Caldicot to Chepstow
Huge bridges and small villages with big histories.
From a fearsome castle, past saltmarshes and through a forest to a truly glorious beach
Start in Kidwelly and finish in Burry Port.
10 miles / 16 kilometres
We begin this walk at a castle which is a match for any of the greatest castles of Wales, a medieval fortress that is both spectacular and fearsome, Kidwelly Castle. Rising above the river Gwendraeth on a misty morning it is quite a sight to behold. But militarily, it would have been virtually impossible to capture.
Initially built of wood by the Normans, it was under constant attack by Welsh princes and, most famously, by Princess Gwenllian who was captured and beheaded. A more successful attack was made by Lord Rhys, who captured it in 1159.
But the Normans regained control and created the stone “castle within a castle” that we see today. Even if the outer defences were breached, the attacking Welsh would then be faced by the inner ward. There would be no way forward, and nowhere to shelter or hide from the rocks and arrows raining down from above.
Moving out of Kidwelly we reach a pleasant canal-side section. This canal was built in the 1760s to transport coal from the pits higher up the Gwendraeth valley to the port at Kidwelly, at that point the second busiest port in South Wales. After a short roadside section we reach the edge of the saltmarshes of the Gwendraeth estuary, pass the small airport and reach Pembrey forest.
The next mile is a lovely serene walk through tall pines until we reach the massive expanse of sand at glorious Cefn Sidan. Eight miles long, this seemingly never-ending beach is often described as one of the best in Europe.
But it has a dark and tragic past, as evidenced by the ribs of some old ships protruding from the sands. Driven by the prevailing wind onto the sandbanks and the shallow waters of the bay, many were shipwrecked here.
Others were lured deliberately by lights on the shore by locals, once known as “Gwyr y Bwyelli Bach” (Men of the little axes) after the unique hatchets they used to plunder shipwrecks. According to some accounts they may also have been used to finish off any survivors.
One notable person shipwrecked here in 1828 was the 12-year-old niece of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adeline Coquelin, whose mother was Josephine’s sister. She is buried at St Illtyd’s Church in Pembrey and a plaque there commemorates her death.
After around two and a half miles along this fabulous beach we turn inland and arrive at Pembrey Country Park. This is the complete antithesis of the tranquillity we have so far experienced on this walk as the facilities on offer ensure the park is busy for much of the year. Offering crazy golf, tobogganing, skiing and much more it’s always popular with locals and visitors.
It’s also possible to bypass the park by staying on the beach for just over half a mile and turning inland through the dunes of Pembrey Burrows.
We now join the Millennium Coastal Park which has transformed a 12-mile long 1,000-acre site of industrial dereliction on the northern shore of the Loughor Estuary into an array of attractions, wildlife habitats and leisure facilities. We also pass Ashburnham Golf Course, one of the finest links golf courses in Wales.
From here it’s plain sailing to reach Burry Port. The town had its 15 minutes of fame in 1928 when Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly the Atlantic and touched down in the port. Reputedly, the first person she spoke to was a fisherman who was far more comfortable in his native Welsh and couldn’t understand her speak due to her American accent. There is a plaque to commemorate her achievement by the lifeboat station.
The peculiarly squat Burry Port lighthouse is a well-loved local landmark and a walk around the marina is a pleasurable way to end the day, with the sailing boats at anchor and glorious views across the bay to Gower.
Nigel Nicholas, Wales Coast Path officer, said: “This walk offers two very contrasting experiences. the first eight miles or so offers almost complete solitude for much of the way and the beach at Cefn Sidan is just breathtaking. It becomes busier from Pembrey Country Park onwards but is none the worse for that as glorious views up the Loughor estuary and across the water towards Gower remain the order of the day.”
All facilities are available at Kidwelly and Burry Port while Pembrey Country Park also has toilets and food outlets.
Car parking is available at both ends of the walk and regular train and bus services makes this an easy route to use public transport.
Download the Kidwelly to Burry Port map (JPEG,2.85MB)