#206 – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Part 1 – St Ann’s Head

Westdale Bay, near St Ann’s Head, Pembrokeshire

Westdale Bay, near St Ann’s Head, Pembrokeshire

There’s no question about it – first and foremost I am a mountain man!  Still, sometimes a change of scene is a good move, which is why Chris and I, plus Border Collie ‘Mist’, were down by the seaside.    The seaside in this case was the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

St Ann's Head and Dale

St Ann’s Head and Dale

Say ‘coastal path’ to most people and they might imagine a gentle stroll across flat beaches, but that’s rarely the case.    The reality is a path that twists and turns for 186 miles along one of the most rugged bits of coastline in Britain, with a total height gain of around 10668 metres (35,000ft), higher than the ascent of Everest if you started from sea-level.  However, Everest was a bit much for the few days we had, so we settled on a walk out by St Ann’s Head near Milford Haven.

Setting off across the fields, near Kete

Setting off across the fields, near Kete

Approaching St Ann’s Head

Approaching St Ann’s Head

The view back to Frenchman’s Bay

The view back to Frenchman’s Bay

Looking down into ‘The Vomit’ near St Ann’s

Looking down into ‘The Vomit’ near St Ann’s

The first thing we had to do was to get to the actual coastline, but down near St Ann’s Head the access is pretty good, and a short section through agricultural land soon got us on the Coastal Path.    In fact, this section was possibly the most interesting, with the path running along the top of the cliffs in places.    Typical of this section was ‘The Vomit’ – I’m guessing that’s due to the white, foaming waters below, and not to the look on Chris’s face as she briefly peered over the edge.

Folded rock layers at St Ann’s

Folded rock layers at St Ann’s

Heading north, with Milford Haven in the far distance

Heading north, with Milford Haven in the far distance

Coastguard Cottages at St Ann’s

Coastguard Cottages at St Ann’s

We had a quick look at the southernmost point of St Ann’s Head, marked by the HM Coastguard helipad, but far more interesting was the adjacent cliff with one of the best examples of rock folding you could wish for.    Then it was time to head north, passing the old coastguard cottages, built at a time many years ago when the Coastguard actually DID guard the coast.    Obviously before Government cutbacks!

Mill Bay, at the exact landing point of Harri Tudor (later Henry VII) in 1485

Mill Bay, at the exact landing point of Harri Tudor (later Henry VII) in 148

 

Looking down to Mill Bay ….

Looking down to Mill Bay ….

…. and looking back to the same location

…. and looking back to the same location

The view south from Mill Bay towards St Ann’s Head with the Coastguard Cottages (centre)

The view south from Mill Bay towards St Ann’s Head with the Coastguard Cottages (centre)

Next stop was Mill Bay, where a certain Harri Tudor landed in 1485 – he brought a few friends along, 4000 in total carried in 55 ships.  Harri knew this bit of coast well, having been born in Pembroke Castle, but his family supported the Lancastrian side in the War of the Roses so Harri spent part of his life in exile.  When the time seemed right, he landed with his 4000 mates and went in search of the Yorkist King Richard III – they caught up with him at the Battle of Bosworth, leaving Richard dead, buried in what in later years would become a car park and leaving Harri as King Henry VII of England.

The view into Milford Haven from the West Blockhouse

The view into Milford Haven from the West Blockhouse

The sandy beach at Watwick Bay

The sandy beach at Watwick Bay

Castlebeach Bay and Dale Point

Castlebeach Bay and Dale Point

The access point to Castlebeach Bay from the Pembrokeshire Coastal path

The access point to Castlebeach Bay from the Pembrokeshire Coastal path

Not far beyond Mill Bay we passed the West Blockhouse.  The original Blockhouse was built by Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII, with the aim of keeping the Spanish (or French or whoever else England was at war with) out of the huge natural harbour of Milford Haven.  The site was occupied by the military until 1956, but the only time that shots were fired in anger was during WW2 when anti-aircraft guns located there engaged German bombers heading for the naval base at Pembroke Dock.    The harbour is now home to a massive oil terminal, and in 1996 was the setting for the Sea Empress disaster, when the tanker ran aground spilling 72,000 tonnes of crude oil.

The harbour of Dale Roads

The harbour of Dale Roads

Looking out to the harbour from Dale village

Looking out to the harbour from Dale village

The Griffin Inn at Dale (RD)

The Griffin Inn at Dale (RD)

Further up the coast is the small harbour of Dale Roads.  The name Dale doesn’t sound very Welsh, which is probably because it isn’t – the Old Scandinavian word Dalr means ‘Valley’, and it is believed that the area was settled by Norse raiders in the 9th and 10th Centuries.    The area has been English speaking since the 12th Century, and is known as ‘Little England beyond Wales’, and the locals speak English with something like a Somerset accent.    We found a good spot overlooking the bay for our lunch, but a visit to  the Griffin Inn delayed our departure a bit.

Dale Castle

Dale Castle

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out Westdale Bay

Border Collie ‘Mist’ checking out Westdale Bay

Heading up the steps towards Great Castle Head ….

Heading up the steps towards Great Castle Head ….

…. with ‘Mist’ in the lead as usual

…. with ‘Mist’ in the lead as usual

A meeting with the locals

A meeting with the locals

Welshman’s Bay from the Coastal Path

Welshman’s Bay from the Coastal Path

A short land crossing by Dale Castle soon had us back on the Coastal Path at Westdale Bay, where it was back to the ‘ups and downs’ routine and a more rugged coastline than the east side of the peninsula.  A herd of young bullocks decided to check us out, but their nerves got the better of them and they scarpered when we turned to check them out.  After that it was time to head back across the fields, but with another outing planned for the next day.

Last view of Welshman’s Bay before heading back across the fields

Last view of Welshman’s Bay before heading back across the fields

Heading for home

Heading for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock with the exception of the Image tagged (RD), which is © Roger Davies, and taken from the Geograph Project and reproduced here under a Creative Commons Licence.

p.s.  The blog is about five days late this week – sorry for that!

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 6. Mid and South Wales and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to #206 – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Part 1 – St Ann’s Head

  1. Those folded cliffs are beautiful. Is that all ragwort in the first photo? If so, they need to get a grip of it!

    • Yep, that’s ragwort in the photo Carol – shocking amount of it, and horses grazing in nearby fields

      • I think it’s only dangerous if it’s wilted so probably safe while still on the stalk. Still a notifiable weed though! Just as bad around here and the council don’t seem to care as some of it is on their land! 😮

  2. LensScaper says:

    Walking part of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is on my bucket list of things to do, Paul. I thought that was Oxford Ragwort in the first image too – poisonous to cattle I think. Lovely set of images from what must have been a very enjoyable walk. I too am further away from the mountains now but walking parts of the coastline is hugely enjoyable, I find.

  3. Pingback: #207 – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Part 2 – Wooltack Point and Marloes | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  4. Pingback: #215 – A dogs life! (in 2016) | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s