We went to college in Western North Carolina, surrounded by mountains and terrific hiking. One of the things our friendship was first founded on was our love for the outdoors. We have been on four backpacking trips together – all but one ended somewhat poorly. So, of course, we decided hiking the Wales Coast Path was a great decision.
The Wales Coast Path opened in 5 May 2012 and is the first path to follow an entire country’s coastline. In fact, you can add on about another week and walk the entire country border. Kevin and I are just sticking with the coast and will therefore be hiking 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) over the course of 57 days (15.3mi/day average). The most we’ll be hiking in one day is 20 miles and the least is 10 miles.
Neither of us have ever spent this long hiking in one stretch. Kevin’s longest backpacking trip has been seven nights and Abbey’s has been four nights. Distance-wise, neither of us are entirely sure the longest distance ever covered in one day, unfortunately. We estimate about 15 miles for both of us.
So why do this? We certainly aren’t coming off as “experienced” backpackers by any means. Well, for one, there are many portions of the Wales Coast that are easy enough for strollers. While there are definitely sections that are strenuous or dangerous (apparently parts of the path are wide enough only for a foot and at the edge of a cliff, so, that’ll be fun for my phobia of heights), this is still a decently moderate hike. It’s nothing we needed to extensively prepare for. (Our specific preparations are discussed further down in the post). Another reason is that part of Kevin’s heritage comes from Wales, so we wanted to spend a fair amount of time exposing ourselves to a country where his ancestors came from. His grandmother knows a small amount of Welsh that she attempted to teach us before we departed – it was interesting, but not necessarily helpful for our situation. The last large contributing factor is the Appalachian Trail (“The AT” as it’s more popularly referred to). Growing up in North Carolina, it’s hard not to hear about the AT and even hike on portions of it. It’s something that we both would like to hike someday. For comparison, it spans 2,200 miles and people take an average of six months to hike it. We are using the Wales Coast as a litmus test of sorts.
How did we hold up hiking an average of 15.3 miles a day? How did we fare food-wise? How long did it take for us to get tired of sleeping in the hammock tent? How often did we snap at each other? Did we even like the experience? Could we handle the AT?
These are the questions we need to have answered by the end of this adventure. I’m perfectly open to the answer of the last question being a resounding “No.” At least I will know beforehand and won’t get in over my head with hiking the AT.
Our preparation for the Wales Coast has been pretty minimal to be honest. We’ve done our best to run every other day, eat well, and get into a yoga routine. We also tend to walk an average of 10 miles a day – our hiking boots are well broken in by now. In general, we wanted to remain healthy on this European trip considered how long we would be on the road. There was no “I’ll get back to my eating/workout routine when I’m back and settled” on the table. “When I’m back and settled” is months away. We couldn’t just treat every day like we were on holiday and eat and drink to our hearts’ content. This is going to come in handy during the Wales Coast and we’re not huffing and puffing the entire day. We are in good shape and, aside from resting our legs before the start, we are well-rested.
Do we have concerns? Of course. Our biggest concern is getting the correct amount of nourishment. Kevin’s more of an omnivore and is willing to eat meat and cheese if the situation arises. I, on the other hand, am lactose intolerant and refuse to consume animal products. Our dinners are supposed to be where we make up in calories, but I’m concerned with what we’ll find. Carbs and vegetables I’m sure will be easy, but protein is more of a question for me. We have an absurdly large tub of peanut butter and an equally as large bag of pea protein powder. These will be our main sources of protein on the trail – spoonfuls of peanut butter galore! We also purchased some bars, seasoned tofu, pasta, and porridge. The tofu, pasta, and porridge will be for the nights we end up camping out rather than staying in town. I’m sure there will be a bit of adjusting along the way, but we will have to keep weight and perishability in mind.
Another concern is sleeping arrangements. Unlike in the United States, free camping (setting up a tent on public land) is illegal in the United Kingdom. Really this is mostly because none of the land is public land, but regardless, it’s a bit of an issue we are running into. We have heard from some people who have either hiked the Wales Coast or just hiked in Europe in general, that as long as you don’t make a mess and are gone in the morning, no one will care if you set up a tent in a far-off field. Despite these assurances, we will be confirming this on our own to avoid any grievances and extra stress. Our plan is to book AirBnBs, hostels, and camping ground spots where we can. We’ll also chat with locals along the way to see where it would be most acceptable to set up our hammock tent. It’s a situation that adds a bit of logistical acrobatics, but nothing that is going to keep us from this trip.
The Wales Coast is going to be an interesting experience. We’re both really looking forward to it and ever since we set foot in the United Kingdom it’s all I’ve been thinking about. I think I’m most looking forward to the simplicity of these next two months. There will be no looking for tickets to attractions, figuring out which restaurants to eat at, picking activities that interest both of us. Instead, every day will be waking up, pulling on our packs, hiking to the next city on our list, finding the closest place to eat, and going to sleep. Rinse and repeat.
We have posts scheduled to go up while we’re hiking. We may be delayed in responding to your comments or emails due to weak/lack of WiFi or just exhaustion. Please bear with us! We’ll also do our best to provide updates along the way, though those may be more focused on our Instagram, so follow us on there!