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Category: Llwybr Arfordir Treftadaeth Morgannwg – Glamorgan Heritage Coast Path

153. Y Barri (Barry) – Penarth

153. Y Barri (Barry) – Penarth


Distance: 10.87 miles

Max Altitude: 34 m

Min Altitude: 6 m

Height Gain: 129 m

Height Loss: 121 m


It was a bizarre foggy start to the day, a proper pea souper. I walked through the Knap shrouded in a mysterious gloom.

The tide was out and I considered walking across the bay to Barry Island but I didn’t fancy dealing with the sinking and soggy sand so I continued through parkland and then along Harbour Road. When I was little, driving down this road in the car meant you were seconds away from South Wales’ answer to Disneyworld, Barry Island Pleasure Park. Hot summer evenings, huge eyes, excitement, neon, the Log Flume, the wide-mouthed hippos on the jungle ride, clouds of candy floss, the ghost train, those red toffee dummy things on ribbons, the Waltzers, chips and fun. Happy days. But then Barry Island seemed to go a bit, well, rubbish, and people stopped going there. It went derelict and became nothing more than a fond childhood memory. However, a few years ago the life started to come back into it and it got a facelift finally. Before I got to the fair today though I had to walk towards Friar’s Point first.

The first thing I saw was this –

The mist was lifting slowly on Whitmore Bay.

Across the beach was Barry Island in all its glory.

I guess you can’t mention this place any more without mentioning ‘Gavin & Stacey’.

Despite the fact that many of the shops and eateries were shut, it still had that unmistakable vinegary smell of chips and sweet candy.

The promenade which, just a few years ago, had gone to look unkempt and depressing was clean and landscaped once more.

The happy memories were dashing in and out of my mind. I’m making it sound like I haven’t visited here since I was a kid. That’s not true of course. But today seemed to be more of a stroll down memory lane than usual. Maybe it was because I was so close to home. Maybe it was because I was walking through at the end of more than 1100 miles of hiking. Who knows.

And by the way, if you’re thinking of calling this big wheel ‘the Barry Eye’, forget about it. A certain tourist attraction in London is not happy about it.

On a hot summer’s day, the following view includes hundreds and hundreds of beachgoers who have flocked here from across South Wales. It’s bizarre to see it so quiet.

I continued along the renovated prom.

I reached the relatively new and supremely colourful beach huts.

How pretty are they?

And unlike certain beach huts in other areas of Wales, these ones only cost £10 for peak times. No more struggling to get your underwear on whilst trying to pin your towel to your chest with your chin.

There’s also this jolly traversing wall, which spells out ‘Ynys y Barri’ (in Welsh Barry get a definite article preceding it).

I was enjoying my walk a lot. And I was enjoying Barry Island. I genuinely think that this is the nicest seaside destination of its sort in Wales. It wasn’t ten years ago but it certainly is now.

Everywhere you look, an effort has been made and that’s great.

I was getting to Nell’s Point.

I climbed up the hill. I was headed for the house of Chris and Margaret, a couple I had met in Freshwater East. We had chatted for ages and I had promised to pop by on my way past.

I knocked the door and Chris answered. I had surprised him and he was pleased to see me. Soon, Margaret arrived back from her walking group and we had tea. After a lovely chat and catch up I was back on my way.

I rounded the island and overlooked the lighthouse (yay!) on the breakwater.

Oh, did I mention it was Halloween?

Soon I was on the other side of the fairground and underneath the not-Barry Eye.

And I spotted the rogue panda from earlier on. He seemed to have his own bamboo so I didn’t need to feed him.

From there I took the new road off the island and along the redeveloped waterfront.

It was cold but crisp.

I deviated from the official path and cut through the docks.

I was behind the Dow Corning works.

I love this road. On the surface it’s ugly but it offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the local maritime industry.

I had an ulterior motive to my move off route. Firstly, it would actually bring me back to the side of the water sooner, but moreover, my route would take me past one of my favourite buildings in South Wales – the former Sully Hospital, now known as Hayes Point. It was built in 1936 and originally housed tuberculosis patients before later becoming a psychiatric facility.

I was back on the side of the water, but not yet on the official Wales Coast Path. Looking across the bay I could see Ynys Sili (Sully Island).

I walked past Tŷ Hafan, the Welsh children’s hospice, and looked back. How I love this stretch of coastline. The Wales Coast Path rejoined me and I moved onwards.

Every few metres there were little bits and bobs showcasing the area’s heritage and history.

