I’d long wanted to walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales, which is similar to Cornwall which I love, but less commercial, wild and unspoilt. I got my wish as part of our weekend, trying out a shortened version of the Best of Pembrokeshire holiday organised by Macs Adventure, who specialise in self-guided walking and cycling holidays. The day before we’d visited Skomer island to see the puffins that nest there and now our weekend continued with a day’s walking from Broadhaven to St Davids.
We climbed up out of Broadhaven along a path following the line of the cliff, with rock stacks pounded by the waves below. The path was bordered by bright yellow gorse, pom poms of pink thrift and pale yellow clumps of cowslips on the grassy banks. After about half an hour the path widened out to an expanse of of heathland with horses grazing on the clumps of grass. I was so distracted by taking photos of the lovely wild-flowers that soon Guy lost patience with me and was a speck in the distance.
Along the cliff tops we rounded the bend and could see the Druidstone Hotel, where we had been recommended to stop for coffee, but it was only 10.30 and we had a very long way still to walk, so we pressed on. The path jinked back from the field onto the road above the hotel and then down into a gully where a stream rushed down to the sea. An old apple tree in bloom was bent right over from the sea winds and we could see the umbrellas of gunnera leaves down by the stream with fresh green shoots of ferns on the hillside. We checked the timetable for the Puffin Shuttle bus that stopped here, then followed the path down to a small shingle beach, passing only a few dog walkers.
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On to Nolton Haven
From Druistone beach, the path climbed steeply up some wooden steps to the top of the cliff again. Looking back the way we had come, we were surprised to see what appeared to be a Hobbit’s house, with a big oval expanse of glass set into the hillside, covered by a green grassy bank covered with cowslips. Continuing on, we walked around the headland with clumps of pink thrift in the hedgerows and came down to the small cove at Nolton Haven. On the beach we could see a string of ten ponies, paddling in the water and a lone swimmer with a wetsuit and bright pink swimming cap. The little hamlet of Nolton Haven didn’t have much going on, although there was the Mariner’s Arms pub and a park of static caravans set back a little from the beach.
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Up again onto the cliff-top with views over the stratified rock-stacks and the waves crashing around them, passing an older couple who were struggling on the steep path so I was glad to have my walking poles to help me. Finally the long beach at Newgale came into sight and we descended past a disused mine with the old red-brick chimney and the pile of coal spoil, now overgrown with grass and flowers.
The beach at Newgale is a favourite with surfers, since not only is there a long expanse of beach with the waves rolling in from the Atlantic, but also a convenient campsite just behind the beach where we saw numerous camper vans. As we reached the beach, we had the option to go right down onto it or to walk along the road, but decided to stay on the road since the shingle and pebbles would have taken longer and we were only halfway on our day’s walk at this point.
The shingle was banked up to protect the road, acting as a break between the sea and the low lying land behind it. During the recent storms, this beach had got quite a battering and the shingle looked as if it had been swept across the road. We saw a lifeguard stand although the only people on the beach were well wrapped up with no signs of wanting to swim, and an ice cream van was waiting hopefully for trade. Most of the houses were past the car park and the campsite at the far end of the beach, where we found the Sands Cafe that was to be our lunch stop.
The Sands Cafe appeared to be the trendiest place in town, the other main option being the Duke of Edinburgh pub. It served wholesome, healthy food and Guy ordered a spicy Moroccan soup with toasted granary bread which he pronounced delicious, while I had a colourful plate of frittata with feta cheese and dill, a salad with balsamic vinegar dressing and some tortilla chips, which set me up nicely for the two hour walk to Solva, although I resisted the tempting chocolate brownies, anticipating that we would have something nice later.
Newgale to Solva
As we climbed the coastal path up from Newgale beach, we could look down on a group of surfers looking like black insects scattered on the surface of the sea, their arms paddling to get out beyond the surf. Every so often one would try to get up from his board but the waves were not very high, so they seemed to spend most of their time floating around. Ten minutes further and we reached the sheltered cove of Cwm Mawr where you could get down to the rocky beach, which I thought was the perfect, secret place if you wanted to get away from the more commercial delights of Newgale.
The path took us steeply up and down, past two gullies with streams running down to the beach, but the second cove of Cwm Bach had no way to get down to it. The cliffs here were jagged and stratified with huge piles of sharp boulders that had fallen onto the beach and the sea washing over them. Finally we got to the top of the cliffs again and the path was a little more gentle.
The path to Solva
We passed the rockly promentaries of Dinas Fach and Dinas Fawr with a wild path that you can explore for a detour. By the time we reached the next hidden cove, the sun was coming out and the path was lined with blackthorn bushes with small white flowers. Guy thought it would be the perfect spot for some undetected wild camping, since it was so far from the nearest road.
The cliffs on the final stretch to Solva were raw and earthy, where there had been cliff falls in the storms and were edged with pink clumps of thrift. The wind blustered and buffeted us, and even the herd of cows we passed through were lying down, a sign of the sharp wind or perhaps they knew rain was coming.
Arriving at Solva
We were quite relieved to get to Solva at last, descending from the cliff down a leafy lane with knarled trees making a tunnel, and bluebells and ferns on the bank beside us. Guy had remarked that he hadn’t seen any sailing boats out at sea while we were walking, but now we saw they were all in the estuary, their keels down on the mud as the tide was out. It was a long walk past the old lime kilns to the very end of the estuary and back on the other side.
