Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Welsh Coastal Trail – A National Treasure

A few days after a proud, celebratory Canada Day, I think back on the hiking trail that circles the entire country of Wales, and which I was able to happily sample. Much of the trail lies along an extraordinary coastline, consisting of bays, headlands and estuaries sculpted into rugged cliffs. Now and again the trail passes through villages and towns visiting ancient churches, pubs and harbours guarded by looming, crenellated castles. The coastal path is 1,400 km (870 miles) long, well maintained and accessible to all.

When I stayed in St. David’s at the southwest tip of Wales, I hiked to the trail along grassy, flower-blessed fields lined with hedges and walls lush with growth. Part of the Pembrokeshire National Park, the coast is wild and rugged. Waves crashed onto the rocks far below forming caves and stacks. Two hikers were silhouetted against the distant sky. I walked alone and pensive along the twisting trail, climbing stiles and enjoying the wonderful feeling of being part of a grander scheme.

Next day I hiked northward until I reached the village of Porthgain. The ruins of a castle, which once guarded a thriving port that now has passed into quieter times, rested on one side of the harbour. On the other side was my goal, the Sloop Hotel. Soon I was inside, nursing a foaming pint of best bitter.

I marvelled at the intelligence that has created the Wales-encircling trail, a national treasure enjoyed
by everyone. I lamented that in Canada, private ownership trumps the common good. Even the Bruce Trail, the longest hiking trail in the country, is broken in many places by objecting landowners. And the thought of a national hiking trail that follows, unbroken, a major fraction of the coastline is laughable. It’s time for our politicians to take a hike.

And if you want to extend your enjoyment of the magical Welsh coastline try coasteering, invented at St. David’s, Wales. You squeeze into a wetsuit, don
a helmet and bob in the swell among rocks, seaweed and seals. There’s a primal feel to floating up and down with the heartbeat of the sea.

If You Go, You Gotta Know
In St. Andrews, stay at:

No comments:

Post a Comment