I leave my car in the large car park on the edge of St David’s and walk down the lane to Caerfai Bay, where I realise I could have parked for free.
It is eerily quiet. In the fields around me, campers are emerging from their tents and stretching stiff limbs in the morning sunshine. I look out over the bowl of little Caerfai Bay, with its empty beach hidden below, to where the misty-grey outline of St Bride’s Bay spreads in a gentle curve around the horizon.
I have walked along all those cliffs and enjoyed every moment. Now I feel a customary tug of sadness. One of the disadvantages of long distance walking is the constant sense of moving-on and the sense of loss that goes with it. By the end of today’s walk, I will pass around the headland that marks the northern end of St Bride’s Bay, and will leave this beautiful area behind.
Ahead, I see today’s walk looks an easy amble around a series of coves, before I reach what seems to be a broken ridge of higher rocks. Is St David’s Head one of those lumps on the horizon? I’m not sure. The topology is confusing. I’ll find out soon enough. Onwards.
It turns out to be another glorious day of walking. The coast here reminds me of Cornwall, with its fractured rocks and jagged coastline, a hidden cove behind every craggy promontory. The water is clear and calm beneath me.
The only disadvantage of walking in August – and through an area renowned for its beauty – is that you are not alone. The shoreline is plagued by swarms of kayaks! They float in packs, like colourful insects hovering around the edges of a giant pond.
And, it’s not just kayaks. There are the groups of coasteerers, who congregate in packs. Each tribe can be identified by the colour of their headgear. I watch this white-helmeted group (in the photo below) disappear off the edge of the cliff…
… and some time later I see them from the other side of the cove, closely following in the wake of another group who are wearing blue helmets.
The first little cove beyond Caerfai Bay is called St Non’s Bay (after the mother of St David). After that, the comforting names that characterise the rest of St Bride’s Bay disappear. Gone are the English sounding bays and havens. Instead the map is punctuated by Welsh names and, here is another similarity with Cornwall, every little cove is a porth.
Porth Coch Mawr (large red ), Porth y Ffynnon (spring), and then Porth Clais – which turns out to be a long thin strip of inlet, with an old quay.
The path leads up to the apex of the porth, past old lime kilns, to a road, a picnic spot and a bridge.
After crossing over the bridge, and a steepish climb up the slope on the other side of the inlet, I am rewarded by a good view over the little harbour.
Once up the cliff the route is easy and relatively flat, along gentle slopes covered in low scrub, with wild flowers and colourful gorse. I walk past the island of Carreg Fran.
From here onwards the path becomes even more crowded than yesterday – although ‘crowded’ is a relative word! But, instead of splendid isolation, I’m rarely free of the sight of another walker, or group of walkers, somewhere in the distance.
This guy seems very keen on his photography and, with the help of an enormous lens, takes ages photographing… what? I don’t know. Not the views. Butterflies? Plants? He has a very patient female companion.
Later they go down onto a beach and I overtake them. This is Porthlysgi Bay, with twin coves and dramatic red cliffs. You can just see the couple on the beach on the left, which gives some idea of the scale of the landscape.
Walking around the next bay, Porth Henllys, I reach a promontory with a very English sounding name – Bog off Mrs Morgan. What? No: it’s Ogof Mrs Morgan.
Despite the weird name, the promontory is beautiful, and I decide to stop here for a lunch break, although I’ve not made as much progress as I planned this morning.
I take a couple of self-portraits. One with the timer on my camera, and the other is a selfie of my boots.
The rest of the UK is suffering from clouds and rain. I can’t resist sharing my lunchtime view with the rest of the world via Twitter. Who said it’s always raining in Wales? I’ve found the opposite to be true.
After lunch, I walk along an increasingly crowded path and climb up onto Pen Pedol, a rocky outcrop with panoramic views over Ramsey Sound. I am about to leave St Brides Bay behind. Ahead is the most westerly point on mainland Wales. And over the water is Ramsey Island.
As I draw closer to Ramsey Sound, I notice two things.
First of all, numerous boats are bustling in and out of the coves around Ramsey Island. I’ve forgotten to bring my binoculars and even with my camera on full zoom I can’t see exactly what is lying on the tiny beaches under overhanging cliffs. But they’re seal spotting, I think.
Secondly, the water is racing through the narrow gap between the island and the mainland. This is particularly obvious where the gap is narrowed by a line of rocks.
