Pembrokeshire Coast Path

  • West over Barafundle Bay - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Guillemots at Stackpole Head - © William Mackesy
  • East towards Freshwater East - © William Mackesy
  • Near Barafundle - © William Mackesy
  • Sandstone at Caldy Island off Tendy - © William Mackesy
  • Seals at Caldey Island near Tenby - © William Mackesy
  • Woody hill above Barafundle - © William Mackesy
  • Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: Solva to St Davids section - © Christopher J. Etchells
  • Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - © Christopher J. Etchells
  • Walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - © Christopher J. Etchells
  • Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - © Christopher J. Etchells
  • Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: Strumble Head Lighthouse - © Christopher J. Etchells
  • Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: Seals and seal pups - © Christopher J. Etchells

Key information: Pembrokeshire Coast Path

  • Truly gorgeous walking in wondrous coastal scenery. 
  • Fascinating history and a rich legacy of ancient remains and perfect fishing villages in remote coves. Pullulating wildlife and fine and varied vegetation - and good places to stay - make this a very satisfying experience. 
  • Sections can be quite demanding, with a lot of ascent and descent. But it is worth the effort - and we aren't talking Himalayas! 
  • ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87.5
  • Beauty31.5
  • Natural interest14.5
  • Human interest12.5
  • Charisma29
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating87.5

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 299km/186 miles
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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© William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

This lesser-known but marvellous 186-mile trail wanders along and around a magnificent and varied array of cliffs, beaches, woodlands, heaths, moors, valleys and pastures. It passes farms, ancient churches, castles, fishing villages, Georgian resort towns ("Admiral Nelson and Lord and Lady Hamilton stayed here" - the great ménage visited Tenby), iron-age forts and much more. 

The path can be broadly categorized into a softer "Norman" south and a wilder, "Welsh" north, but that is a bit of an oversimplification: while it is fair to say that the northern half of the Path has wilder country, higher cliffs, greater drama and more demanding walking, the 'gentler' south still contains thrilling walking on beautiful and fascinating coastline, passing exceptional historic sites. The greater concentration of caravan sites, holiday homes and the like does reduce the pleasure of some southern sections. 

The coast here is rich in marine mammals - grey seals, porpoise and dolphins. Squirrel, deer and bats abound, and you may see an otter, especially around Bosherston lily ponds. Snakes, slow worms, lizards and a multitude of birds are to be met, with the coastal cliffs spotted with breeding gulls in season. Enjoy a huge range of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, and also acrobatic choughs and raptors. Likewise, the path is carpeted with flowers in spring and early summer - the coast is famously well provided this way. The Trailblazer guide has excellent sections (including photos) on the mammals and flowers you should meet. 

There are numerous hugely historic and atmospheric sites and towns (a city, even) along the way, from St David's magical Norman cathedral, to old Pembroke huddled below its Norman castle, birthplace of King Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, to the delightful Georgian and Victorian resort of Tenby inside its mediaeval walls. 

One of the delights of the path is that, unless you plan to do the entire length, you can choose the sections that suit your tastes best. The Trailblazer book is particularly helpful here, with a lot of planning information, including ideas for day and weekend walks, as well as longer expeditions. 

Unless tackling the entire path (assume two weeks or so at a reasonable pace), you will need to select a stretch to walk. The best sections are more than arguably from  St Dogmael's in the far north to St David's, and from Dale out to the wild west of Milford Haven round the great bite of St Bride's Bay to (again) St David's. As we describe below, there are also firms that will take you on selected "best of the path" expeditions. 

While the path is generally recommended to be walked south to north, this is not mandatory. 

There are numerous shorter multi-day options (weekend or more), as well as exceptional day-walks. For instance:

  • from Freshwater East past the beautiful Barafundle Bay and Stackpole Head to the otter-haunted lily-ponds at Bosherton.
  • The Dale Peninsula, with scenery ranging from woodland to rough stuff to the huge expanse of Marloes Sounds.
  • Nolton Haven to Solva along wild,magnificent coastline on the north of St Bride's Bay
  • St Justinian's to Abereiddy, around the superb St David's peninsula
  • Said to be the most tiring but spectacular stretch of all, the huge cliffs between Newport and Poppit Sands 

The wild scenery of St David's peninsula is particularly suited to longer (weekend) walks. 

