10 Best Circular Walks on the North Wales Coast
By Dave Roberts
10 Best Circular Walks on the North Wales Coast
The section of the Wales Coast Path from the English Border up to Anglesey doesn’t boast the rugged grandeur that the more renowned areas of Anglesey, Llyn Peninsula, Pembrokeshire and the Gower but it still shouldn’t be underestimated. Coastal scenery is much more than steep cliffs and inaccessible coves, with areas such as saltmarshes boasting a wealth of bird life. There are also the sandy beaches from Point of Ayr onward, as well as the unique limestone headland of the Gogarth or Great Orme that has some of the steepest and most inaccessible coves on the Wales Coast. Further on, the Wales Coast Path passes into Snowdonia, where the walker has options to walk the mountains of the Carneddau as well as sections of coast.
To top it all off, it’s an incredible section for anyone interested in history with numerous castles, prehistoric dykes, ancient copper mines and a holy well to explore on these walks. The walks below show that the North Wales Coast shouldn’t be discounted by the walker looking for circular walks.
1 Wat’s Dyke from Flint to Maes Glas
This route follows the Wales Coast Path from the Castle at Flint towards Basingwerk Abbey at Maes-Glas/Greenfield before turning inland through the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park towards Treffynnon/Holywell to follow the Wat’s Dyke Way most of the way back to Flint. Anyone interested in history will be spoilt for choice on this loop, initiall passing one of Edward I’s castles at Flint, Basingwerk Abbey, Ffynnon Gwenffrewi / St Winefride’s Well and the ancient earthwork of Wat’s Dyke.
Wat’s Dyke is an earthwork that predates Offa’s Dyke, though to have been built by the Mercian king Coenwulf in around 820 to protect his lands from the maurauding Welsh and is now followed by the Wat’s Dyke Way from Llanymynech to Basingwerk Abbey Holywell. While it was strategically important and a considerable undertaking at the time, it now appears insignificant if you can see any traces at all.
2 Ffynnongroyw Inland WCP Route
This circular walk can be started from either Ffynnongroyw or Mostyn and is one of the few sections on the coastal path where we’d say that it would be pereferable to walk this officially signposted route. Rather than paralelling the main road, you get a pleasant section of path that follows woodland paths and streams. If open, there’s the Garth Mill pub near the end of the walk, a pub in an unique setting in the woodland above Ffynnongroyw.
3 Point of Ayr Walk
From Point of Ayr, which incidentally is the northernmost point on the Welsh mainland, the coastal scenery changes from saltmarsh to long sandy beaches and sand dunes. This walk takes you through the Gronant Dunes and Talacre Warren Nature Reserve and is a renowned spot for bird waching. The walk below is more of a suggestion than a formal route – as it’s the kind of place where you can wander about and explore, and if tides allow can include visiting the Point of Ayr lighthouse.
4 Offa’s Dyke and North Wales Path Prestatyn
This full day’s walk takes in three Long Distance Footpaths – Offa’s Dyke, North Wales Path and the Wales Coast Path. Setting off inland, after passing though the residential areas of Prestatyn Offa’s Dyke National Trail soon heads steeply uphill toward the aptly named Prestatyn Heights Nature Reserve where the route tops out at over 200m. The route continues onto Dyserth, the site of the first of today’s castles. According to Coflein Dyseth Castle “was a grand stone-built castle constructed by Henry III from 1241 and eventually destroyed by Llywelyn ab Gruffudd in 1263, after seven years of blockade and siege” – with the only traces remaining difficult to spot. Instead, you can divert yourself towards Dyserth Falls – which are much easier to see! The North Wales Path is then followed towards Rhuddlan Castle, built a few years after Dyserth Castle’s destruction by Edward I in 1277-1282. This stood the test of time, with the castle well worth setting time aside to visit. The final secrion of the walk continue along the North Wales Path along the banks of the Afon Elwy to rejoin the coast at Foryd Bridge betwen Kinmael Bay and Rhyl.
