Wales Coast Path
The Wales Coast Path (Welsh: Llwybr Arfordir Cymru) is a long-distance footpath which follows, or runs close to, the majority of the coastline of Wales. It opened on 5 May 2012, and offers a 870-mile (1,400 km) walking route from Chepstow, Monmouthshire, in the south to near Chester, in the north. 
Wales is the first country in the world to provide a dedicated footpath close to most of its coastline. The Path runs through eleven National Nature Reserves and other nature reserves, including those managed by The Wildlife Trusts or Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Lonely Planet rated the coast of Wales first in its Best in Travel: top 10 regions for 2012.
History and development
The Wales Coast Path was developed by the Welsh Government in partnership with the former Countryside Council for Wales, sixteen local authorities and two National Parks. Since 2007 the Welsh Government has invested in improving public access to the Welsh coast through its Coastal Access Improvement Programme. In addition to this funding from the Welsh Government and the coastal local authorities of approximately £2 million per year, the European Regional Development Fund has additionally allocated nearly £3.9 million over three years in support of the project.
The idea was developed from a desire to build on the economic success of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path. Plans for the new all-Wales coastal path were first unveiled by First Minister Rhodri Morgan in June 2006, when he officially opened the 125-mile route around Anglesey. It was anticipated that the Wales Coast Path project, which would improve access and link up existing paths, would take up to five years; it has been nearer six. Both the Pembrokeshire and Anglesey coastal paths were considered as major contributors to the visitor economy of Wales, and in addition to financial benefits it was also seen as an important initiative in encouraging both locals and visitors to discover and enjoy Wales’ outdoor spaces, and in the health and welfare benefits that such paths provide.
The Countryside Council for Wales, which supervised the project, had said that improvements to the quality and alignment of the route would continue during 2012 and 2013 to ensure that the path follows the Welsh coastline as close as it is safe and practical. Over time, the completed path is expected to lead to the creation of circular coastal routes, as links to inland towns and villages are improved.
The Wales Coast Path was launched on 5 May 2012, and was heralded as the world's first coastal path to cover an entire country. It follows the entire Welsh coastline from Chepstow, Monmouthshire, in the south to Queensferry, Flintshire, in the north. Many parts already had established paths, such as the North Wales Path, the Anglesey Coastal Path and the Llŷn Coastal Path. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path had been a designated National Trail, and in 2011 was voted by National Geographic magazine as the second-best coastal destination in the world.
The path travels through 882 miles (1,419 km) of coastal landscape (although it is usually quoted as 870 miles (1,400 km)), from the mouth of the River Dee, along the north Wales coast with its seaside towns such as Conwy, over the Menai Strait onto the Isle of Anglesey, past Caernarfon, and then around the Llŷn Peninsula and down the sweep of Cardigan Bay past Harlech, Aberystwyth, and Cardigan, through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to Tenby, around the Gower Peninsula to Swansea, along the waterfront of Cardiff Bay and Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, to the market town of Chepstow.
The whole path is accessible to walkers and, where practical, some sections are suitable for cyclists, families with pushchairs, people with restricted mobility, and horse riders.
Overall responsibility for establishing the path lay with the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales), but management on the ground rests with the 15 local government areas it passes through. Five waymarked long-distance coast paths were already established, in Pembrokeshire, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and the North Wales coast. These formed the basis for five of the eight geographical sections that now make up the path. The remaining three areas are made up of single and combined counties and county boroughs with coastlines.
A complete walk around Wales
The Wales Coast Path is not a National Trail but by linking with the Offa's Dyke Path, which loosely follows Wales-England border, a 1,030-mile (1,660 km) continuous walking route is created around almost the whole of Wales apart from skirting past Flintshire and Wrexham.
