Traeth Bach: the cut-off cove that eludes almost everyone

No one could term the beach destinations of Llangrannog, bustling one-time hangout of Dylan Thomas, and Penbryn, home to one of Wales’ best beach cafes, off-the-beaten-track. Both are pretty popular when the sun comes out. But there is a sandy bay in-between attracting about three visitors to every 300 Llangrannog and Penbryn pull in, and is so Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-picturesque it makes even its beautiful neighbours seem like plain Janes. This is Traeth Bach, one of the loveliest and least accessible beaches in Wales or England.

©Kerry Walker

You access Traeth Bach (the Little Beach, in Welsh, although it’s not that small) from either Llangrannog or Penbryn, but we think the route from Penbryn edges it for the winsome approach. Plus you can stock up with picnic goodies at The Plwmp Tart, Penbryn Beach car park’s divine cafe, which rustles up artisan paninis, light lunches, delightful cakes, ice cream and even local beers.

The Coast Path, bound for Llangrannog, ascends the track alongside the overflow car park (a field) and then climbs between hedges to a wide field gate and narrower hiker’s gate at the top. There are agreeable views back along Cardigan Bay to Penbryn, and on to Tresaith and Aberporth, from here. An overgrown path proceeds between the wide sloping field on the right and the cliff edge on the left, later skipping through another little gate into the same field, with an odd tower at the top. Bear down the grassy gorse-edged slope to see Traeth Bach slide into view when you reach the gate at the bottom corner.

First impressions

From this vantage point Traeth Bach looks its most splendid: the full tawny-gold horseshoe of sand tucked up beneath giant, broken cliffs and sheltered waters bounded on the far side by another bank of golden sand and a rock stack island, Carreg-y-ty, gorged all the way through by what is referred to as a sea cave but is technically a rock arch. It looks every inch the Pirates of the Caribbean film set – just without the crowds.

The way to Traeth Bach ©Kerry Walker

Ways down to Traeth Bach

But how to get down, when Traeth Bach is cut-off in every sense of the word, even from obvious paths? It’s not that easy, which is why even a lot of the people that make it this far never get to touch Traeth Bach’s sand or swim in its waters. The Coast Path does descend a deal of the way towards it, then after you cross the bridge before the big ascent up the cliff on the other side of the valley, a minor path picks its way to the left, down to a cliff edge about 25 feet above the sand. And down this you must climb to reach Traeth Bach – daunting, if not technical, and enough to deter the less-able bodied. But there is a second approach from just beyond the gate where the Traeth Bach views really begin. This path seems like a sheep path zigzagging through the gorse to the left, but follow it down through a bracken-clogged field and you reach a fence corner with a wooden barrier you can easily scale. Then – if you do not suffer from vertigo – another path tiny enough to use as the bow on a present skitters down the cliff face to the southern rocky end of the beach.

What to do

You might justifiably feel that you have done quite sufficient just in walking here. And the sand is very enticing for sun-bathing. As is the sea, shallow enough for quite some way just to splash about in, even for the kids to be left to their own devices. Along the southern side of the bay are lots of boulders and, further out, a couple of rocky islands to swim out to. You can clamber over the rocks on the northern end of the beach to reach the second strip of beach beyond, and from here you can inch along the bottom of Carreg-y-ty to the huge sea cave or (if you are nimble) clamber (with care) up the steep side of Carreg-y-ty to the top. You could also combine a stop at Traeth Bach with the longer Penbryn-Llangrannog-Penbryn walk (five miles out and back). Kayakers and paddle-boarders understandably love the mix of calm inner waters and challenging outer waves that Traeth Bach offers. You’ll often see peregrine falcons on the walk out here.

NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: 9 miles west of Traeth Bach is Mwnt Beach.

Beach basics

Traeth Bach eddies ©Kerry Walker

Sand: 9 (Firm golden sand, studded with boulders laced by seaweed).

Swimability: 10 (Just exquisite – gradually shelving sand, shelter because of the depth of the bay, islands and sea caves to swim to).

Privacy: 9.5 (Well, scarcely anyone comes here, and those that do have plenty of places to station themselves away from everyone else).

Setting: 10 (Flanked by cliffs in a deep, lovely bay, with a rock stack tidal island linked by boulders to another stretch of sand, as well as sea caves)

Facilities: 5 (A high-seeming mark, given there are no facilities here, but hey, just a couple of miles along the coast path is The Plwmp Tart at Penbryn.

At a glance

How to get there: First, get to the National Trust car park at Penbryn. This is not that easy for first-timers. Head 9 miles northeast of Cardigan to the little village of Sarnau, from where a sign points to Penbryn down a little lane next to the church (the far end of the village, if coming from Cardigan). Continue down this lane to a crossroads at the bottom of the hill, turn left passing Maes Glas Caravan Park, left again after here and then right at a gutturally leaning sign to the car park. Then, walk. A smidgeon under two miles one way along the northbound Ceredigion Coast Path.

Parking: At Penbryn National Trust car park, two miles away.

Refreshments: The afore-mentioned Plwmp Tart at Penbryn – some of the nicest homemade food in Ceredigion.

Best time to visit: Summer can be best, as on a hot day people just cannot be bothered to walk to Traeth Bach (great news for those that can!) Autumn winds swirl up the tides at Penbryn but it stays calm close to shore at Traeth Bach. Still, calm sunny days when you can get in the water are the nicest.