Part two of our blog on our travels up and down the beautiful Pembroke Coast and our great hikes and experiences.
Tuesday, 20 Jun 2017 - The Blonde - Those elusive Puffins??? Up with the larks to get a picnic ready and on the road to Marloes to catch a ferry to Skomer Island and the opportunity to see its puffins! Google Maps said it should be roughly a 1hour drive. NO WAY! The tiny country lanes steal our time and trying to negotiate the crazy road system in Haverfordwest means we are just pulling into Dale car park at Marloes 25 minutes before the first ferry at 10am. But there's no room at the inn. All five ferries for this day are full - it's a first come first served basis, with no pre-booking and we're too late. Damn! No puffins for us today or indeed for this trip as we won't make this twisty windy drive again this week. If I had researched further I would have read that if you're not there by 7.30am then you stand little chance of getting on one of the ferries. Ho hum. So....let's re-group and replan.
What could be better than finding one Bear on Broad Haven Beach? Well three of course!
Taking the even narrower coastal road towards St.Davids (if that is possible!) we eventually pull up in Little Haven (cute, with 3 pubs but no room to park and explore) and then neighboring Broad Haven with its huge beach. It's 11am now and I need to be out of the car and stretching my legs. We take a leisurely stroll on the beach with the dog walkers and saunter along to the rocky point at the headland...avoiding the large Barrell Jellyfish now being washed up here on the turn of the tide.
This nice "stinger" would have been at least 18 inches (40cms) across...and he/she was a small one!
As we walk the beach, we decide we're not up for a big walk today even though Broad Haven is on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It does have some easier sections and some great beaches like Newgale and Whitesands but we're not motivated. We take stock and decide instead to potter along to St David's first, to see the cathedral, and then maybe have lunch at Porthgain.
St David's is the smallest city in Britain. St David was a Celtic saint from 6th century and is now the patron saint of Wales. The cathedral was built on the site of St David's monastery in 1181 and has been raided by Vikings in 10th and 11th centuries, almost destroyed by parliamentary soldiers in 17th century and survived an earthquake in 1247.
Today it has been restored to more than it's former glory.
The Irish Oak ceiling and the tiled floors are really very impressive.
This photo is taken from a mirror below this magnificent ceiling. It saves lots of neck injuries!!!
We left to have our picnic at Whitesand’s Beach but this is a National Trust carpark (charging £5 and 20p for the loo!), as we only wanted to stay for half an hour we thought this was excessive, so we pressed on another few miles onto the pretty village of Porthgain with a couple of recommended eateries, free toilets and free roadside parking...their gain, National Trust's loss.
Porthgain was once a very prosperous industrial harbour in the early1900s, exporting slate from quarries at Abereiddi, Trwynllwyd and Porthgain itself. Water-powered mills at Porthgain sawed the quarried slate slabs before shipment all over the UK.
When the slate trade was abandoned Porthgain survived by turning to brickmaking, and later to crushed roadstone. Large brick hoppers dominate the harbour and were used to store crushed dolerite before shipment. Slate from a local quarry was handled through the harbour from 1850 to 1910. Bricks were made in the harbour area from 1889 to 1912 using waste from the slate operation. The crushed dolerite (1889–1931) was used as a road stone. Many roads in Britain were built from material shipped from here.The hoppers are now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and in 1987 Porthgain was designated as a conservation area.
The sight of fish and chips at The Shed lured us in. David’s was good. I gave mine a terrible review on TripAdvisor. They offered me pan-fried fish. Fantastic? But no, when it came it wasn't pan-fried at all. It was microwaved. Come on - how hard is it to pan-fry fish making it golden and crispy at the edges and tasty. Rant over! There are two really good art galleries in the village with some great works of local scenes and well worth browsing through.
So that completed our tour of the coast from Marloes back to St Nicholas and the rest of day for relaxing and writing. There are some fabulous beaches along this section and all the little towns and villages have a laid back feel to them. No need to shout out and share with the rest of the world!
Wednesday, 21 Jun 2017 - Newport Parrog to Pwll Gaelod
The Bear - we set off early and arrive at the small harbour of Pwllgaelod where we will leave our car today and catch the Poppit Rocket again. As we are early we get talking to a gentlemen who we soon find out was the owner of the local pub, The Old Sailors. He has lived and worked here for 33 years but this year has handed over the running of the pub to his son...we promise to call in for a "swift half" on the way back...or maybe two...or three!!
