Wales – Pembrokeshire Coast Path – day 3

Trip Report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I had a plan. And plenty of doubts whether or not I’d make all the connections.

8am breakfast at the Manorbier Youth Hostel
8:33am bus to Tenby
9:37am train to Fishguard

That all worked! I was pleased.

I wanted to continue my hiking on the spectacular northern end of the Coast Path.

I studied the litter by the train tracks. Mostly drink containers. Some fast food wrap. Cigarette packages.

There was no trash can available on this platform. No wonder, Wales.☹️

I headed for Fishguard because it had a train station. From there I hoped to catch one of the much promoted coastal bus lines.

Wanting to head in the direction of St. Davids, locals sent me to catch the Strumble Shuttle. Starting Oct 4th it went on winter hours. Only two days a week: Thursday and Saturday.

I checked my watch. I’d arrived Friday, Oct 5th. ☹️

… Oh well. I started walking instead in the other direction. Towards the north end of the Coast Path. The best and most difficult section.

I picked up some provisions (including 2 litres of water) in town before climbing up and away towards headlands.

It was 1pm. I had about 6 hours of daylight to get as far as I could … wanting to shorten tomorrow’s final, most difficult day. I left Fishguard as quickly as possible.

There’s the ferry to Ireland.

It was misty, almost drizzling, all day. Many of my panorama photos looked a little grey.

Still, every hiker I spoke with felt it was great weather for walking. I heard it had been too hot in this section during summer 2018.

The cliffs grew increasingly rugged. Increasingly challenging. The highpoint of the day is 465ft (142m).

There are more cows than sheep.

Vegetation is dense. Plenty of thorny berry bushes.

I considered tenting in this bay, but it was still too early in the day.

Certainly I enjoyed the walking. There’s much to distract from the exertions of climbing up and down cliffs with full pack.

About 6pm I started looking for a discrete place to wild camp. Slim pickings. The Welsh have had hundreds of years to lock up their private property. There’s no “right to roam” in Wales.

The public space was a narrow path, dense shrub and then a deadly fall to the sea.

I lucked out reaching a now closed nature reserve. Climbed the fence. Found a secluded spot. And set up the Hubba.

It still had not rained. … Not until the middle of the night when I had to scramble and put on the fly.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Wales – Pembrokeshire Coast Path – day 2

Trip Report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Day 1 had gone perfectly.

Day 2 would be problematic. I could hike in the opposite direction from the hostel … but it was unlikely I’d find a bus to get me back.

In the end I decided to take a chance. If I couldn’t find a bus, I’d backtrack the way I came. My turnaround time would be 3pm.

Immediately the scenery was more dramatic than anything I’d seen so far. BIG cliffs.

This rugged, remote area is used for military training. At one point I was forced to walk around a training camp.

Most of my day was walking high cliffs.

The few coves had stairs. Most of them, in any case.

You can see how the earth was flipped 90 degrees at some point in geological history.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path (opened 1970) is part of the longer Wales Coast Path. Many of these trails have multiple logos.

Though I’d been staying at the the Manorbier Youth Hostel (in Skrinkle), I finally made it to the village of Manorbier.

I’d been looking forward to see the quite intact Manorbier Castle. It’s privately owned now, but public can buy tea and access.

Across the way is the 12th century Norman Church.

More interesting to me was an ancient dovecote. This was home to about 250 birds. Doves and pigeons laid 2 eggs about six times a year. Squabs (4-6 weeks) were an important food source as were the eggs.

I carried on. It was hazy all day, but did not rain.

I saw many hikers.

Finally. Clearwater East Beach. It was here I was hoping to find a bus.

I walked the sand dunes to town.

Bad news. The chap in the ice-cream truck told me buses after Oct 1st only run once a day each way. The bus I needed had past about 2 hours earlier.

I ended my hiking day here. Had a bite to eat at the only pub in town. And retraced my steps, running most of the flat sections.

It was still a terrific hiking day.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Wales – Pembrokeshire Coast Path – day 1

Trip Report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I’ve been trying to get to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for years. It’s one of our top 10 coastal hikes in the world.

Happily, I can now personally confirm that it deserves to be on that list.

Opened 1970, it’s 186 miles (299km). You can hike it in 12 days of about 15 miles.

Few thru hike. But it’s very popular with day hikers.

I knew the area around Tenby had some of the best hiking sections. So decided to take the train from Cardiff to Tenby to start.

A second train got me 2 miles away from the Manorbier Youth Hostel. (It’s in Skrinkle, not Manorbier.) I used my camera flashlight and Maps.me to find my way over dark rural roads. I arrived at the hostel 9pm.

Next morning I fueled up with a hearty Welsh breakfast. And plenty of coffee.

The hostel is perfect. Right on the Coast Path.

They have inexpensive private rooms, tenting and these cute huts.

It’s an ideal base for hiking. Head for the water. And follow the acorn blazes.

The weather this day was … Welsh. Threatening. But no rain.

Though parkland, much of the walk has grazing animals staring at you.

As expected, these cliffs are rugged.

It’s an area that that has been much used by the British military over the years. Near Penally you can still see trenches where troops trained during WW I.

Approaching Tenby you begin to see holiday home trailer parks.

The number of full time residents is smaller than I’d expect.

The trail is endless entertaining. There’s always something unexpected around the next corner.

I was impressed with Tenby from some distance away.

In fact, I’d say Tenby is as cute and interesting a holiday destination as any town I can recall. Visit Tenby and stay 2-3 nights. There’s plenty to do and see.

Past Tenby is one official end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It’s a nice walk to Amroth.

And I was happy to reach the start.

I caught the last bus returning to Tenby. And the last bus from Tenby back to the hostel.

