Glynllifon to Bangor Coast Path Run
Coast Path Vital Stats
Glynllifon to Bangor
- Distance: 22.92 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 235m
- Highest Elevation: 61m
- Time: 3:24:14
- Av. Pace: 8:55 mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 134bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 153bpm
- Calories: 1974
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 220.9miles
- Total Time: 40:59:42
- Total Elevation Gain: 6695m
- Total Calories: 21,190
- Distance to go: 664 miles
Another run along the Wales Coast Path, this time from Glynllifon, through Dinas Dinlle and out onto the mainland shores of the Menai Straits. Through the walled castle town of Caernarfon and on to the historic city of Bangor, gateway to Ynys MÃ´n (Anglesey). Having looked at the map beforehand, it didn’t look like the most exciting section of the Coast Path. It was flat for a start and seemed to be mainly on paved surfaces. There would be some nice views around Fforyd Bay and out across the Menai Straits here and there, but much of it was through woodland along a cycle path or along the side of busy roads. Oh well, it had to be done if I were to circumnavigate Wales and it was only around 20 miles so plans were made.
New Shoes for Coast Path Running
The first decision was to decide which shoes to wear. Until now I’d been wearing my Inov-8 Talon trail running shoes on all of my coast path runs. Earlier in the year when it was wet and very muddy they had been essential with their deep open tread providing much needed traction in the slippery conditions.
They had performed well and been comfortable. They were also lightweight which is a help on the longer runs. I’d worn them all the way and they were looking a little worse for wear. The end of last weeks Coast Path run from Morfa Nefyn to Glynllifon was mainly on tarmac and by the end of it my feet were a little sore. Not surprising really as these shoes designed for soft surfaces and don’t provide much protection from the constant pounding associated with running on the road. On top of that, my trail-running shoes needed replacing. The tread was quite worn and the small amount of cushioning that they have had broken down. I had therefore bought a replacement pair exactly the same. It wasn’t until they arrived that I realised quite how old the old pair looked, and quite how much tread was missing from the one area on a shoe that I wear out. It was definitely time for a case of ‘out with the old and in with the new’.
However, after checking out the route and seeing that it was almost all on tarmac I decided that maybe a slightly more cushioned shoe would be better today. I therefore decided not to use my new trail running shoes, but to go with my heavier, more bulky standard road shoes, a pair of Brooks Ghost. It turned out to be a good decision as the extra cushioning was nice to have and the extra weight went mainly unnoticed.
Running Along Dinas Dinlle
I started the day with a drive to Caernarfon on lovely quiet roads which meant I arrived there just after 6:30am. I parked (£4 all day) in the shadow of the fortress-like castle walls, got ready and waited for the number 12 bus to take me to Glynllifon where I had finished last week.
The bus driver dropped me right at the junction to Dinas Dinlle, so I jumped off, fastened my rucksack and headed off along the country road to the beach of Dinas Dinlle.
I know this area fairly well as I have done geology field trips here in the past and have been here windsurfing both at Dinas Dinlle itself and in Fforyd Bay (which I would be running around today). It was about a mile and a half along the tarmac road to the beach at Dinas Dinlle where the coast path turns right and runs along the concrete promenade that backs the pebble bank that lines the beach. In places the prom has been washed away by storms and temporary barriers were in place forcing me down onto the car park to negotiate them. For the most part it was easy flat running on an unforgiving concrete surface though whilst the extremely calm waters lapped at the beach.
Behind me to the SW were the hills I had ran over last week, framing the end of the bay whilst to the north I got my first proper views of Anglesey with the sands of Llanddwyn and the small lighthouse on Llanddwyn Island clearly visible.
Onto the Banks of Fforyd Bay
After a mile of running along the beach top, the path turns 90º right and takes the road out past Caernarfon Airport. The Air Ambulance helicopter was on the airfield and microlights were taking off and landing as I went past. Where the road turns right again, I went straight on, following the coast path along a gravelly track and then over a stile and onto the embankment around the SW end of Fforyd Bay.
At least I was off the tarmac for a short while and onto the hard, dry soil of the embankment. The tarmac had meant that I’d been making good time with an average pace of just over 8 minutes per mile for the first three miles of my run. Soon I was into long grass though so had to take care with my footing and this next mile was a little more sedate at just over 9 minutes per mile.
The more natural surfaces underfoot didn’t last long though as I was soon crossing a bridge where the River Carrog flows into Fforyd Bay and was back out onto the tarmac of the country lanes. The tide was rising fast as I crossed the bridge and without a breath of wind the water was amazingly calm.
