I consider myself to be amongst the most fortunate people on the planet – those who live in Wales. And when occasionally I have any cause to doubt my good luck, a day like yesterday comes along and I am once again reassured that this is truly a little slice of heaven on earth!
Saturday 8th August was one of those increasingly rare days when Charlotte and I had no commitments in the diary, and the weather forecast was set fair (light south westerly winds, and temperatures due to peak at about 23 degrees C). As a result, we were up early and on our way to south Pembrokeshire by 8.30am. We were heading for Stackpole with a plan to complete a six mile circular walk from Stackpole Quay along the coast via Barafundle Bay and Broadhaven, then inland alongside Bosherston Lily Ponds and back to our starting point.
The Stackpole Estate sits on a peninsula to the south west of Pembroke and is now in the ownership of the National Trust. The whole area is, in turn, part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is a truly spectacular mix of rugged coastline, secluded bays, sandy beaches and unspoilt countryside.
We arrived just outside Stackpole in good time and decided to change our plans slightly by parking at Stackpole Court. The friendly and really helpful National Trust volunteer manning the car park at the Court provided us with a great map of the area and we set off on the walk.
We decided to head across towards Barafundle Bay while it was still relatively cool, knowing that the walk across the fields and headland to access the beach was likely to be the hottest part of the journey.
I get a tremendous buzz of excitement from my first glimpse of the sea even now, and this trip was no exception. The deep blue of the Atlantic on this occasion was set off perfectly by the dark mass of the cliffs rising from it, and the tourquoise of the sky above.
As we made our way across the path towards the main car park at the Quay, we realised our good fortune in having decided to leave our car at the Court. It was very busy!
We turned right and continued our walk along the cliff top towards Barafundle Bay; a great name for a beach, and evocative of pirates and smuggling (although there’s no historical connection to the area of either). The beach here regularly features in ‘Top Ten‘ lists of beaches in the UK, and on a day like yesterday it’s easy to see why. The sand is fine and white; the sea is crystal clear and almost draws you into its refreshing saltiness; and the seemingly limitless view towards the horizon reminds us that however big our individual problems or stresses may appear, they are really pretty insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. Having made our way onto the sand and set up camp, we decided that the call of the water could be ignored no longer and headed down for a swim (which was admittedly brief – it was very cold – but nonetheless gorgeous!).
After a lay in the sun, a bite to eat, and a snooze, it was time to get our walking boots back on and continue our route along the cliff top from Barafundle towards Broadhaven South. The views along this stretch of the coastline are stunning, and my photos can only hint at the beauty and majesty of the scenery.
The final section of our walk led us down alongside Broadhaven South and inland along the valley past Bosherston Lily Ponds. The dappled shade provided by the trees growing up the steep sides of the valley was very welcome on what was becoming a warm afternoon, and the peace and seclusion of the lily ponds was incredibly relaxing.
Finally, some five hours after setting off, we came back to the eight arch bridge across the water that links the headland above Stackpole Quay to the driveway to Stackpole Court and it was time to wend our way home.
It was a lovely walk, in surely one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and I’d highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to do it.