with tips for cycling & hiking
It had been a number of years since we had walked the South Pembrokeshire coast and we were so impressed that we promised that we would return and complete the walk.
Since that first trip we were now members of the Caravan Club that we joined in 2015 as we needed to use the excellent Slinfold site on the Downs Link,in order to support our son who was tackling the non stop London to Brighton 100km walk in aid of the British Heart Foundation.
Details of this site can be found on the Downs Link section on this website.
We had no intentions to emulate this feat and had planned much more manageable walks and this coastal walk has to be savoured and definitely not rushed, not only enjoying the scenery but additionally the wildlife and of course the numerable people that you meet on the route.
Before you set off, download the timetables for the excellent coastal buses which are invaluable for the linear walks along the coast.
There are basically 3 for this part of the coast, ‘The Celtic Coaster’ which is the more frequent service and runs between St David’s and Whitesands; the ‘Strumble Shuttle’ for the section from St David’s to Fishguard and the ‘Poppit Rocket’ which runs from Fishguard to Cardigan.
Tip You can flag these buses down anywhere along their routes, as long as it is safe to do so.
Tip Generally a good idea if you are nervous is to catch the bus to your ultimate destination and then walk back, this takes away any worries of missing your return bus and ending up with a long walk back.
Tip Sadly English bus passes for OAP’s are not accepted in Wales so you will have to cough up the fare but it is well worth it after a long walk and you will not come across a more scenic bus route anywhere and you may even have the chance to meet the locals.
Map You could conceivably do the coastal walk without a map as it is impossible to get lost. I, however, love maps as it provides me with an indication of the topography, distances involved, what to expect on route and it could be useful to mark out progress, which is particularly relevant if you are aiming to catch a bus.
OL35 North Pembrokeshire Explorer Series
Tip: There are no places for refreshments until you reach St David’s but a picnic lunch is no hardship with this scenery.
We based ourselves at the Caravan Club site at Lleithyr Meadow, an inland site in a very attractive setting, with excellent facilities, including a MHS point and less than a mile from Whitesands, so you can virtually smell the sea.
It is also just about a mile, a half hour walk, mostly on the level, along a quiet road to the Bishop’s Palace, together with the cathedral, is a must see in St David’s. Alternatively you can take the Celtic Coaster bus in.
An alternative, literally next door, if you are not a Caravan Club member
For a more basic experience but on a relatively level site and suitable for all units and tents is Towyn, on the road to Whitesands.
lternatively if you are a campervan, tent or small motorhome then the beach site at Whitesands offers a picturesque alternative, though EHU’s are limited and the sanitary facilities are a bit more basic.
The walk starts at Whitesands, you take the coast path left and you follow the coast to St Non’s chapel which is a good land mark, before you take the footpath to St David’s, which you pick up from the coastal path, just after the chapel and if you haven’t been to St David's before then a detour is in order.
On the way you pass the lifeboat station at St Justinian, the departure point for trips to Ramsey Island on your right, an RSPB reserve.
In September when we visited there were many seals and their pups in secluded bays and swimming offshore and porpoises were also spotted.
Before you reach St Non’s you pass the picturesque harbour at Porthclais, which originally served St David’s. The old harbour wall dates to Roman times and it is alleged St David was baptised at a nearby spring.
The old harbour wall, built by the Romans is largely intact. It is a popular spot for adventure sports, particularly sea kayaks.
Porthclais harbour has some of the best preserved remains of stone Lime kilns in Pembrokeshire.
You can cut a mile off the walk by taking the Celtic Coaster from St David’s to the campsite but it is probably quicker to walk and in any case you will be refreshed after taking afternoon tea in St David’s..
In theory you can do the trip in the opposite direction by taking the bus to St David’s and then requesting to go onto St Non’s, which is a request stop but you would need to check this out.
You either walk into St David’s or take the Celtic Coaster and then you pick up the Strumble Shuttle to Abereiddi. The coastal walk is about 7 miles and about a mile extra to the campsite.
