Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Day 10 (AKA ‘The End’)

Date – 22 April 2017
Walked from – Newport

Walked to – St Dogmaels

Miles walked – 18

(Approaching Cemaes Head)

I finished my 10 day, 186 mile walk today. Except it wasn’t actually that long – I’ve totted it all up and it came to 204 miles. Still, what’s an extra 18 miles / eight unexpected hours of walking between friends, hey (she asks, bitterly)?
Quibbling about numbers aside, the weather decided that, having already behaved impeccably for nine whole days (not one drop of rain while walking, and barely any wind. In Wales. Could it be unprecedented?), it would bring the sun out in full force. This has had a duel purpose: my end of trip photos showcase the wild ending to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in its full glory… and the Rudolphien glow of my nose has been very effectively enhanced. Hence, no photo of me at the end – just the bag… which, unlike my face, was bright pink before the sun got to it!

(I am a shadow of my former self…)

We got all the way from Newport to Ceibwr Bay (the half way point) before we saw anyone today. And then, about 12 miles in there was a flurry – including a group of wetsuit-clad adventurers jumping from a pretty scary looking rock (some a lot more hesitantly than others) into the water just past the very beautiful ‘Witch’s Cauldron’ – a sea cave where the roof has collapsed. On we walked, continuing to climb and descend (and then climb again. And again) along the narrow cliff top paths, almost all situated on steep, wild, bracken covered slopes that lacked the generous coverage of spring flowers I’ve enjoyed so much on the rest of this walk. Soles of my feet feeling red hot, it was a relief to get to Cemaes Head and hit the road that took us past the glorious expanse of Poppit Sands to the official finish at St Dogmaels (and, more importantly, the two well earned – and quickly downed – pints of Peroni in the lovely Ferry Inn).

I’ve really enjoyed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and as I said above, I’ve been unbelievably lucky with the weather. But if it’s a relaxing holiday you’re after, I’d strongly advise you to consider taking longer than 10 days to walk it – there are a number of lovely villages and small towns that are worth an explore, and the locals I’ve stopped to pass the time of day with have been very welcoming. Most days I’ve started walking at 7am, finished around 6pm and almost without exception been asleep by 9pm. My trip was more about the physical challenge of walking my sixteenth British long distance trail (and my fourteenth National Trail) and switching off my brain from all the normal mental noise. It’s been helpful to see what has turned out to be important – the stuff I need to do or embrace or change – and as usual after a long walk, while my body could do with a bit of a rest, my mind is raring to go again. Watch out London, I’m heading home, and I’m recharged!  

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Day 9 

Date – 21 April 2017

Walked from – Pwll Deri 

Walked to – Newport 

Miles walked – 25.1

(Newport Sands)

Today was always going to be a tough one. Not once, ever, in the guide books does it suggest walking this section in one go. People I’ve chatted to about today’s route, which at just over 25 undulating miles has been the longest of the trip, have visibly paled at the suggestion of what I would be doing. And yet, my friend Arwyn freshly arrived and on hand to share the pain of the final two days of my walk (literally, as his blisters turned out), off we went shortly after 7am this morning, heading from the spectacular setting of the Pwll Deri YHA towards the light house at Strumble Head, and beyond. 

(Lighthouse at Strumble Head)

We ploughed through the first half of the day, which took in the usual incredible coastal scenery, the stone that marked the landing point of the last invasion of Britain in 1797 (Jemima Nicholas is my new hero), Goodwick (home of the Fishguard ferry and our brunch stop cafe) and Lower Fishguard, where the 1972 film version of ‘Under Milkwood’ was filmed, before stopping for a breather at the immaculately maintained campsite that overlooks Fishguard, where, twice a week, and for £40 an hour, the local masseur will put you through your paces in a mini wooden camping pad. We arrived at the Old Sailors pub in Pwllgwaelod just before they shut up for the afternoon, where I very much enjoyed sitting in the sun, overhearing an unexpected but very loud conversation between two older locals about skunk and a mutual acquaintance of theirs (who is, apparently, permanently stoned) while throwing back a larger-shandy. 

