Porthmadog to Pwllheli Coast Path Run
Coast Path Vital Stats
Porthmadog to Pwllheli
- Distance: 18.85 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 230m
- Highest Elevation: 49m
- Time: 3:07:50
- Av. Pace: 9:58 mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 129bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 151bpm
- Calories: 1734
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 122.90miles
- Total Time: 21:42:02
- Total Elevation Gain: 3482m
- Total Calories: 12265
- Distance to go: 758 miles
My Wales Coast Path run continued on Saturday, this time taking me out onto the Lleyn Peninsula with a nice section between Porthmadog and Pwllheli.
After a few decent days, I was expected sunshine and high temperatures so when I got up I put on shorts and a thin ‘T’-shirt, some suncream and packed more water than usual. It wasn’t until it got light and I was about to leave the house that I realised that it was pouring with rain. I quickly packed a few extra layers and some waterproofs and prepared myself to get wet rather than sunburnt! I made an early start and drove north through the pouring rain on quiet roads to arrive in Porthmadog at around 7am. I parked up near to the railway station, got ready and started my run with a little trot through the town to the NW end of The Cob where I joined the Coast Path once again.
It was still raining but fairly warm and due to the fact that it was early on a Saturday morning the streets were deserted, quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle here when I finished my run last weekend.
Out of Porthmadog
The Coast Path soon took me around a little headland and down onto the shingle of the small horseshoe shaped beach at Borth y Gest. Backed by neat rows of Victorian terraces and with views out across the Glaslyn and Dwyryd estuaries to the Rhinogs it looked idyllic despite the morning mist and drizzle.
I was soon out of the village and up onto a small hillside where I ran along the paths through the Pen y Banc Nature Reserve. This was now feeling like ‘proper’ coastal path. Birds and rabbits were scattering in front of me as I ran along the rocky, sometimes sandy paths through the mixed deciduous woodland of the nature reserve. To my left was the rocky coast with a rapidly flooding tide tugging at buoys in its path. To my right, trees and shrubs clung to the steep hillside. The path weaved its way around the headland twisting back and forth with the ever changing terrain. Every now and then there would be a glimpse of a secluded cove or a lovely sandy beach through the trees. It didn’t make for particularly fast paced running but it was certainly a treat for the senses. Lovely coastal views, the sound of wildlife all around and the sweet smell of gorse.
After rounding the headland of Ynys Cyngar I followed the Coast Path down some steep steps and out onto a huge expanse of sands. The beach of Black Rock Sands stretched off in front of me as the tide flooded over the sands. The tides were particularly high this weekend and were rising rapidly as a scattering of people walked their dogs along the beach. I ran ever onwards looking for the firmest areas of sand. It wasn’t too bad on the sand here as it is quite firm, but running on sand is never that efficient even when it is fairly solid. There were a number of small streams across the beach to run through as I made my way ever closer to the cliffs and caves of Graig Ddu that could be seen looming over over the NW end of the beach. The coast path takes a turn to the right towards the end of the beach, cutting through between caravan sites and heading inland a little before back-tracking on itself to take me up onto the far side of Graig Ddu. The tracks here were rocky and a little muddy as I ran through farmyards and riding stables and then back down and alongside the railway line. There were a few gates and stiles to cross and a couple of railway crossings too.
Unfortunately the whole path all along the railway line between here and Criccieth was strewn with rubbish. Plastic bags, fishing nets, cartons and all manner of other things were everywhere, sometimes in huge piles. I tried to ignore it and instead focused on the ever present silhouette of Criccieth Castle high on its promontory ahead of me.
I emerged from the path along the railway line into the streets of Criccieth where people were beginning to wake up. It was still quiet, but shops were opening and people could be seen eating breakfast in the windows of the hotels as I ran up through the main road, past the castle and then out onto the promenade.
The Coast Path then left Criccieth and became a gravel track through gorse bushes and shrub above the shingly coast and small cliffs. There were a number of interesting house along here too, each with their own unique architectural style.
The next feature of the Coast Path was the Afon Dwyfor, a small but lovely looking river that forces the path inland towards the main road in order to cross it. First though was the small matter of running along its banks as it meandered its way through the surrounding farmland. It was now very close to high tide and many areas of the narrow path were precariously close to the waters edge. In places the path would disappear altogether and I’d find myself splashing through boggy ground. I found a decent path again which then became a nice wide, well-maintained boardwalk, but around the next corner, the boardwalk was completely submerged under the ever rising tides.
There was no other option, it was time to take off my shoes and socks and wade through the icy waters. It was up just above my knees in places so I was glad I was wearing shorts and although quite refreshing it soon got pretty cold as my legs went numb. There were a couple of sections of this wading to get back on dry land where I sat down for a while, dried my feet and once again put on my running shoes to continue on my way across some fields, over the railway line and out onto the main A497. At least the rain had stopped now for a while and there were even people eating breakfast in the morning warmth outside their house at Aberkin.
The Coast Path then followed the A497 for a couple of miles. Not the most exciting or inspiring part of the path but eventually, just before the roundabout at Afon Wen it took a left turn and headed back out towards the beach.
The high tides once again made themselves felt here as they had risen up in the small river of Afon Wen and spilled over onto the path so I found myself running through ankle deep water several times. I didn’t stop to take my shoes off this time though, just splashed through them and then squelched ever onwards. It was now raining again as well so I just wanted to keep going.
Once back on the coast, the path winds its way along the edge of some fields, through several gates over a little bridge and then along the edge of a holiday park before heading out onto the cliffs of Pen-ychain. It was feeling very coastal here again with the lovely smell of gorse all around and some wild rocky coast scenery. Once off the small cliffs the Coast Path descends onto the long beach that leads to Pwllheli. The first section of this beach was loose pebbles that are always a nightmare to run along, then I was onto the energy sapping soft sands of the dunes behind the beach and finally out onto the long sweep of sands. The tide was now going out a little leaving just enough sand to run along. It wasn’t as soft as the sand in the dunes but it wasn’t hard-packed either. So, with around 15 miles behind me it was fairly slow going along here for the final few miles into Pwllheli and the sweep of the beach made it seem further than it looked.
I was finally on the streets of Pwllheli though, running past a large RYA building and then around the Marina and into town.
The end was in sight. The train station was one of the first things I came to and with a large Costa Coffee shop opposite and about an hour to kill before the train I popped in for a large latte and a panini and sat in the warmth waiting for the train.
This is the end of the line as far as the train goes, so any further excursions in my quest to run around the entire coast of Wales will require a rethinking of the logistics – it looks as though I’ll be relying on buses from here on in. The train back to Porthmadog didn’t take long though and I was soon driving home with an ETA of 1:30pm. Not bad as that meant I had the afternoon free for some gardening.
All in all, a lovely section of the coast path today with a bit of everything. Coastal towns and villages, castles, rocky cliffs, long sandy beaches, sand dunes, pebbles, woodland, gorse, estuaries, rivers, farmland, caravan sites and main roads, it had it all.