There are buses along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, but some run very few times a day. Especially during the “winter” season which normally starts October 1st.

All in all, an excellent hiking day.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

best way to hike Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten is without question one of the best hiking destinations in the world.

Bunes Beach hike

But it’s remote.

Also, Norway is very expensive.

The gateway for most people is the town of Bodø, the end of the train line north. It’s often cheaper and easier to fly as the train is a 17 hour overnight journey.

From Bodø you have options. If you don’t have your own transportation easiest is to make a loop by ferry and bus.

Take the fast passenger ferry Bodø to Svolvær. About 4 hours.

Your first hike should be Fløya & Devil’s Gate. The trailhead is about a half hour walk from the ferry landing.

From Svolvær you would take buses or hitchhike the only highway west through islands A to V to F to M. 

M Moskenes (Moskenesøya) has the best hiking. Save it for last.

Reine is the best base town for Moskenes. You can do 3-4 awesome hikes out of the same town.

From the village of Å (the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet) you can catch the slow ferry back to Bodø. About 4 hours.

By far the best hiking guidebook is Hiking the LOFOTEN ISLANDS by Kristin Folsland Olsen. Published 2017 in English, it will help you decide which hikes to do. Most are day hikes and many are scrambles. No need to order it online. It’s widely available on the islands.

The weather is dreadful. For any 7 day period during the hiking season you may have several days of serious wind and rain. These should be rest days if you have time.

If you have your own vehicle — or decide to rent a car — you can go when and where you want. That’s ideal.

related – travel 2 walk – trip report: Norway – Bødo & Lofoten Islands, August 2017

 

Norway’s Lofoten Islands – Reinebringen alternative Topp 730

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

The most famous hike on the Lofoten Islands — Reinebringen — was closed for the 3rd season in a row.

Happily, my guide book (2017) by Kristin Olsen recommended an alternative.

There’s a longer, muddier route to hike up to the coffin above Reine.

From there you can walk the ridge and scramble up to two different peaks, one unnamed but called on some maps Topp 730.

Best would be to have your own kayak or raft to get to the end of Djupfjorden. I didn’t … so had to walk the muddy shoreline from the bridge.

I camped near this point on my return, atop a huge flat boulder.

I’d been warned this section was worst. It was.

But the elixir of life kept me going.

Goal #1 was the red cabin at the end of the fjord.

From there you scramble as best you can to the top of the waterfall. No trail. I was with a French couple at this point.

It was a pleasure to reach the lake and easier scrambling.

It was another beautiful day well above the Arctic Circle.

I was super happy to reach the coffin. Gorgeous views.

There’s no real reason to go on.

But everyone up there, including me, went scrambling the cliff edge.

Finally I sat down to enjoy the vista and my Mexican pizza.

Everyone but me headed up left to this peak. An easy walk-up.

I went instead for the steeper scramble to my right of the coffin.

Though there was some exposure, it was a blast.

I left a Summit Stone.

A local hiker who had been there before looped down on the closed old Reinebringen trail, avoiding the Nepali construction team.

When I saw them working far below I finally turned back, not wanting to risk rock fall.

What a fantastic hiking day.

This is why I made the long trip to the remote Lofoten Islands.

Norway’s Lofoten Islands – hike Helvetestind (Hell’s peak) & Bunes beach

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

My first hike in stunning Lofoten above the Arctic Circle was a great one — Bunes beach.

The weather atypically gorgeous in Reine.

From here you catch a ferry to the end of the Bunesfjorden.

A Norwegian hiker told me he had this beach to himself on a sunny July day 9-years-ago. No more. It’s super popular in 2018. Our boat was packed.

Half the passengers were stuck like sardines in a can below deck. The other half sat up top. Yep … I was front and centre savouring the scenery.

The ferry was at least as good as the hike itself.

I’ve seen some amazing mountains. Dolomites. Yukon. Patagonia. But I can’t recall seeing so many astonishing peaks anywhere else. They were carved by huge, powerful glaciers.

Of two or three potential trailheads, most hikers alight at Vinstad.

Most dashed straight up the old carriage road to the beach to set up their tents.

I stopped, instead, at the pass for lunch.

Stashed the pack …

… then headed up Hell’s peak.

Actually it was easier than it looks.

This is Helvetestind (Hell’s peak) 602MASL (metres above sea level). That’s the beach below.

You can see Reine looking back down the fjord.

I took my time coming down.

Lofoten is gorgeous in so many ways.

Bunes beach is huge. I dropped my pack and went exploring while I still had sunlight.

Everyone sets-up under this huge wall.

Next morning I was first up and gone. I sat up on the pass enjoying my coffee in the sun while it was still shady down on the beach.

As a result I got back to Vinstad early.

People live here. I went exploring.

Homes are literally cabled to the ground to keep them from flying away during strong winter storms.

While waiting on the ferry a packraft stopped by. The German adventurer was going to try an off-trail climb for the second day in a row.

Less crowded, everyone got to stay up top on the return.

Reine is beautiful. A good kayaking fjord.

Reine is the best base town on the Lofoten Islands for me. You can do 3-4 great hikes like this from here.

famous Norwegian hike closed for Sherpas

For the 3rd season in a row Reinebringen out of Reine, Lofoten Islands is closed.

Several people have died in recent years on the tough, muddy scramble to this iconic vista.

The experts were called. Eight experienced trail builders from the Himalaya.

If people climbed there’s a risk of rock fall down to where they are working.

Out of respect for these guys, I did not climb it.

Reinebringen should open 2019. And be MUCH safer.

There is a good alternative (called by some) Topp 730 that gets you to very similar vistas.