It was on this walk that we saw our first pair of choughs, a rare corbid, restricted to the western part of the UK, It is easily identified by its red legs and bea
On the same walk, we came across this whitethroat , pictured right, possibly getting ready for the long migration south.
For this section we based ourselves at the Camping and Caravan Club Site at Cwmdig Water near Berea .
This is a relatively small site which has been extended by taking the field above the original site and we were lucky in that we had the first pitch with uninterrupted views to the coast.
It did not have the luxury of the caravan club site and there was no MHS point and with only 2 showers could struggle in peak periods but it was a pleasant site and has the added advantage that it is directly on the Strumble Shuttle route.
This was our type of walk, a gentle stroll down to Abereiidi and then a walk along the coastal path to Porthgain, passing the old quarry workings and then down to the harbour and lunch at the Sloop Inn, which though charging South East prices, produced excellent quality food. It is a shame that they did not provide a local ale, the closest was from the Felinfoel brewery at Lllanelli, nevertheless a fine ale.
An alternative eatery is the Shed, in the past used for brick making, which now provides fish and chips and has received good reviews.
Before you leave The Sloop, ask for a leaflet regarding the history of the village which in the past was a major quarrying and brick making centre. This will make sense of the industrial buildings in the village and on the cliff top.
Nowadays though the village is still used for fishing, tourism is undoubtedly the main industry now.
On returning to Abereiddi we discovered the ‘Blue Lagoon’, we missed this first time. It is effectively man made as it was once the site of a quarry and it is now popular for coasteering, particularly for children.
This walk utilises the full potential of the Strumble Shuttle as we took the 9.20 bus, (immediately outside the site) to Strumble Head and returned via Goodwick, just outside of Fishguard, more about that later.
The original plan was to catch the bus from our next base, the Caravan Club certified site at Longhouse, as this would have saved a slightly longer bus journey and avoided the two journeys to and from the two harbours of Abereiddi and Porthgain but in reality on a fine day this is hardly a hardship.
As well as stupendous sea views, awesome rock foundations with stacks and arches and hidden inlets, as experienced all along this coast, you also pass the site of the ‘last invasion of Britain’ at Carragwastad Point. There is a memorial stone on the cliff top.
No surprise that it was the French who in 1797 attempted this ill fated mission.
Without getting into too much technical or military detail, the plan was to seize Bristol and land in Cardigan Bay for an assault on Liverpool., Whilst simultaneously the main force would land in Ireland to mount a full scale invasion.
Well as everyone knows it did not go to plan, otherwise we would all be speaking French now. The Irish part of the adventure ended in disarray, though they landed, ill discipline provided a hasty withdrawal back to France. Bristol never happened nor did Liverpool but they did land in Wales. The mission was again plagued by ill discipline as many of the invaders were more interested in looting than any grand cause.
The remaining invasion force was met by a hastily assembled force of local militia who had previously narrowly avoided a French ambush and as the saying goes the rest is history. The French were forced into unconditional surrender.
The myth that surrounds the invasion, with a considerable degree of evidence was
that the French were deceived by the appearance in the neighbourhood of large numbers of local women, who were wearing the traditional dress of red shawls and black hats. The French assumed this was a military force, mistaking the traditional dress for military, which at a distance resembled infantry uniforms.
The other legend related to local cobbler Jemima Nicholas, who allegedly captured a dozen demoralised French soldiers, armed only with a pitchfork and secured them in St. Mary's Church. A memorial to this formidable lady can be found near the church entrance.
As you descend towards Fishguard you firstly see the harbour at Goodwick and with its twin of Fishguard were originally small fishing ports centred on the herring trade. With the arrival of the railway at the end of the 19th century the harbour was built in an attempt to attract the lucrative cross Atlantic trade. Unfortunately it was simply not large enough to accommodate the ever increasing size of the liners and it turned out to be a white elephant though now it is used for ferries to Ireland .