(Finally, a photo that captures the colour and stillness of the sea!)

There are unwanted facts you face about yourself when you’re walking with someone that you can ignore on your own. The fact Arwyn pointed out to me on numerous occasions today is that my nose is currently an impressively vibrant shade of red. The rest of the face isn’t far off. Apparently it’s a look that goes way beyond ‘outdoorsey’. That, combined with the fact that I’m knackered after nine days of walking, mean that I’m not looking my glamorous best at the moment. One more day to walk, and I’m looking forward to it, but also to finishing. The Newport YHA was a welcome sight this evening – as was the realisation that I had the six bed dorm to myself.

(Newport Sands at Parrog)

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Day 8 

Date – 20 April 2017
Walked from – Whitesands

Walked to – Pwll Deri

Miles walked – 23.8

(View from YHA at Pwll Deri)

I think I’m sitting looking out at the best hostel view in the UK – the YHA at Pwll Deri has spectacular vistas of the jagged, rocky coastline. If I weren’t trying to decide between whether the aches in my feet or the hunger in my stomach were the more pressing of my three physical maladies right now (the third being almost overwhelming tiredness), I don’t think I’d be able to tear my eyes away from it.

(Heading towards Carn Penberry)

I really worked for that view today. My iPhone app informs me I climbed the equivalent of 208 floors today, and it certainly felt that way. I left the YHA near Whitesands Beach in the cool damp of a sea mist enveloped early morning, heading through open fields on unclear paths towards the first big climb of the day, over the shoulder of Carn Penberry. On through Abereiddy, where I saw my first people after eight miles of entirely solitary walking, to Porthgain, where ‘The Shed’ cafe provided a welcome scone/jam/cream brunch stop. An hour later and I stopped again at the Mill Tearooms in Trefin, before pushing on through a couple of sunny hours through more lovely coastal scenery. 

(Scone break at ‘The Shed’ in Porthgain)
The final few miles to the hostel involved some stiff climbs, and also the first phone reception of the entire day. Sensing, rightly, that I might not see it again for a while, I ascended the rocky outcrops and ridge towards Pwll Deri while calling my mum, who was just back from her own holiday. The hostel looming into view, was a welcome sight. As was the eventual arrival of my friend from University (how does time pass so quickly that graduation was 20 years ago?) – especially as he was carrying out dinner with him. Spaghetti with lentils and sauce has never been more gratefully eaten, or a shared bottle of red more enthusiastically consumed!

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Day 7

Date – 19 April 2017

Walked from – Newgale

Walked to – Whitesands Bay

Miles walked – 18.1
This walk, oil refineries aside, has been really pretty throughout. But today, perhaps because the sun (unexpectedly) shone for much of it, was really very beautiful. Brightly coloured flowers in hues of yellow and blue, pink, purple and white, were everywhere; black rock filled bays were lapped by turquoise waters; and the day was bookended with two spectacular beaches – Newgale, where I started in the gloom of the morning, and Whitesands, where I finished in brilliant sunshine. And then walked up hill for another mile and a half to get to my hostel…

There was also a lot more people on the Coast Path than there have been on previous days, probably because of the proximity to St Davids – Britain’s smallest City (it has that status because of it’s cathedral. I didn’t fancy going two miles off route to visit it today so I hopped on the bus to check it out after my early finish yesterday) and a tourist hotspot. It was nice to stop and pass the time of day with people, although most seemed to be taken aback that I was walking the whole trail in one go, and in 10 days – I know how they feel!

