This 5 mile circular walk starts at Stackpole Quay, covers 2 miles of coast path including 2 of the best beaches (Barafundle and Broad Haven South) on the Pembrokeshire coastline, then links with a nature reserve trail around the wonderful Bosherston lily ponds and Stackpole estate.
Barafundle Bay is one of our favourite places in Pembrokeshire and we have walked here many times, including bringing family to visit here too. The bay is only accessible by walking the coast path which provides exceptional views of the unspoilt coastal scenery. A bonus is The Boathouse Tearoom at Stackpole Quay is a great start and finish point here, so there’s the opportunity to be suitably refreshed with the essential snacks and drinks, before and after walking this area.
Setting off from Stackpole Quay, we follow the path westwards then uphill via a set of steps before emerging onto open fields. Walking across the undulating fields there are fine views of the coastline and by keeping to the left side of the official path track gives the opportunity of a first sighting of Barafundle Bay from a clifftop vantage point.
And what a sight it is of a truly beautiful bay. A sheltered, dune backed sandy beach flanked by dense green woodland slopes on the far side and with crystal clear seawater with waves gently rolling in at the shoreline.
Barafundle Bay has received acclaim as one of the most idyllic beaches in the world, and it is worth pausing near the stone archway to appreciate the birdseye view of the picture perfect scenery from the ledge near the National Trust Plaque. Barafundle certainly ticks all the boxes for a perfect national park beach, being secluded, peaceful, scenic. As a result of recent worldwide publicity praising the beach it has become much more popular and there are now concerns over visitor numbers Telegraph – National Trust urges holiday makers to Stay away
When we were here this autumn we witnessed an amusing scene with a family group near this point. Some elderly ramblers had their young grandson with them and it appeared they had walked some distance already that morning. At least given the scene I’m about to describe I’d hope they hadn’t just walked up from the Quay. The young lad was sat on a rock looking desperate, crying and pleading with them “I can’t walk anymore, we’ve gone too far, my legs are killing me” whilst his grandparents looked on bemused, obviously fit and ready to carry on a few more miles! They didn’t look like SAS types so hopefully they eased up for the poor lad, but that scene gave us a laugh as we imagined him getting ever more theatrical and pleading with them to go on without him!
From the viewpoint, go through the archway and head down a long flight of stone steps and onto the fine sandy beach. To the back of the beach are the high dunes of Stackpole Warren, and with cliffs on each side giving a sheltered aspect it’s easy to appreciate why this is a favourite place for so many.
At the far western side of the beach is a rocky area where algae and seaweed give the rocks here an unusual “mop top” creature-like appearance, shaggy rocks!
Leaving the beach on the western side, join the path as it winds uphill through a lovely shaded woodland and climb towards the cliff top.
The coast path heads across open ground towards Stackpole Head and there are fine views back towards Barafundle, the rock feature Lattice Windows, and in the distance the coastline of the previous walk.
At Stackpole Head the open aspect means the experience here is of real wild and windswept coast walking along grassy rugged cliff tops with steep drops to the sea and bracing westerly winds sweeping in. We have walked this section previously including last year with family visitors from Australia. We chose this section of coast as a perfect sampler of clifftop coastal walking on their visit to Wales and remember Joanna commenting when on this section “wow, this is like a scene from Poldark!”.
There are impressive views from here of the landmark feature “Church Rock” and Broad Haven South in the distance and walking further, of secluded coves, dramatic cliff caverns and rock faces.
The path continues as a grassy track across gentle undulating fields and there are closer views of Church Rock, and it becomes easy to see why it is named as such, as it resembles a church and steeple. The name Stackpole actually derives from this rock feature, as in medieval times the rock was called a stack and the water / pool, so Stack pool became Stackpole.
The headland here is named Saddle Point and offers a commanding view of the coastline of the magnificent Broad Haven South as the grass track heads down towards the beach.
Broad Haven South is a superb beach with a wide expanse of golden sands, very popular during the summer but much quieter in autumn.
At the back of the beach on the west side are steps up to a car park area and from here the coast path continues westwards across cliff top fields to the impressive steep cliffs of St. Govan’s Head. At the north eastern point of the beach there’s a small boardwalk footbridge over a freshwater stream which flows from the lily ponds down the side of the beach. This is the route we take and so leave the coast path at this point and continue on the Stackpole Estate trail, an easy going walk as the path tracks inland and around the estate nature reserve and the famous picturesque lily ponds.
Stackpole Estate is a beautiful area of woodland, lakes and country park which was landscape designed throughout the 18th and 19th Century. The area was originally an inlet creek with natural springs in the valleys. In the early 1800’s a visitor to the estate noted a particularly high spring tide formed a series of picturesque lakes. This inspired the idea of a permanent water feature and the inlet creek was dammed with a causeway and so forming the series of inland lakes which after time became so filled with water lilies came to be known as the lily ponds.
One of the scenic woodlands on the northern edge of the estate is named Caroline Grove, and whenever we visit here and see the National Trust name plate I remind Caroline that we are now at her place!
The trail follows the edge of the ponds, which are flanked by hillsides densely covered with lush green woodland on all sides.
It’s possible to walk both sides by crossing a series of footbridges which link the different series of ponds.
The landmark Eight Arch Bridge was constructed in the 1790’s and provides a wonderful scenic link with the countryside path towards Stackpole Quay. When we reached the picturesque bridge we crossed to the eastern side and followed the track straight ahead and through to open fields.
At the brow of the hill is a path to the right which we accessed by first climbing over an electric cattle fence with fortunately no shocking mishap on this manoeuvre. We went through some woodland and a paddock area and out into an open field where there’s an ancient Devils Quoit Standing Stone. It’s incredible to think of this monument standing here for some 3000 years. Archaeologists believe this was an ancient ceremonial place. Do standing stones have mystical powers? Who knows, but we lay our hands on it before heading on our way.
We then walked across an area of tufted grass and the sandy dunes of Stackpole Warren returning to Stackpole Quay completing the walk with a welcome break at The Boathouse Tea Rooms.