Pembrokeshire - hiking along the coast

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May 23rd 2012
Published: May 23rd 2012
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Yeah, so, I love Wales. It’s official.

I took the train to Pembrokeshire for the entire reason I chose Wales in the first place – hello hours spent walking along the coastline! You did not disappoint.

Train to Pembroke was easy enough. It was crazy foggy for the first half of the ride... I was worried it would stick around, but thankfully things started to clear up the closer we got. I had a good laugh at one point because I thought we were passing through a swamp - I was then surprised to see a bunch of cows seemingly standing where they should be sinking... cow swamp? I decided it was so.

Once in Pembroke, I caught the “Coastal Cruiser” - the bus driver was really nice and funny. After I bought my ticket, we started our convo that lasted most of the bus ride... it was just me and one other lady on the bus, so we all got to talking.

The driver asked if I was Canadian or American; I smiled, I’m Canadian. “Yeah, your accent kind of gives you away.” I had to laugh considering his accent was the heaviest one I’ve come across so far in Wales. I had to concentrate to understand everything he said.

My absolute favourite thing he said though was in response to whereabouts in Canada I’m from: “Oh. So do you have otters there?” I couldn’t for the life of me understand what he said (the word otter – did not compute haha), I’m like sorry, what? “Do you have otters in Ottawa?” Oh God I started laughing so hard... it was so random. I wish we had otters.

He also enquired as to why on Earth I would choose to visit Wales of all places. This seems to be a recurring question both amongst my friends/family, and Welsh people hahaha. I told him I just wanted a change of scenery and pace, so here I am. “You came mighty far for that. Well, I can promise you nice people, weather and scenery. Or at least two of the three.”

(I’ve actually been really lucky weatherwise so far – here’s hoping it stays that way!)

Besides the good company, the drive itself was beautiful. Basically the Cruiser takes you along these super rural roads – they’re all well paved mind you, but they are only wide enough for the bus to pass. As such, the Cruiser has to always know where the opposite Cruiser is so that they can wait in designated passing areas – good thing there isn’t that much traffic on these roads 😉

The road brought us through a few small villages, up and down a whack load of hills, through fields, spooked a few cows, and finally to St. Govan’s Head – the starting point for my trek!

I headed straight to the coastline for a fantastic view – the cliffs are stunning and you can see that there are all sorts of coves and little beaches, most of which you can’t get to unless you have a boat. It was still a little overcast at this point, but you could see the sun poking through the clouds towards the east, which was perfect since that’s the way I was headed.

I started off with St. Govan’s Chapel built into the side of the cliff – steep staircase down without handrails. Ah yes, the Icelandic method of hoping your tourists pay attention while they walk. I thought their signs were cute too – all over the place they had pictures of people falling/walking off cliffs... yes, that would be a bad thing to do.

The Chapel is nothing fancy, it’s just need to stand nestled in the cliff and hear the roar of the waves echo in the stone building. I then ventured eastwards towards Broad Haven.

Funny thing is I had to walk through a Ministry of Defence Training Area... thankfully they weren’t “in use” when I was there, so I was able to stroll on in. It’s quite an odd thing really, to have walking paths through an active MOD site – I mean there are signs every 20ft or so saying, and I quote, “Military firing range. Do not touch any military debris. It may explode and kill you.”

Well then. That is to the point isn’t it? Thank you MOD, thank you for making sure the tourists fear every step they take that is a millimetre off the main path.

Anyway, I also thought it oddly fascinating that there were cows in the MOD zone. What do the cows do when the area is in use? Surely they don’t let them eat in the fields then... but what if a cow comes across an unexploded piece of military material? I am oddly intrigued.

Leaving the MOD area I was overjoyed to finally find a toilet. Two in fact! Upon closer inspection one was a locked(!) portapotty and the second one had the following note printed on official lookin’ paper: “This building has been found to contain asbestos. Do not drill, scrape of otherwise disturb these materials.” Ok. I was not risking asbestos to pee.

