Encounter Walking


Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Wales - Overview

Walking Issues, Advice and Frequently Asked Questions

Things to consider when planning your walk on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

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Frequently Asked Questions

How experienced and fit do I need to be ? | How Long does the full route take ? | When is the best time to walk the route ? | Which direction should I walk the route?

Issues and Obstacles on the Coast Path

Army Ranges and Tidal Estuaries | Milford Haven & the Refineries | Accommodation and Facilities on the Trail 

Who can walk it?

Welsh coast path, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park walkers.
 
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

The answer is pretty much anyone at some level. The Pembrokeshire National Park have been instrumental in developing The Pembrokeshire Coast Path now for over 40 years, improving the route, its access and signage, removing difficult stiles and dealing with the ongoing coastal erosion issues. The result is a trail that is easy to follow, not technically difficult to walk and we would suggest is one of the best maintained long distance footpaths in the whole of the UK.

That's not to say the repetitive climbing and descending from cliff to cove is not demanding and it does require a reasonable level of fitness that will be familiar to all those who have walked on the South West Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall. Effort is required and experienced walkers will relish the challenges of The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, particularly in the remote northern sections. Walking the entire route on a fast schedule will push even regular distance walkers into an inspiring contest with the coast ! Yet if you are new to walking holidays and not confident of your ability, just talk to us about the best options for you. By building up from the gentler South Pembrokeshire sections, adding in rest days, or waking shorter than usual daily mileage, then the whole of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path becomes accessible to anyone who simply enjoys to walk, whatever your age or experience.

How long does it take to walk?

The full Pembrokeshire Coast Path Route is 186 miles and to walk the complete route you are going to need at least 12-14 days for standard fitness walkers or up to 18 days on a more relaxed schedule. In addition, building in one or two rest days to visit offshore islands, or soak up the atmosphere in places like St Davids is always a wise plan and we will advise on the best places to do this if you do want to break the walking.

Go to the "Options" tab above for a day by day breakdown of the full route and itinerary options and start your planning.

Do I have to walk all of this route?

No, for those of you unable to complete the route in full the path can be split into three sections: South, West and North. You just need to pick the right section for you!

With Encounter Walking, you can start or finish in pretty much any location you want, to suit your plans, ideas and aspirations. Talk it over with us and we can advise on the best way to use your time here.

View the summaries and walk descriptions from the South, West and North Sections to see options and highlights for each route. As a rule of thumb, the easier walking is in the South Pembrokeshire sections getting steadily harder, more exposed and more remote as you progress West and then North. We can also provide Short Break ideas for The Pembrokeshire Coast Path for those with only 2 or 3 days available for walking.

Wales coast path views, Stackpole Sea Stack on the Pembrokeshire coastal path.

Ultimately, try and do it all if you have the time – (OK, we would say that), but in truth there are only around 6 miles out of the 186 that we would not want to do again - which is a very high recommendation for the rest of it!

When's the best time to walk this route?

We can support a walk on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at any time of year but in practice the main season runs from April to October thereby avoiding the Winter Storms. Spring is one of the most popular times, with a profusion of wild flowers, migratory seabirds, chance encounters with basking sharks and lower visitor numbers. Those who want to make the most of the beaches, watersports and offshore island trips will want to stick to the high Summer Months of July and August but you need to book early as accommodation is under a lot of pressure in the more popular holiday areas.

Late Summer and into Autumn is perhaps the ideal time. The crowds have gone and with the high season over you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in Pembrokeshire's harbours and villages, whilst the end of the Summer weather remains. It’s a great season for butterflies and as you get further into Autumn those walking late have the unforgettable chance to watch seals with their pups beached up at the foot of the cliffs.

Winter is for the experienced and well equipped walker only but for the hardy it can be the most satisfying time to walk. You will get your choice of accommodation, the best prices and the trails to yourselves but you need to be flexible and experienced enough to deal with any storms or bad weather that may present itself and be able to be inspired and challenged by the difficult weather days rather than put off by them.

Which way should I go?

Pembrokeshire National Park walking, welsh coast path.
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

As ever with Encounter Walking, "its your walk", so the first point is that you can walk in whichever direction you prefer and we will arrange your luggage transfers and route notes to suit that direction of travel. However, more than any other walk we offer, there are three very good reasons to walk the South to North direction, if you have no compelling reasons not to.

Reason One - Scenery and Challenges

The toughest, wildest and most dramatic sections are the Northern Sections of The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path from St David's into Cardigan. Starting from the South in the Tenby area allows you to build up physically to these on the easier sections and saves the most dramatic highlights so you end in a triumphant crescendo ! Walking North to South however, with the best and hardest bits first, is not only less advisable physically by putting extra strain on your body, but psychologically there is always a slight downbeat feeling if you did the best stuff on the first day.

Reason Two - The Prevailing Winds

These tend to be South Westerly from the Atlantic and another valid reason we recommend walking from South to North. That way for the toughest and most exposed bits, the winds and any wet weather are much more likely to be on your back and not blasting you in your face!

Reason Three - Remoteness and Facilities

Accommodation, facilities and access points are far more plentiful in the Southern sections and this sets you up well, as you are getting started on your walking holiday and adjusting to the rigours of walking day after day.  If you start from the other end, you face the longest and hardest sections as your first days. Having no welcoming tea shop or pub for 15 miles is not the ideal way to throw yourself into the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Experience.

