This walk starts at the pretty village of Solva and continues westwards along a wonderful stretch of the coast to Porth Clais before heading inland to finish at Britain’s smallest city, St.David’s.
We start the walk at Main street in Lower Solva, which is lined with a variety of independent art shops and colourful character properties including the Mamgu Cafe and our accommodation for the weekend, The Ship Inn.
The Ship is a cosy traditional pub with lots of character and original features. Being less than a minutes walk to the coast path at the harbour, it’s perfectly located for a coast walkers stopover.
The coast path leads around the harbour, with the usual sights of small sailing boats along the quayside and fishing boats on the water.
Just past Cafe on the Quay, steps climb the hillside and after passing by some nice houses the hedge lined path leads out onto the headland. To the left is a fantastic viewpoint across the Solva inlet to the harbour, the Gribin ridge and the sheltered Gwadn bay, which we had crossed on the previous walk.
Along the coast
As the path swings to the right, ahead is the prominent rock ‘Gewni’, which has a sea cave and arch which can be seen when walking parallel to the rock.
The walk ahead is easy going on clifftops carpeted in gorse and heather and the path winds along as a clear track, following the gentle undulating landscape.
The landscape becomes more dramatic after passing the Scottish sounding Loch Warren, with some magnificent cliffs and rolling countryside near the site of an ancient hill fort. The views stretch to the distant coastline and across the landscape.
The path winds its way down the hillside into a sheltered slither of a valley at Porth-Y-Rhaw. Perhaps the favourable weather on the day played a part, but we were taken with this beautiful little cove as it was so tranquil and almost a Mediterranean feel to it, as the pristine waters gently lapped at the rocks near the shore.
After climbing the hillside on the other side of the bay, when reaching the top it’s worthwhile taking in the view eastwards of the path just walked. The rolling lush green landscape along the coast and the contours of the hill fort, can be fully appreciated from this vantage point.
Caer Bwdy Bay to St.Non’s Bay
After an easy going and pleasant walk along Morfa Common and Trelerw, with more fine views of countryside and coast along the way, the path then drops into another small scenic valley at Caer Bwdy Bay.
The pebbled bay is renowned for the distinctive stones which have a grey and purple hue, and old quarries were once part of the landscape here. Apparently the stone to build St. David’s Cathedral was quarried from this very area. An old building on the hillside constructed with local stone shows the lovely range of colours found in the rocks here.
Back on the clifftops above Caer Bwdy Bay, again it’s worthwhile to look back to fully appreciate the wonderful, richly coloured cliffs. The coastline for the next couple of miles becomes even more spectacular, with a ‘wow factor’ that means you often slow your pace to take in the stunning views.
St. Non’s Bay to Porth Clais
After passing Caerfai Bay, ahead is a significant historical site of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the ruins of St. Non’s Chapel. The chapel is thought to be one of the earliest Christian sites in Britain.
St.Non was the mother of St.David, the patron Saint of Wales and the ruins stand on the site reputed to be his birthplace in the sixth century. Nearby is a shrine over a holy well, which was a site of pilgrimage over centuries with old legends pertaining to its curative powers.
A beautiful stone built chapel dating from the Victorian era is open during the day and is worth a visit, being just a short distance from the coast path.
Being a holy site, there’s definitely a sense of serenity and calmness about the place.
The wonderful setting of the chapel, overlooks the coast towards Porth Clais which has to be one of the most stunning and beautiful stretches of the Pembrokeshire coast path.
The wild, rugged landscape has a natural beauty that is simply awesome.
Reaching Porth Clais, above the harbour wall the path tracks inland overlooking the picturesque inlet. Some kayakers that we’d seen exploring along the coast earlier were just returning to berth, they must have had a fantastic day in near perfect conditions. Porth Clais is a popular place for this activity and rows of colourful kayaks lined the quayside.
Porth Clais harbour is said to have been developed during Roman times and used by medieval mariners as the port serving St.David’s over many centuries. So it’s likely you’re walking on ancient tracks across a landscape that would have been familiar to the early saints and later pilgrims making their way to and from St. David’s.
The path drops down to the roadside and over a stone bridge is a grass area with picnic benches near some old lime kilns.
Across the road is a National Trust car park with toilet facilities and nearby is a kiosk with a good selection of snacks and drinks and picnic benches near a boatyard. So it’s an ideal rest stop on the coast path and we stopped here for a toastie sandwich, which was delicious, and the coffee’s very nice too. So after a pit stop here we continued on our way, heading inland and uphill along the old lane about a mile or so, to St. David’s.
Reaching the lower part of St. David’s we headed along The Close, a lane leading to the impressive Cathedral dedicated to the patron Saint of Wales. St David’s is Britain’s smallest city and the cathedral site has a rich history dating from the 6th Century and early Christianity in the British Isles.
After learning about the quarried stone of Caer Bwdy Bay being used in the construction of the cathedral, seeing the contrasting shades and hues of the stonework really is a beautiful sight.
St.David’s Cathedral dates back to the 12th century and is the final resting place of David himself.
David was made the patron saint of Wales in the 12th century by the Pope and a papal decree made two pilgrimages to St David’s equivalent to one to Rome.
Nearby are the substantial ruins of The Bishops Palace, reputed to have once been one of Wales most impressive buildings of its time.
So you really could spend a few hours exploring St. David’s, as it’s well worthwhile visiting the cathedral, historical sites and wandering the old streets and lanes. But on a warm spring day, after a visit to the cathedral and walk around the grounds, we decided to explore another old local establishment, The Bishops Public House.
With a refreshing pint of local ale and a table in the pub garden overlooking the cathedral tower, it was a perfectly relaxing end to what had been an exhilarating walk on one of Pembrokeshire’s finest, scenic stretches of coastline.
Start ~ Main Street, Solva / Finish ~ St. David’s Cathedral .
Distance ~ 8.6 miles / 13.84 Kms
Rest & refreshment options ~
> Cafe (start of walk) ~ Mamgu Cafe, Main Street, Solva. Meals, snacks, coffees and drinks. Renowned for delicious fresh baked Welsh cakes.
> Takeaway cafe ~ The Kiosk, Porth Clais Car Park (note ~ only open spring and summer season)
> Public House (end of walk) ~ The Bishops, St. David’s
Return to Solva ~ Fflecsi Bus services from St. David’s to Solva. An excellent service with pre-booking available via the link Fflecsi App.