The Wales Coast path website divides the 870-mile (1,400 km) coast route into sections with an accompanying map. These are (from north to south):
|North Wales Coast & Dee Estuary
||68 mi (109 km)||North Wales Path, opened 1997, covers parts of this section.||Flintshire: 27 mi (43 km)
Denbighshire: 7 mi (11 km)
Conwy: 35 mi (56 km)
|Isle of Anglesey
||132 mi (212 km)||Anglesey Coastal Path, opened 2006.||Isle of Anglesey|
|Menai, Llŷn & Meirionnydd
||189 mi (304 km)||Llŷn Coastal Path 91 mi (146 km) opened 2006 and expanded to take in the rest of Gwynedd.||Gwynedd|
||72 mi (116 km)||Ceredigion Coast Path opened 2008.||Powys: 5 mi (8.0 km)
Ceredigion: 67 mi (108 km)
||186 mi (299 km)||Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a National Trail, opened in 1970.||Pembrokeshire|
||68 mi (109 km)||Millennium Coastal Park, 13 mi (21 km), near Llanelli, opened 2002||Carmarthenshire|
|Gower & Swansea Bay
||71 mi (114 km)||Gower Coast Path (Informal route, 2005)||Swansea: 56 mi (90 km)
Neath Port Talbot: 16 mi (26 km)
|South Wales Coast & Severn Estuary
||97 mi (156 km)||Coastal parts of the Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail, opened 2001.||Bridgend: 12 mi (19 km)
Vale of Glamorgan: 38 mi (61 km)
Cardiff: 9 mi (14 km)
Newport: 26 mi (42 km)
Monmouthshire: 15 mi (24 km)
The official opening of the 870-mile (1,400 km) path took place in a number of locations on 5 May 2012 highlighting the path’s beauty and ease of access for walkers of all ages, fitness and ability. To help celebrate the opening, Ramblers Cymru hosted the Big Welsh Coastal Walk, one of the largest mass participation events ever seen in Wales.
The Countryside Council for Wales asked Chester-based outdoor specialists Northern Eye Books to create the official guidebooks for five of the seven main sections of the Wales Coast Path: North Wales Coast, Isle of Anglesey, Llyn Peninsula, Carmarthenshire and Gower, and the South Wales Coast. They already publish the Official Guide for Anglesey, Walking the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path by Carl Rogers. The remaining titles were due for publication in late 2012 and 2013. There were existing guides to the Ceredigion Coast Path and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path by other publishers.
The first anniversary of the opening of the path was marked on radio and television, and it is estimated that in that first year some 2.8 million people walked stretches of the path, contributing £16 million to the Welsh economy. Further to this, it is estimated that more than 800,000 visitors to the path also stayed the night in one of the many guest-houses, B&Bs and hotels along the route.
The Open Spaces Society has criticised some landowners who do not allow the path onto their coastal land. This means 170 miles (270 km) – more than 20% of the route – will be on roads, sometimes out of sight of the sea. In response, a Countryside Council for Wales spokeswoman said: "Just over 20% of the WCP is on road, slightly less than the average for national trails in Britain, which is in the region of 25%. This is mainly on quiet, country lanes."
There is currently a temporary road route north of Cardigan, connecting Gwbert with Mwnt; the actual Ceredigion Coast Path section within that vicinity is currently unavailable because of legal proceedings.
- List of places along Wales Coast Path
- Long-distance footpaths in Wales
- Long-distance footpaths in the United Kingdom
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The world's first coastal path to cover an entire country has been officially opened in Wales.
- "Wales Coast Path set for a boost as entrepreneurs get to work". Ordnance Survey. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
The recently opened Wales Coast Path is the first coastal network in the world to cover an entire country.
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- Leaflets, Walescoastpath.gov.uk
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- Wales Coast Path - The Carmarthenshire bit!, DiscoverCarmarthenshire.com, accessed 1 November 2013
- Speech by Queen Elizabeth II the day after the opening, 22 June 2002, accessed 15 June 2014
- glamorganwalks.com, accessed 15 June 2014
- "Valeways Millennium Heritage Trail". ldwa.org.uk.
- Big Welsh Coastal Walk . Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Quadrant Media, Official guide books to document Wales Coast Path. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- "WCP celebrates anniversary". Walescoastpath.gov.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
- WalesOnLine.co.uk - Wales’ new coast path still makes walkers tread more than 170 miles of roads . Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- Ceredigion News, Court of Appeal dismisses Jenkins v. Welsh Minister's Case
- WalesOnLine.co.uk - Wales’ coastline named ‘the greatest region on Earth in 2012’ by traveller's bible Lonely Planet . Retrieved 2 January 2012.
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