Ynys Sili or Sully Island is a tiny tidal island near Swanbridge. A pirate known as ‘The Night Hawk’ used the island as his base in the 13th century and it’s had its fair share smuggling too. In 2011, it was put up for sale for £1.25 million but was then reduced to just £95,000 due to lack of interest. 

I popped into the Captain’s Wife pub for a quick drink before re-starting my hike.

There’s been an awful lot of coastal erosion in this neck of the woods, meaning that the Wales Coast Path has been re-routed to avoid the landslides.

My stopping point for the day was to be Trwyn Larnog (Lavernock Point). It was at this location that the very first wireless signals over open sea were sent by Guglielmo Marconito to Ynys Echni (Flat Holm). It said “ARE YOU READY”,  followed by “CAN YOU HEAR ME”. The reply was “YES LOUD AND CLEAR”. Quite amazing really. And now there’s this caravan park here to mark the spot.

I stopped hiking with a heavy heart. Tomorrow would be the last day of my hike. This incredible adventure was almost at an end.


152. Aberogwr (Ogmore) – Y Barri (Barry)

152. Aberogwr (Ogmore) – Y Barri (Barry)


Distance: 23.90 miles

Max Altitude: 79 m

Min Altitude: 4 m

Height Gain: 592 m

Height Loss: 591 m

Before I set out I had decided that today needed to be a mammoth hike, no matter what. I wanted to arrive in Cardiff Bay on the 1st of November, the start of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. It was an opportunity too important to miss. So even if my legs dropped off, I was determined to go the distance, as they say.

I set off from Ogmore Castle on the Wales Coast Path, and flanked the Afon Ogwr beside me. Across the water was the Merthyr Mawr dunes, with what’s known as ‘the Big Dipper’ (a huge energy-sapping, leg-killing sand mountain) peeking out.

I rounded the opening of the estuary onto Aberogwr (Ogmore-by-Sea). Here’s where the coastline changes dramatically. It’s the beginning of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a 14 mile stretch of sheer beauty. Also my most familiar stretch of the Wales Coast Path, as I’ve walked this section so many times. It never ceases to amaze me how this part gets overlooked in favour of, say, Pembrokeshire. To me it is just as stunning as any other part of our coastline, if not more so.

I left Ogmore on a narrow track high above the cliff edge.

Why do I love it so? Well, quite simply, look  –

I’m sure some could go into a lengthy geological diatribe, but instead, I think it’s just best to appreciate the layered cliffs for what they are visually. Again, I was annoyed that the weather wasn’t finer for better pictures, especially since I was arriving into yet another of my favourite beaches, Southerndown, the much beloved destination for local surfers.

Also in Southerndown is the secret cliff top garden. In summer it’s a joy.

Coming to Trwyn y Witch, I looked out upon a view that never ceases to take my breath away, and I’ve stood on this clifftop dozens and dozens of times.

Again, I wish for a blue sky. But even under the murky grey, it looks spectacular.

And then I reached somewhere that I’d been looking forward to getting to for the entire trip; probably one of my favourite places on earth – Nash Point. By now, reader, you know my penchant for lighthouses and this happens to be one of the best on the whole path. This one dates from 1831 and was placed here because of the treacherous nature of Nash Sands. It first became electrified in 1968 and was the last manned lighthouse in Wales before it became automated in 1998. There are actually two lights, a high light and a low light, as well as a fog horn (but that only gets sounded a couple of times each month for visitors these days).

I had a cup of tea and a banana at the nearby Clifftop Cafe before getting back on the trail. 

My next port of call was Castell Sain Dunwyd (St Donat’s Castle).

This particular castle has to have one of the most colourful histories in Wales. The earliest bits of it date from the late 12th century. However, it was in the 20th century that its notoriety came into its own because upon spotting it in a magazine in 1925, the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst decided he wanted it. He spent a fortune renovating it and bringing electricity to it for the first time; he even brought electricity to the local neighbourhood. Some of Hearst’s famous guests included guests included Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, John F Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw. Incredible.

After his newspaper empire fell on hard times, the castle was put up for sale but used by troops during the Second World War. Eventually, it became what it is now – Atlantic College, founded in 1962.

As with other parts of the path, there were WWII defences dotted about.

Just a short walk from St Donat’s was Llanilltud Fawr (also known as Llantwit Major, which always makes me wince). This is another of my beloved local beaches and the beach cafe does splendid cliffs.

