Having spent some time in Brecon Beacons National Park, we had now driven west to Pembrokeshire and were a few days into our stay at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. After spending a day on Skomer Island and another on some fun activities slightly away from the park’s coastline, we planned to spend the next few days back along the coast path where I’d be revisiting what I consider to be some of the park’s highlights as well as exploring some parts of the park I’d not visited before.
Day 3 of our visit, we awoke to broken sunshine. We had plans to spend the day in the southern part of the park starting at Angle and travelling south until we reached Tenby. After holidaying in Tenby for the last 25 years or so, this is the part of the park I am most familiar with and I was happy to play tour guide for much of the day.
Arriving at Angle, we kept our stay brief and within the 30 minutes free parking allowance, just enough to grab a few photos of the beach, wander along the small beach and then head up the coast path a short way to a viewpoint of the bay.
From here, we drove the short distance along to Freshwater West and, despite it only being 10.30 in the morning, just about found a space on its free car park! One of my favourite beaches in the whole of Pembrokeshire, this huge expanse of bright orange sand has been the location for a variety of Hollywood films including, most recently, Robin Hood starring Russel Crowe and the last two Harry Potter films and it was this, along with the stunning views, that was the purpose of our visit.
Although I had always been aware that Shell Cottage from the Harry Potter films had once been erected at Freshwater West, it had only recently come to my attention that a Harry Potter fan had marked out a grave for Dobby the House Elf in the dunes at the back of the beach and that this had now become a huge site and a bit of a tourist attraction.
We followed the path down the beach, along to the lifeguard stand then up into the dunes where we could see a crowd gathered around a large mound of rocks.
As we got closer, we could see messages and drawings dedicated to the character of Dobby, many holding down old socks – signalling in the story that an elf is now ‘free’. It was crazy to see how what started out as a single stone and wooden cross had now turned into something much bigger!
After ‘paying our respects’ at Dobby’s grave, we walked down to the beach and made our way back towards the car park turning instead up the coast path a short way to a viewpoint and to explore the old seaweed drying hut on the cliff top. Then, it was back on the road to head a bit further down the coast to our next stop – the Green Bridge of Wales and Stack Rocks.
A bit off the beaten path down a long, narrow road through Ministry of Defence land, we accidentally missed the turning off the main road and had to turn around and come back on ourselves to find it. Again, finding the free car park super busy, we only just found a space but once parked up, followed the clearly marked path out towards the viewing deck for the Green Bridge. This rock formation is similar to Dorset’s Durdle Door and a bit further along the coast path lie Wales’ equivalent to Australia’s Twelve Apostles, the Stack Rocks.
Next up, we planned on heading to Bosherston to walk around its lily ponds but after getting stuck in traffic trying to get in and out of the National Trust car park, ended up having to turn around so we instead decided to turn back and head to the nearby St Govan’s Head.
Here, you can follow steps down from the coast path to see St Govan’s chapel, a small church built into the rocks to mark the place where the cliffs are said to have opened up to offer protection to St Govan and hide him from pirates. After visiting the chapel, we walked backup to the coast path following it to the St Govan’s Head viewpoint before returning to the car park to see if we could give Bosherston another try!
Finding the traffic towards the Bosherston car park just as busy, we instead turned off to the car park for the nearby beach of Broad Haven South (not to be confused with the much more northerly Pembrokeshire beach of Broad Haven!) Luckily,this large National Trust owned car park had plenty of room and was walkable to the Lily Ponds at Bosherston.
After trekking across the larger than it looked Broad Haven South Beach, we exited across the bridge at the back of the beach onto the circular path around the lily ponds and began to walk in a clockwise direction.
The lily ponds looked really pretty, we had fun crossing the long, narrow bridges across them and we even spotted a few swans along the way. Reaching the stone bridge separating the lily ponds from another lily-free pond, we detoured off the circular path in the direction of 8-arch bridge.
Like the lily ponds, this is part of the National Trust-owned Stackpole Estate but although I had done the circular walk around the lily ponds and along to Broad Haven South many times before, I had never walked in this direction before.
Using a map of Stackpole Estate we had taken from the car park, we navigated our way towards the bridge and crossed it into field where the path veered off in different directions. Deciding we could drive to Stackpole Quay and visit Barafundle Beach later, we instead walked in the direction of Broad Haven South, the path taking us through woodland then out to a cliff top where we found stunning views of the sea crashing into sea caves in the cliffs below. Still following the path away from Stackpole Quay, we eventually arrived back at Broad Haven South, at the opposite side of the beach to the car park where we had started. Instead of crossing the beach, we made our way along a path through the dunes behind it and back to the car.