The path took be briefly along the shores of Fforyd Bay and then headed inland along the roads to Saron so that it could cross the bridge over the River Gwyrfai. The Coast Path then headed back along more country lanes edged with cow parsley and bright yellow buttercups glistening in the sunshine towards the shores of Fforyd Bay.
I’d only ever been to Fforyd Bay to windsurf before so had never seen it like this. Whenever I’d been here before it had been blowing a hoolie and had been covered in white horses. Today it was a scene of serenity. The early morning clouds had all but disappeared so the clear, steadily rising waters reflected the skies and surrounding countryside. Ducks, geese and swans floated silently on the waters whilst finches and tits flitted from hedge to hedge.
An occasional boat could be seen ploughing its way along the Menai Straits at the far end of the bay. It was getting hot mind you without even a gentle breeze as I made my way along the flat tarmac of the Aber Foreshore Road that runs along the edge of the bay.
There were campervans parked up along the road here and there. It never used to be very busy here, but obviously more people have discovered it these days. There were people sat watching the tide rise in the early morning sun, fishermen and women fishing from their fold-up chairs next to the road and even a runner or two going in the opposite direction to me.
On towards the Menai Straits
The road curves around to the right and merges out of Ffoyrd bay onto the Menai Straits. There is no real change as it does so, with the road following along right at the waters edge all the way. Once onto the Menai Straits there were a few more boats around and some nice views across the calm waters to the shores of Anglesey. It wouldn’t be long before I was running along that side of the Menai Straits, but for now it was ever onwards towards the looming buildings of Caernarfon.
The first signs of Caernarfon were the tall, high-rise apartments along the waterfront which could be seen from quite a distance. This area of the town has seen quite a bit of regeneration and although some work was still ongoing it was looking very modern and upmarket. At around the 9 mile mark I rounded a bend and the towers of Caernarfon Castle came into view.
Begun in 1283 and built by Edward I as the definitive chapter in his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon Castle was constructed as a military stronghold and also as a seat of governance and a royal palace. Sitting on the banks of the Seiont River it’s an amazing piece of architecture with huge imposing, impenetrable walls that remain largely intact. Caernarfon Castle’s tall polygonal towers dominate the walled town now as they would have in the past.
A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect. By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Worthy of World Heritage status no less! [http://www.caernarfon-castle.co.uk/]
I had been making good progress along the flat, easy going road and at the 10 mile point my pace was averaging around 8:15 minutes per mile. I had to stop in the shadows of the castle turrets as the swing bridge across the river closed after letting a boat through. There was also a running event going on so there were groups of runners everywhere, all in team colours and plenty of fluorescent jacket clad marshalls. From ‘T’-shirts I worked out that the event was the Welsh Casltes Relay, but I knew little about it. Apparently it is a “2 day, 20 stage, 211 mile, staggered relay race mostly on road but with many hills and mountains on route from Caernarfon to Cardiff”.
I ran past my parked car, weaving through the crowds of running teams and continued on besides, and sometimes through, the town walls towards the waterfront developments where I ran around the edges of the harbour. I was now about halfway through todays run and the next stage was on towards Bangor
Caernarfon to Bangor
After the liveliness of Caernarfon the Coast Path eases out onto a tarmaced track, part of the Sustrans network of cyclepaths. I left the town behind and was now only joined by the occasional dog-walker. First the path rose up above the shores of the Menai Straits between the water and the supermarket car park and then soon went undercover of trees as it headed NE along the coast and past the Menai Straits Watersports Centre. As the number of people around dried up, so did the Coast Path signs. There were none of them to be seen, just plenty of signs for the Sustrans Cycle Route. These have destinations and miles marked on them and I seemed to be following Route 8 which had 8 miles to go to Bangor. The lack of Coast Path signs did have me wondering if I was supposed to be on this cycle path or on another footpath somewhere, but the path was heading in the right direction and was pretty much hugging the coast so I thought to myself that if this wasn’t right then it should have been! Quite why there isn’t even just a little coast path sticker on the Sustrans signs I don’t know. Very occasionally there would be a Coast Path sign though so I must have been on the right route, but there could be several miles between them. Quite often there would be several junctions, road crossings and obvious waypoints without a sign which did keep me wondering.
