We woke to a rainbow over the bay: good sign, or bad? Well by the end of the day I’d taken 400 photographs, which must say something about the weather and our walk. I’ve had to be a bit selective about which ones to place here!
Our route took us through the car park toward the National Trust visitor centre, where we picked up a small leaflet showing walks around the area. From there, the tarmacked lane goes through a gate (the road, which you can follow, serves a small Coast Guard lookout, of which more in a moment). However, there are grassed areas tempting explorers, and we ventured toward the cliffs, keeping our distance from the edge, as the wind was quite strong, and we prefer to remain in one piece when possible.
A wide grassy slope led us toward the Coast Guard post, and we were glancing at the information there when one of the uniformed lookouts emerged. He looked us up and down, clearly guessed we’re pensioners, and then advised us that it was blowing a force 7 gale and asked if we were going to attempt the Worm. We told him we were, and he took us closer to the descent point to show us the best route across, giving us a look that suggested he recognised we were slightly mad but probably relatively capable of looking after ourselves.
The initial descent is via a wide stepped path, engineered to prevent too much erosion from passing feet. At the bottom, having consulted the warning sign that explains the dangers of ignoring the tide times, we clambered down onto the rocks that form the causeway. At high tide this is covered with a good depth of seawater flowing fast with dangerous currents, so it’s as well to time your crossing to get there and back in plenty of time. The safe window is around 5 hours, and we were early, setting off as the tide was still going out.
The causeway is made up of rocks, many on them craggy and harbouring plenty of shallow rock pools to catch the unwary. It’s not an easy crossing and stout footwear is essential. Although the wind was strong and gusting, the general temperature meant our usual parkas were adequate. If you go in cooler weather, make sure you wear plenty of layers.
There’s an old anchor early on the route, lost from a ship many years ago. There’s no clear way to get from the mainland to the first island, known as the Inner Head. The distance is around 500 yards (near enough 0.5km). In places, a spot of rock climbing helps, but there are generally ways around the more difficult barriers. The general impression is of a lunar landscape washed by rough seas.
As we approach the shore to climb back onto dry land, a young woman engaged us and told us there was another woman lying flat on her belly just off the pathway up to the ridge, but not to worry, as she was simply taking pictures of the seals below. Needless to say, I shinned up the cliff and moved slowly along to discover a spot where I could do likewise. Watching the Grey Seals on the rocks below was really rewarding.
The high wind made it essential to lie down to prevent camera shake when using a long zoom lens. Of course, that meant I then had to get back up after I’d got my pictures; not the easiest task for an arthritic old crone, but I managed. Valerie remained upright, a little distance from the edge of the cliff whilst I was thus involved; something for which I was grateful, knowing her penchant for leaning close to precipices to see the views!
We ploughed on up to the ridge that runs the length of the Inner Head, enjoying the views, watching the sea birds, and generally exhilarated by the speeding fresh air.
There’s a clear path to guide walkers. In parts it’s a touch narrow and steep, but if we managed it, most fit people should be fine. At the end the path more or less disappears, and we backtracked a little to the trail that leads down the southern slope to the rocks below.
It was clear that attempting the Low Neck, crossing the Devil’s Bridge, and ascending the Outer Head would be a journey too far for us, especially in that gale. We were content with what we’d achieved and spent a short while looking out at the wonderful landscape before returning along the lower path hugging the southern shore of the Inner Head.
On the way, we passed a small hollow where the remnants of a drystone wall suggest a shelter may have been sited there at some time in the past.
We set off back across the causeway, now armed with knowledge of its better routes after our observations from the ridge. As we left the land, we watched a long line of ramblers making their ascent; a moving snake of folk in outdoor gear.
We still had to negotiate rock pools and engage in occasional climbs, but the return route proved slightly less difficult. At one point, we emerged onto a pleasant stretch of beach that had been covered by the receding tide on our outward journey.
A final climb up a steep chasm through the rocks brought us back to the mainland, where we began our ascent up the grassy slope. More visitors were descending as we climbed, and we realised we’d had the best of the place more or less to ourselves due to our early start.
As we moved along the cliffs, stopping frequently to gaze out to sea, across the bay, or at the mainland, we saw a building clinging to the lower part of the cliff below us. It bore what was obviously a new tiled roof and we were curious about its function. The helpful women in the NT visitor centre later explained it was a private fishing lodge, which the owner had apparently hoped to use as a residence. Without power, drainage or running water, it seemed an unlikely project, though we could understand the desire to take advantage of the unique location.
Back at the village, we decided food was a good idea after our exertions and tried a local bistro called The Bay, where we had hot drinks and tasty hot snacks. A board outside advertised their intention to open during the evening on the Saturday for dinner. We’d enjoyed our lunch, so we booked a table as an alternative to our evening meals in the hotel, just for a change.
Once refreshed, we walked along the cliffs down to the beach in the bay, where the tide was still well out. This was a much easier trek than that to the Head. We found a few folk on the wide sands, some giving their dogs the freedom to enjoy the open beach to run.
The weather was still fine, although there were occasional threatening clouds, but we stayed dry as we walked a good way along the firm flat sands, enjoying views of Worm’s Head and the surf.
A thoroughly enjoyable day, ending with a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant. The following day was our wedding anniversary and I’ll describe that in the next post.