202 Whitesands Bay, St David’s Head to Porthgain

Whitesands Bay is my starting point. It’s a dull day with showers forecast. The beach was crowded last time I was here in August, but now it’s empty. I’m well wrapped up – beanie hat against the wind, waterproof jacket, fleece, etc.

dull start, Whitesands Bay, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

I see a solitary walker standing on one of the headlands.

 Heading to St David's Head, Ruth on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Above me the clouds begin to thin, the wind drops, and the sun comes out. I’m soon warm from the effort of walking and strip down to my tee-shirt.

Despite the towering presence of Carn Llidi to my right, it’s an easy path towards St David’s Head. The bracken is already changing into autumn colours.

03 autumn colours, St David's Head, Ruth's coastal walk

St David’s Head, when I reach it, is a bit of an anti-climax as it consists of a gently curving promontory of rocks and grass, with no obvious centrepiece. Realising I am about to turn a corner and leave some familiar landmarks behind, I take a self-portrait with Ramsey Island in the background.

Ruth Livingstone on St Davids Head, Wales

The photograph takes some time to set up because, although there are plenty of stones around, none of them seems to have a flat surface. Thinking I am alone, I swear loudly to myself while trying to find a way to balance my camera – and am startled when a couple stand up from behind a pile of rocks (to the right of the photo above) and give me curious looks!

Onwards. The path winds across heathland.  The colours are lovely.

heather and moorland, St Davids, Ruth's coastal walk

But I’m approaching the tall hump of Carn Pemberry. And my easy walk is suddenly about to become difficult. Very difficult.

 Carn Penberry looms, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

The path plunges up and down for a while, and then starts to climb up the steep side of the Carn. The way is narrow, littered with loose stones and large blocks of uneven rocks. In some places I must use my hands to scramble up, thankful that my new boots seem to have a good grip.

I’m not alone. Groups of walkers pass me, many older than I am, most carrying heavier packs, all of them sweating and grunting with effort as they climb down.

At this point, I begin to feel very unwell. Perhaps I’m unfit – having not walked properly for a month – and perhaps rather weak from a new diet I’ve put myself on. Also the walk is hotter than I anticipated. Anyway, I find I’m struggling with the slope, getting both short of breath and, more worryingly, beginning to feel horribly dizzy.

I sit down on a large rock. Then, feeling very faint and realising I might fall off my perch, I slide down onto the ground beside the rock. The view from my resting place is beautiful…

 looking down, on way up Carn Penberry, Ruth's coastal walk

… but I am really concerned about my physical condition. I’m not going to be able to get to the top of the climb. Actually, I’m worried I won’t be able to stand up again, never mind walk anywhere.

I drink some water and begin to chew on a few snacks – with difficulty because I’m now feeling nauseated as well as faint.

Meanwhile, several groups of walkers trudge up the path and, when they see me sitting with my back to my rock, compliment me on having found a perfect picnic spot. If only they knew!

The rest, food and fluid seem to do the trick. The faintness recedes. But I force myself to sit still for 20 minutes, before I try to stand up. On my feet I still feel wobbly. But at least I can continue. Slowly. Stopping every few yards for a rest. Grateful to lean on my walking pole.

It’s such a relief to reach the top. The view ahead is wonderful.

towards Abereiddy, Ruth on Pembs Coast Path

From here the walking is much easier, although my pace is slow. And the landscape changes, becoming less rugged with the path often following the edge of fields.

farmland, Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Ruth Livingstone

When I was walking here in August, I was very disappointed by the lack of seals – which I put down to the intrusive presence of swarms of kayakers. So, I’m delighted to see several seals lying in a cove below. The pups are easy to spot – bright white against the grey stones – while the mothers are more cunningly disguised.

 seals everywhere, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

I’m feeling much better – although my pace is still very slow. Seeing the seals has cheered me up. But I’m unusually thirsty and stop for a drink, then realise my water bottle has been leaking.

Oh no! I’ve nearly finished my water, with miles left to go.

