Walk 18 in this series takes us to the westernmost point in South Pembrokeshire. It was our second walk in September as this time we headed westwards on the coast path around the Marloes Peninsula.
Our start point was at Dale Beach Car Park, near the Boathouse Cafe. But it was only the pay and display machine being fed as we parted with a handful of silver for a ticket. A couple of fellow walkers were at the machine, scrabbling to make up the required amount for parking, so we happily offered our loose change so they could get a ticket. They were grateful and they were off to walk around the Dale Peninsula.
So a little lighter in pocket we set off from the car park, along a lane passing Dale Castle then across a field to join the coast path above West Dale beach. This is the point we had reached on Walk 17.
It was an overcast day, the hue of the sea matched the cloudy grey sky but at least it was dry and cool. Heading uphill we looked back across to Great Castle Head, site of an Iron Age promontory fort on the imposing headland opposite and the steps on the hillside we had descended on our previous walk.
From this vantage point the overcast skies brought out the darker colours of the surrounding countryside, giving the appearance of a lush emerald green carpet hugging the rugged coastline.
Continuing towards Hooper’s Point, on our right is a plateau of land with the remains of concrete runway pads of an old World War 2 airfield, while to our left the sea swells around pointed rocks and the cliffs slope down to masses of red boulders, crumbled at the base.
After rounding Hooper’s Point there’s a magnificent view across Marloes Beach to Gateholm Island at the far side. The entire coastline of Marloes beach, Gateholm and most of the countryside on the peninsula is owned by the National Trust, who describe this coastline as a “hidden gem nestled on the very western edge of Pembrokeshire”.
It really is an idyllic stretch of coast and easy walking along the clifftop path. If you should need a break here, the coast path links with access to Trust facilities at Marloes Mere and a highly rated cafe at Runwayskiln. There are quite a few walkers and families, many with their four legged friends, out on the path indicating this maybe a remote but still popular location.
The path follows around the clifftops with fantastic views across the wide sands and countryside of natural restored heathland (see link for video on project) on the landward side. Eventually the path descends into a valley where there’s access to the beach, for those who don’t mind some rock-hopping across a wide band of boulders. This part of the beach has huge dark jagged outcrops, known as the ‘Raggle Rocks’.
The path climbs steeply to the plateau above the western side of the bay, with magnificent views back across the grand sweep of Marloes Sands, cliffs and outcrops of the Raggle Rocks. It looks a great setting for a stroll on the beach and we’ll definitely return in future to explore more.
Further along and directly ahead is Gateholm, a tidal island and site of an Iron Age settlement. Channel 4’s Time Team paid a visit in 2012, there’s a link to watch this interesting episode here.
On the western side of Gateholm is Albion Sands, a small bay with a sand beach and more jagged rocks, only accessible at low tide. The beach takes its name from a paddle steamer ‘Albion’ which was wrecked on the rocks here in 1837 whilst sailing from Dublin to Bristol. At low tide some metal parts of the wreck can be seen. Apparently the Albion was carrying a large amount of whiskey and porter beer, which were salvaged with other goods and sold off from the beach. Whiskey galore, the locals were likely to have been very merry well into 1838.
Continuing along this section, there’s some dramatic cliff scenery and extremely weathered rock formations along the coastline. The rocks here looked particularly grim and treacherous on such a grey day.
As we head towards the most westward point of the peninsula, the offshore islands of Skomer and Middleholm come into view as we pass the darkly named ‘Deadman’s Bay’ which perhaps points to the dangerous nature of this rocky coastline to mariners.
The coast path reaches the National Trust site ‘Deer Park’ at Wooltack Point, although this area isn’t part of the ‘official’ coast path. The park has never had any deer, but in the 19th century the landowners constructed a stone boundary wall alongside the lane with the intention of enclosing a deer park. There’s an entrance at the wall into the park and we followed the tracks around to Wooltack Point with wonderful views of the coastal islands to the west and St. Brides Bay to the north.
The detour around the Deer Park was both worthwhile and memorable as when walking the tracks around the clifftops, from the sheltered coves below the unmistakable sound of grey seal pups could be heard. The pups distinctive, eerie wailing calls were amplified by the high cliffs and there was an occasional sighting of a parent seal in the waters nearby.
An experience that brought to mind the quote by John Muir “in every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks”.
From here we passed by the small bay of Martin’s Haven, which has washroom facilities , a visitor information hut and a slipway from where day trippers can take a boat trip to Skomer Island.
Skomer is a wildlife nature reserve famed for its puffins and seabirds, particularly for Manx Shearwater, the island having the largest colony in the world. Throughout September in the evenings, Manx fledglings leave their burrows on the island to fly 7000 miles south to overwinter on the coast of Argentina, their migration one of nature’s great wonders.
We continued on our walk along the coast path on the north side of Marloes Peninsula. The scenery may be less dramatic but still outstanding, with green topped cliffs and low hedgerows lining the gently undulating path and lovely views ahead to the scenic bay of Musselwick Sands.
We reached Musselwick Sands where the path descends into a small valley with access to the beach and a path leading back inland to Marloes. We left the coast path at this point, taking the track which heads across fields then joins a lane into Marloes Village. We ended our walk in the village at The Clock House restaurant, where we met our family who joined us for some customary end of walk refreshments. They gave us a lift back to Dale’s Beach car park, where we found that the walkers we’d met at the pay machine earlier had kindly left a pound coin on the roof of our car.
So a wonderful walk covering a magnificent part of the coastline and we ended the day with a small profit too!
> Walk distance ~ 9 miles ‘point to point’
> Time ~ allow up to 4 hours with a break and taking photos
> Recommended rest stops:
Join us again as we continue our series of walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast.