The Wales Coast Path is officially opening today, making Wales the first country in the world to be entirely circled by long distance walking trails.
The 870 mile coast path runs from Chepstow to the Dee estuary. It links with both the northern and southern ends of Offa's Dyke Path, the National Trail that runs through the Anglo/Welsh border country, to effectively create a 1030-mile waymarked trail around the whole of Wales.
The Wales Coast Path has been developed by the Welsh Government in partnership with the Countryside Council for Wales, sixteen local authorities and two National Parks. In addition to funding from the Welsh Government and the coastal local authorities of approximately £2 million per year, the European Regional Development Fund has allocated nearly £4 million over four years in support of the project.
The new trail was developed out of a desire to build on the economic success of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path – both of which are major contributors to the tourism economy. The Coast Path is likely to prove important for the Welsh economy too. It is also seen as a useful initiative in encouraging both locals and visitors to enjoy Wales' outdoor spaces and get a bit healthier in the process.
Improvements to the quality and alignment of the route will continue during 2012 and 2013 to ensure that the path follows the Welsh coastline as closely as it is deemed safe and practical to do so. Over time, the Wales Coast Path is expected to lead to the creation of circular coastal routes as links to inland towns and villages are improved.
The whole path will be accessible to walkers and, where practical, some sections will also be suitable for cyclists, families with pushchairs, people with restricted mobility and horse riders.
For the sake of convenience the Path has been split into eight sections:
- North Wales Coast & Dee Estuary
- Isle of Anglesey
- Menai, Llŷn & Meirionnydd
- Gower & Swansea Bay
- South Wales Coast & Severn Estuary
A new Wales Coast Path website serves as a central info hub for all things trail-related, offering details of shorter and longer day walks along the path, public transport and other visitor information.
Events will be held today to mark the opening in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and Flint, while the Ramblers have put on a weekend of coastal walking with dozens of guided walks at locations all around the coast to coincide with the launch.