The speed of the water is so ferocious, I think of all the energy that is contained within the flow and thinks it’s a shame not to use it, to harness it in some way, and generate electricity.
I stand on the farthest westerly point in Wales – Pen Dal-aderyn. Or almost, There are rocks below which look too treacherous to scramble on and a couple of women sitting having a picnic on the closest safest point.
Further on along the path and I see a man leaning on a fence, looking at the rushing water below. At first I think he is admiring the view.
But when I get closer I realise the man is watching a young lad (his son?) who is standing on the rocks below, fishing. I can’t believe my eyes. I remember Bear Grylls says rock fishing is one of the most dangerous of activities. The boy is balancing precariously and only a few feet above the racing current. Even if he was a good swimmer, he would be swept away by the force of the water. And he is not even wearing a life jacket!
I don’t take a photograph, not wanting to do anything to distract the lad. And I wonder whether to say anything, but decide to repress my busybody tendency. The father (if that is what he is) is unlikely to take kindly to criticism, so I hold my tongue.
After a rocky scramble, the path winds around the edge of a broad bay. In the distance I can see the little harbour of Ynys Dinas, with the tall green strut of a crane sticking into the air. The crane seems out-of-place in such a quiet and scenic area. I wonder what they’re building?
According to my map, I pass over plenty more ogofs. (At the time I think ogof is something to do with ogres, but later I find out that ogof means cave.) Ogof Felen, Ogof Goch, Ogof Mary.
Ynys Dinas is where the boats set off on their trips to Ramsey Island. I can see them in the harbour below, and I can also see the crane down by the water.
The footpath has been diverted away from the coast immediately above Ynys Dinas, due to a construction site. They are replacing the life boat station.
There is a queue of people down by the quay, waiting to either go on a boat trip or visit the existing lifeboat station. There is also a sign that explains details of a tidal energy project: a scheme to harness the power of the fast-flowing currents in Ramsey Sound. Ah, just as I hoped! The information board describes a large propeller – the watery equivalent of a wind turbine – which lies buried in a cage to avoid damaging wildlife. What a good idea. I hope it proves to be effective.
I continue onwards along the path, which is now positively crowded.
The rocks below are amazing. Great slabs with coloured striations. The junctions between the different layers seem so straight – as if drawn with a giant ruler – it’s hard to believe they’re natural.
I continue walking, with many breaks to take photographs of the amazing rocks. And then I get a wonderful view of the tall hump of land, like a shark fin, that has been visible off and on for much of my hike around St Bride’s Bay.
I check my map. The tall point is called Carn Llidi. At 181 metres above sea level it’s not the highest peak I’ve seen around the coast (Hangman’s Hill is higher, at over 300 metres above sea level), but Carn Llidi is certainly impressive.
Around the base of the cliffs the sea is calm, while further out I can see currents surging around the scattered rocky isles. A kayak is drifting close to one of the islands. It’s just visible as a tiny speck to the left of the photo below – although it will take a magnifying glass for you to see it!
I keep an eye on this kayak for the rest of my walk. It hangs there, for ages, not seeming to move. And I begin to wonder if the kayaker is in trouble.
Ahead is the open bay of Whitesands, otherwise knows as Porth Mawr. Despite the numerous little coves, this is the first proper stretch of sandy beach I’ve come across since leaving Newgale.
On the way down to the first section of the beach I meet a lady who tells me she often comes here on holiday. I tell her I am worried about the kayaker, still out by the big rock in the middle of the sea. She tells me people are always kayaking out to the islands. We convince each other there is nothing to worry about.
It’s nearly 4pm by the time I reach the far end of Whitesands Bay, and I realise I can’t continue my walk any further. The next section of coast path goes nowhere near a road, and my next opportunity to catch a bus is miles away. Hours away. I’ll end up missing the last service of the day.
Time to stop.
I head for a café at the top of the car park where I order a coffee and a piece of cake. I’m just settling down at my table – when the little coastal bus pulls up outside.
Several people jump up and run out to catch it. I have a moment of indecision: do I abandon my cake and coffee…… hmm… doesn’t take me long to decide. Cake and coffee first. I’ll catch the next bus in an hour or so. What’s the hurry?
Miles walked today = 10
Total along Wales Coast Path = 449 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,056 miles