The Old Sailors restaurant serving seafood and real ale was visited by Dylan Thomas at least once or twice...and The Bear!
Another on time bus ride from the car park out to Newport Parrog for our hike around Dinas Head - the third highest cliff on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This bus service is brilliant and today we are so pleased to see that the bus is almost full with hikers, taking full advantage of the offer. We feel today will not be quite as demanding as some of the previous days' hikes on the PCP, but the day is quite humid with only the occasional bit of a breeze to keep cool. It's also quite a popular section and I am sure the pubs at either end have a lot to do with that....works for me!
Newport Parrog (Old Port)
The Blonde - we face a lot more ups and downs again but we've become accustomed to this now. We set off from Newport Parrog along the harbour front, admiring the old fishermans' cottages here, many of them having now been renovated and, judging by the number of signs placed on walls or in windows, a great many of those are now seasonal holiday cottages,
Looking back to Newport Parrog...tide on it's way in.
The first section of the coast path out from Newport Parrog on the way to Dinas Head
At half way there's a pretty little bay at Cwm Yr Eglwys with church ruins and a graveyard. A beautifully managed small park by the beach makes for a lovely lunch spot. But what is this? Rain? Surely not! No worries though...it is just a few drops and then that offending dark cloud disappears and all is blue again.
The Bear taking in the view at Cwm Yr Eglwys.
Then after lunch it's a long, long, climb up to the top of Dinas Head passing rocks with hundreds of Guilliemots clinging to the steep slopes and sounding a lot like the Magellanic Penguins we spent time with in Argentina and Chile some 18 months ago….where does the time go to? The path soon becomes steep again as we round a corner and see the highest point of Dinas Island, Pen-y-Fan, ahead.
One of the large rocks being used for nesting by sea birds.
The Bear - the main Coast Path plunges away to the right, a single file narrow track right on the edge – you can see it snaking round the cliffs. There is a warning sign near the kissing gate...if the narrow cliff track looks too "exciting", you can follow a broader path along the fence to your left...no points for guessing which path we took!
Green arrow for safety and red arrow for danger...left or right? Too late...The Blonde has already gone right!
The two paths reunite a little further on... by which time I was quite grateful they did. But I was secretly quite proud of the fact I had managed to hike this scary section without too much fuss...OK, maybe just a little bit. As you round the headland at the top at Pen y Fan, Newport comes into view on your right. To your left, past Fishguard, is Carreg Wasted, scene of the last French invasion of Britain in 1797.
Looking back along the "red arrow" track...
The Blonde - as we now look south and west down the coast we can see a storm brewing out at sea and heading towards land....we wonder if we'll be caught on the cliff top again surrounded by storms like we were in Alaska a couple of years ago. From here we can see almost the entire coast that we've walked these last four days. It's a pretty impressive achievement although those end to end hikers will take just three days to complete what we've done in five days. You need to be averaging 12 to 15 miles a day to complete the Pembroke Coast Path in two weeks.
So then...which way do you think the prevailing winds come from?
The Bear - back down from Dinas Head we follow a very, very, rocky trail with a very steep descent. Both walking poles are in full use here to steady us on the way down on this rough terrain. The storm seems to have diverted inland to the south of us and so it is straight into the Old Sailors pub at Pwllgaelod. Two pints for me and a pint of prawns to share - an excellent way to finish a gentler day walk of about 7 miles today....and just the medicine needed to help me recover!
The last descent into Pwllgaelod...aaaaah...smell the hops!!
Thursday, 22 Jun 2017
The Blonde - Socked in this morning. Socked in definition - “US and Canadian slang - (of an airport) closed by adverse weather conditions.” Well, the mist rolled in last night. Within 20 minutes we went from a hot afternoon with beautiful sunshine, to mist covered hills with no view and damp cool air. It relentlessly crept up to the end of the garden wall only 25 meters from the cottage and was at the same time spooky and yet lovely!
This morning the mist was even thicker and we were definitely "socked in”! No matter, we will make the most of the morning catching up with, diaries, photos, and blogs.
