May 5 marks ten years of the Wales Coast Path.

Stretching 870 miles from Chester to Chepstow, the path was the first in the world to follow the coastline of an entire country - and if walkers combine it with the Offa’s Dyke National Trail, they can circumnavigate the entire 1,047 mile perimeter of Wales.

The route, guided by those now familiar blue-and-white “dragon shells”, was conceived under the One Wales coalition between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, that ran from 2007 to 2011, with financial support from the European Union.

A year before the One Wales coalition formed, Welsh Labour’s then-First Minister Rhodri Morgan had unveiled plans for the project at the opening of Ynys Môn’s own 125-mile coast path in 2008.

The National Wales: Harlech Castle. (Picture: Visit Wales)Harlech Castle. (Picture: Visit Wales)

It was hoped that these new opportunities to take in the natural beauty of Wales would attract visitors, boosting the tourism industry - and it appears to have worked for a time, with StatsWales reporting “strong growth” in the three years following the Coast Path’s official opening day.

Of course, the growth of tourism in Wales has been a mixed bag for many, with homes in popular coastal resort towns snapped up for use as holiday getaways, leaving locals priced out, and the Welsh Government now considering a possible tourism tax to help councils cope with their seasonal population booms.

READ MORE: "Wales Coast Path proves we can be radical and world leading"

Back in 2012, though, charity Ramblers Cymru celebrated the Coastal Path’s official opening day with a series of group walks across the country.

The group, which campaigns for public access to green and natural spaces, called on “all of Wales to share in this triumph”.

Angela Charlton, Ramblers Cymru director at the time, added: “The launch of this coast path is a milestone for access to our countryside and coast.”

Birds, Beaches, and Turtles

The Wales Coast Path passes by 100 beaches on its way around the country, along with 16 castles - including Harlech, Owain Glyndwr’s home for four years during his rebellion - and around 3,000 shipwrecks hidden under the waves.

The trail also takes hikers through Welsh coastal wildlife habitats. At Cemlyn Bay in Ynys Môn, thousands of distinctive black-and-white Sandwich terns nest each year, while the UK’s small resident group of orca (killer whales) are known to visit northern Welsh waters yearly.

The National Wales: A dolphin off the coast of Pembrokeshire. (Picture: Visit Wales)A dolphin off the coast of Pembrokeshire. (Picture: Visit Wales)

Dolphins are a frequent sight off the coasts of Aberystwyth and Cardigan, meanwhile; they can also be seen in Pembrokeshire, along with puffins, whales and seals.

A rarer sight is the enormous leatherback turtle, which travels huge distances to feast on jellyfish in the Irish sea each summer.

The National Wales: Seals and puffins are also found in Pembrokeshire. (Picture: VisitWales)Seals and puffins are also found in Pembrokeshire. (Picture: VisitWales)

Who’s walked the Wales Coast Path?

Completing the trail will usually take around 3 months - unless you’re marathon runner Rhys Jenkins, who in the summer of 2020 ran the whole thing in 20 days, holding the current record for fastest completion time.

Last year Jenkins broke the world record time for running from John o’Groats - a village in the far north of Scotland - to Lands End, Cornwall.

Others prefer not to rush their Wales Coast Path trek, which was certainly the case for travel writer Hannah Engelkamp, who made her 2013 journey accompanied by a donkey, Chico. 

The National Wales: Hannah Engelkamp and Chico.Hannah Engelkamp and Chico.

Engelkamp took more than five months to make it home after setting out from Aberystwyth, her hometown. She later wrote about her experiences in Seaside Donkey, and released a documentary of the same name in 2017.

Part of the path was completed by a man in undies last summer. “Speedo Mick” - nicknamed for his tiny blue Everton trunks - walked from Aberystwyth to Cardiff, raising money for small homelessness and mental health support charities.

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