Nowhere on the Pembroke Peninsula is more than a couple of miles from the coast — and what a coastline it is, with mile upon mile of dizzying cliffs plunging sheer into the sea.
The winter storms have carved this Atlantic coastline into a series of fantastic shapes; natural arches like The Green Bridge of Wales, Stack Rocks, teeming with razorbill and puffin, and secret caves where the grey seals come to breed.
And where the cliffs end, the sands begin. The Pembroke Peninsula has some of the finest beaches in the country, with enough variety to suit every taste. There are more Blue Flag Award beaches in Pembrokeshire than in any other UK county.
There are remote and unspoilt gems like Barafundle, Swanlake and Broadhaven – sheltered, sandy bays where the rock-pools and sand-dunes provide a natural playground for children, and bathing is safe in sea waters warmed by the Gulf Stream.
Freshwater East and West Angle are two more safe, sandy beaches with nearby tourist facilities, while the dramatic sweep of Freshwater West makes it the most spectacular beach in south Pembrokeshire. But be warned – the powerful currents make swimming off Freshwater West very hazardous indeed!
The best surfing beach in Wales – rivals Newquay in Cornwall.
Only for experienced surfers because of the strong undercurrent and bathing is dangerous. However, the beach now has lifeguards throughout the summer months.
A listed Lavaweed hut can be found on the beach and is one of only a few originals left in the country. Here the lava weed was dried and used to make the delicacy lavabread nick-named ‘Welshman’s Caviar’ by the actor Richard Burton. It can still be bought from the mobile food van in the car park.
Don’t be deceived by the exterior of the premises, the owner Jonathan Williams specialises in ‘foraging wraps’ whereby you can gather your own edible ingredients from the beach and he will make you a delicious wrap. Alternatively you can choose from his own range of food on display. James Martin the TV chef has expressed an interest in his food and now uses a few of his recipes on his restaurant menus.
Freshwater West has been used as a backdrop for a few films. Notably the Shell House used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 was built in the dunes and attracted many visitors, as did Robin Hood that featured Russell Crowe.
Russell Crowe fell in love with Pembrokeshire and even had a meal in the Carew Inn where he played his guitar and left a £60 tip behind the bar for the barmaids!
Surfers are allowed to park their camper vans in the car park but only overnight. No building fires, no barbeques, and keep off the dunes because they are listed(they are rare)
Frains Lake Beach
This beach is to be found around the corner from Freshwater West and can only be reached at low tide when it is possible to walk around to it from Freshwater West. It is however it is out of bounds because the British army from Castlemartin camp fires over it.
A permit to fish and surf can sometimes be obtained from the Colonel at Castlemartin camp who will, before issuing the pass give a talk about the hazards to be found at Frains Lake beach.These briefing times are published and can be found on this website. The beach is within the confines of the firing range so anybody wishing to fish is told not to pick up anything from the beach for obvious reasons.
Rock Climbing in Stackpole.
The sheer limestone cliffs probably offer 3 of the world’s best climbing areas
Mowing Word, Stackpole Head, and Mother Carey’s Kitchen. Mother Carey’s Chickens is slang for Manx Shearwaters. The wildlife wardens work in conjunction with the climbers, as the climbers can pinpoint the rare Chough and Raven nests high on the cliff face. Choughs are only to be found in Pembrokeshire, Bristol and Cornwall. The Ravens in days gone by were almost hunted to extinction because of their association with evil, however the Pembrokeshire Ravens are direct descendants of the famous ravens that reside in the Tower of London. Lord Cawdor would organise Raven beats and bag them. Once bagged, they were sent away via train from Pembroke to the Tower of London to replenish their stock.
Place to eat The Stackpole Inn.
Boathouse Restaurant Stackpole Quay.
Places to Stay: Campsite at St. Petrox Farm, St Petrox, Stackpole
Surf can be good. Safe for children. Good place for dog walkers.
Place to eat. Freshwater East Inn
Places to stay. Chalets to Rent.
Trewent Hill, Caravan Clubsite Freshwater East
Originally this was the private walled beach of the Earl of Cawdor a direct descendant of Macbeth. The family’s seat is in Nairn, Scotland.
Cawdor lived in Stackpole Court but only used it a few times a year in the pheasant season. The court was demolished in the1960s because it was too expensive to maintain. The beach, which he was forced, through lack of funds to open to the public in the 1940s, is the finest beach in Britain and has been voted the twelfth best beach in the world. The horseshoe shaped bay is completely unspoiled and was for many years Pembrokeshire’s best kept secret. It is often featured in national newspapers and Magazines 10 ten lists.
Lord Cawdor had Stackpole village moved so that his tenant’s houses did not obstruct his view.
Today the beach is open for all to enjoy this truly breath taking beach which is magical what ever the season. There are no amenities and access is gained by walking across the headland from Stackpole Quay. You will be well rewarded for you efforts.
