This morning was meant to be a simple walk along the coastal path, a circular route that would take us on the coastal path at the start, then around an ancient fort and along some lanes back to the beginning. It was marked to start at the Llandollan Beach carpark, so we parked at Red Wharf Bay by the Ship Inn, where we would have lunch.
Oddly, the directions to the path didn’t make any sense, but a nice woman walking her dog walked with us to find the start of the coastal path, and we were off. She noted that the path right along the coast was likely to be “splodgy,” so we took the alternative route just above the coast. We saw this wonderful fence made of branches, while on the other side we saw, of course, sheep. The path soon went back down to the coast and we followed it along. And then followed it some more. And more. It was flat, slightly splodgy, and it just kept on going. Plus, the directions for the walk didn’t seem to work – where was the little wooden bridge? And weren’t we supposed to go uphill pretty soon towards the fort? Of course, the coastal path is pretty easy, right? Just keep the coast on your left (or your right if you’re walking counter-clockwise), and how can you go wrong?
It was at the carpark we came to next that I realized my first mistake: the route we were taking was supposed to start here, not at the carpark 45 minutes back. No wonder the directions to the path had made no sense! Nevertheless, we kept going.
We came to an intersection on a paved road and took the coastal path route to the right. Now we were walking on a lane that snaked upwards towards some woods. This seemed to make sense, since we were supposed to come to an ancient fort on top of a hill, so we kept going. This path, always signed as the coastal path, wended through woods, past blackberry bushes with perfectly ripe berries, up along farm houses, through ferny woods, through a number of kissing gates, and…we were lost. None of this matched either the walk OR the ordnance survey, which I thought was like the voice of God and always right.
After two hours, the estimated time of the entire circular walk, we emerged onto, wait for it, the coast. Where were we?? We walked by a house where a man emerged and helpfully told us we were on Red Wharf Bay and pointed the way back to the Ship Inn, just along the coast. So we set off again, with our destination in the distance. An older couple walking their dog assured us that we were right for the Ship Inn and that we would be fine, after all we had our sticks (hiking poles). And indeed, we were seeing signs for the coastal path as we walked, so we just kept going. We came back to the intersection we had encountered earlier and saw with fresh eyes that it signed the coastal path IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. We took the upper path that went through the woods but clearly we were supposed to take the version that went along the coast instead. See the little words on the left-hand signpost that say Coastal Path?
After a total of three hours, we were back at the carpark and settled in to the Ship Inn for a well-deserved lunch (ham sandwich and a half-pint of McKellans). To this moment, I cannot figure out what happened. The only clue is that our coastal path book states, “There is no true coastal path between here [Penmon Point] and Red Wharf Bay. . .Paths and lanes inland must be used instead.” But why there were signs for the coastal path all through the woods, while the OS map showed it along the coast, I will never know.
I hope this doesn’t sound peevish. It’s mostly that I am still baffled. The walk itself was fine, though not outstanding, but the anxiety about the path made it more stressful than it otherwise would have been. However, any walk is better than no walk, and a good lunch at an old pub makes everything better.