Solva is built in two parts, a small village crowded at one end of the estuary with a number of pubs and cafes, as well as the upper town with houses on the hillside. On the road we glimpsed the Puffin Shuttle bus passing by, the last of the day, so knew we would definitely be walking the final stretch to St Davids. First we stopped at the Cafe of the Quay for a well deserved coffee and slice of cake, with a view over the estuary and the sailing boats.
Walking to St Davids
The final part of the walk from Solva to St David’s was a joy, with afternoon sunshine to warm us and a gentle path along the top of the cliff. The cliff-face was still dramatic, with jagged rivulets and flat shale boulders on the beaches below which were only accessible from the sea. The water glittered in the evening sunshine to one side of our path, while on the other was pasture and freshly ploughed flields waiting to be planted.
We arrived at Caserfai bay, a sandy beach which thankfully we could enjoy from above without having to climb right down to it. At the carpark and entrance to the caravan park, we turned down the road and walked the final ten minutes to St Davids, reaching the Oriel y Parc visitor’s centre on the corner. A short walk down the high street and we were relieved to find the Coach House B & B to relax after a very long but exhilarating day’s walking on the Pembrokeshire coastal path.
Useful information for walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
Our best of Pembrokeshire walking weekend was organised by Macs Adventure and was a shortened version of their seven night holiday, although they can also tailor the itinerary to your requirements. The package included accommodation in high quality bed and breakfasts, transfer of our bags so that we only needed to walk with a small day sack and a Harvey Pembrokeshire Coast Path Map and Trailblazer Pembrokeshire Coast Path Guide Book as well as our detailed itinerary.
For those who plan to walk a similar route, you should be aware that the stretch that we walked in one day took around 9 hours including stops (9.30 am – 6.30pm) and for all but the keenest walkers would be best broken in two. The timings of our walk at moderate pace were;
Broadhaven – Druidstone 1 hour
Druidstone – Nolton Haven 40 mins
Nolton Haven – Newgale 1 hour 35 mins
Newgale – Solva 2 hours 15 mins
Solva – St Davids 2 hours
Total walking time 7.5-8 hours, Total time including stops for lunch and tea 9 hours
The only public transport along this part of the Pembrokeshire coastline from St Davids to Marloes, is the No 400 Puffin Shuttle bus service that runs three buses every day in summer (May-September) and three buses a day on Thursday and Saturday only in winter (Oct – May). For maximum flexibility you may want to plan your walk after early May when the summer timetable starts. We used the Puffin Shuttle to travel back from St Davids to Broadhaven, where we had left our car.
There are other bus routes that run along different stretches of the Pembrokeshire Coastline and are suitable for walkers to use. For more information check the Walking Pembrokeshire website and Coastal Bus Timetables.
For more information on things to see and do in Pembrokeshire, check out the Visit Pembrokeshire Website.
Staying at Sunset B & B in Broadhaven
After seeing the puffins on Skomer island we stayed the night at Broadhaven, where we checked into Sunset B & B, a modern house set up a little up from the sea. The house was neat and well-decorated and from our bedroom we could see down to the wide expanse of beach with some pretty houses painted in blue and yellow. Our bedroom on the first floor was large and cosy with a brass bed, a brown and cream floral scheme and an en suite shower room. In search of dinner we strolled 5 minutes down the hill and first tried the Galleon Inn which didn’t have any space on a Saturday night, so instead walked along the seafront to the Ocean Bar and Restaurant. The bar area had restaurant seating but was already full so we sat in the cafe area by the window next to a counter of cakes. I ordered an excellent steak with peppercorn sauce and Guy had a fish pie, with chunky pieces of salmon, then we shared a date cake and some award winning ice cream for desert. Although Sunset B & B was booked through Macs Adventure as part of our Best of Pembrokeshire walk, if you book independently it costs £70 per room for 2 people sharing or £50 single occupancy.
Staying at The Coach B & B in St David’s
Our final night on our Best of Pembrokeshire Walking holiday with Macs Adventure was at The Coach House B & B in St Davids where we were greeted by the proprietor Stephen and shown to our en suite room on the first floor overlooking the High Street. Despite our room looking over the main street through St Davids, we were undisturbed by traffic noise as St Davids may make revel in its title as “Great Britain’s smallest city” but in fact is a large village with not much going on at night. The breakfast served in the breakfast room downstairs was exceptionally good, cooked by Stephen, who told us that he had worked for a couple of years as a chef for the King of Jordan. The laverbread with cockles may have been off the menu but I really enjoyed my veggie breakfast with leef and cheese cake, topped with a scrambled egg. If you wish to book independently, double rooms at the Coach House B&B cost £65-85
Thanks to Macs Adventures for inviting Heather and Guy to try out part of their Best of Pembrokeshire Walking holiday. This 7 night self-guided walking holiday follows the wild and rugged coastline along the westerly peninsula of Wales. The trail begins in the southern village of Dale, passing through St Davids with visits to Skomer Island and Whitesands Bay, although shorter sections can be arranged. Cost is from £515 per person for a 7 night walking holiday staying at local bed and breakfasts with baggage transfer, maps and full directions.
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