Sunday, 24 August 2014

Coast Path Walking

Caution - this is a bit of a long one! You may want to get a cuppa before starting ;)

One of my ‘must do’ things while I was last in Pembrokeshire was to do some proper coast path walking. I have frequently gone out for a walk along the coast path and back, both in the area around St Davids to the north and in various parts of the southern limestone cliff tops. What I had never done, however, was a ‘proper’ walk: leave in the morning, walk all day, stay overnight, and carry on the next day.

My ideal walk would have lasted no less than 3 days – this way you get at least one day where you wake up on the trail in the morning, and go to bed there again that night. My cycle trip last year on another of our National Trails, the South Downs Way, was 3 days long, and it does make a difference to know that you will have that full day, waking to sleeping, out on your mini adventure!

On this occasion though, time was eaten away from us at both ends, and our whole trip to Pembrokeshire was rendered short enough that 3 days simply wasn’t an option, so we had to settle for 2 days. It didn’t feel quite the same to leave, knowing that we would be back ‘tomorrow’, not quite such a feeling of adventure, but a good trip none the less.

I already owned this book, the official National Trail Guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and I used this to choose a section of coast path for our walk. I opted for the northern coast, as I love the ruggedness up there. Something about the scenery really speaks to me of ancient settlements, stormy seas, and rugged nature. The south is also amazing, but I could only choose one part, and the north won for me on this occasion…

Using the guide to help plan, I decided to start with ‘day 3’, beginning near Fishguard, stopping overnight at the recommended point of Trefin, and then walking ‘day 4’ to Whitesands, at St Davids. My mum dropped us off near our chosen start point, and we set off. We were running late as my poor mum had faffed a bit about getting going – I think she was worried about us, and this manifested in us starting about an hour later than we had planned.

We walk as quickly as possible through the little bit of town that we had to pass through to meet the coast path; welcomed to the path by ponies, we feel relief to be there at last. We have a very long walk ahead of us – over 17 miles (27km) of narrow paths, including 2,854 feet (870m) of ascent, so we begin at bit of a quick pace. 

As we move away from the urban area of Goodwick and the casual dog walkers, we gradually reach sections of path with no easy access from roads, where the people we pass are other walkers out for the whole day at least. Most are friendly and we exchange ‘hellos’ as we pass, but occasionally we come across someone looking very serious, with their head down and a look of grim determination of their face – not breaking their stride for any niceties! 

Fishguard Harbour

The scenery is incredibly diverse even in a very small area as we walk. To begin with it is fairly typical for the area, with lots of bracken and low cropped gorse blanketing the rolling cliff tops. 

Then all of a sudden you look up – you have to keep eyes down a lot to watch your footing! – and you are greeted by a heathland, low growing heather with outcrops of bare rock, and ancient eroded volcanic rock formations protruding into the sky.

Then, most surprisingly, we drop down a steep descent into lush woodland, right next to the cliffs! A stream winds its way down to the sea between the trees, while moss and ferns grow in abundance in the dappled light. 

Someone had even been busy building swings on the trees, and the more immature amongst us may have felt compelled to have a bit of a swing…

Back up the steep ascent on the other side of this coastal valley, and the variety is clear to see: look back, and you see the tops of the trees we had just come from.

Look ahead, and you’re in heather and gorse once again. Amazing :)

Continuing along a little further, and we begin to keep an eye out for Carreg Wastad and its memorial stone, commemorating the site of the last invasion of mainland Britain. The stone is easily found, and it is interesting to see from the inscription that it had been erected on the 100th anniversary of the landings, over 100 years ago now!

Yet further along, still heading west, we come upon the Strumble Head Lighthouse. From here on we will start to head more southerly, but not before stopping to eat our packed lunch! 

The day had begun hot, but as we sit with our picnic the wind picks up, clouds roll in and rain begins behind us. We watch anxiously as the rain comes nearer, not relishing the thought of hours of walking through bad weather. Oddly however, as we start on our way again the weather turns back to hot sunshine and clear skies. A lucky escape!

Feeling slower after lunch, we are able to take more time to enjoy the wildlife we pass. I point out the funnel web spiders to Adam, the gorse in many places is absolutely covered in these intricate gossamer traps.