So I’m pleased when I come around a headland and see a small beach in the distance. That must be Abereiddi Bay.

approaching Abereiddy, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Unfortunately, my map shows no pubs or cafes in Abereiddy, which is a tiny place, but I know from there I will only have another 2 miles to walk before I reach the next village, Porthgain, where there definitely is a pub.

I check my map to make sure of the distances, and suddenly realise there are public toilets in Abereiddy, and I might be able to fill my bottle at a tap – if the toilet block is open, and if it’s drinking water, of course, and it may not be. (Now I remember I intended to buy some water purification tablets, but forgot.) Or perhaps I will see somebody who lives in one of the cottages and they will agree to fill my water bottle?

Onwards. Luckily the next stretch of path is straightforward, following the top of cliffs most of the way, except for one dip down into a small cove – called Aber-pwll, I think.

cove, Ruth walking Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, Wales

As I get closer to Abereiddy, I see something that makes my heart sing. A white van. Could it be an ice-cream van? Or a mobile refreshment van? Or – horrible thought – will it turn out to be just a holidaymaker’s camper van?

Abereiddy Bay, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast in Wales

I lose sight of the beach as the path winds through vegetation and then ends in a quiet road. But, just a few yards down the road is Abereiddy and – yes – it’s an ice-cream van! Thank goodness.

ice-cream van, Abereiddy Bay, Ruth's coast hike

I buy a can of coke and a bottle of water. They are both cool and taste delicious. I sit on the beach, drink the can and the bottle… and feel much, much better.

Abereiddy was once the site of a large slate quarry. When the quarry was abandoned, 100 years ago, a channel was blasted through a side wall, connecting the quarry pit to the sea. The water flooded in and the resulting pond is called the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast

The rocky cliffs around the lagoon are beautiful. Great jagged shapes, and full of colour. Golden reds, purple greys, and vivid splashes of green vegetation.

amazing rocks, Blue Lagoon, Ruth Livingstone

Leaving the Blue Lagoon behind, I continue along the coast path. Between here and Porthgain are three fingers of headland, enclosing three coves.

Traeth Llyfn is the first cove I come to. It’s a pretty beach, backed by high cliffs, and I’m surprised when I see people walking on the sand.

Traeth Llyfn, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

I wonder how they managed to get down there, until I see a metal staircase set into the cliff.

steep stairs in cliff, Ruth Livingstone

Beyond Traeth Llyfn are two much narrower inlets – Porth Egr and Porth Dwfn.  No people here, just more seals. I watch as a clumsy mother makes her way, slowly and apparently painfully, over the rocks to reach her white pup.

 more seals, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

Cliffs tower above the seals, and are plagued by some noisy black birds. Red beaks and red legs. They must be choughs!

Chough, Ruth hiking in Wales

I’m surprised the RSPB regards choughs as amber-list birds. I’ve seen a great many around the coast in Pembrokeshire.

This area used to be busy place when the slate quarries were active. Dotted around are reminders of lost industry – such as these ruined brick buildings, for example.

old buildings, Ruth hiking the Pembrokeshire coast

It is late afternoon and the sun is slanting across the fields.  I love this time of the day. The light is warm and clear, while patchy clouds cast slow-moving shadows, adding to the drama of the landscape. I stop and take far too many photographs.

Ahead it appears I can see all the way around Cardigan Bay. While in the near distance, two strange towers – one painted white and one of grey stone – mark the entrance to Porthgain.

nearing Porthgain, Ruth Livingstone hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

[Later I realise the large hump in the coastline ahead – visible in the photo above – is Dinas Head. This will be the highlight of my walk when I reach that part of the coast.]

Porthgain has a narrow inlet and its small harbour is protected from the onrush of waves by a harbour wall. Unfortunately the light is too low, and the cliffs too high, to take decent photographs of the harbour, but the village is lit up with sunlight. And, most importantly, I can see a pub…

 Ruth walking to Porthgain

My husband is waiting for me. I’m late. He is a bit annoyed because he’s been there for 40 minutes and has only just ordered a pint. Why did he wait so long without a drink? I don’t know.

