This walk starts at Jackson’s Bay, Barry Island. It’s the nearest point to return to the coastline on the Wales Coast Path after Sully (see Walk 5).
The start point is the entrance to Barry Yacht Club, overlooking Jackson’s Bay. This is a gem of a beach, lovely golden sands backed by cliffs, with a breakwater and Lighthouse on the eastern flank.
The official coast path route is along residential streets on the headland above, but we take the opportunity of a more scenic walk across the sandy beach and continuing along a concrete footway around the rocky headland of Nell’s Point
A coastguard station is at Nell’s Point, a good location as there are great views from here across the Bristol Channel. Further along is Whitmore Bay, better known as Barry Island beach, or ‘Barry-bados’ as it’s called by some in South Wales.
The wide seafront promenade is bookended by a pair of rather grand beach shelters, smartly painted a bright shade of yellow. Walking along the wide promenade above the beach, there’s the quintessential seaside sights and scenes of ice cream parlours, amusements arcades, cafes and an old funfair across the road. My memory of visits in the 70s and 80s, is of a place past it’s heyday and appearing a bit worse for wear. But in recent years it has enjoyed something of a revival, some nice landscaping and new housing have improved the scene. The TV comedy ‘Gavin and Stacey’ has also given the place a huge boost and brought a new generation of fans and visitors wanting to experience “what’s occurring” at Barry Island.
After the bustle and delights found along the Promenade, the path heads up a quiet lane towards the headland of Friars Point.
The official coastal path route leads ahead, but a worthwhile detour is to walk around the grassy headland of Friars Point which offers some lovely views across the coastline.
From Friars Point the path leads around the old harbour and car park, near to the main road into Barry Island. A quirky sign above the road nearby has the Welsh name ‘Ynys Barri’ to welcome visitors.
Further along is a pebbly beach at Watch House Bay, named after an original coastguard watch tower built in the 1860’s which overlooks the entrance to the old harbour across the water.
After turning past Cold Knap Point there’s a wide promenade at ‘The Knap‘ above a long sweep of pebbled beach. On the landward side is a popular park with a centrepiece lake in the shape of a Welsh Harp.
At the end of The Knap the path heads uphill, passing by some interesting excavated remains of a Roman Villa, then continues to climb to fields above the cliffs. A muddy track through woodland leads to a flight of steps, known as the ‘Golden Stairs’ as local legend is that gold is buried beneath them.
At the foot of the steps is Porthkerry Country Park, and it’s worthwhile walking up onto the pebbled bank at the shoreline. There are superb views along the cliffs and coastline, which you don’t see on the walk above, all the way back to Cold Knap Point.
There are raised boardwalks which run across the marshy grassland area behind the beach. Looking inland there’s a superb view of the magnificent Victorian era railway viaduct which spans the valley. It’s worthwhile taking a short detour for a closer look at the impressive huge arches of the viaduct. There’s also the opportunity for a quick stop at Marco’s ‘Cafe in the park’ for a coffee. We only stayed a short while, but Porthkerry Country Park looks a place worthy of more time to visit. More information about the Park can be found here.
From Porthkerry the path climbed uphill through woodland, a tricky section due to very muddy conditions in early spring. As we walked through the woods a passenger plane flew low overhead, a reminder that Cardiff airport is only a short distance away. Continuing along the route, through a caravan park and around a disused quarry then back above the coastline, we reached Rhoose Point, ‘Trwyn Y Rhws’ in Welsh.
A sign next to the path identifies this as the most southerly point of mainland Wales and nearby are some striking low cliffs forming an entrance to a pebbled beach. The richly coloured blocks of the limestone cliffs were heavily quarried from here in past times. Nearby are a 4 metre tall obelisk, engraved with ‘Rhoose Point 2000 A.D.’ and a stone circle, a modern interpretation of the ancient which adds to the landscape scenery of this rock strewn area.
The path continues along a grassy clifftop track with super views along the coastline. Along the landward side are the remnants of huge old quarries, now reclaimed as conservation areas with large lagoons and wildlife habitats.
Reaching Fontygary Bay, it’s definitely worthwhile going down the concrete steps to take in the super views of the dramatic cliffs and rock shelves with waves rolling in at the shoreline. It’s many years since my last visit here and the scenery looked even more spectacular than I remembered.
Fontygary caravan park has all the usual park facilities including a clubhouse bar and restaurant just above the bay, which are open to the public. The route continues through the caravan park and then downhill on a long set of steps to the salt-marshes at the shoreline.
This is East Aberthaw, and our walk takes a detour inland at this point to visit one of Wales oldest pubs. From the coastal wall, a woodland trail leads up into the village, on the way passing by the substantial remains of an old lime works. ‘Aberthaw lime’ was once produced here from local rock quarries and Aberthaw is still well known for production of high quality cement at a plant nearby.
Reaching the village, we made our way to the historic pub, The Blue Anchor Inn.
This picturesque, thatched roof inn is reputed to be one of the oldest pubs in Wales, serving ales since 1380.
So with a welcome pint of ‘Jemima’s Pitchfork’ Ale and a seat in the cosy, low beamed bar, it was a perfect way to finish this coastal walk.