Pembrokeshire is a great destination for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts. An unspoilt corner of South West Wales, it features a dramatic coastline nearly 200 miles long with soaring cliffs and windswept dunes. Inland, the peaceful river estuaries and wooded valleys contrast with the Preseli Hills, all providing the ideal backdrop for a huge range of activities. Almost all of Pembrokeshire’s spectacular shoreline is included within Britain’s only coastal National Park; it was one of the first areas to be given the status over fifty years ago.
Rare and unusual birds can be found throughout Pembrokeshire with large populations on the five islands of Skomer, Skokholm, Grassholm, Ramsey and Caldey. Several operators run regular trips around the islands from April to October and it’s possible to stay on Skomer in a self-catering hostel. Accommodation on Skokholm has also been given a facelift and will open in 2011 from May to August. Around a third of the world’s population of grey seals also live on the Pembrokeshire coast – the best time to see them is between September and November when they give birth to pups on isolated beaches. Cardigan Bay has a resident population of bottlenose dolphins and porpoises; during the summer huge super-pods with hundreds, even thousands, of common dolphin have been spotted.
Serious walkers will enjoy the 186mile/299km Pembrokeshire Coast Path. From St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, the trail covers almost every kind of maritime landscape from rugged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches and winding estuaries. Lying almost entirely within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park —Britain’s only coastal national park – the trail displays an array of coastal flowers and bird life, as well as evidence of human activity from Neolithic times to the present.
In its entirety, the Coast Path represents a formidable physical challenge - its 35,000 feet of ascent and descent is said to be equivalent to climbing Everest — yet it can also be enjoyed in shorter sections, accessible to people of all ages and abilities, with the small coastal villages strung out along its length offering welcome breaks and added enjoyment. Most of the route is on the cliff top, at times it drops down to the beach or a road and occasionally passes through towns and villages. It would take around two weeks to complete staying at various B&Bs, inns and guesthouses on the way. An all-year-round bus service for walkers stops at most coast path access points. The vehicles run on recycled chip oil, while low level floors make them wheelchair and pushchair friendly. Operating from end June to September, the Havenlink watertaxi makes little used, but fascinating, sections of the coast path more accessible. Suggestions for shorter day and half-day walks both on the coast and inland can be found on www.visitpembrokeshire.com/walking.
Ideas for places to stay as well as activities and things to see and do can be found in the new 2011 Pembrokeshire Holiday Guide. For a free copy call 0844 888 5115, or it can be downloaded from website www.visitpembrokeshire.com; for leisure activities and attractions visit www.activitypembrokeshire.com.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path by Brian John is one of the series of National Trail Guides from Aurum Press. As well as general information and advice for walkers, the 168 page paperback describes the entire route of the Coast Path through 12 sections from north to south, each is complemented with pictorial reference to 1:25 000 Ordnance Survey maps. The book is illustrated throughout with colour photographs.