There are various things to think about taking time out to do while en route, in addition to enjoying the towns and sites on the Path itself. The Preseli hills with their old trails through antiquity-laden landscape, the source of Stonehenge's great slabs, are particularly rewarding. As is a boat excursion out to one of the off-shore islands, to view the seething birdlife and with luck a seal or two. 

Have a look at TripAdvisor - there are a multitude of relevant reviews, so you may get good, current views on aspects of this walk, although the usual warning to take a pinch of salt applies.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

 

Books on this walk     

Pembokeshire Coast Path – Jim Manthorpe, Trailblazer: the essential book

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: From Amroth to St Dogmaels – Cicerone: excellent information on the route, as usual.

 

Other books

Find out more about its history in: Vol 3 of The Histories of Wales, Pembrokeshire: The Concise History – Roger Turvey; or discover more about the buildings of Pembrokeshire in The Buildings of Wales: Pembrokeshire – Thomas Lloyd, Julian Orbach and Robert Scourfield. 

There are a whole selection of photography-based books inspired by the beauty of Pembrokeshire’s Coast Path. Take a look at:

Pembrokeshire: Photographs of Pembrokeshire – David Wilson

Wales at Waters Edge - A Coastal Journey – Jeremy Moore and Jon Gower

Pembrokeshire: Journeys and Stories – Trevor Fishlock and Jeremy Moore

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – John Cleare

 

Maps

 

The key guidebooks have good, practical maps for walking the walk. 

Ordinance survey maps can be bought locally, easily. 

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. A good online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks). Also try www.mapsworldwide.com and www.trektools.com.

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Mid Spring to late September. Slightly counter-intuitively, the best chances for good weather are said to be in Spring rather than Summer – and you get fewer tourists than in Summer, too. And beautiful wildflowers. September can be gorgeous – and emptier.

 

Weather

Unpredictable at all times, come prepared for rain, although you can get glorious days. As we say, the best chances for good weather are said to be in Spring rather than summer. 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

 

 

Getting there/transport

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Start and end points can be accessible by train and bus as well as by car. 

The bus network is excellent, and there are coastal shuttle services aimed at walkers in particular. 

Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to arranged start/departure points. 

There are taxi firms which will carry you (or your luggage) between points – eg back to your car at the end. The Trailblazer book has details…. 

Baggage carriers for slackpackers: 

·         {C}Luggage Transfers – luggagetransfers.co.uk

 

 

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above. 

Everytrail also has a good route map (with descriptions) for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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·         Unpredictable weather: rain, cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. It can snow in winter. Come prepared.

{C}{C}·         {C}Heat and strong sun, believe it or not. Carry enough water and protect yourself.

{C}{C}·         {C}Cliffs: can be dangerous; take care with the edges. 

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information. 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information. 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

 

 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

Most people do this walk (or sections of it) independently, but come prepared for the type and length of walk you are taking on. 

Guided/supported

Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. While it costs, travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. An excellent option is “slackpacking” – ie, having your bags carried from one night stop to the next, and walking with a day pack only. 

Choosing a suitable company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard. 

Expedition organisers (for self-guided walking) include the following. Note that some offer the whole path and some special sections (including in some case a “best of the path” selection. And many will tailor-make you an expedition. 

{C}{C}· {C}Budget Walking Holidays – www.budgetwalking.co.uk – do a selection of lovely walks on the path.

{C}{C}· {C}Sherpa Expeditions – www.sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk

{C}{C}· {C}Macs Adventure – http://www.macsadventure.com/ - offer various sections as well as an interesting sounding “highlights” expedition.

