Pembrokeshire: Best UK Coast Path

The UK has around 7,700 miles of coastline and features many different types of landscape. These include high, rugged cliffs, gently sloping sandy beaches, shingle embankments and marshland. These different types of landscape support a myriad of wildlife, in particular many species of birds. So it is no surprise to find that there are plenty of opportunities for excellent walking along the many coastal paths in the UK.

Pembrokeshire Best Coast Path

According to a readers poll in the BBC’s Coast Magazine The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the best coastal path in the UK. The 186-mile walking route is located inside the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, in west Wales.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the path and it’s wonderful to have national recognition for this fabulous resource and to know that it is still valued 40 years on. Charles Mathieson, head of recreation and tourism for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path Route Overview

The coastline of Pembrokeshire includes rock features such as the Green Bridge of Wales.
The Green Bridge of Wales on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Source Copyright Paul Allison and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.

Starting at St Dogmaels, west of Cardigan, the path follows the coast in a westerly direction through Newport and onto Fishguard. From there it continues around Strumble Head, eventually turning south at St. Davids Head and through Whitesands, before turning east along St. David’s Peninsula Heritage Coast and heading towards Solva.

As the coastline follows the concave Bay of St. Brides, the path heads south through Nolton and Broad Haven before heading in a south westerly direction towards Martin’s Haven and around St. Ann’s Head. This section passes close to Skomer Island, famous for its Puffins, as it runs along the Marloes and Dale Heritage Coast.

Turning back east the trail continues along the northern side of the estuary of Milford Haven onto Neyland. After crossing the bridge towards Pembroke the footpath heads west for the last time, running along the southern side of the estuary towards Angle. Past Freshwater the footpath leaves the coast and heads inland for a detour to Merrion before returning to coast once again. Heading east north east the trail follows the South Pembrokeshire Heritage Coast past Tenby and Saundersfoot before reaching its conclusion at Amroth.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path Terrain

The Pembrokeshire Coast path passes through beautiful and varied scenery. From St. Dogmaels to St. Davids the coast is remote with few villages, it is rugged, with tall cliffs rising out of the rough sea. St. Brides Bay offers wide, open sandy beaches. The Milford Haven estuary and harbour is sheltered from the ocean. There is an abundance of birds including widgeon, shelduck, teal, curlew and redshank. The cliffs on the South Pembrokeshire Heritage Coast are less rugged, with sheltered beaches. This section also contains the famous lily ponds at Bosherston and the golden sandy beach at Barafundle.

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. Pembrokeshire Coast website

The Pembrokeshire coastline has also been shaped by man, who has fished and farmed in the area for centuries. Iron Age promontory forts can be seen and so to can Neolithic stone structures known as cromlechs or dolmens.

High, rugged cliffs rising from the sea
The Pembrokeshire coast line has many different types of landscap, including rugged cliffs. Source: Flickr by dougwoods.

Best Gear for Coastal Path Walking

The most important thing to consider is walking footwear. There are many stretches of the coastal footpaths that are well maintained and require a good pair of approach shoes, especially if you are only walking a short section. There are sections where the terrain is uneven and stout walking boots are needed. If you are intending to walk long stretches of the coastal path over the course of several days, walking boots are definitely the best bet.

Obviously it depends upon the time of year that you will be walking, but even in the summer there can often be a strong wind on the coast. Therefore it is a good idea to take a windproof jacket, or even waterproofs.

Barafundle beach and bay in Pembrokeshire
The picturesque beach at Barafundle bay. Source: Flickr by Sarah and Iain.

You will need a base layer and perhaps a mid-weight fleece to keep you warm when you stop for a break. Zip-off trousers are a great idea, giving you the choice between shorts and long trousers.

Sun tan cream and a sun hat are essential items. During the summer you can get sunburnt even on a cloudy day. Sun glasses are worth taking too.

Make sure that you take adequate food and drink, especially on hot sunny days. The amount of ascent on coastal trails can be deceptive and there are not always places to stop for refreshments. A hydration bladder is a great way to store your drink, since it eliminates the need to remove a bottle from your pack. A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash is also worth taking to clean your hands before eating.

A good quality map is essential. A compass, emergency whistle and first aid kit are also recommended.

There is plenty of birdlife and wildlife to be seen along the coast, so don’t forget your bird watching equipment: binoculars, camera and an identification chart or bird book.

If you will be walking along the actual shoreline or beach it is essential to check the tide times. The sea can come in quickly and leave you stranded if you are not careful.

Best Coastal Path: Your Opinion?

Have you walked any or all of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path? Do you agree with Coast Magazine readers or do you think that there is a better coastal trail elsewhere in the UK?
For example:

  • The South West Coast Path
  • The Cleveland Way
  • The Norfolk Coast Path
  • Fife Coastal Path
  • Arran Coastal Way
  • Ayrshire Coastal Path
  • Causeway Coast Way
  • Lecale Way

Let us know what you think, click on “comments” and share your opinion!


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