The Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Coast Path precedes, and now forms part of the national Wales Coast Path which runs along the entire coastline of Wales. This section of the path is characterised by towering golden limestone cliffs, storm beaches with vast expanses of glistening sand revealed by the tides, which are huge in this part of the world (in fact, this stretch of coast has the second highest tidal range in the world!).
Atop the cliffs is open farmland, abundant in wildlife. Birds, such as the rare Chough and Peregrine Falcons, can be seen here with some regularity. Kestrels, skylarks and many seabirds can also be spotted. Hares, rabbits and foxes are residents and countless species of wild flowers adorn the path year-round.
We’ve been hiking this particular section of the Heritage coast path – Dunraven to Wick Beach and back – for years; it is probably our favourite walk in the area. However, we hadn’t dared venture so far, or on such an adventurous hike (more on this later!) since having our twin daughters. Finally, we plucked up the courage, packed a picnic, at least 1kg of snacks, about ten bottles of water, 3 tubes of sun cream, and headed off on a beautiful August day.
We gave ourselves a bit of a head start by driving down to the Dunraven Beach car park – even though we could have legitimately walked there over the fields from home – we planned to end our hike with a swim and wanted to get the girls home as soon as possible after coming out of the sea. So, starting from the car park at Dunraven, we headed East through the walled gardens and beyond onto the cliff path.
We couldn’t have picked a better day; the sea far below was glistening all the way across to Devon, and the fields were golden hay stubble, broken up by colourful butterflies flitting from purple thistles to yellow ragwort.
We were relieved to escape the searing heat of the afternoon cliff top sun by descending into a quiet wooded valley, where we stopped for a picnic, to have a go on one of our favourite climbing trees, and to give the girls a break from the backpacks.
Refuelled and cooled, we made our way back up hill and out of the woods onto the cliff top once again. The views just got better and better, and it felt so good to be back on this route – even more special experiencing it with our children for the first time!
We dropped down into another valley and then came the crunch time; were we brave enough to descend the cliffs on the ladders as we had done so many times before, but this time with our precious babies on our backs?
We assessed the ladders and they hadn’t deteriorated at all and still looked very sturdy. We felt confident enough and the girls seemed happy so down we went until we reached the rocky beach below. Once we reached the bottom we gave the girls another break – this time playing with the smooth round pebbles that make up this part of the beach.
In no time we reached the foot of the cliffs at Dunraven and climbed the very steep path back up to cliff top level. No mean feat with 10kg of toddler and 8kg of backpack each! We thoroughly earned the ice cream we bought ourselves at the kiosk back at Dunraven Beach, and we all cooled off by splashing in the waves.
In all, the hike took us 2 and a half hours with two twenty minute breaks. We were very careful to ensure the tide was dropping as we know that this stretch is notorious for strandings, and we wanted to keep as far from the base of the cliffs as possible, as they are notorious for rock falls. The ladder climb is not for the faint hearted, and of course there is a certain element of risk involved in doing it.
For more information on Dunraven Beach and Gardens please see my previous post here.