This 5 miles circular walk starts at the National Trust site at Stackpole Quay. Car parking is available at a cost of £5 or free to Trust members. The first 2 miles of this walk are on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Along the way are a couple of the finest beaches on the Pembrokeshire coastline, Barafundle and Broad Haven South. The walk then continues on a nature trail around the wonderful Bosherston Lily Ponds and Stackpole Estate.
The Boathouse Tearoom at Stackpole Quay is a great start and finish point, so there’s the opportunity to be suitably refreshed with the essential snacks and drinks, before or after a walk.
From Stackpole Quay we followed the path westwards, uphill via a set of steps, emerging into open fields. Keep to the left of the path across the fields and near the headland there’s a fantastic view of Barafundle Bay from the clifftop.
And what a view, looking across the truly beautiful bay. A sheltered, dune backed sandy beach flanked by dense green woodland slopes on the far side, with clear seawaters and waves gently rolling in along the shore.
Barafundle Bay has received acclaim as one of the most idyllic beaches in the world. It’s worth pausing near the stone archway at the viewpoint ledge to appreciate the ‘picture postcard’ scenery. Barafundle Bay certainly ticks all the boxes for a perfect beach setting, being secluded, peaceful and scenic.
Although as a result of recent worldwide publicity highlighting its beautiful setting, it has become a very popular ‘must see’ location for visitors to the area.
Because it’s only accessible via the coast path, you sometimes see family groups with at least one less than enthusiastic member opting not to go down the steps to the beach. On a recent visit an amusing scene played out nearby. Some older ramblers with their young grandson, who appeared from his exhausted demeanour had walked some distance. At least, I’d hope they hadn’t just walked up from Stackpole Quay. The young lad was sat on a rock looking desperate, crying and pleading with his grandparents “I can’t walk anymore, we’ve gone too far, my legs are killing me!”. His grandparents looked on bemused at the lads performance, as they seemed fit and ready to walk a few more miles! We had a laugh as we imagined him getting ever more theatrical and pleading with them to go on without him!
To reach the beach go through the stone archway, then down the long flight of stone steps and onto the pristine sands. At the back of the beach are the sandy dunes of Stackpole Warren and on the western side of the beach are rocks covered by algae and seaweed, giving them an unusual “mop top” creature-like appearance.
Walk across to the far side of the beach across the rocky area and join the path which meanders uphill through a lovely shaded woodland and climbs towards the cliff top.
The coast path heads across open ground towards Stackpole Head. Looking back from the cliff top there are fine views of Barafundle and the rocks feature known as ‘Lattice Windows’.
Stackpole Head provides an exhilarating walk. On overcast days it can be wild and windswept along the grassy cliff tops, with the sound of the sea crashing onto the rugged exposed cliff-faces below. Take care walking here and keep to a safe distance to enjoy the scenery. We previously walked this section with family visitors from Australia, to give them a sampler of clifftop coastal walking on their visit to West Wales and they were certainly wowed by the scenery here.
The clifftop walk offers impressive views along the coastline of secluded coves, dramatic cliff caverns and rock faces.
Broad Haven South
Further along the grassy cliff top are fine views of the magnificent ‘Church Rock’ which sits offshore from Broad Haven South. The name derives from the distinctive profile which resembles that of a church and steeple. The place name of Stackpole also derives from this rock feature, as in medieval times the rock was called the stack with the sea being the pool, so Stack pool eventually became Stackpole!
The headland at Saddle Point offers a superb viewpoint looking down across the golden sands of the magnificent Broad Haven South beach.
Walk down the grassy slope which leads to Broad Haven South. A pebble strewn stream runs down this side of the beach, so cross a footbridge to walk out across the beautiful sands.
At the back of the beach on the west side are steps leading to a car park with a washroom facility, as the coast path continues westwards to St. Govan’s Head. Turn back towards the north east side and cross the footbridge over the stream, which leads to the nature trails around the Stackpole Estate.
Stackpole Estate is a beautiful area of woodland, lakes and country park which was landscaped during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Originally a creek with natural springs in nearby valleys, a visitor noted a particularly high spring tide formed a series of picturesque lakes. This inspired the idea of damming the creek to create inland lakes. These are filled with water lilies in early summer and became known as The Lily Ponds.
The trail follows around the banks of the ponds, which are flanked by hillsides densely covered with lush green woodland on all sides. It’s such a tranquil and peaceful environment, with a wonderful variety of birdsong heard along the way.
It’s possible to walk the trails on both sides of the banks, with footbridges linking the series of ponds.
The Eight Arch Bridge was constructed in the 1790’s and provides a wonderful scenic link with the countryside path which takes you back towards Stackpole Quay.
From the bridge, when reaching the brow of the hill a path to the right leads through a gated woodland paddock area, then out into an open field.
To the right is an ancient ‘Devil’s Quoit’ Standing Stone. Such stones always inspire curiosity and its amazing to think this monument has stood here for some 3000 years. Archaeologists believe this marks a ceremonial meeting place of the ancient Celts. Do standing stones hold any mystical powers? Some believe so, and we lay our palms on it before heading on our way.