204 Pwll Deri to Fishguard

Today is a vibrant day, full of light and staggering scenery. And seals.

I start where I left off last night, on the road leading to the Pwll Deri Youth Hostel. My husband drops me off, but my mother-in-law stops to admire the view. Towering above the sea is the impressive ridge, along which I walked yesterday.

01 view from Pwll Deri, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast with Ella Fields (senior)

[The stone pillar in the foreground is a memorial to Dewi Emrys – an interesting character who was at various times in his life a journalist, a preacher, a rogue, a beggar, and a poet.]

Soon I reach the Youth Hostel – perched with fantastic views across Pwll Deri bay. Here the path leaves the road and begins to wind through vegetation on the slope above the rocky cliffs.

Every little cove seems to be home to groups of seals. The pups are easy to spot – white against the grey shadows in the coves below, while their mothers are more cunningly disguised as large rocks!

02 seals and pups, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

And echoing around each secluded cove are wailing noises. Spooky sounds. It takes me some time to work out that the wailing is coming from the seals.

In the distance is the lighthouse that sits off Strumble Head. It seems very close. Won’t take me long to get there…

03 Strumble Head, Ruth hiking in Wales

… but it takes ages, of course, as the path twists and turns, carving an irregular course along the indented coastline. I climb to a high point above Pen Brush, thinking I must be nearly there. I’m not.

I stop and take a self-portrait in front of a pile of rocks.

04 self-portrait Ruth walking to Strumble Head, Wales

Strumble Head is still in the distance. But I am no longer alone on the path. The lovely day has brought out groups of walkers.

05 hikers, Strumble Head, Ruth walking in Pembrokeshire

Every turn in the path brings another wonderful view – and Strumble Head slowly grows nearer.

06 strumble head, Ruth walking in Wales

In the car park above the lighthouse I come across a row of vintage cars. It must be some sort of pre-arranged outing. The vehicles are gleaming and well maintained, while the sea provides a stunning backdrop.

07 vintage cars, Stumble Head, Ruth hiking through Wales

Just below the lighthouse is a little cove, and on the cliffs above some people are sitting and peering down through binoculars. I hear a familiar wailing noise – like a dog’s howl, but with the end truncated, as if a group of children were playing at being ghosts. It’s a sound I’ve come to associate with seal pups.

I climb down the grassy bank to get a better view. Yes, floundering about in the rocky cove is a white seal pup, along with its speckled mother.

08 seal pup, below Strumble Head, Ruth's coastal walk in Wales

But I can’t spend all day watching seals. I have walking to do!

I visit a squat white building with wide, glassless windows. It turns out to be a restored observation post, where a couple are peering out to sea, hoping to spot dolphins, but there are no signs of any today.

The coastline stretches ahead. I am walking into the morning sun, heading eastwards, which makes for poor photography. The shore looks rugged and deserted and I can see for miles ahead. So I’m surprised there is no sign of Fishguard. It must be hidden around one of those headlands.

09 looking ahead to Fishguard, Ruth hiking the coast, Wales

Strollers are out, with cameras and binoculars. Nearly every sheltered cove has a quota of seals.

10 seal watchers, Pembrokeshire Coast, Ruth Livingstone

And there is that wailing noise again. I follow the path down into the base of a cove, and see a white blob sitting on the beach. It’s a seal pup, only 50 feet or so away from the path. I sit down and watch it.

11 seal pup on beach, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

The pup flounders about, turning over and over, flinging itself about among the tumbled stones and the strands of seaweed. It looks helpless and clumsy, its movements purposeless. Meanwhile, just off the beach, a seal head is bobbing up and down in the waves. Mum is keeping an eye on her baby.

seal mum keeping an eye, Ruth Livingstone

Eventually I stand up and set off again, stopping every few minutes to admire yet another wonderful vista.

12 scenery, Pembrokeshire Coast

On a high headland, called Carregwastad Point, I come across another stone monument. This one commemorates “the landing of the French” in 1797. The French? Here? Why?

13 marking the last invasion of Britain, Ruth Livingstone, Pembrokeshire

[Later I learn more about the ill-fated invasion attempt by the French, who landed in the bay below and intended to march overland and capture the port of Fishguard. But, of the 1400 men who landed, over half were conscripted convicts and prisoners. They soon discovered a large batch of wine, which had been salvaged from a wrecked Portuguese ship a few weeks earlier. Drunk and ill-disciplined, the invading force were outwitted by bands of local defenders. Believing they were being opposed by a much larger force, the French soon surrendered unconditionally. The invasion lasted only two days.]

The next few miles of coastline are not only beautiful, but covered in seals. Unwittingly, I have arrived at one of the best times of the year for seal-pup spotting.

14 seals everywhere, Ruth walking the coast, Pembrokeshire

But I’m not the only seal spotter. This section of the coast path is dotted with walkers with binoculars, all looking at the seals. A local couple begin to chat to me. They explain how the mother seals come ashore towards the end of August and give birth. They spend about 2 weeks on the beach feeding their pups. Then they return to the sea to hunt for food, returning regularly to the beach to nurse their pups.

During this time (early September) the mothers begin to call to their pups to encourage them to take to the water. The spooky wailing noises – which I took to be the pups calling for their mothers – is actually the sound of the adult seals trying to entice the pups into the water.

As well as the joy of looking at seals, this walk is memorable for the views. The air seems unusually clear, and I seem able to see right across Cardigan Bay. In the distance, curving around the rim of the horizon, are mountains. Is that really Snowdon? I think it might be.

15 Cardigan Bay, Ruth's coastal walk in Wales

Ahead the cliffs begin to drop down towards Fishguard Bay. Across the water is the high ground of Dinas Head, where I will walk tomorrow. It looks beautiful. But first, I need to get to the town of Fishguard, where my walk will end today.