Passing through Goodwick, take the path to Lower Fishguard, this is undoubtedly the most picturesque part, it is an idyllic setting and was used for the 1970’s film ‘Under Milk Wood’ with Richard Burton.
A return to Goodwick to pick up supplies at the Tesco Express before catching the last bus back. At the bus stop we met local ‘Tommy’ who said he lived at Stop and Call. Initially I thought he was having a laugh but there is a village with this name, just outside of Goodwick.
This was the start of an eventful journey. We came across ‘Michelle’ the driver who we first met in St David’s with the greeting from her of ‘you are at the wrong bleeding stop’ when I asked her if this was the correct stop for Abereiddi. Apparently the stop was in New Street not Non Street but what difference does a vowel make between friends. I said that I had been practicing my Welsh with the pronunciation and was met with the response ’that you still got it wrong’ Indignantly I told her that I had been coached by a Welshman from Llanelli, who incidentally I had met in the square, enjoying the sunshine, whilst waiting for the bus. This drew the riposte ‘never trust a Welshman’ This set the scene for continuing banter every time we came across her. What was most impressive was the caring nature that she showed her local travellers and not to mention that she appeared to know everyone on the route, even with pseudonyms, such as ‘dangerous Dave’, who we negotiated passing in Trefin,
The locals were genuinely friendly and retired ‘Rita’ even offered me a drink of her tea when I asked where were our drinks, when the locals got out their takeaway coffees when we stopped at Strumble.
On the delayed journey back, we met everything from trailers stacked with hay to linesmen repairing overhead electric cables and anyone who has been to Pembrokeshire will know that these lanes are very narrow, but then the bus drops you right outside your motorhome at the campsite at Cwmdig Water.
Additionally they were perfectly happy for us to arrive early and park up which allowed us to start our walk to Strumble with plenty of time to get the last bus back. They even allowed us to use an EHU before we went onto the official site.
A short walk from the farm takes you to the coastal path but not before passing the superb Neolithic burial chamber of Careg Sampson, over 5000 years old.
Shortly after turning right on the coastal path, you reach the sheltered harbour of Abercastle, another one of those stunningly beautiful inlets, which are very much a feature of this coast. .This harbour is also famous for the first single handed Atlantic crossing from Massachusetts in 1876 by Alfred Johnson.
Passing through the bay of Aber Mawr you then continue to one of the more rugged parts of the coastal path before reaching a short section of road at the youth hostel. As I passed the hostel, talking to myself I observed that I had not seen a peregrine on this section of the coastal path. As we descended in the direction of the iron age fort, lo and behold a peregrine, which very obligingly remained perched on the cliff top for a good 20 minutes and my day was made.
Finally we made our way to Strumble and the shuttle back to Longhouse and on this occasion we were the only passengers so we had a personalised service all the way to Longhouse.
Tip Just outside of Strumble Head there is a Caravan Club certificated site at Tresinwen Farm with absolutely outstanding coastal views but if you are a caravan, it will be a good test of your towing skills, as the lane up to Strumble is very narrow. For motor homes, it is easier to access and to give you comfort the bus regularly plies this route.
What proved to be our final walk culminated again in lunch at the Sloop Inn. On this route you pass the harbour at Trefin, the village centre is slightly inland and easily visible from the coastal path. As you walk through the harbour you pass through the ruins of an old corn mill. These water powered corn mills were common throughout the area but by the turn of the 20th century the vast majority were redundant as more industrialised milling was used. It is, however, indicative of much busier times when this harbour would also have been used for quarrying ,as well as fishing.
By now the weather had changed, though we were fortunate that all the heavy rain had come overnight but with an adverse weather forecast predicted, it was now time to make a tactical retreat. This still leaves the final section from Fishguard to Poppit Sands, so that is for another day but you have to have an excuse to return.
