Back to Pembrokeshire2nd January 2013
When I first visited Pembrokeshire of the first weekend in June 2006, I had no idea that it would take more than six years to get back there again. Then, I only had been a month blogging and the terseness of the description of my weekend down there reflects this. Nowadays, my description of the ups and downs encountered between Newgale and St. David’s would merit more than a little mention though perusing the photos from that sunny summer weekend do keep my memories of how steep the drops and rises were very much alive. Similarly, the article that inspired me to go on that first trip still hasn’t faded from my mind’s eye either and I might just go looking through past issues of TGO to revisit it again.
Though I only had a long weekend, I got in more than just one stretch of Pembrokeshire’s coastline and its national trail. Sunday saw me take in a circular walk around Marloes with even more rugged cliffs to be savoured. Monday may have been when I went home again but that didn’t preclude a little nibble of what lay around Newport, both the coastline and the Mynnyd Preseli hills. It was but a short stop while on route to Ceredigion but it was memorable nonetheless.
My route home saw me continue to Aberystwyth by bus before going by rail the rest of the way. That had me playing with going see more of Pembrokeshire by reversing the route so as to make more again of another possible weekend stay that never came to pass. It might have been the way that I’d have gone last August but it never entered my mind. Time’s passage and my looking for a quick getaway might have had something to do with it.
Like the last time, Haverfordwest became my base and I played with different walking options with practicalities like public transport and weather governing which would be my eventual choice. Only for cloud approaching from that direction according to the weather forecast, I might have taken in the south coast between Manorbier and Bosherston. If there had been time to spend at the former’s castle and the latter’s lily ponds, it would have been a double bonus but they’ll need to await another visit. The Preseli Hills were another option but I came to the conclusion that they were an escapade too far for what was a flying visit. That left the west and north-west with my looking at options around St. David’s with there being a summer shuttle bus in operation. My eyes even started to follow the coastline up as far as Strumble Head even though the distance from St. David’s is no short undertaking.
While all the above threw up appealing options, I decided to trim my cloth to my measure to settle on a hike from Strumble Head to Fishguard and it rewarded me copiously too. Of course, it helped that Sunday morning came sunny after a Saturday with plenty of wet moments. Though its situation is imperfect, Haverfordwest’s castle ruins still caught my eye and became a target for photographic capture before breakfast and prior to my departure for Fishguard. To my mind, the photo above could have been taken in May or June such is the green colour of the surrounding foliage. Maybe the wetness of the year we got meant that the onset of autumn became delayed.
After a little wait, a busy Strumble Shuttle bus conveyed me and others to Strumble Head while others may have gone the whole way to St. David’s, a journey of around two hours along narrow country lanes. This would make good use of a day with suspect weather but it was that of the glorious variety that I was lucky enough to have.There may have been white cloud approaching in the distant but its leisurely approach meant that it was no spoilsport while I was around Strumble Head though it did end the sunny spell early in the afternoon.
Strumble Head’s lighthouse is on an island called Ynys Meicel and there is footbridge across to it. However, this was locked so no one could ramble about the spot. Even so, I dropped down to the bridge for a look and took in the sight of the narrow channel that it crossed while a dog started barking; apparently, he took exception to the walking poles attached to my rucksack or so his owner said. Leaving that ostensibly odd situation after me, I decided to make my way south along Carreg Onnen Bay before starting in earnest for Fishguard.
As I looked to the south, I fancied that I could discern Carn Llidi near St. David’s in the distance. There still is nothing that would convince me otherwise unless another visit were to see me proven wrong. As I went south along the joint rote of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and the Welsh Coast Path, I lost sight of the more distance view but there was more than enough to keep me busy in the sunshine. The path was narrow enough and others had the same idea as me, some going slower than others. Going south, open up views of the islands of Carreg Onnen and Ynys Onnen along with keeping that of Ynys Meicel. Those of the coastline by which I was passing were attractive too with their sea-eroded wild ruggedness and there was no trepidation intruding on the proceedings as I did so.