16 towards Fishguard, Ruth hiking in Wales

I come across a group of white and grey ponies. They are ‘wild’ I think, brought in to keep the gorse and other vegetation under control. I walk gingerly past them. They close their eyes.

17 Fishguard Harbour Wall, Ruth in Wales

It’s strange how horses are very different to cattle in temperament. Most of the wild horses I meet simply pretend I don’t exist – often closing their eyes, like this crowd. Cattle, meanwhile, seem intensely interested in me for some reason, often charging across the field to investigate my progress.

Onwards. My path has turned in a southerly direction. The light is low and flitting clouds create shadows across the distant headlands. Below a harbour wall stretches into the bay.

18 Dinas Head, Ruth walking in Wales

I reach the outskirts of Goodwick, where I join a road, before the path plunges down the side of the hill towards the shore.

19 path down into Goodwick, Ruth's coastal walk, Wales

And I come across a rather forbidding bridge, lined with wire fencing.

20 covered bridge, Ruth walking into Fishguard

I cross over a wide highway and realise I’ve just crossed over the approach road to the ferry port. I’ve noticed the ferries coming and going during the course of today’s walk, and am rather disappointed not to find one in the harbour.

21 ferry port at Fishguard, Ruth's coastal walk

I follow the road around the side of the bay, leaving Goodwick behind and approaching Fishguard. The view across the bay is beautiful, even with the tide out and a large expanse of muddy sand.

22 Fishguard Bay, Ruth's coastal walk in Wales

There is a series of breakwaters and then the path becomes a tarmac walkway, leading up to Fishguard.

23 Fishguard, Ruth's coastal walk, Pembrokeshire

This is the Marine Walk. A popular spot. And very attractive.

24 Marine Walk, Fishguard, Ruth hiking in Pembrokeshire

In fact, the walk winds right around the bay, just below the outskirts of Fishguard, so I don’t walk through the town at all.

I reach Saddle Point, and the path continues round. On the far side of Fishguard is a pretty little harbour, with typical pastel-coloured houses that are traditional in Pembrokeshire. This is Lower Town. The last rays of sunlight are just catching the ships in the harbour.

 Lower Town, Fishguard, Ruth Livingstone

And at this point – reluctantly – I leave the coastal path and turn inland, heading towards my B&B. It’s time to end today’s walk.


Miles walked today: 12 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 484 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,091 miles

Route:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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12 Responses to 204 Pwll Deri to Fishguard

  1. Alan Palin says:

    Hi Ruth, you are certainly progressing well. I doubt very much you can see Snowden from Fishguard. I suspect, you could be looking at the Tarrens, Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs or perhaps even the higher peaks on the Lleyn.

    I too am progressing well and have round Holyhead to be at Trearddur Bay. ” or 3 days more will see me back on the mainland.

    • Hi Alan. There is so much more of Wales to look forward to. Just spent another week walking in this glorious sunshine and I am now 10 miles short of Aberystwith. Hope to do some more walking in October.

  2. theresagreen says:

    Mmm, reminds me of sitting on a seat in Fishguard harbour eating fish and chips after a walk along the Path, not quite a such a long one as yours though!

  3. Rita Bower says:

    Looks like a wonderful stretch of coastline. And what an added bonus to see all the seals & pups! Fantastic weather too… Hope you have some more good walking in October….

  4. I’m still visiting my brother in Hereford so have no access to my journal but I’m following you all the way. That part of Pembrokeshire is very special to me. Also I started and finished my Welsh boundary walk at Fishguard. All very nostalgic. Thanks.

  5. Jean Petrie says:

    HI Ruth,
    I am enjoying your walk vicariously (no blisters! cup of tea in my hand! Never have to wait for a bus!)

    I had never heard of the Invasion of Fishguard, so thanks for that. I started wondering if a film had ever been made of the subject, as it seemed to be a good subject. Well, I found that there was one made in 1905, by William Haggar who had a travelling theatre with his large family, and started making films around the turn of the century.
    I googled “film of french invasion of fishguard” and found a link to a book about him by Peter Yorke:

    ” A film of local interest made in this year [1905]…was The Landing of the French, concerning the French invasion of Wales, at Fishguard in 1797. The film was made at Llangwm in Pembrokeshire. It used the local fisherwomen, who, led by William’s daughters, had to pull red flannel petticoats over their heads to appear like redcoats, and march round and round in front of the camera, just as the 400 women of Fishguard had done in fact (dressed in their red Welsh wool, they had marched round and round a hill, to give the appearance of overwhelming force, so terrifying the French that they surrendered to the local militia). The film-making was remembered as a disaster: the weather was bad, the actors and actresses recalcitrant, and the extras were problematical.”

    Wish someone would make a modern film about it, has great dramatic and comic possibilities, I think.
    Keep up the lovely writing and gorgeous photographs. One day I hope to be fit enough to get out on the coastal path again here in Cornwall.
    Regards,
    Jean

    • Hi Jean, and glad you are enjoying the walk! Nice to have some virtual company 🙂
      The Invasion of Fishguard is an amazing story and I agree it would make a wonderful comedy. An 18th century Dad’s Army. Plus a Mum’s army too, from the sound of it.
      Wishing you good health, Ruth

  6. Marie Keates says:

    What a great time to be walking along the coast there with all the seals and pups. I remember the seals in Cornwall when we visited and the seal sanctuary at Gweek. Sadly, it’s a rare thing for us to have a seal here, although we occasionally do, but they’re probably lost. Great weather too.

    • It was purely by chance that I got the timing right! Apparently you can only see seal pups on the shore for a 4-6 week period, and then they’re off into the sea. No, I don’t suppose there are many around Southampton, although I do remember seeing a dolphin, years ago, frolicking off Hurst Castle.

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