Running

Wales Coast Path: Llantwit Major to Cardiff

22nd September 2016

The Wales Coast Path is a long-distance footpath opened in 2012 that offers a 870-mile walking route from Chepstow in the south and Queensferry in the north. When it opened it was the world’s first coastal path that encompassed an entire country. The entire path contains different sections that were originally opened individually before being united as a single coastal path.

Route and Profile

This run follows part of the South Wales Coast & Severn Estuary section which links Kenfig Dunes near Port Talbot and Chepstow near the English border.

The path extends 109-miles and I would be hoping to complete around 26-28 miles of the section between Llantwit Major and Cardiff city centre. As it’s a linear route I would need to use public transportation to get from Newport to Llantwit Major which takes a little time, particularly due to the speed of the rolling stock used on the Cardiff to Llantwit Major line.

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Llantwit Major to Barry

The train from Cardiff arrived at Llantwit Major at 0830 and the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too warm, although it would heat up somewhat later on. I headed south out of the village towards the coast and joined the Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail that would lead down to the beach. I noticed that there was a road that I could have run along but this route was much more scenic.

Reaching the coast the trail joins the Wales Coast Path and I headed east to start my journey to Cardiff. The path descended down into a little bay that houses a lifeboat station and proved to be useful due to me getting a case of the ‘runners trots’ so early into the run! The path then ascended out of the bay and then followed the coast for approximately 6-7 miles to Aberthaw Power Station.

This short section of the path is rather industrial and the path is wedged between a sea defence and a fenced-off perimeter road around the power station. Leaving the power station I was rewarded with the stunning East Aberthaw Nature Reserve (including the well preserved Aberthaw Lime Works) which felt a world away from where I had just run through.

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I climbed back up to the cliff and encountered a Run, Walk, Crawl sign indicating that there had been a race through there in the past. The path passed through Fontygary Holiday and Leisure Park and some well kept static caravans that had a prime spot looking out into the channel.

Beyond Fontygary the path continued until it dropped down near Porthkerry and offered a view of the viaduct that carried the train I travelled on from Cardiff to Llantwit Major.

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Barry to Penarth

Leaving Porthkerry the path opened up on the far western edges of Barry and ran alongside Bull Cliff. It opened up onto a large hill which offered expanding views of The Knap and further to Barry Island. A fast descent down the hill led to a long promenade and a pebble beach which extended to Cold Knap Point. Turning here you make your way further into Barry, past the main road into Barry Island and past Barry Railway Station. At this point the path followed roads through the town and along a busy A-road. Wedged between the railway line and a fast road, the path lost its charm and for a few miles passed through residential and industrial areas.

Nearing Sully it was a welcome relief when the path once again left the road and rejoined the coast. Along this section you could now see Flat Holm and Steep Holm so I knew I was getting closer to Penarth and ultimately Cardiff. The village of Sully reaches the edge of the coast and as you run along its southern tip you encounter some stunning seafront properties and when the sun is shining you can’t help but dream of lounging at one of their pools observing the boats navigating the channel.

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A few miles past Sully the path briefly left the coast and headed inland around a holiday park. The OS Map showed a path that kept to the coast and when I reached the start of the path I decided to take the shorter route which was signposted. About two-thirds of the way along the path it was closed off due to, I believe, issues with path erosion. Luckily it wasn’t too far to head back to the main path but was frustrating that a warning sign hadn’t been posted.

After rejoining the coast path it again redirected around a holiday park (I must have passed half a dozen on the run) and then reached Lavernock. I was familiar with this section of the run due to walking it in the past so I knew what to expect which was a well-made path that gradually ascended to the edge of Cosmeston and then onto the descent to the Penarth and its pier.

Penarth to Cardiff

Due to the rocky cliffs between Penarth and the Cardiff Bay Barage, the path once again left the coast and headed steeply alongside The Kymin and through residential streets. As I was about 23/24 miles into the run this was a good opportunity to have a walk through this steep part, particularly knowing that there would be a steep hill to run down towards the Cardiff Bay Barage and an almost completely flat run into the city centre.

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The run along the barrage and then onto the attractions of Cardiff Bay offer scenic views particularly on a sunny day. You pass the Doctor Who Experience, the Norwegian Church, the National Assembly for Wales and the Millenium Centre. At this point I was supposed to head west along the Taff Trail towards the Principality Stadium but as I was meeting a friend for beer I headed straight up Lloyd George Avenue and into the City Centre.

What I Thought of the Run

I chose a perfect day for the run. It was warm but not hot and was clear the entire 5 and half hours that I was out on the path. For the majority of the run you don’t encounter many people; you only encounter people near the car parks or built-up areas.

For the vast majority of the run the path was well signposted, even through Barry and Penarth, and only once or twice did I need to refer to my OS Map app on the phone.

The terrain is varied so you get to run through fields, tarmac, trails and even along a pebble beach if you are adventurous enough! The terrain is not particularly difficult and many of the hills are essentially steps out of a bay so once climbed you are back on easy ground.

Even though the run started at Llantwit Major, there are options to get public transport to East Aberthaw, Rhoose or Barry which would reduce the total distance.

* Note: Photos taken with a newly-owned iPhone 7 Plus.

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