Wales Coast Path: Elvis-on-Sea and other oddities along new national route

Doctor Who's Tardis on a cliff overlooking the sea at the Rhossili area on the Gower peninsula
Image caption Doctor Who's Tardis on a cliff overlooking the sea at the Rhossili area on the Gower peninsula

The world's first complete dedicated coastal footpath is opening in Wales.

At 870 miles (1,400 km), walkers can now go from Chepstow in the south to Queensferry in the north, taking in some of the UK's most stunning scenery along the way.

The Wales Coast Path runs through 11 national nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), wildlife trusts and RSPB reserves.

Lonely Planet named the Welsh coast first in its top 10 regions for 2012.

Doing the distance

The total distance is roughly the same distance as Land's End to John O'Groats (by road about 874 miles). Anyone walking the entire path would take roughly 1,740,000 steps.

But one woman has taken up the sizeable challenge already. Arry Beresford-Webb is running the Wales Coast Path as well as the Offa's Dyke Path National Trail for charity.

The distance she will cover will be the equivalent of 39 back-to-back marathons and a total distance of 1,047 miles.

She finishes on Saturday, the day the path officially opens, and in doing so will be the first person to have travelled the entire route. She claims Anglesey as her favourite stretch so far, saying it was "beautiful and friendly".

Once complete, the Wales Coast Path will link with the Offa's Dyke Path National Trail, which loosely follows the border with England, to create a 1,030 mile (1,660 km) continuous walking route around the whole of Wales.

Wildlife and wonders

The Welsh shoreline has revealed some unusual natural sightings over the years. In 2009, thousands of alien-like goose barnacles washed up on Newgale beach.

In 2007, a dead humpback whale was washed ashore at Port Talbot, followed by a spate of whale strandings in 2009. In Gower the same year, a loggerhead turtle on the beach caused a stir.

On extreme low tides, ancient trees emerge from the sea at Borth in Ceredigion. Radiocarbon dating puts the remains at 3,500 years old.

The second tallest sand dunes in Europe are located on the coast between Porthcawl and Ogmore-by-Sea. The Merthyr Mawr Warren reserve dunes rise to 200ft (61m).

The earliest fossil evidence of humans living in Wales is at Paviland Cave on the Gower coast. The Red Lady of Paviland is a famous prehistoric burial. Stained red, the skeleton was originally thought to belong to a woman from Roman times, but understanding of modern anatomy makes it clear that the Red Lady is actually a man.

A natural phenomenon is the Severn Bore - a large tidal surge wave that sweeps up the estuary and is regularly ridden by surfers upstream towards Gloucester, a distance of nearly 10 miles. The Severn Estuary coast has second highest tidal range on the planet at 49ft.

A less benign tidal surge was the Great Flood of January 1607. It caused the deaths of up to 2,000 people along the coasts of south Wales and south west England. Some experts believe it may have been caused by a tsunami.


A trip around the coast will put walkers in easy reach of some of the more obscure festivals and events in Wales, including the Elvis festival in Porthcawl. Every September, thousands of fans descend on the seaside town to celebrate all things Elvis, making Porthcawl the largest Elvis-related event in Europe.

A little further along the south coast in September is The Festival of Mud at the National Wetlands Centre, Llanelli, where people can have muddy fun while learning about the environmental importance of mud.

Seafood lovers can celebrate the humble mackerel at the Mackerel Fiesta in Aberaeron, which involves a parade led by a 20ft fish.

The stunning backdrop of the Welsh coastline has provided plenty of inspiration for film directors all over the world.

Parts of the 1962 Hollywood blockbuster Lawrence of Arabia were filmed in the dunes at Merthyr Mawr near Bridgend.

The famous Shell Cottage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was constructed at the north end of Freshwater beach in Pembrokeshire in 2009.

Cult TV series The Prisoner was filmed in the picturesque Italianate village of Portmeirion between 1967-1968. A 1976 episode of Doctor Who was also filmed there, with more recent episodes shot at many locations along the Welsh coast, including Gower.

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