouth.
Day 5: 11 miles to Shell Island Camping Park (shellisland.co.uk/).
Day 6: 15 miles to Barcdy Camping Park (barcdy.co.uk/) near Llandecwyn.
Day 7: 13 miles to Porthmadog.
WALES COAST PATH TRIP PLANNER
GET THERE Fly to Manchester, England. All trail towns are accessible via rail and bus: traveline-cymru.org.uk.
SEASON Spring through fall. Summer is best; pack for rain and cold anytime.
WHERE TO STAY Save money by camping at near-trail caravan parks (first-come, first-serve; about $15-$20/night). Hostels and B&Bs let you go lighter and offer a respite if bad weather sets in ($70/night and up, reserve three months in advance for July and August). Expect to pay cash at most places. Favorite stops: Hamilton Lodge in Fishguard (hamiltonbackpackers.co.uk/); Cae Du (.3 mile off the trail near Rhoslefain; 01654 711234); Pwll Deri (on trail just south of Strumble Head Lighthouse; http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/pwll-deri). Note: Youth Hostel Association lodges have a 3-for-4 WCP deal--stay three nights and get the fourth night free.
MAPS AND GUIDES WCP maps 41-54 for Aberystwyth to Porthmadog; maps 62-73 for St. Dogmaels to Dale (free; walescoastpath.gov.uk). One (Isle of Anglesey) of six official WCP Guidebooks is available (northerneyebooks.com); Pembrokeshire Coast Path--Trail Guide by Brian John ($20; aurumpress.co.uk).
BEST PUBS Aberystwyth's Scholars Pub (trip 1, day 1); Trefin's Ship Inn (trip 2, day 3); Porthgain's The Sloop Inn (trip 2, day 4)