Do not leave Pembrokeshire without going to this genuinely world class beach – – it really is a must see.
Take the Lamphey Road and head towards Tenby – Manorbier is accessed from here.
Becoming popular with Surfers but beware of the undercurrent. A stream runs through one side of the bay and locals and visitors alike gather watercress from it. The growth of the watercress shows the purity of the water. The coastal path runs around the bay. On the far side of the bay and on the coastal path is a fine example of a Cromlech(Welsh word) this one is known as Arthur’s Quoit. Cromlechs indicate burial places of the ancients and are akin to ancient Barrows found in old fields.
In the village of Manorbier you will find the Bier mentioned in the village’s name. A bier of course is still used in certain places to rest the dead upon.
Manorbier Castle was used as a back-drop for C.S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Dodie Smith‘s book “I capture the Castle “was filmed in part in Manorbier Castle.
For many years Manorbier was the home of Health and Fitness Guru and daughter of the Jazz Musician Stan Kenton , Leslie Kenton. Author of many books on health and fitness and former beauty editor of Harpers Magazine her fourth child was born at her home in the village.
Place to eat. The Castle Inn
Places to stay. Castlemead Hotel,
Youth Hostel. Skrinkle Manorbier
Campsite Middle Hill Farm Manorbier
Bosherston Lily Pools.
These are man made lakes built and designed for maximum view by the Cawdor family. The lakes or ponds are very deep in places and the public are allowed to fish for course fish as long as the season is right and they have a permit. The fishermen come to fish for pike and tench . The Ponds have also featured on Springwatch who filmed the Otters.
Bosherston village is very quaint and it is the tradition with the young, old, visitors, or locals to take a cup of authentic tea complete with tea strainer from the Olde Worlde Bosherston Tea Rooms. The owner known to the locals as Auntie Vi is in her 90’s and still serves the tea. She has had some very eminent visitors. She received the MBE 2 years ago for her services to the community
Place to eat. St. Govan’s Inn , Olde Worlde Tea Rooms
Places to stay: Trefalen Farm Campsite, Broadhaven, Bosherston. Yards away from the fantastic Broadhaven Beach.
Stack Rocks. Towering limestone cliffs.
Near the village of Merrion, is Castlemartin Camp, or Merrion Camp. Range East is open to the public but not when the red flag is flying. This indicates that the army is firing out to sea. Here you will find Stack Rocks, home to thousands of Guillemots around the months of April and Early May. They nest precariously on the ledges of the cliff face. Their eggs are conical in shape and the bird secures them with guano so that they will not roll over the edge.
A natural limestone arch worn away by the sea. Range East is a geologist’s paradise.
Two huge cliffs are separated by a chasm or deep fissure. Legend has it that a huntsman on horseback was being pursued by his creditors and in his attempt to escape he and his horse leapt to safety. However when he looked back and saw the distance what he had jumped, he promptly died of fright.
Castlemartin Range Walks.
A treat for Ramblers and those who love to walk the coastal path.
The walks and times that the range can be accessed are found in the free Coast to Coast newspaper. Copies are available from any Pembrokeshire Library and the Town Hall.
The walks are guided by a range warden and visitors must stick to the given route. There are various tours, The Archaeology tour, The history of the farm on the firing range, The photography tour and The wild life. Take sandwiches and your own drink. Remember the tour is all day and there are no toilets!
If you cannot walk far there are also mini bus tours, same format, but instead of walking miles you can hop on and off the bus as you wish. Make sure you are equipped with warm clothes because even if the weather is warm in Pembroke – the range has a microclimate all of its own!
On the range are beaches that the public can very rarely see. These include Flimston Bay, Frains Lake Beach, Rocking Horse, or Hobby Horse Bay, and Pen-y Holt Stack.
The beautiful Frains Lake Mill can also be seen which is where the farm folk that lived on the range used to grind their flour. It closed when the M.O.D moved in and compulsory purchased every farm building and piece of land in the 1930s.
Off the West Angle beach lies the tiny Thorne Island. In the year 1894 the schooner Loch Shiel bound for Adelaide and carrying a cargo of 100% whisky and gunpowder was shipwrecked off the Island when it struck the rocks.
The crew set fire to a mattress in order to attract the attention of the Angle villagers who then alerted the Angle Lifeboat.
Villagers hearing that the boat carried whisky set sail in treacherous gale conditions in order to steal the precious cargo and hide it before the customs officers were alerted.
Two men died trying to retrieve the whisky and one who successfully pulled some bottles ashore died of alcohol poisoning!
The villagers hid the contraband in secret locations and some even walled the bottles up in their cottages.
Even today when some residents of the village were renovating their old cottages found whisky walled up . It’s still drinkable!!
The locals today liken the story to Compton Mackenzie’s book Whisky Galore!