As I creep my way back to full fitness, I’ve really been enjoying the best trail running routes that North East Wales has to offer. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky that we live in a little corner of Wales that offers so much diversity in terms of landscapes and terrain, that pretty much whatever we fancy on any particular day can be achieved. I could, for example, easily head over to one of my favourite playgrounds – the Clwydian Range – to tackle miles and miles of rolling hills and grassy undulations; however, given that my fitness is not quite where it was when I was bounding across them during the spring and summer, I opted for something altogether flatter but still with equally good views: the Talacre to Rhyl coastal path.
The Talacre to Rhyl Coastal Path is part of the much bigger Wales Coast Path which spans an epic 870 miles / 1400km across Wales. In all, it takes in 16 different local authorities and two National Parks. For this section between Talacre and Rhyl I’d only be covering 8 miles, which would be perfect to keep me ticking over before I aim to increase my mileage after the festive period (when I’ll without doubt need to due to my inevitable overindulgence of cheese and mince pies!)
Talacre has a variety of parking options, including the free car park adjacent to the beach. However, take care and ensure that you read the signs regarding tide times and the like – it has been known to occasionally catch people out. If you’re unsure, there are a couple of handy pay-and-display car parks just a very short wander away.
Now, you could begin your journey down the Talacre to Rhyl Coastal path by heading straight for the Coast Path sign and finger post that points you in the direction of Gronant, but you’d be missing a trick. The traditional path does hold some very significant advantages: it’s accessible for one, meaning everyone of all abilities plus cyclists and families with pushchairs, can travel through the dunes unimpeded. It’s a lovely, lovely, walk but, for those who can, head through the dunes onto the sand for a section of beach that is always wide and welcoming and rarely very busy as my photos demonstrate. The iconic Point of Ayr lighthouse and crashing waves looked particularly impressive and moody as I ran along the beach, and certainly helped to take my mind off the extra energy I was expending every time my foot sank into the damp, soft sand.
As you will no doubt notice from the many signs that have been erected to guide people away from certain areas, there is a lot of conservation work being done along the Talacre to Rhyl coastal path. One aim is to recognise the importance of the sand dunes both in terms of their ability to form a natural sea defence and also as a habitat to some unique vegetation and animal life. According to the RSPB, the dunes host Sand Lizards, while Natterjack toads have been reintroduced. It is also the only Little Tern breeding colony in North Wales. In terms of plant life, the conservation work has been so successful that the nationally rare dune fescue is in attendance. What’s more, during the winter, up to 100,000 waders and 20,000 water fowl make this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) their home. So, why wait? The here and now is a great time to take a run through one of the most important sand dune systems anywhere in the UK!
Making my way through the dunes and picking up the Wales Coast Path again, my next stop on the Talacre to Rhyl coastal path was Prestatyn. Not only does Prestatyn have another glorious beach for you to explore (just make sure you pause your Garmin/Strava!), it has a lovely collection of local cafes where you can feel good about rewarding yourself for the miles put in so far. Given that as well as the Wales Coast path running through this seaside town, you also have the start (or end, depending on your direction of travel) point of the Offa’s Dyke National Path; it shouldn’t surprise you that the entire place is walker and runner friendly and there are a couple of good independent outdoor shops should you need to restock or repair anything on-route.
My finish point (although yours doesn’t have to be if you’re feeling particularly energetic – Pensarn is another great beach to check out if you have a couple more miles left in your legs) for the Talacre to Rhyl coastal path is, obviously, the seaside town of Rhyl. Having had some serious investment over recent years, Rhyl boasts a long broad promenade with cafes and stalls, an excellent theatre for those wanting to catch a play or seasonal panto, as well as a range of more adrenaline-fuelled activities, such as kitesurfing (that I’m booked in to try for the first time very soon).
I can’t recommend this run along the Talacre to Rhyl coastal path enough. There’s something beautifully refreshing and escapist about a seaside walk or run. There’s enough challenge, if you choose the many beach options, to test even the hardiest of legs and lungs, or a delightful path for those who require something more accessible. The rich local vegetation holds national importance, and the many conservation and walking groups in the area really add to a great feeling of a community who, like me, are proud of their little corner of Wales. Come and visit us sometime soon.
As ever, if you’d like to find out more about North East Wales and see the latest news about events and celebrations, check out the official tourism website.