Caldicot to Chepstow
Huge bridges and small villages with big histories.
A massive sandy estuary, woodlands, local history and culture, countryside lanes and a pleasant little village
The main beach car park in Llansteffan.
2, 3 or 4 miles / 3, 5 or 6 kilometres.
Over the centuries, the waters of the Tywi estuary have seen Roman galleys, Viking warships, medieval vessels carrying soldiers and supplies, boats ferrying monks and friars, and merchant ships carrying everything from coal to fine wines. It was also an important stopover on a route used by pilgrims going to St Davids, and by armies marching to Ireland.
But we set off by following the Wales Coast Path up a tarmac path away from the beach. As we turn left down a lane the walls of Llansteffan Castle on the horizon, which dominate views in this part of the Tywi estuary, provide an obvious target to aim for.
The steady climb to the top of the hill provides an indication of what awaits – a castle that boasts one of the most stunning locations in Wales.
It occupies a site that has been defended since prehistoric times. An Iron Age fort is enclosed within its intimidating stone walls and the massive twin-towered gatehouse, built around 1280, still looms large.
After exploring the castle, we head back down the track. If taking the two-mile option, where the track elbows sharply right simply continue straight on along a public footpath back to Llansteffan.
But we carry on back to the road and re-join the Wales Coast Path by turning right on a wide path into an atmospheric grove of tall trees and head back towards the estuary.
Soon we reach a small clearing known locally as The Sticks where in the past locals and visitors held concerts, eisteddfodau and dances. The highlight was the Mock Mayor ceremony where a temporary platform would be built for the event. This tradition of electing a mock mayor continues to this day as part of Llansteffan’s annual mid-summer Fiesta.
Moving on, we follow an enclosed path for a mile or so with regular glimpses of the Taf estuary and Carmarthen Bay. The path drops to the beach at Scott’s Bay which makes a pleasant spot for a picnic, or to just sit down on the rocks and take in the view.
This is where we veer off the Wales Coast Path and follow the footpath inland towards St Anthony’s Well, reputedly a site of healing since the sixth century.
On reaching the lane by Parc Glas, we can turn right to go back to Llansteffan (the three-mile option), but we go left through a driveway and a kissing gate into a field.
There is no distinct path here but we follow the right edge of the field all the way to the top. And let’s be honest, it’s steep - but we are rewarded at the top with some fantastic views across Carmarthen Bay to Gower and, on a clear day, the North Devon Coast in the distance.
Go through a gate and through another two fields to reach a country lane. Turn right here and, when you reach a junction, cross over to go down the Old Road to Llansteffan – ignore the road where you can see the “Llansteffan” sign.
Llansteffan is a lovely old village and it’s easy to imagine it as it was, virtually self-sufficient, with numerous shops, craftsmen for every need, a corn-mill, woollen mills, and a local firm with a fleet of lorries and buses. And it still has some interesting pubs and cafes and a village store which serves coffee, bakes its own bread, and even has a licensed bar at the back!
Saint Ystyffan church in Llansteffan, has an ancient legacy and is worth a visit.
Now, we turn back to the beach down a tarmacked path by a kissing gate and continue either along the sand or on the path behind the small dunes.
It’s hard to imagine the now-peaceful beach thronged with tourists, but that was how it used to be – especially during miners’ fortnight, when the place would be full of miners and their families on their annual holidays. Nowadays we’re more likely to come across cocklers on the beach, harvesting an important local product.
Nigel Nicholas, Wales Coast Path Officer, said: “Llansteffan has a lovely, usually very quiet, beach. And although there are a couple of steep climbs on this walk, there is plenty to reward your efforts with a walk around Llansteffan Castle and some fantastic coastal and countryside views. The centre of Llansteffan has kept the feel of an old village.”
There are public toilets in the main beach car park. Food and drink options are available in the village, and, during the holiday season, near the beach too.
Download the Llansteffan circular walks map (JPEG, 2.13MB)