It was nice enough along here most of the time but at times the path would emerge to run alongside the busy A487. All the while it was flat and yet more tarmac for me to pound. There was a slight break as I ran through the pretty little harbour of Port Dinorwic. I caught another runner up here so slowed for a chat, and then also took a slightly wrong turn along the harbour itself, so ended up chatting to someone else who tried to help me re-find the path but actually sent me on a wild goose chase from which I had to retrace my steps. I did find a coast path sign out of the village though and continued on along the roads towards Bangor.
Lost in a Business Park
From studying the route on a map before leaving, I knew that just before the main junction between the A487 and A55 the Coast Path turned left and went through a business park. I spotted the signs for Parc Menai, crossed the main road and headed into the business park despite the fact that there was no Coast Path sign to tell me to do so. The business park itself was quite nice with tree lined streets, lily-pad filled ponds and some nice little wooded areas. I did finally see a tiny little round Coast Path sticker on a lamp-post so I was in the right place, but it didn’t have an arrow on it so I assumed I should just follow the road it was on. However, I spent the next half an hour or so trying to find out where the Coast path went. I tried every path and road I could find but kept coming up either at dead ends or on a big loop that took me back to where I started. At one point I even left the business park through a gate at its far end and followed a path cut through the tall grass of a sun drenched meadow. Even this path was just a large loop around the field though and I was soon back at the gate.
The OS map that I had with me didn’t have the full extent of the business park on it and hasn’t got the Coast Path marked on it, so although I could see where I wanted to be, quite how to get there was a mystery. I’ve just checked and the map is from 1998 so I guess it is a little older than I thought. Things do change, even in Wales!
In the end, after more than half an hour of searching in vain for the continuation of the path I decided to give up and head back to the road and follow that into Bangor. The constant stopping and starting, turning back on myself, searching for signs and looking at my map had ruined my average pace for the run which was now down to around 9:00 minutes per mile. Having looked back at the online maps now that I’m home I can see that where the little round sign was I should probably have turned left into Premier Inn, heading briefly back on myself towards Caernarfon before looping around towards the coast and through the University sports grounds. Instead I headed back to the A487 and followed that for a mile in towards Bangor where I finally dropped down towards the Menai Suspension Bridge. Maybe I should have fired up my phone as I may have had mobile data in the business park and could have looked the route up.
Junction to Ynys Mon
The Coast Path crosses the Menai Suspension Bridge and then heads out onto Ynys Mon (Anglesey) where it does a complete 132(ish) mile loop of the island before coming back across the bridge to continue its way around the mainland coast. This means that here on the mainland side there should be a Coast Path sign pointing across the bridge towards Anglesey, one pointing NE along the coast for those going clockwise around Wales and once pointing SW where I should have come from for those going anti-clockwise around Wales. There wasn’t, there were only two signs, one pointing across the bridge and one pointing vaguely in the direction that I had some from which isn’t even on the Coast Path. I assumed that this latter sign was the one pointing NE (clockwise around the coast) but the one that would take someone through the University Grounds just wasn’t there. I don’t know what’s going on here , maybe there is an access issue or something, but the sign-posting was terrible.
On Towards Bangor
I however now needed a bus back to Caernarfon. There were lots of bus stops about, but not a single one of them had any information about which buses stopped at them or where they went. Maybe it’s just a Bangor thing where they can’t be bothered with signposts? There seemed little point waiting at a bus stop for what would probably be the wrong bus so I decided to run another 2.5 miles into the centre of Bangor where I should be able to find the bus I needed. I headed off along the A5122 which should be part of the part of the Coast Path I will be running after the small issue of circumnavigating Anglesey. The Coast Path is supposed to turn off left halfway along this road and head down to a path along the shoreline, but once again there was no signpost to indicate this. It didn’t matter today as I just needed to get into the centre of Bangor, but I shall have to remember this when I’m back here in a few months time. I eventually followed the road around into Bangor where I found a bus stop opposite Morrisons with a bus to Caernarfon.
The sun was beating down on me as I stood at the bus stop. I did think about heading off to Costa for a coffee and some lunch but the bus was due in 20 minutes so I thought it best to wait. I’m glad I did as the bus was actually 10 minutes early so I was soon on my way back to my car in Caernarfon where I bought a sandwich and a drink and then drove home.
Another nice day out on the Coast Path. The lack of signs was a little frustrating and the second half of the run was never going to be the most interesting or inspiring, but after 23 miles that was another 20 miles of Coast Path done and it’s now onto Anglesey for what should be a varied and scenic few sections around its coast. According to the distance tables it’s 132 miles around the island so at around 20 miles a time it should take me about 7 segments to complete. It looks as though I’ll be spending my summer weekends on Anglesey.