Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
Pembrokeshire is a county in south west Wales, a country to the west of England on the Irish Sea coast. Its proud boast is that it has the only coastal walking trail in Britain. It is the only stretch of coastline in Britain designated a National Park. It has been listed as one of the top ten walks in the world, only surpassed by the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and the Santiago de Compostella walk in northern Spain. The full path from St. Dogmaelís in the north to Amroth in the south is 186 miles or 299 km long.
If you yearn for wild, natural marine scenery, peace, tranquillity and a different vista round every headland this trail is for you. You will view every type of marine landscape - rugged cliff tops with guillemots, cormorants and razorbills, sheltered coves and wide open beaches. Barafundle Beach has been voted one of the best beaches in the world. Depending on the season of the year you walk it you will be blown away by the variety of wild flowers and may if you are lucky spot some seals and pups on the rocks below you.
From beginning to end you will have ascended and descended 35,000 feet, equivalent to climbing Mount Everest! Despite this, the path is accessible to and feasible for average walkers with a reasonable degree of fitness. Of course you do not have to walk the trail in one go. You are free to do sections of it at any one time to suit the time available to you and a wonderful coastal bus service means you can leave or join the path at many different locations. Accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis is available within short distances of the trail and you will be treated to the freshest and tastiest of Welsh food and the warmest of welcomes.
The trail is a geographerís paradise. Limestone cliffs, sandstone bays, volcanic headlands and glacial valleys lie within walking distance of each other. You will pass 58 beaches and 14 harbours including Milford Haven which Admiral Nelson regarded as the best natural harbour in the world. The coast faces in three directions at different points - north, south and west and as the light changes the landscape around you becomes like an artistís palette, decked out in all shades of blue, pink, purple and orange.
Wales is a Celtic country with its own language and you will see evidence of this all around you in the place names and the notices which you will see on the path and in towns and villages on the way and if you can eavesdrop on the lilting Welsh accent in the many inns and pubs along the way.
In the south you will pass the Castlemartin Firing range owned by the Ministry of Defence. At times this area is restricted but if you are lucky to be able to walk through it you will be treated to stunning rock formations including the Green Bridge of Wales, a magnificent sea arch, ancient monuments such as St. Govanís Chapel and Flimston Bay Iron Age Fort.
Because the range is restricted and benefits from minimal disturbance it is a wildlife paradise with thousands of seabirds on the surrounding cliffs, seal pups in the secluded coves, in early summera brilliant display of orchids, blue spring squill and cowslips and gorse and purple heather in early autumn. Because of the proliferation of wild flowers the area attracts a wide variety of butterflies.
It was from this coast line that St. Patrick set out to Christianise Ireland in the 5th century and to this coast line, tradition has it, that St. Brigid of Ireland travelled leaving her name to one of the many villages on the way Ė St. Brides. You will also visit St. Davidís Ė the smallest city in Britain and its stunning cathedral which was commenced in 1180 and took several centuries to build. At Mill Bay you will see where Henry Tudor landed in 1485 with his army and continued on to defeat the English at the battle of Bosworth and become Henry V11, King of England.
Whether you are a rambler, a nature lover, or someone with an interest in history or geography or just a walker out to enjoy the unrestricted freedom of the trail with its endless variety of scenery this trail is a must do walk at least once in a lifetime. Bookmark it!
A good guide is essential and you will be well served by either Brian Johnís guide which follows the trail from north to south or Dennis Kelsallís guide which goes from south to north.