Obstacles and Issues to consider on your Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Holiday

The Army Ranges

Gann Cross in Wales. Fun walks in Wales, the Pembrokeshire coastal path.

The Southern section of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path presents the walkers with two Army Firing Range locations at Penally and Castlemartin, that restrict access to two parts of the Wales Coast Path route when firing is taking place. Well worked out official alternative routes are in place if you do have to detour inland and you can find full information on this on the web pages for Section Three of the South Pembrokeshire Coastal Path description.

We make sure that all walkers have the information, not only on how to find out when the ranges will be open but also on how to find your way around any firing safely and without it spoiling your walk if the range sections are closed.

The Tidal Estuary Crossings

The West Pembrokeshire Coast Path crosses two tidal estuaries at Sandy Haven and The Gann, shortly after the town of Milford Haven and whilst both have inland diversions available, careful planning is well worth it to try and avoid (OR failing that, allow for) the extra 6.5 miles required to walk around the inlets at high tide.

If you don’t plan ahead, the added distance will come as a nasty shock for those who have not been briefed properly. We make sure all walkers are equipped with the tidal information for the day they walk through this section, know at what points and times they can or cannot ford the tidal crossings AND have options for transfers around the estuaries if needed.

The Oil and Gas Refineries

Milford Haven, Wales. Welsh coast path holidays and short breaks.

At the end of the South section of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, between Angle and Milford Haven, the undesirable presence of several large oil and gas refineries provokes a lot of debate amongst Wales Coast Path walkers. If your aim is to experience the “real” Pembrokeshire with all its context, then you should walk it all and get a fuller grasp of the natural, industrial and historical contradictions of the region.

Whether we like it or not, Milford Haven is just as important to Wales and those that live here, as the cliffs at Skrinkle Haven and Stackpole Head. On the other hand, “its your walk….your way” and if on a practical level you are only here for 3 or 4 days walking, it makes no sense to spend half of them in the least beautiful sections. Rest assured that we will support those walkers that decide to miss this section out by arranging efficient and workable transfers around the Haven and the following information is given to help you make a more informed choice on whether or not to walk it.

Cleddau, Pembrokshire. Walks in Wales, the Welsh coastal path.Essentially, after the village of Angle, the official route of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path heads inland following the edge of the immense Milford Haven Estuary for two days, passing the huge refineries that arrived here in the 1960’s. On the positive side, included in this section, is the chance to visit historic Pembroke and its superb Castle, the most magnificent in this area of Wales. There are good views of the Milford Haven waterway throughout and a breathtaking high level crossing of the estuary at the mighty Cleddau Bridge.

As it passes, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path does its best to hide the walker from the worst of the refineries, by using old drove ways and woodlands that due to the lack of habitation in this area are surprising rich in wildlife. Finally, whilst clearly its not a view you want every day, it has to be pointed out that the refineries themselves are actually quite a sight, think "Wizard of Oz", the Emerald City and "Bladerunner", particularly at night when with their flame shooting chimneys are nothing short of dramatic.

Milford Haven Estuary, Wales coastal path. Walks in Wales.In our experience, it's usually those that have never walked this section that will automatically tell you to avoid it ! Those that have walked the route (and this includes our staff) will tend to report a worthwhile diversion from the coastline and a restful section of easier walking that in general was better than they expected.

Damon’s comments are that the tedious part of the two days is not the occasional brush with these alien looking refineries but the 3 miles of tarmac between Pembroke Dock and Neyland and his view is that if you can’t abide the thought of the latter – then consider missing it out!

Read the route description and highlights for the two days of walking by clicking here and feel free to contact us if you want an opinion from people who have actually completed this section. If after that, you want to avoid it, then talk to us about the options, consider finishing your walk at Pembroke where there are good public transport options, OR have us transfer you round the whole section to Milford Haven.

Accommodation and Facilities on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

St Govan's Country Inn in Wales. Refreshments when walking the Pembrokshire coast in wales.Remote sections and exposed headlands does mean that walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path tends towards the more flexible and adaptable long distance walker.  In the Northern sections, there is often little or no accommodation or facilities for many miles. Be prepared for longer than normal walking days, OR having us arrange transfers to and from the trail to get round this. The good news is that you can also make use of the specific Walkers Bus Services in your itineraries if you need to break up a day. The Coastal Cruiser, Puffin Shuttle, Poppit Rocket and Celtic Coaster buses are excellent services set up to support both walkers and locals across The Pembrokeshire National Park with walker friendly timetables allowing after breakfast drop offs and end of day pick ups . Currently a unique low environmental impact initiative that we think should be adopted on many of the other popular UK long distance trails and walking regions.

Accommodation choice, where it exists, depends very much on where you are walking but there is a run of positive, walker friendly options linking along all 186 miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. In remote locations however, there may be only a single Inn or B&B with no other choice. The more populated or visited areas such as Tenby will offer a lot more options and luxury choices for walkers looking for this.

For the rest of us, when walking in Wales, you just need be more flexible about what may or may not be available. Rest assured that with Encounter Walking, we show you the accommodation options and websites before you book and by doing so make sure there are no nasty surprises; and indeed plenty of good ones,  at the various stages along the trail.

Those who feel accommodation is more important to them than walking will be happier on the South West Coast Path where there is a more even geographical spread of places to stay, a more developed tourist infrastructure and a wider choice of options in most locations.

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