Our first port of call was Fishguard Bay Resort, on the A487,just outside of Lower Fishguard on the road to Cardigan. I would probably describe this site as primarily for statics and lodges but it has a number of touring pitches with hardstandings,the latter are restricted to the size of your unit but they do the job.
The big plus of this site is that it is right on the coastal path. It is accessed from the A487 by a very narrow single track road which runs for about half a mile but when you drive it for the first time,it seems to go on for ever. You also wonder what would happen if you met any vehicle on the way down,hence the staggered departure times of 12 noon and arrival at 14.00 but having said that they were perfectly flexible in allowing me to arrive before 14.00 as we were only coming from Brecon, our overnight stop from home. Though perhaps these concerns were slightly over exaggerated, for on our departure we met two transits, one motorhome and two cars and that was at 9 o’clock but having said that,if you were towing you definitely would not want to meet anything else.
I really couldn’t fault this site, great position, good sanitary facilities with a dump point for greywaste for motorhomes and a very pleasant reception.
Our first walk was about 3 to 4 miles in total to Fishguard via Lower Fishguard, a quick call into the Co op to pick up some supplies and coffee and cake at the excellent Mannings, a green grocer cum coffee shop. We took the T5 bus back to the site, well actually on the A487, leaving us to walk up the lane back to the site.
The plan of action was to divide the section from Fishguard to St Dogmaels into three walks of approximately 8 miles each and the first was from Newport to Fishguard.
We took the bus to Newport from the main road on the basis that it is always better to arrive at your destination and then allow yourself complete flexibility in the walk back to your motorhome. A half mile walk down to Parrog and you are at the coast. You also pass Morawelon Campsite, which allowed us to make contact with Nikki, who would be our host for the next stage of our walk and who would kindly allow us to arrive at the campsite at 09.00 the following day, A quick tour around the campsite, showing where we could pitch the next day and we followed this up with coffee at the excellent coffee shop/restaurant attached to the site with, views overlooking the harbour, before we started our walk. You must not rush these things.
Needless to say the walk was stunning. We picnic lunched at the bay of Cwm yr Eglwys, a gorgeous spot, which apparently was the original fishing village, before the great storm of October 1859 finished off the medieval church of St Brynach,after storms in 1850 and 1851 had started the rot. The church was then dismantled with the exception of the ruins that you can see today. The storm of 59 was nicknamed the Royal Charter Storm, after a ship of that name, was shipwrecked off of Anglesey. There are no refreshments available in the hamlet other than the ice cream van that we saw. There are toilets.
On the way up to the Dinas Island Peninsula, we had a long chat with one of the few permanent residents of Cwm yr Eglwys, whose property had been in the family for over a 100 years. This exemplifies one of the reasons why you do not want to rush these walks, if you have not got time to socialise en route, where you can not stop and stare and you are always clock watching,then this removes the main enjoyment of these walks.
A climb up to the highest point of the Island at Pen Y Fan with a peregrine doing an aerial display but unfortunately no stoop.
This was then followed by the walk down to Pwllgwaelod and a rest stop at the Old Sailors, a great setting, licensed and also doing good food in a wonderful setting. We settled for a beer before climbing up and the walk back to Fishguard Bay Resort.
An early drive to Morawelon Campsite,set up and a second breakfast before catching the taxi to Moylgrove, from the campsite at 10.30 but not before reserving my afternoon cake at the cafe on my return. There is nothing like preplanning to ensure a successful walk.
Why the taxi you might ask? We did this walk in September 2019, 4 years to the month after we first started the North Pembrokeshire walk and in that time the bus services appear to have suffered from government cut backs to bus subsidies. Not only had the summer service now finished earlier, the winter service had been reduced to one day a week.