We frequently spot seals bathing off the coast. They are such inquisitive animals, and seem to enjoy watching us as much as we do them! 

Not a great photo, but it does contain 5 seals!

We also spot many choughs. These birds, related to crows, are quite rare, but they seem to be doing well in this area as we see plenty of them! They can be distinguished from crows by their curved bright red/orange beaks, which don’t show in the photos unfortunately.

As we head further along this stretch of coast, we start to pass more beaches, more of which are accessible from the land. 


Some of the beaches are quite popular – although many look different to normal after the storms earlier in the year. I love this little fort that has been built on Aber Mawr!

There are some fantastic cliff formations along this stretch and I take many photos:

By now the sun is getting lower and we are pretty weary. It was a long day and we had tried to do it at a much faster pace than would have been ideal. The heat has taken its toll too, and my feet are aching badly. It is welcome news then when we check the map to discover that we are not far now from our day’s goal. We have pre-booked accommodation at the Old School Hostel in Trefin, and when we finally arrive after a good 10 hours on the trail the lovely hostel is a very welcome sight! (I reviewed the hostel here)

Outside the front of the hostel

We go through the welcome and check in procedures at the hostel, which is so friendly and lovely, and then head to the village pub for some well-earned pub grub and maybe some Welsh beverages too ;)

Day 2

After a well-deserved sleep, we wake up in the morning and collect our packed lunch and our breakfast items from the hostel. We have ordered the hostel’s famous organic porridge for breakfast, and it is delicious! The oats are soaked overnight, and the porridge is mixed up with dried fruit and nuts, and mashed banana. All we have to do is add some milk and heat it on the stove. Mmm mmm mmm!

It is another glorious day outside, and we head from the village towards the coast path again, via these amazing standing stones. There are lots of this type of thing in Pembrokeshire, and it is one the features of northern Pembrokeshire that I find so appealing.

Heading along the coast path again, this time we cover ground that is more familiar to me – although I haven’t walked the path here before, I have visited the coast at places such as Porthgain on many occasions, and it’s really interesting to arrive at such places again but from the trail rather than the road. We pause briefly at Porthgain – I manage to twist an ankle on the path down towards the little harbour, so I want a chance to stop and check how bad it is. I have injured my ankles many times, and they are prone to twisting again as the ligaments are badly damaged. While this is bad, it does have the upside that twisting my ankle, while still painful, isn’t always too damaging as the ligaments are already beyond repair, and I can often sort of ‘walk it off’.

Porthgain is tiny, but is a pretty cute place, and attracts lots of visitors. We admire a camper van and the harbour, before setting off once again up the other side. 

Just along the coast from Porthgain is a site where they used to quarry low grade slate, and the broken-down buildings from these old works dot the cliff tops.

This area seems to be alive with Common Blue Butterflies, and I watch so many fly around us before I am able to get close enough to one that is landed so I can get a photo.

The coast is beautiful again, and I enjoy taking in the formations of the cliffs.

This second day’s walk is shorter than the previous day though, and with aching muscles and my twisted ankle we decide to make it shorter still. Arriving at the cliffs above the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy, we stop to eat our picnic lunch, provided by the hostel.

Yummy Brie and Sundried Tomato Sandwiches on Homemade Organic Wholemeal Bread. Not your average hostel food! :)

Then we watch the antics at the blue lagoon a little while – lots of cliff jumping, swimming, paddling and so on. This place is so renowned for cliff jumping that it was even used in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series!

We choose to end our coast path walk at Abereiddy, and we see a cute little lizard to wish us farewell at the end of our walk.

I am so pleased to have created more happy memories of home to take with us when we leave for Australia :)


  1. looks like a wonderful route to travel. I'd love to walk it some day when my children are older and can manage the distance. I also want to walk round the Isle of Wight, just to say I have lol

    1. It is so beautiful around there! If you're travelling with children, there are also plenty of places where you can arrive at a beach, or just a nice area of coast, and see loads from quite a short walk! Well worth doing!
      I'd love to visit the Isle of Wight, I really want to see Osbourne House, but I don't think there will be an opportunity now before we leave the country. Hopefully one day though! And I hope you get to do your walking trips too! :)