Thankfully there were real bathrooms at the Broad Haven car park, not to far along the path. Speaking of Broad Haven – what a gorgeous beach it is! Steep climb down, but well worth it to walk along the sand, go stand closer to the bottom of the cliffs, see the formations, and all that. It was fun to watch the dogs play too as they were all over the place going into the water.

The climb back up to the coastline was brutal. Stairs or ramps no problem, I can deal with but try climbing a super steep sand dune with no rocks, grass, nothing to give extra traction – I honestly don’t know how I didn’t slide back down a few times haha.

To celebrate my success, I pulled out half a sandwhich. Only to drop it in the sand. *pause for laughter* Yes, I laugh now but I made the saddest of sad faces when it happened. Thankfully, I still had a sandwhich and half to enjoy, and boy did I make sure to hold on tight to those.

As I continued along the coast towards Saddle Point, I heard a bunch of those war sirens go off; I looked back to see the red lights flashing back at MOD – guess they’re using it today after all. Kind of kills the mood when you hear that siren followed by cannon shots or whatever they were shooting.

Next up were a bunch more coves; the sun was really shining now so it was perfect for photos. All the rock formations look so sharp down in the water too, plus it’s just nice to hear the waves come crashing in down below. A bunch of people with binoculars were staring at one rock formation in particular – turns out there were puffins!! I think I got a photo of one..?

At this point in the walk, there was still a path along the coast, but there were also vast fields that you could cross instead of going up and down each individual little curve in the coastline. I opted for the field since I wanted to be sure to have lots of time at Barafundle Bay. The fields were full of sheep and horses too – they weren't skiddish at all.

Looking ahead, I didn’t need a sign to tell me I was at Barafundle – absolutely stunning beach. First you had to wind down a forest pathway, followed by a steep climb down some stairs. The beach is in a very wide and shallow cove – it’s sharp to look back up and see the forest area on one side, sand dunes to the back, the wonderful water, and the stone steps back up to the other side. It’s a little slice of heaven.

I spent a good chunk of time reading my book and I listened to an episode of Cabin Pressure (Funniest. Radio. Show. Ever. The BBC knows how to do things, thank you.) Other than that, I just enjoyed the peacefulness of being on the remote beach. Good time to come in May – sure there were people around, but it wasn’t busy in the slightest.

On my way towards the climb back up (stone stairs, thank god), I had to grin – I watched this movie “Third Star” (another highly recommended British movie. I’m on a Brit kick, ok?) a few months ago and it was filmed here at Barafundle – it was neat to recognize where a lot of the scenes took place. Obviously there was the beach and rocks to the side, but there was also the sand dune, this one particular cliff, the forest path, and the little restaurant near the car park where he broke up a fight by going full charge in his wheel chair. I actually chuckled to myself as I walked past.

I caught the Cruiser back to Pembroke; I had the same driver but the bus was more or less full so we didn’t chat this time. Although he did tease me when I got on the bus – wanted to see if the nature was up to my Canadian standards. Uh, yes. X100.

In Pembroke, I had to wait an hour for the train. There was a guy standing on the platform who obviously noted that I wasn’t from around there when he asked for the time, so we got to talking about Canada. I have to give it to the Welsh - they at least smile and nod and PRETEND to know about Ottawa when they ask what part of Canada I'm from. See people, it's not that hard. I honestly hate when people say they’ve never heard of it.

Ahem, anyway. He too asked why come to Wales, so we got to talking about all that. He noted that it must be nice to visit places that actually have history – he didn’t say it in a mean way, it was just very matter of fact, and oh so true! Everywhere you go in Europe has history and because of that history, it has character... Canada and the US... eeeeeeh not so much.

The train finally came – back to Llanelli I go. After reading for half the trip, I closed my eyes for a second and woke to the ticket collector poking me in the arm. When I looked at my iPod that “one second” may have lasted 30min. Good thing he checked my ticket too haha, my stop was only about 15min away.

So, back at the guesthouse now. My body hurts, I have sand everywhere, my sunburn still hurts and I am dead tired – but today was absolutely perfect. I would love to come back here one day.

(PS Looking at my photos and am laughing at my hair – taking pictures along the windy coast is hard; I am rocking the “hair every which possible way” look. Oh yes.)


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