The Bear - fortunately, by the time The Blonde was starting to get fidgety from being “socked in”... the skies started to clear and we managed a quick exit and to get out and complete another section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path - from Pwllgaelod to Lower Fishguard.
The small harbour at Pwllgaelod
Once again the efficient service of the Poppit Rocket got us to the start at Pwllgaelod, where we had finished yesterday’s hike...in the pub...I looked longingly at the pub as we exited the bus, smelt the hops and the enticing aroma of fish and chips....but soon realised by the look on The Blonde's face, that that was a non starter!
Pwllgaelod and The Bear's favourite watering hole so far...The Old Sailors
The Blonde - The path climbs immediately out of the harbour with views towards Fishguard and back towards Dinas Head....and it is another very "rude" climb indeed.
Looking back to Pwllgaelod after a "rude" climb to the cliff top.
There are numerous little coves and beaches but overall this 7 mile section of the track is gentle and good therapy after the previous days treks. We meandered along for 3 hours, in no particular rush..after all, it is staying light now until well after 10pm.
To the north of us we can see Dinas Head in the distance...where we'd hiked two days before.
Lower Fishguard is a very pretty little harbour with pastel coloured cottages and a statue dedicated to the herring industry of the area. In the late 18th century it had 50 coasting vessels and exported oats and salt herring trading with Ireland, Bristol and Liverpool.
The backdrop here was used to film Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas many years ago and the local council have worked hard to maintain the feel of a traditional Welsh fishing village.
The Blonde - later, back at the cottage I take The Bear up to the Cromlech (or Burial Site) ...under the watchful eyes of the herd of cows that stampeded past me the other night when I came up here to explore! We were a little wary of this herd having just read of another hikers unfortunate altercation with a herd not so far away. He had actually been stomped on and killed by the cattle he had disturbed....forget the bull...never get inbetween mothers and their calves!
I love the views up here over Aber Mawr with the sun shimmering on the water. We spend some time taking photos of the Cromlech, before wandering back down to the cottage, still with one eye on the herd that has now followed us up the hill. I found a painting in Porthgain that was almost identical to my photo of the Cromlech taken a couple of nights ago.
Friday & Saturday, 23/24 Jun 2017
The Bear - Friday….and our first and only day of true glorious west Wales weather…cool, foggy…and then very wet!! We had been warned that this was “a usual day”….but we've had 6 glorious sunny days to play out so far, so today we have the chance to sit and listen to music and update all our photos and prepare our diaries and blogs. If I am honest…I am a little grateful for a rest day…we have covered a lot of ground over the past 6 days and so the legs and in particular the knees are happy for this relaxing day.
The Blonde and our trusty steed posing outside our wonderful little Welsh cottage.
The Blonde - leaving St Nicholas Saturday morning was tough. It has been a great week hiking on the coast path and we've had some extraordinary weather. Yesterday was the exception, when the rain, drizzle, fog and cold kept us at home the whole of the day. It was a productive day though and we wrote, blogged and played photos. We even had a coal (coal!!!) fire later in the day and got stuck into a new TV series. First TV we have watched all week.
So we packed up today and were on the road by 9am heading for a jog along the Welsh Coast Path this time. On the way we take a little diversion to a Neolithic burial site - Pentre Ifan in the Preseli Hills near Cardigan with a huge capstone delicately poised on three uprights.
The Preseli Hills (Mynyddoedd Preseli), form a wide stretch of high moorland with many prehistoric monuments which are thought to be from the same source of the bluestones used in the construction of Stonehenge.
The Bear - continuing on to the coast and the little hamlet of Cwmtydu to start our short hike today. The Blonde needed to stretch her legs after.. “a day of inactivity” yesterday and to also help break up the long trip back. We meandered along the cliffs watching seabirds, red kites and folded rock islands, little coves and beaches and plenty of walkers.
The Blonde just happy to stretch her legs one more time on the Wales Coast Path.
The day is humid and breezy and cloudy but actually very pleasant. We make a 5 mile loop…the inland section returning to the cliffs going through very pretty woodland following a stream into small open grassy sites home to lots of butterflies and dragonflies.
More great views along the coast on our final hike.
Leaving Wales we climb up and over the hills south of Snowdonia, through cloud, and back to the border. It has been a remarkable week….what an introduction to the Welsh coastline…we will definitely be back to explore more, sometime in the future.