A Whistle-Stop Tour of the Pembrokeshire South Coast
"Shall we go away this weekend".. That's all Dan said and then a flurry of last-minute planning began.
This is often the case with us and I'm sure some of you can relate also. That moment when work schedules coincide and create this wonderful moment of unaccounted for time together. Perfect synchronicity in an otherwise chaotic life. So naturally we jumped on the chance to book a little weekend break in the South of Wales.
I must admit upfront, that I did make a mistake with our choice of Airbnb. When you see the pictures you'll understand why I was drawn to it with such haste and little regard for the actual location of the property. We had planned to spend both days in the heart of the Pembrokeshire National Park so that we could experience as much of it as possible within our time there.
I therefore take full blame for ending up in the midwest, as close to Snowdonia as we were to the our initial destination.
Please note that all of the locations listed below (bar the Lily Ponds) had ample free parking.
We stayed in a charming little eco-friendly Shepherdess Hut a short distance from the coast. The hut itself was a steal for just £50 for the night (you can see why I got a little ahead of myself) and was beautifully decorated with raw wood, homemade quilts and copper fittings. It even had a wood burning stove, which we thought we wouldn't use because it was so sunny during the day but luckily for us, an evening chill set in later on.
Our hostess was everything you could want, knowledgeable of the area with plenty of good recommendations, friendly but also left us to our own devices. We were welcomed by her chickens, which roam the grounds and have no problem in making themselves known.
We went for a stroll along the coastal path that evening, taking in all the surroundings of this new and unexplored (by us) part of Wales. Although it lacked in realm of monumental landmarks, it made up for it in other ways, of which I'm a little ashamed to say, we often overlook.
We stopped in a local field to take advantage of the beautiful golden light, though Dan's camera had broken so we shared the 6D for a bit. Later, down by the waters edge, we witnessed about twenty Red Kites dancing in the blue sky above us. All these little details are what makes a story and helps guide us through our memories retrospectively.
If you're a big Harry Potter fan then you'll probably know this place. It's where Shell Cottage was located in the Deathly Hallows films (site pictured above) and sadly also where Dobby died (RIP Dobby). If you thought we went there based on this information then you'd be completely correct.
The bay itself is framed by undulating golden dunes that are coated in dense grassy blankets. The water was cold, though thankfully quite soothing during the midday sun. There was a small lifeguard patrol on the southern stretch of the beach whilst a local surf school were teaching young children nearby.
The Green Bridge
We then headed south around the coastline to a rocky outcrop known as 'The Green Bridge of Wales', close to Castlemartin. As expected, there were quite a lot of people gathered around this area. The bridge is around 80ft high and carved naturally by the elements out of thick carboniferous limestone. It's really quite spectacular and there's even a little wooden viewing platform so you can get a perfectly elevated view of the entire structure without fear of falling.
There are also plenty of other well-known naturally formed landmarks nearby making this a great place to stop. We also visited a formation called 'Elegug Stacks', Elegug being the Welsh word for guillemot, which have the highest concentration of seabirds on mainland Pembrokeshire. This was both amazing to witness but also overwhelmingly awful to inhale.
Whilst writing this post, I now realise that there is also a heap of other things to see nearby too, such as the 'Witches Cauldron', but at the time I was less informed of it's existence. I have no doubt we'll revisit it one day.
Bosherston Lily Ponds
Next, we travelled inland a short way to the small village of Bosherston. What was once three vast limestone valleys were flooded and now are best know for their flourishing water lily collection. I didn't really know what to expect from this place and though we only scratched the surface, it's beauty really did blow me away. It's just a shame the water is contaminated by 'toxic algae' because a canoe paddle along the causeway would have been hard to pass up.
There is loads of helpful information already on the National Trust website should you want to visit yourself. I definitely plan to revisit and walk the entire stretch sometime in the future. I'd recommend making sure you've got change for the car park and local watering holes though, as a lot of them don't accept card payments.
St Govan's Head
At this point, I thought we were done for the day. After all, we still had to travel back the Bristol that evening ready for work the next day. Dan suggested visiting St Govan's Head because of it's close proximity to the ponds and I'm so glad we did! By the time we scaled the fifty one rocky steps down to the chapel, the light was soft and just... perfect!
The majority of St Govan's Chapel was built in the thirteenth century, thought it may date as far back as the sixth century when an Irish monk by the name of Saint Govan, inhabited a cave on the site. The grade one listed chapel is carved right into the limestone cliff face and though it's size isn't all that impressive, it's remote location definitely is.
Legend has is that Saint Govan is actually buried below the altar within the chapel and that his hand prints are imprinted on the floor of his cave. Another legend identifies Saint Govan as Gawain, one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.
Another local legend, tells of Saint Govan's silver bell. Supposedly this bell lived in the bell tower atop the chapel and made the most perfect sound when it pealed. Pirates were then said to have stolen the bell only for it to be returned by angels when their ship sunk. The angels entombed the bell in stone (down by the water's edge) and this is now known to be 'Bell Rock'. It is said that when Saint Govan tapped the stone, it sounded a note a thousand times louder than the original bell.
So that concludes our two day trip around the south coast of Pembrokeshire National Park. I have no doubt there will be many more trips and blogs posts to come as we explore more places. I hope you feel inspired to check some of these places out too or just to squeeze a last minute trip in yourself. It can be done and for a relatively small budget. Until next time, happy adventuring guys!