{C}{C}· {C}Celtic Trails – www.celtictrails.com

{C}{C}· {C}Mickledore Travel (www.mickledore.co.uk) – sections or the whole thing.

{C}{C}· {C}Always have a look at Infohub’s selection of walking holidays to see if they have any good deals for this expedition.

{C}{C}· {C}Have a look at TripAdvisor – you may get good, current views on organizing firms. 

Baggage carriers for slackpackers: Luggage Transfers – luggagetransfers.co.uk 

The Trailblazer guide has further ideas for expedition organizers. 

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable firms that you know of – local or otherwise.  

 

Accommodation

There are varied and plentiful B&Bs, pubs and hotels along the path. 

Camping is also a very realistic option, with plenty of campsites along most of the route, although you will need to plan with some care, and may need to odd B&B night. 

Youth hostels (YHA) and a very realistic option on the northern half of the path, but scarce on the southern end. 

The guidebooks have a selection of possible accommodation. The Trailblazer is particularly good on the options at each stage-end. 

See what the commentary on TripAdvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”. 

A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively but effectively named Hotels.com.

If you’re on a budget, Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation; or perhaps try for some bargain luxury on Lastminute.com. 

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Other information and tips

 

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

{C}{C}·         {C}www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk , site of the National \prk Authority

{C}{C}·         {C}www.fpnp.org.uk - friends of the National Park

{C}{C}·         {C}pwww.wikipedia.org 

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Britain, and Wales in particular, have a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be.

Other activities

Where to start?

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: admiralhardinge
Posted on: 20/07/2013
Having done many long distance paths between us from Wealdway to Himalayan treks via Tour of Mont Blanc and the Tour of the Vanoise, we can't believe this is one of the favourite long distance paths. Frankly it is boring, the view changes little for days because of the extensive coast scape and the size of the larger bays. The many different parts of the South West Coast path we have done are infinitely more spectacular, pleasant and interesting. Backpacking was very difficult, hardly any campsites, and we ended up camping in someone's garden, 2 nights illegal camping and 2 nights legal wild camping. However suitable sites for wild camping were in very short supply in some stretches. Supplies were hard to come by. Section round Milford Haven is dreadful, from the South much poorly maintained and waymarked. When we finally gave up after over a week we were amazed to meet no less than 3 other couples/groups on the bus to Fishguard having done exactly the same and with the same comments and views. Don't believe all the positive blurb.

Walkopedia says: Thank you for this - views and experiences like this are VERY valuable for the community. Anyone else got any thoughts on this?

Name: Blue Ocean
Posted on: 27/11/2014
Pembrokeshire has one of the best coast path walks in the world and I've taken groups to the most spectacular parts on many occasions. If you want to come along next time contact blue ocean adventure on http://www.blueocean-adventure.co.uk/contact/ we'd be happy to organise a walk for you.  

Name: Etchy
Posted on: 14/10/2018

Walked the northern section of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, south to north: Solva - St Davids - Porthgain - Strumble - Fishguard - Newport - Poppit Sands - St Dogmaels. Around 75 miles in total. The coastal scenery is spectacular - world class. Saw lots of seals, seal pups and even dolphins. We walked in the first week of October when there were only a few other people walking the trail. The path becomes increasingly remote and strenuous the further north you go. Standout sections were Porthgain- Strumble and Newport-Poppitt Sands. We stayed in a combination of youth hostels (see https://www.yha.org.uk/experience/pembrokeshire-coast-national-park) and guest houses. Bear in mind that the hostels are often isolated and do not serve food, so you will need to bring your own. In October only St Davids and Poppitt Sands youth hostels remained open and the local buses were on a restricted timetable. So for ease of accommodation and transport we'd recommend walking the route before the end of September. Don't underestimate the physical challenge of this walk: a day on the more strenuous sections are comparable to a day in the mountains. There are steep uphill and downhill sections and we were very glad of our walking poles.

Walko say, THANK YOU  for these very helpful comments!



Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Woody hill above Barafundle - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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© William Mackesy...
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