I also had my favourite hot chocolate break (and there’s been one every day so far) of the trip today. For today, at the National Trust cafe in Porthclais, I met three amusing ‘gentlemen of a certain age’ who sat down at my table, constantly talked over each other, and informed me they are all members of the St David’s Pen Knife Club – who are apparently required, when challenged by another member, to always produce said knife or face a penalty. Reminds me of the Whitstable Winkle Pickers club, which had me in fits of giggles for almost an entire afternoon last year – but that’s a different story, and one only my poor long suffering work colleagues need to be aware of. Before the cafe got busy, I also had a lovely chat with the lady who was running the place: National Trust, you’ve got a good one there. If you could just get the mint chic chip ice cream back in stock, all would be well with the world! 

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Day 6 

Date – 18 April 2017

Walked from – Marloes 

Walked to – Newgale

Distance walked – 16.5 miles

It’s been a good day – the universe must have heard my sulking yesterday and decided to issue a correction. 
The sun finally came out this morning (didn’t last all day but it made everything so pretty while it was visiting). I was mid-hot chocolate mid-morning break – a good thing in itself – when the news came in about a snap general election (if Parliament agrees to it tomorrow), which is very interesting, if scary. A very good friend I’ve known for 23 years and haven’t seen in four called to let me know he would be joining me on Thursday evening for a day and a half of the Coastal Path. I finally had my ‘easy walk’ – 16.5 miles when I was expecting 19.5 miles – and finished by 2.30pm. And when I got to my room behind the pub in Newgale (amazing beach there BTW, which I think the photo below makes clear), it had an en-suite bathroom. With an actual bath, and piping hot water. Essentially, today has catapulted itself into the all time top ten of walking days. 

Photo – St Brides Haven

Photo – near Broad Haven

Photo – beach at Nolton Haven

Photo – Some of the two mile long beach at Newgale

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Day 5 

Date – 17 April 2017

Walked from – Herbrandston 

Walked to – Marloes

Miles walked – 20.6 miles 

Imagine, if you will, that you are in the midst of quite a long walk. Then imagine that today was due to be your short one, a mere 13.5 miles. Your rest day, if you will. Then add 2.5 miles to it because it’s high tide and you can’t get around on the quicker low tide shoreside route. Now, I’m not the best at maths, but I make that to be 16 miles. What I did not anticipate happening on my so-called rest day was a 20.6 mile sodding walk. 
So, I’m not going to tell you about the lambs, the wildflowers, the lighthouse at Dale Peninsula or the beautiful scenery now the evil oil refineries have been left behind. I’m not even going to tell you about the people I met who just happened to be on a sailing trip run by a friend of a friend who I met at an (excellent) 40th birthday party in a tiny village near Falmouth last year. 
Nope, not telling you any of that because I am sulking. And mildly hysterical. And asking myself why I can’t go on nice, normal holidays where the sun shines and I could relax and wear nice clothes and drink cocktails by the bar. Is there a ‘throwing my toys out of the pram’ emoji? Because I need one. That or a beer. Ok, a beer it is. Thank god I’m staying in a pub tonight. Barman… 
Photos: flowers / cliffs / lamb… all pretty self explanatory 😉 

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Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Day 4

Date – 17 April 2017

Walked from – Pembroke

Walked to – Herbrandston

Miles walked – 19.5

My guidebook warned me about this bit of the walk, although I didn’t notice until I was on the train on the way to Wales. ‘Things really do go downhill from here until… just under 30 miles away’. 
To be honest, it’s nowhere near that bad. The urban sprawl the author describes is nothing to someone who has spent most of the past 20 years in London. And the ugly pipes, oil refineries, tankers and power stations are also evidence that the area actually has an industry providing employment to local people (well paid employment for some too, if the very nice houses in Llanstadwell and Hazelbeach are anything to go by). It’s also interesting to note that, bucking the usual British colonial trend, Milford Haven (which dominates the area) was actually settled by a group of Americans – whalers who sold their oil for London’s street lamps.
Photos: Pembroke Castle / walkway over pipes / Sandy Haven Beach

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