5 North Wales Path Llandulas
This circular walk can be started from Llanddulas or Colwyn Bay and like the previous walk, creates a circular walk by following another tral, the North Wales Path. From Llanddulas, the route heads uphill along the North Wales Path towards the hamlet of Llysfaen. The walk returns to the coast at Colwyn Bay, descending the popular walk down the area known as Fairy Glen. The route returns from Colwyn Bay along the Wales Coast Path, but keep an eye out for the “Rainbow Bridge” that was originally named due to its shape but was recently (and very crudely) brightly painted in appropriate colours.
6 Walks on Great Orme
There are numerous walking options on Y Gogarth / Great Orme at Llandudno. You can walk around the Great Orme headland, following the Wales Coast Path along Marine Drive and returning via the Haulfre Gardens. Keep an eye out for the statues of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee which form part fo the Llandudno Alice Town Trail. Other options for a circular walk is a walk up to the summit of the Great Orme from Llandudno, but if you don’t relish the steep climb to the summit, you can either park at the top or take the Great Orme Tramway instead. There are numerous easier walks starting from the summit, such as the Nature Trail and the History Trails, but be aware that the full routes all involve a fair bit of climbing.
Conwy, like Fflint, boasts another of Edward I’s castles, an imposing edifice that dominates the Afon Conwy and is only eclipsed by Caernarfon Castle in sheer scale. Even so, the town walls at Conwy are among the best examples in the UK and significantly longer than those at Caernarfon. Those looking for a short walk from Conwy could follow the town walls around this beautiful little town, ending off with a relaxed pint at the quayside Liverpool Arms. A longer walk is outlined below, which takes in the hill fort on Mynydd y Dref (Conwy Mountain) and impressive views over the town and surrounding coastline. You can return inland as mentioned below, or you could easily extend the route into Dwygyfylchi or even Penmaenmawr and return to Conwy along the coastal path.
8 Penmaenmawr Uplands and the North Wales Path
Penmaenmawr must have felt like quite an isolated village at one point, being closed in by impassable headlands at both ends. While there were once narrow roads around these headlands, the A55 now punches it’s way through and the driver is through in a matter of minutes. This walk explores the even more ancient track-ways that crossed the uplands, avoiding the more treacherous coastal routes. You’ll be unlikely to spot any other walkers on the way, but in ancient times this would have been a much busier place as well as a sacred one with numerous stone circles to be found in the area and on this walk.
9 Llanfairfechan and the Roman Road
Directly west of both the village and headland of Penmaenmawr we can find Llanfairfechan which is a great place to start exploring the northen Carneddau. The route along the coast to Llanfairfechan from the east was a dangerous one, that even the Romans chose to avoid as their road from the Afon Conwy to the Menai Strait crosses the mountains ar Bwlch y Ddeufaen. Again, there are numerous prehistoric remains close to the road with the name Bwlch y Ddeufaen translating as the Pass of the two ‘stones’ – referring to the standing stones found nearby – strongly suggesting that the Romans improved on what was already a well used track. This wak again makes use of the North Wales Path, which this walk follows as far as Abergwyngregyn before returning on a sedate section of coastal path back to the start.
10 Aber Falls Circular Walk
The final walk is to the impressive waterfalls of Rhaeadr Fawr (Aber Falls) and a return on the coastal path. The route is way marked all the way and is an officially promoted route. This involves an easy and steady walk up towards the falls on a well surfaced path. Rhaeadr Fawr is an impressive sight after wet weather as it plunges 40m from the hanging valley above. Under extreme conditions, the spray at the bottom means you cannot get near without effective waterproofs – just don’t be tempted to go too close…
It then loops around the valley, steadily gaining height as you near the coast, before contouring along the lower slopes of Moel Wnion in the Carneddau with expansive views across the Menai Strait to Anglesey for the entire way. The walk descends to the shores of the Menai Strait near Aber Ogwen and follows the Wales Coast Path back into Abergwyngregyn.