I drink a slimline tonic instead of my usual cider (because I’m on a diet) and we sit outside and enjoy the last rays of the sun.

slimline tonic, Ruth in Porthgain

Low points: feeling weak and wobbly on the steep path
High points: the views, the seals and their pups.

Miles walked today: 11 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 460 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,067 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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21 Responses to 202 Whitesands Bay, St David’s Head to Porthgain

  1. patriz2012 says:

    It’s amazing isn’t it when you think of how much walking you do and you still need to go on a diet – I have the same problem and so did Charles Hawes (Welsh Coast Path walker). It’s all those cooked breakfasts!

    Thanks for the read, I can’t wait to get to the Pembroke Coast Path.


  2. Oh! Such super photos. So many memories from so many of your comments. This part of Wales has very special associations for me. I’m on day 16 of my Cross Britain Walk with much enjoyment, but hanging in there keeping up with my own blog, and Internet connections etc.

  3. Pam Ley says:

    Oh how I know what it feels like to feel faint on steep uphill slopes! It has happened to me so many times I had lots of investigations into it. Turned out my blood pressure drops low, and I’ve been told I must keep well hydrated. It has mostly, although not entirely, also happened during very hot weather. All the circumstances you had to a tee! I was also advised to wear support socks, not sure that’s easy for comfort with hiking gear. ……….And you a doctor too 😉

    • Hi Pam, I think you’re right and its probably a low blood pressure problem. Mine is always very low – which is supposed to be a sign of good health. But a hot day, a tiring walk, and probably a bit of dehydration were probably to blame. And I think I ran out of muscle fuel due to this damn diet!

  4. europabridge says:

    Yes, I noted the dizziness which sometimes happens when you change diets. I use protein bars as a kind of panacea for what ails me: loss of energy, exhaustion, and hunger, of course. CLIFF makes terrific bars – Builder’s Bar has 20 grams of protein, and they’re delicious. Their plain CLIFF bars have 10 grams of protein, and I eat one every morning for breakfast. You might carry a protein bar to keep yourself going … Low calories, high return, as it were … Take care. Elan

  5. Joyce & Dave Morgan says:

    Hi Ruth, as always, I loved reading your post…and great photos! Sorry to hear you weren’t feeling too great, always a bit of a concern when walking alone isn’t it. Our progress behind you is extremely slow…only just reached Dymchurch! (at this pace we’ll die of old age before we reach Wales!!). Looking forward to our next walk and to reading about yours.

    • Ahh, the endless sea wall at Dymchurch. I remember it well. You must have the weird and wonderful world of Dungeness in your sights now.
      I’ve given up worrying about progress. Just concentrate on enjoying each and every walk.

  6. That van at Abereiddy is a life-saver isn’t it? I wonder how many of its customers are overflowing with joy and relief to find that it’s there? (An absolute minimum of two.)

  7. Marie Keates says:

    Like you I always have low blood pressure and I’ve had similar experiences on walks, especially when it’s hot. It is quite frightening even when you know what it is. Went through a spell a few years back when it kept happening even when I wasn’t doing anything strenuous and my doctor took my blood pressure in the surgery and joked I was more or less officially dead as it was so low it didn’t register! 🙂 Still, I guess it’s better than the alternative and, having been a ‘fainter’ since my school days, I do at least know what to do about it.

  8. theresagreen says:

    Poor you, it must have been a bit scary feeling so bad and out alone. Glad you survived to make it to Porthgain and the pub, which has been the target of a few walks I’ve done with friends (ambles by your standards!) Porthgain, has a fascinating history too and a popular fish restaurant.

  9. Karen White says:

    Awful to feel so ill when alone and half way up a climb. I remember feeling similar when I climbed the South Downs from Kingley Vale and that is a third of the height you climbed. I am going to get some of those Cliff bars.

  10. Karen White says:

    Just realised the Cliff bars are an American website. I wonder did you find a supplier in the UK?

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