So we used a local taxi firm Home James to take us to Moylgrove. Would I recommend them, well firstly after a quarter of an hour wait and no taxi I phoned ‘Harry’ who disarmingly honestly said that he had forgotten to look in the book. He was very apologetic and said that he would get a taxi to us in 10 minutes, where have you heard that before but one arrived. The taxi driver was also apologetic and very chatty and we had a great trip and in any event it was a gorgeous day,so what hardship was there waiting in Parrog harbour. The cost of the taxi was £12 so about three times the cost of the bus for two people and with the added benefit that the taxi can take you right down to the coast, whereas the bus stops in the village.
As you descend to the one and a half mile beach you come to a car park and a small beach cafe, where refreshments are in order and if it is low tide you can cross the beach. Toilets are available. Cars park on the beach and I am not sure how I feel about that, somehow the cars detract from this pristine beach’s beauty.
The other advantage of low tide is that you can wade across the Nevern River to the campsite, saving you a walk up to the bridge and back. The best point to cross is by the boat slip way.
The original plan was to go to Cardigan Camping & Caravan Site, get a taxi to Moylgrove and then walk back. The site is about a mile outside of Cardigan and these guys agreed that we could arrive early morning, so I felt a bit bad when we changed our plans. It looks a great site, so one to bank for the future. It was also a refreshing change that all the sites on our trip were very flexible with arrival times, compared with the main club sites of the Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club.
The reason for the change of plan was it was a Thursday and the Poppit Rocket was running and even better it starts at Parrog. The plan was to get the bus to Moylgrove and get it back from St Dogmaels or if we missed that, then walk to Cardigan and get the T5 bus back to Newport.
When you arrive at Moylgrove you can either take the road down to Ceibyr Bay or walk past the village and then take the permissive path up the hill, on the left, through the woods, down to the coast, a much more pleasurable experience.
This walk is probably about 9 miles and again there are no refreshments en route until you get to Poppit Sands.
This walk is probably the most challenging section, simply because of the descents from the cliffs to the coves and back up again but realistically no more challenging than what you would experience on any coastal walk.
Once you get to Cemaes Head, after crossing into the nature reserve,you begin the gradual descent down to Poppit Sands, the final part, after the campsite, down a quiet road. The campsite is not suitable for caravans or motorhomes.
Cemaes Head has the highest cliffs on the Pembrokeshire Coast at 575 feet above sea level but the scale of them is difficult to appreciate from the landward side. From the top you get great views of Cardigan Bay, Cardigan Island and theTeifi estuary.
Poppit Sands beach is huge and unsurprisingly very popular but in September midweek not that busy. There is a cafe and toilets. Historically Poppit Sands was the end of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path but the official plaque has now moved to St Dogmaels.
Unless you want the official photograph at this marker I would give it a miss as I can not say that the walk from Poppit Sands is that pleasurable. It follows a road, which can get busy and you always have to be aware of traffic. The plus,however,was a pint at the Ferry Inn, overlooking the Teifi before catching the Poppit Rocket back to Newport. As the path continues down the road, we could see little benefit of walking down to Cardigan.
There is a ruined abbey at St Dogmaels, complete with tea rooms, which is worth a visit.
Newport is a pleasant small town with places to eat and to get supplies.
Morawelon Campsite is in a superb position, with great views, on the coastal path and is a Camping & Caravan Club certificated site and the best way to describe it, is that it has certificated site facilities, perfectly adequate but would probably struggle in peak season. My bugbear is that they charge for the showers and price wise we paid the same here as we did at Fishguard Bay Resort, which has much better facilities. Nikki was, however, a great hostess, extremely flexible in allowing us to arrive at 9.00 in the morning. There is also a great cafe/restaurant attached to the site. Motorhomes be aware that in very wet weather there are no hardstandings and it is a sloping site. Would I recommend the site, would I go back? You bet.
Yes it can be done but do you want it to be a mission.The whole point is to stop and savour the scenery.
A couple on the same campsite took the same Poppit Rocket bus as us but continued to Poppit Sands, we met them en route but they didn’t arrive back on site until 20.00. Fortunately they were able to get pizzas from the cafe,which runsa take away service at the end of the week.