Fishguard is set on the slope of a hill overlooking the town’s wide harbour. The streets are lined by a weird mix of pretty houses in bright colours, trendy art shops, boarded-up hotels and run down pubs.
I have a feeling it could be a great place to invest – as it might suddenly bloom into a vibrant seaside centre. But at the moment my B&B host is correct when he says the town seems rather dead.
Heading along the marine walk, I make my way down the hill into an area called Lower Town. This is a pretty appendage to Fishguard, with pastel-coloured houses lining a small marina.
Beyond Lower Town the Pembrokeshire Coast Path follows the A487 for a short distance, climbing steadily, before leaving the road and running downwards again towards Castle Point.
On the promontory of Castle Point lies the remains of an eighteenth century fort, built in response to an incident when a privateer – The Black Prince – tried to hold the town to ransom, by sailing into Fishguard Bay and bombarding the town from his pirate ship. The fort is now a mass of ruins, but the cannons remain.
My lunch time destination is Dinas Island, where there is a small pub which apparently serves excellent food. I plan to stop there for lunch, which will make a nice change as the past few days I’ve experienced very isolated sections of coast with no pubs and no chance of a proper lunch.
I can see Dinas Head clearly. It’s the large promontory ahead. It doesn’t seem far. Good! I anticipate an early and relaxing lunch.
The path winds in-and-out and up-and-down. I stop to talk to the owner of a rumbustious spaniel and, when I look back, am surprised to see how little progress I’ve made. Just across the harbour are Fishguard and Goodwick – looking pretty in the sunshine – but still seeming only a stone’s throw away.
A couple of miles further along the coast and I come to a holiday park with mobile caravans and some rather nice wooden chalets. A friendly sign on the gate says that walkers are welcome at the café on the site. Coffee and cake? It’s a tempting offer – but so far today’s walk is taking me longer than anticipated, and I don’t want to miss my chance of lunch at a pub.
At this point I meet a number of other walkers. They are in full waterproof gear and they all look hot and bothered. I, on the other hand, have trusted entirely in the BBC’s local weather forecast, and am wearing lightweight walking trousers and a thin fleece.
Just as I am leaving the caravan park, a harried solo-male walker comes charging along the path. He wants to catch a bus back to Anglesey today and is in a hurry. I tell him it has taken me two hours to get here from Fishguard, and he looks amazed by my slow progress.
Clouds come and go. The path winds in and out. Ahead I can see rocky spurs of coastline, and the hollow area of land in front of Dinas Head. My pub is there, somewhere. So near, and still so surprisingly far away…
… I should have learnt my lesson by now. Never underestimate distances on the coastal path. The route is never straight forward.
Some time later I come across a track, which takes me down to a little cove
This is Aber Bach. It has a pebbly beach and a small stream. A number of other walkers are taking a break here, including a couple of men with large rucksacks who look serious, and a family group of strollers.
I stop on the beach for a quick snack. When I start off again, I find I’m heading towards the path at the same time as a group of strollers. They suggest I go first, because ‘we’re sure you’ll be walking faster than us’. Really? Oh dear. No pressure.
The path is steep. I puff and pant my way upwards, aware of people behind me. (I’m not a particularly competitive walker, but I do hate the idea of being overtaken by a group of unfit and casual strollers. How embarrassing that would be!) And so I make surprisingly rapid progress.
The views are tremendous. The clouds break and create fleeting moments of sunlight. Beautiful.
And, suddenly, I’m looking over a stretch of water towards Dinas Head. I’m there at last.
It’s a steep path down to the pub at Pwllgwaelod, which looks very inviting in the sunshine.
Unfortunately, my pub-stop turns out to be incredibly stressful. I order a bowl of Welsh cawl at the bar, pay for it, and take a seat in the sunshine. And then I wait. And wait.
The strollers who were following me arrive, and their food is served within a matter of a few minutes. I go back to the bar – but now there is a long queue. What if the waitress comes out while I’m inside and takes my soup back into the kitchen? I return to my table, and wait. And wait. And then go inside again. Still a queue. Outside and more waiting.
40 minutes has passed. I go back to the bar, push my way to the front of the queue, and ask about my cawl. ‘Haven’t you got it yet?’ There is a flurry of activity. I go back outside and wait. The sun goes in. It’s chilly.
By now I’m feeling stressed. It’s gone 2pm. My husband is picking me up from Newport at 6pm. I’ve still got a way to go and I really can’t hang about much longer. Should I go inside again and ask for my money back?
I’ll give them 10 more minutes. I wait. After 10 minutes I decide another 5 minutes and then I’ll definitely go and ask for my money back. 3 minutes later and the soup arrives.
It is delicious. But I’ve had to wait an hour.
After lunch, I head up the steep path that leads up to Dinas Head. Perhaps the enforced rest at lunch time has done me good, because I feel turbo-charged. Despite the steepness, I only have to stop a couple of times for a rest – and to enjoy the view back down to the little cove at Pwllgwaelod.
When you set out to climb a hill, you soon discover the summit you are about to conquer is not actually the real summit – which is always a bit further ahead than you anticipated. But it is a glorious walk in the glowing light of a September afternoon, and all my frustrations with lunch are soon forgotten.
I reach the summit eventually. What a panoramic view! Wonderful.
And, setting my camera on the trig point, I manage to capture a self-portrait. The bay behind me is Newport Bay. I’ve left Fishguard Bay behind and I’m about to start the final part of today’s walk.
The path slopes downwards and bifurcates, with a branch going off down the side of the slope. I take the lower route – visible in the photo below – following my rule of sticking as close to the coast as I can. It was a wise choice, as the path is narrow, hugging the side of the cliff, and creating an adventurous alternative to the higher, and safer, route.
At the base of Dinas Head, now on the eastern side of Dinas ‘Island’, I reach the village of Cwm-yr-Eglwys. It’s larger than tiny Pwllgwaelod, but doesn’t have a pub. It does, however, have the picturesque ruin of an ancient 12th Century church, which was destroyed in floods in 1859, leaving only part of the west wall standing.
After a short walk along the road, the coastal path leads off along a short woodland walk, and then across fields, until I’m once again walking along the shoreline.
This is a beautiful part of the day. The sun is low behind me, casting a wonderful warm light across the rocky cliffs around Newport Bay. The route winds around numerous small bays and coves, most of which are unnamed on my map. And the names that do exist are tongue-twisting and foreign: Ynys Dol-rhedyn, Aber Ysgol, Penrhyn y Fforest.
And then, with the afternoon sunlight glowing across the fields, I come over a headland and see Newport in the near-distance.
This side of Newport is called Parrog. The tide is out, leaving an expanse of sand dotted with the bright shapes of small boats.
The beach is multipurpose, serving as a small harbour, an access road to Parrog, a car park, a dog walking, and a horse exercising area. As I approach, there is a fracas going on involving two unruly dogs who are trying to terrorise a remarkably patient horse.
The dogs are eventually captured and the horse continues on its way.
I arrive in Parrog with 10 minutes to spare – having made good time despite my delayed lunch. And my husband has also arrived with 10 minutes to spare. It’s good to see him.
Miles walked today: 12 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 496 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,103 miles