I come here often for a cup of tea and a marvel at the cliffs.

I continued east towards towards Sain Tathan (St Athan).

On the way is the Seawatch Centre but sadly looking overgrown and unloved.

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast was at an end and the beast of Aberthaw Power Station came into full view. This used to be a golf course before this lump got dumped on the landscape in 1968. The pollution it emits has recently come under scrutiny but heaven only knows what that means for its future.

On the beach leading up to the power station are these cubes which line the beach. They are anti-invasion defences which date back to the Second World War that formed part of the Western Command’s coastal defences.

Out in the water is the power station’s caisson.

The sea wall has some interesting graffiti daubed on it.

By now I was walking right next to the power station. The Wales Coast Path takes you as close to it as you could be.

When it was built the Afon Ddawan (Thaw) was rerouted down this channel.

The Aberthaw Lime Works were opened in 1888 and was in operation until the mid 1920s. It’s now derelict.

Looking back, it’s a beautiful area, in spite of the power station.

I hiked past Fontygary and towards Trwyn y Rhws (Rhoose Point), which claims to be the most southerly point of mainland Wales.

I came to Porthkerry caravan park and ended up hiking past this inviting swimming pool. Anyone fancy a dip? No, I didn’t think so.

I was in autopilot having trodden this route on so many occasions. I came past the Porthkerry Viaduct.

This is when those layered cliffs reappear, just before Cold Knap.

The tide was out so I was able to walk across the pebble beach rather than take the higher route through the forest above. And for that I was thankful!

These cliffs really are magnificent and present themselves differently every time I walk past.

Shattered, I had made it as far as I could. It was my longest day yet on the Wales Coast Path and I was beaten. There was nothing left but to watch the sun disappear into the water in front of me.

151. Rest Bay – Aberogwr (Ogmore)

151. Rest Bay – Aberogwr (Ogmore)


Distance: 10.80 miles

Max Altitude: 30 m

Min Altitude: 1 m

Height Gain: 143 m

Height Loss: 148 m

It was great to be back at Rest Bay, one of my favourite beaches. It wasn’t often that I had seen it under such grey skies. My memories are of a blue sky, fluffy clouds and hot sun. So I was extra pleased to see the water teeming with surfers, keen to make the most of the windy conditions.

I followed the Wales Coast Path towards Porthcawl and along the seafront. It was quiet with hardly anybody about. The polar opposite of when hundreds of Elvis impersonators descend on the town each year.

I was reverting to type and making a beeline for the….yes you guessed it, the lighthouse! What else?!

This iconic lighthouse was built in 1860 and was the last coal and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK. It switched to being powered by gas in 1974. Incredibly, it had run on a meter placed at the bottom of the tower and brave souls had to feed in coins into it in order to keep the light burning. The lighthouse eventually went electric in 1997.

Porthcawl lighthouse and breakwater is also notorious for its storms. If you want to see how rough the sea can get at this apparently calm spot, then click here.

The Wales Coast Path then diverts inland to avoid Coney Beach Pleasure Park. You can walk through it but I wasn’t much in the mood for neon and flashing lights so I followed the track and came out on Trecco Bay.

I left Porthcawl and the funfair behind and headed across Newton Burrows towards Merthyr Mawr.

The photo that follows hardly does it justice but Merthyr Mawr is the site of some of Europe’s highest sand dunes.

And some of the scenes from the 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia, were shot right here.

I am kicking myself for not taking some better shots while I was passing through. Many’s the time I’ve struggled up those dunes in the name of exercise.

It all went awry after the dunes. I was routed inland in order to avoid the Afon Ogwr. There were missing waymarks and I ended up in some commune. I was lost.

It was a little creepy to say the least. I needed to get to Ogmore Castle so I was delighted to finally spot this helpful stone waymark to help me.

Rather than cross the Afon Ewenni (Ewenny river) further up stream using a footbridge I chose to use these stepping stones. Many’s the time I’ve padded across these stones trying to avoid clattering into the water. I’ve not fallen in yet and today was no exception! Dry feet all round. Result!

The prize when I reached the other side was one of my favourite castles in Wales, Castell Ogwr or Ogmore Castle. I would have liked a photo of it from the other side of the river featuring the castle and stepping stones, but the tractor and trailer that were parked out front didn’t exactly add to the ambience, so here’s one closer up instead.

I decided to end my day here. It wouldn’t get much better than this after all. I had intended to go further but I believed that I could make up the distance in the coming days.

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