The coast that borders the county of Pembrokeshire stretches around the most south-westerly portion of Wales. It is an incredibly beautiful and scenic stretch of coastline, with rugged cliffs, wide bays, rolling countryside and rocky coastal islands. Much of the coastline borders the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, one of 14 national parks located within the United Kingdom.
Carmarthen Bay to Milford Haven
To the west of the Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire border, the coastline winds along the western side of Carmarthen Bay, past sandy beaches, rugged headlands and the seaside village of Saundersfoot, reaching the seaside town of Tenby. An incredibly picturesque town, quaint buildings painted in pastel colours rise up from behind low cliffs, where a stone quay runs down to a rustic harbour. The seafront is overshadowed by Tenby Castle, which sits on a headland looking over the town. Sandy beaches are never far from the town either – a large beach known as The Burrows stretches to the south-west from the town. It is fair to say that Tenby is one of the most scenic towns on the Pembrokeshire coast, and therefore attracts many visitors .
The coastline between here and the town of Pembroke Dock is one of much beauty. It consists of tall cliffs interspersed with scenic bays, large headlands, sand dunes and historical artefacts. Freshwater East is one great example of such a bay – a long expanse of sand is hemmed in by headlands on both sides . Lydtsep Haven, Manorbier Bay and Swanlake Bay other examples of this type of landscape. Another bay – Freshwater West – is backed by a large sand dune system called Kilpaison Burrows that stretches up onto the hills behind the bay. Particularly notable headlands are Saint. Govan’s Head, Lydstep Point and Trewent Point. The former is very interesting, not only as it marks the point between the Bristol Channel to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, but also provides brilliant views of the surrounding seas and coastline.
This coastal stretch also contains historical features. Manorbier Castle, a beautiful Norman-era castle containing almost 1,000 years of history, stands next to a quaint similarly-named village . Just to the west of Saint Govan’s Head, a tiny hermit dwelling known as Saint Govan’s Chapel is built into the cliff, surprisingly safely nestled in between the towering cliff faces . Moreover, a man-made freshwater lake system named Bosherston Lakes is incredibly scenic; these stretch back around 2km (1.5. miles) from the coastline along a river valley.
The towns of Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven sit on opposite sides of a large tidal inlet, a river valley that was flooded as the sea levels rose during the end of the last Ice Age. As these towns are rather industrial, consisting of warehouses and are bordered by a couple of oil refineries, these provide a rather weird juxtaposition between natural beauty and heavy industry. Fortunately, these industrial facilities are tucked away from the main coastline.
Milford Haven to Saint David’s Head
To the west of Milford Haven, the coastline once again resumes its natural landscape, with the coast from here to Saint David’s Head being characterised by rocky bays, high cliffs and large headlands. However, this stretch of coastline curves around a very large bay known as Saint Brides Bay. Measuring 11 km (7 miles) across at its mouth, this bay is flanked by two very large headlands that reach out into the Atlantic Ocean – the Marloes Peninsula to the south and Saint Davids peninsula to the north. Two large and rugged islands exist at the end of each headland – Skomer Island is located just off of the Marloes peninsula, and is used as a wildlife sanctuary. Many species of birds inhabit the island – although it is very well-known for its huge puffin numbers, other species are also present here, making this a popular site for bird watchers . Ramsey Island is located about 1 km off from the coast of Saint Davids peninsula; also used as a nature reserve, species such as chough, guillemot and peregrine falcons are common here . However, birds are not the only animal species commonly found here – both Ramsey Island and other parts of the Pembrokeshire coast have large Atlantic Grey Seal colonies, and whale and dolphin species also live here .
The coastline within Saint Brides Bay is not characterised by a low-lying coastline, however, but by rugged cliffs with many small headlands, subtle coves and bays. The largest extent of sand along the bay is Newgale Sands, a 2km (1.5 mile) long sandy beach that is flanked by cliffs on both its northern and southern edges. It attracts visitors from far and wide, particularly during the summer months. Of the many coves dotted around the bay, Caerfai Beach is one example of these – sandwiched between two cliff faces, and consisting of a rocky beach above a small expanse of sand that is exposed at low tide, this is a particularly decent cove to visit .
Saint Davids headland is located north of Saint Brides Bay, forming a marker between the Atlantic Ocean to the south and the Irish Sea to the north. Formed of volcanic rock some 500 million years ago, the peak of Carn Llidi, a hill located on the headland that is characterised by its jagged rocks, provides beautiful views of Cardigan Bay to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The headland is also known for its Neolithic connection – Coetan Arthur, a 4,000-year-old burial chamber, sits on the headland .
Saint Davids Head to Saint Dogmaels
This section borders the northern edge of the county, bordering the Irish Sea. It consists of a very similar landscape, with towering cliffs interspersed with coves and small bays. Particular points of interest include Pwll Deri, a large cove, where great views of the rugged coastline to the south-west can be seen from atop a 120 metre (380 foot) high cliff . Also, from Dinas Head, a large headland between the towns of Fishguard and Newport, 360-degree views can be seen of both Fishguard Bay to the west, Newport Bay to the east, across the Irish Sea to the north, and of the Pembrokeshire interior to the south.
The port town of Fishguard is the largest seaside settlement on this side of Pembrokeshire; this beautiful and quiet town consists of cottages lined long a tidal inlet hemmed in between two hillsides, with boats calmly sitting in the harbour. As well as pubs and hotels, attractions include independent shops and West Wales Art Centre . Lastly, just to the west of the Pembroke and Ceredigion border is the quaint village of Saint Dogmaels. Located along the western side of the River Teifi, the village is known for its abbey that has existed for almost 900 years .