Wales Coast Path – Porth Clais to Porth Gain

Coast Path Vital Stats

Porth Clais to Porth Gain

  • Distance: 18.32 miles
  • Elevation Gain Today: 1026m
  • Highest Elevation: 110m
  • Time: 6:02:58
  • Av. Pace: 19:49 mins/mile
  • Calories: 2195

Totals to Date

  • Total Distance: 1014.41 miles
  • Total Time: 192:47:50
  • Total Elevation Gain: 31508m
  • Total Calories: 97500
  • Distance to go: 87 miles

A New Plan

As usual, I hadn’t been out running along the coast path for a while. Christmas, holidays and other commitments had got in the way, and the next section was going to be a difficult one logistically. In order to drop the car off in one spot, run and then catch the bus back I was going to have to cover around 20 miles. Back when I first started this, 20 miles wouldn’t have been a problem as I regularly did such long runs (the longest on the Coast Path was just over 30 miles). That’s not the case these days though and having not been doing much running I couldn’t cover that distance so would probably need Anna to ferry me from place to place.

However, I’ve been hiking and wild-camping a bit lately in preparation for backpacking along the West Highland Way next month. So. I decided to combine this with my Coast Path adventure and rather than run along the path I would walk the next section carrying all my backpacking kit and camp out over night so that I could do some more the next day. It would hopefully mean I could tick off some decent miles of the coast path whilst testing out some kit and ‘training’ for the West Highland Way all at the same time. I therefore set off early on Sunday morning with all my kit.

St Davids to Whitesands

I parked in St Davids and then walked the couple of miles to the Coast Path at Porth Clais where I had finished last time. It was a cool, somewhat windy grey morning as I made my way along the road. There was no one about except a girl out for a morning run ahead of me. Somehow, despite the fact that she was ‘running’ and I was walking with a heavy, fully-laden rucksack on I was keeping up with her. My rucksack weighs around 12kg as it contains my tent, my sleeping bag and sleeping mat, changes of clothes, overnight clothes, camp booties, my stove, pots and pans, torch and electronics, toiletries, waterproofs, emergency kit and food and water for 2-3 days.

At Porth Clais I joined the Coast Path and headed out past the little harbour onto the muddy trails.

Porth Clais
Porth Clais

It was fairly easy going to start with as I meandered along the twisting trails past various little islets and rocky promontories. I soon warmed up once out of the wind a little so I stopped at Porthlusgi Bay to take my jacket off and swap it for a lightweight hoody top.

I soon made my way to the point at Pen Dal-aderyn where I could see Ramsey Island and the impressive Bitches tidal race. There was certainly a lot of water moving about and with the low cloud and the winds it didn’t look too inviting!

I could see the boathouses of St David’s Lifeboat station clinging to the cliffs ahead of me so continued on my way passing rocky coves, promontories, caves and little arches as I went. I passed the lifeboat station and continued on around the headland to the pretty little sandy beach of Porthselau. As always on the coast path, there were plenty of ups and down as the path descend to beaches and coves before climbing back to the top of the low cliffs. I crossed the little river at Porthselau and climbed back up the other side where the peak of Carn Llidi dominated the views ahead.

Whitesands wasn’t far off and with midday approaching I hoped the café in the car park would be open so that I could stop for lunch. As I got closer to Whitesands there were a few more people about walking dogs and strolling along the Coast Path. Whitesands itself looked quite busy too, certainly busier than I was expecting so hopes of a café stop rose. Sure enough when I got there it was a buzz of excitement as there was a surf contest taking place. It was a little before midday so the café (which was open) was still quiet. I stopped for a pasty, a cup of tea and some bread pudding and sat in the window watching the surfers. It was pretty obvious to me who had won the heat I watched.

I forced myself to sit there for a while soaking it all up. The beauty of backpacking along the Coast Path in comparions to running it is that there were no deadlines and I had all day. I’d just see how far my legs would take me and would take breaks along the way too. In fact, I’d set an alarm on my watch to go off at hourly intervals and was stopping for a minute or two when it sounded. I’d stop, remove my rucksack, have a drink, stretch my back and then load it back up and continue on my way. Sometimes I’d stop for a little longer and sit on the grass admiring the views.

Whitesands to Abereiddy

After sitting for long enough I used the toilets, freshened up and then loaded up my rucksack, headed across the busy car park and back out onto the Coast Path. I didn’t have to go far to once again have peace and solitude with nothing but the sounds of the sea and the wind for company. By the time I reached Portmelgan Beach there was no one around. There were however plenty of Choughs along this section of coastline. It’s always nice to see and hear them. For a rare bird there was a surprising number of them all along the coast here.

I climbed up to top of St Davids Point and looked back towards Ramsey Island and then headed off across what was now very muddy and very wet heathland. Once off the heather covered hill it was back to muddy coast path that hugged the tops of the cliffs with the occasional descent to a rocky cove followed by and another ascent. I took a longer break in the lee of some rocks with views out to Abereiddy which was likely to be my destination for the day. The skies had now cleared and the sun was out, but it was still quite chilly in the wind.

Abereiddy soon approached with waves rolling into it’s shores and breaking on the rocks to either side. Abereiddy was quite lively too with people walking to and having a dip in the Blue Lagoon. I made use of the toilets here and filled my water up as this might be the last chance to do so. With an extra couple of kilos in my pack it was a bit of a slog up to the top of the hill.

Abereiddy to Porth Gain

It was still quite early in the day and it seems a little too busy around here to wild camp so I decided to continue on. From the top of the hill I could see out over Traeth Llyfn. It looked as though there was stream running down the cliffs at it’s far end so I decided to empty the water out again and fill up there instead. There was no need to carry that extra weight if I didn’t need it. As it happened, the stream wasn’t that great, but there was a little bit of running water so I took some but not loads, hoping to find something a bit better a little further on.

I’d spotted some old quarry workings and buildings on the map and thought there might be some flat ground there to camp.

Potential Campsite
Potential Campsite

Once I got there it was a little windswept and not that inspiring so I headed on towards Port Gain to see if I could find somewhere a little out of the wind. After wandering around for a while I found a likely looking spot. It was off the main Coast Path a little and nestled in the corner with a low field wall to the West and a fence around a deep quarry to the South. There was gorse and blackthorn bushes all around to offer some protection from the wind and to keep me out of sight. Wild-camping isn’t really permitted in Wales, but if you set up late, pack-up early, hide yourself away and leave no trace then I don’t really see a problem with it and you can usually get away with it.

With that in mind I didn’t want to set my tent up too early so I sat there chilling for a while and took some time to make sure that the area was clear of any blackthorn or gorse spikes. The skies had cleared during the afternoon so it was nice in the sunshine but soon cooled off once the sun dipped behind the cliffs. That was my cue to set my tent up and cook my dinner. The light of Strumble Head Lighthouse could be seen flashing in the distance. I took a few photos of my tent in the twilight and then settled down for the night after reading a couple of chapters of my book.

As usual, I didn’t get huge amounts of sleep. The tent was flapping in the wind and it soon started raining too. I got out once or twice to tighten up the guy lines but did manage to get a bit of sleep on and off.

All in all it had been a good day on the Coast Path. Progress had been slower than when running it but I’d covered over 18 miles so had made more progress than I would have on a run at the moment. I’d also at some point today surpassed the 1000 miles point on my journey around Wales. Total distance so far was now just over 1014 miles.

My rucksack had felt good and the extra weight I was carrying wasn’t a problem. What’s more, I had another couple of days planned after this so should tick off a decent chunk of the path. Check out the next post to see how I got on.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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