Because I was planning to go in the other direction, I eventually had to find a southern turning point despite how glorious it felt. A piece of higher ground in access land near Carn Melyn did the job for me. It allowed one last panoramic view of what lay around before I retraced my steps. By the time that I reached Strumble Head’s car park again, there had been a change that couldn’t be missed. The approaching bank of white cloud had come much closer and was encroaching on the sun’s space too.
Before there was any more in the way of change, I set to shortening the distance to Fishguard. With how expansive the eastward views were from there, I stopped for a bit of lunch near Carreg Gybi. Hurrying on ahead of the cloud might seem tempting to me now as I write this but it had no bearing after what I had got from the day by then. As I was stopped, the sights of the likes of Dinas Head and Cemaes Head were within my line of sight, albeit in the far distance.
To reach those far-off places from I was would have taken several days of walking so I was happy to enjoy the views and leave it at that. After all, there was plenty of coastline to pass before I ended up in Fishguard again. Ups and downs lay ahead but they were nothing like what I met between Newgale and St. David’s. There were to twists and turns too because of the indented coastline but I hadn’t cut myself short on time and was happy to ease myself along. Each inlet was a marker of progress and there were many, many of which with names. Watercourses and muddy stretches were passed too and the civilised world felt further than being a kilometre from a public road would suggest.
There were human intrusions aside from other walkers too. For instance, there was the house near Penryhn and the Carreg Goffa Monument commemorating the ill-fated French landing at Carregwastad Point; rough seas, drunkenness and a wily Welshwoman saw off that foreign invasion. The drop into Cwm Felin and the subsequent rise to sweep around Aber Felin may give clues as to why the landing happened there.
Beyond that site of that historical intrigue, the distance to my destination very clearly was receding. The access land of Ciliau Moor lay in surroundings that felt well isolated even if I was to pass barking dogs just afterwards; they were on the other side of a hedge, thankfully. As my southward turning was approach, I met up with a local man going in the opposite direction who told me about a miniature Giant’s Causeway around Anglas Bay that he found for the first time when he got a little lost while out on a then recent walk though I never did confirm this for myself; my (southern) Irish accent had given me away as it always does.
Once past Crincoed Point, the breakwater of the Stena ferry harbour was growing in view. Earlier, I had seen the same ship coming and going from there so it would have been much busier than the quiet desolation that I found on my own passing. Before reaching that lower ground, the coastal path was to take me onto tarmac again for the first time since Strumble Head. It would tempting to think that navigation from there would be a simple matter but, if anything, it was more complex than following the coastal path while away from conurbations. The intricacy was greater than what the map could show so it was up to signage to point out secluded pathways that dropped me from one road to another, taking me near a hotel at one point. Once over the footbridge across the railway, matters became simpler again. Passing the ferry terminal, I made for the tourist information centre to see what food might be served. However, I instead found my way to a useful public convenience and ended up at the local Tesco. My next stop was a seat in a nearby park to partake of an ice cream before going further.
The final stretch of my wandering made use of the coastal tarmacadamed walkway around Penyraber. It’s a pleasant place to be strolling even without sun and seeing Fishguard’s older and more sheltered harbour full of pleasure-craft made me wonder what the sight would be like if cloud hadn’t filled the sky as it had. There was a bus to be caught for Haverfordwest and that was playing on my mind too so I didn’t dally. In fact, I timed things just right and had a little wait before it came. When en route, another matter of timing was brought to my attention: there was a rain shower around Wolf’s Castle and hills to its west so my hiking had stopped before the rain to get a dry day’s walking. The next day came even wetter so thinking about the blue skies and sunshine was at odds with the soaking I got on the way to Haverfordwest’s train station. That won’t stop me pondering a return, though.
Return train journey from Macclesfield to Haverfordwest, changing at Stockport on each way. Return journey on bus service 412 between Haverfordwest and Fishguard. Single journey on Strumble Shuttle (bus service service 404) as far as Strumble Head.