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Published: December 10th 2018
Viewed from the coastal path.
The caveat with a British holiday is always ‘if you get the sun’, but in July 2016 we did, and what a smashing few days we had. After a careful scrutiny of the Met Office’s weather forecasts we booked ourselves in at Caerfai Farm Campsite on the Pembrokeshire coast. It has great sea views and is only a fifteen minute stroll from the centre of St David’s. We had a five hour drive from Lancashire, down through the verdant Welsh landscape on winding country roads.
St David’s is really a large village, but it’s classified as a city because it has a cathedral. It’s got pubs and restaurants aplenty and a dramatically beautiful coastline on its doorstep. You can eat, drink, walk, swim, go on a boat trip or just mooch around. Nothing earth shattering, but it has all the ingredients for an agreeable short break.
The sea view exercises a magnetic attraction and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is deservedly a ‘designated’ national trail. You only need a little peep at the view from the cliff and you’re instantly hungry for more. But be warned, coastal paths are deceptively hard treks. We walked from St
David’s to Solva. On the map it looks four miles at most. But coastlines are crinkly, they go in and out, they go up and down, they undulate; so it’s much
longer than you’d expect. Your bottle of water empties, Google maps disappears, conversation fades away, your phone battery dies, you urinate nervously behind scraggly bushes, you pray that your destination will be round the next corner, you try to ignore the decomposed corpses of other walkers, you beg passers-by for nuggets of encouragement that you’re ‘nearly there’.
When Solva finally hove into view (and a very pretty view too) we staggered into the village and slumped, trembling with exhaustion, at a table in the first pub we found.
“The next bus back to St David’s is in two hours sir. Why not try a pint of this 6.5 percent proof cider?” I didn’t dignify that question with a reply, I couldn’t; my tongue hung drily out of my mouth like a rip of sandpaper.
(2 minutes passed) “Would Sir like another?”
(again) “And another?”
This went for quite a while. There was no way
Speaks for itself!
we could have walked back. We were knackered after our tortuous four-hour pilgrimage anyway. We got a taxi to our campsite. It took eight minutes. Seriously; eight minutes. The walk was four hours of pain, and the taxi took eight minutes. Eight… Anyway. That’s coastal walks for you. But the views were superb, up there with Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coast, not as sumptuous, but wilder and dramatic in their own way.
People seem to either love or hate camping. For many it’s an attitude shaped by a positive or negative childhood experience of living under canvas. Waking up at 2.00 am with a puddle in your sleeping bag isn’t fun. Nor is watching the roof of your tent warp and billow in a storm whilst you intone the rosary. The trivialities of daily life such as cooking, and personal hygiene are less straight forward and take more time. Needing to go to the loo in the middle of the night can involve an unpleasant, cold, 100 yard walk across a dew-soaked field. Though it never has for me I hasten to add. Indeed, I maintain that having a whizz al fresco, under the
stars, is one of life’s great pleasures. I may be alone in this…
Yes, having a wash, going to the shower block, sourcing fresh milk and bread, washing the pots, all take longer but that is camping’s secret strength. These tiny hindrances slow the pace of life down. They give you thinking time. I cannot stand at one of the outdoor sinks scrubbing the frying pan without conversing with a stranger and asking, ‘how’s it going?’. Camping chills me out and connects me to people and nature. Ha, I’m preaching! There’s only one proviso for a good camping experience; you must be able to stand up in your tent. Get that right and you’re on your way.
There are several boat trips available from St David’s and we took one out to Grassholm island to smell the gannet shit. Well, to see the gannets really but the island is caked in white guano; it looked like it had snowed there but snow doesn’t reek of hydrogen sulphide. We also saw puffins swooping low over the sea, seals playing in the water, and dolphins frolicked in the wake of our boat. If you go on a boat, do take a coat, it’s much cooler on the sea than it is on the shore. It was a great little trip, surging back through the waves, the sun sparkled on the ocean, the wind and sun tanned your face. The peaceful vibe in the fresh, salty air made you believe you’d earned a beer and a meal. Happy days.
That meal was in the Saffron Indian Restaurant who served me the best chicken madras I’ve ever had. I wasn’t expecting that in St David’s but that highlights another strength of holidaying in the UK. British food is dull but, consequently, the well-travelled British palette won’t put up with it. The result is that the UK has the most varied range of grub on offer in the world. I swear this is true, even in a small town like Preston you can get the cuisine of several continents. Globally the bigger cities can match us, New York, Rome, Paris etc. but it’s not as widespread in those countries as it is in the UK. Italy and France specialise in their own gastronomic styles, and brilliant they are, but they are a ‘mono-culture’ food wise. With a few exceptions (usually Italian) food in small town USA is gruesome and the beer is comically poor (apart from Californian micro-breweries). That said…
Should you go?
I think we had exhausted what St David’s had to offer in four days. Maybe there was more to explore, specifically Tenby further down the coast. The only reason we didn’t pop over there was because it’s worth a few days itself and we intend to go there another time. St David’s isn’t the most accessible of places but it’s well worth the journey.
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