Exhausted from our long walk, we pushed on wanting to see as much of the coastline down towards Tenby as possible in a day. It was now early evening and the crowds were finally starting to die down so we were surprised to see a ‘car park full’ sign blocking the road down to the Stackpole Quay car park. Seeing as there were a number of cars heading up the road from that direction, we decided to ignore the sign and take a chance and we arrived to find a few available spaces as beach-goers began to head home for the evening.
After grabbing an ice cream from Stackpole Quay cafe, we followed the coast path signs up a series of steps and across a cliff top field to Barafundle Beach, a pretty cove of golden sand often voted best beach in the UK. After enjoying the view from the cliff top, we walked down the stairs leading to the beach and sat down watching the waves crash onto the shore for a while before walking back the way we came to the car park.
Freshwater East was the next beach on our coastal drive and we took a walk across the beach front then up into the dunes behind.
Deciding it was still a bit too early to head into Tenby for a chip supper, we made one more stop along the coast at Skrinkle Haven near Manorbier. This beautiful beach is hard to access after the steep steps that used to led down the cliffs to it were deemed dangerous and closed many years ago so the Skrinkle Haven car park now just offers a view of the beach in the distance. It is possible to access the adjacent beach, Church Doors Beach down a set of stairs on the coast path then walk around to Skrinkle Haven when the tide is out far enough but we made do with admiring the pretty bay from afar.
Back in the car, it was down the road to the popular seaside resort of Tenby where we head straight to one of the town’s few chip shops to grab some dinner. After munching down our chips, we took a walk around the town enjoying views of South Beach and the colourful houses lining the promenade, walking up Castle Hill for views in all directions and then across to a viewpoint across North Beach.
Heading back to our motel, we passed Carew Castle so decide to make one last stop to do the one mile circular walk around the castle, up to the tidal mill and back. The sun was just starting to set making for some pretty views across the estuary.
The next day we woke up aching from all our walking the day before but after breakfast, set off again this time driving up to St Davids, the smallest city in the UK. Parking up at the National Park Visitors Centre, we ha a quick look around grabbing some souvenirs then walked down into the main part of the city where its impressive Cathedral stands. After having a look inside the Cathedral, we walked out of the city along a public footpath cutting between some fields and out to the coast path at St Non’s Bay.
Here, overlooking the pretty coastline, lie St Non’s Retreat Centre with its small chapel standing in its grounds. The chapel’s bricks include fragments from other historic church and chapel ruins in the area. Following the coast path a bit further north from the Retreat Centre, we came to St Non’s Holy Well and Chapel. The chapel ruins stand on what is said to be the site where St Non gave birth to St David and water from the well is supposed to have healing properties.
We spent a bit more time walking along the coast path towards Porthclais but realising we time was running out on our 2-hour paring ticket back in the city, we had to turn around before making it there and retrace our steps back to St David’s. We did, at least, have time to grab an ice cream from one of the many stores offering it in the city before walking back to the car!
Seeing as we’d not made it to Porthclais on our walk, we decided to drive there instead but upon arrival, found the small car park to already be full. Continuing on, we found ourselves at St Justinians, a small bay mainly used by people taking boat trips out to Ramsey Island. Although the free parking spaces were all taken, a local farmer had opened up a field for a charge of £3 for the day so, unsure where else to head for, we decided to park up there and go for a walk.
Heading down to the bay, we saw a signpost pointing back to St Non’s in one direction and to Whitesands in the other.
As Whitesands was slightly nearer, we decided to walk there and back. The path was mainly easy to follow and there were beautiful views out to Ramsey Island along the way. Before reaching Whitesands, we came across the small sandy bay of Porthselau, a bit of a hidden gem, and stopped at a bench overlooking the beach to have a late picnic lunch. We then continued on to Whitesands, a large and popular sandy beach, before retracing our steps back to St Justinians.
Back at the car, we decided to make a final stop and visit the Blue Lagoon, an old quarry near Abereiddy Beach where the water looks bright blue. With the sun not shining, the lagoon was less impressive than I remembered but it was fun to watch coasteerers leaping into the lagoon below.
We walked along the coast path a bit further to a viewpoint of Treath Lyffn then returned to our motel via a stop in Haverfordwest for dinner.
It had been a busy few days and there was still plenty of the park to see over the next few days before we left for our stop in Snowdonia!