Jane Day takes her family to visit the picturesque Pembrokeshire coastline.
Covering 186 miles of coastline, passing through 58 beaches and 14 harbours, Pembrokeshire Coast Path is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most breathtaking walks. An experienced rambler could complete the whole route with its challenging terrain in about 15 days, but we took things a little gentler on our first visit to this gorgeous part of Wales.
Our base was a well-equipped cottage with easy access to the coastal path in the village of Broad Haven, an ideal location on the west coast with an unspoilt beach nestled in a cove with striking cliffs towering above. At low tide you can walk around to Little Haven, exploring the caves and rock pools, maybe stopping off at one of the local pubs to sample a pint and one of the local fish dishes.
This area is ideal for novice walkers with gentle inclines in either direction. Those with mobility issues don’t miss out, as a coastal bus service offers fantastic views from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south – you can hop on or off as much as you like on the aptly named Puffin Shuttle or Poppit Rocket.
Another perfect, and obvious, way of exploring this expansive coastline is by boat. We took an hour-long voyage around Ramsey Island, off St Davids Peninsula, expertly navigated around sea caves, spotting grey seals and nesting seabirds. Landings are permitted onto this RSPB reserve, where two wardens live and manage the island, working tirelessly to protect and preserve the wildlife and environment.
To the south lies the islands of Skomer and Stokholm, where the Pembrokeshire Puffins arrive in April and visitors are lucky enough to see dolphins and porpoise. The Wildlife Trust of Wales offer accommodation here in the summer months to truly appreciate the islands – a real nature lover’s paradise.
Despite never being more than 10 miles away from the sea, the Pembrokeshire National Park has much more to offer than just a fantastic coastline. This is the Year of the Legends in Wales and the area has plenty of myths and mystery to tempt you. Discover the history of Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII, or the quirky chapel, home to St Govan, one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.
Bursting with history is Britain’s smallest city, and the most westerly tip of Wales, St Davids. Granted city status by Queen Elizabeth II, St Davids is probably better described as a pretty village but attracts thousands of visitors each year. Built as a monastery by the patron saint of Wales St David it has been a cathedral since the 12th century when it was declared a place of pilgrimage. It is easy to spend a few hours admiring the magnificent architecture and medieval ruins of Bishop’s Palace, in such a beautiful setting.
The most popular and commercialised resorts in Pembrokeshire are Tenby and Saundersfoot, though they still retain a certain charm and friendliness with working harbours, blue flag beaches and painted cottages.
Pembrokeshire is a favourite location for TV and film directors too. The small tidal island, St Catherine’s, on Tenby beach was the mysterious and menacing Sherrinford in Sherlock, while movies like Moby Dick, Harry Potter and Robin Hood all made use of the dramatic coastline and beaches.
The recently released comedy Their Finest, starring Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton, was filmed around Freshwater Beach and Porthgain Harbour.
About 10 minutes north from Porthgain we discovered The Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy. On the site of an old slate quarry, it was formed when the channel connecting the quarry to the sea was blasted, allowing the sea to flood in, and the water is indeed very blue.
We just admired the view, leaving the exploration to those who get their adrenalin rush from rock climbing, cliff jumping and shore scrambling.
Surfing, kayaking, cycling and horse riding are many of the other activities enjoyed in Pembrokeshire, but many families, like us, were happy wandering on the beach, walking the dogs, building sand castles and paddling in the spring sunshine.
Having only attempted a few miles along the coastal path gives us the ideal excuse for another trip to Pembrokeshire, and we look forward to our next voyage of discovery in this land of legends.
* The Day family stayed in Coastguard Cottage, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire as guests of Coastal Cottages (01437 765765, coastalcottages.co.uk). For more information, visit pembroke shire.com