The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a National Trail in Pembrokeshire in southwest Wales.
Running largely along the coast, it is part of the larger Wales Coast Path that stretches an impressive 1400 kilometres (870 miles) right around Wales.
Established in 1970, it was the first National Trail in the country and has soared in popularity in the last twenty years thanks to its accessibility and stunning views.
The trail is almost completely contained by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Britain’s only coastal National Park.
Steep limestone cliffs and volcanic headlands to sheltered red sandstone coves, passing 58 beaches, 14 harbours and various flooded glacial valleys.
Undulating up and down over the Welsh countryside for 270 kilometres (168 miles) with maritime views, creating this coastal path took almost 17 years, with over 100 footbridges, 479 stiles, and thousands of steps to aid the climbing of steep and slippery sections.
- Voted the second-best coastal destination in the world by National Geographic.
- Passes every one of Pembrokeshire’s award-winning beaches as well as volcanic headlands and estuaries.
- Offers trekkers an array of coastal flowers and bird life.
The southern-most point of the path is at Amroth in Pembrokeshire and the northern end lies near St. Dogmaels, also in Pembrokeshire.
To get to Amroth you can take a train to Kilgetty and then catch the 351 bus, or if you’re starting from the north and working your way down then catch a train to Haverfordwest, a bus to Cardigan and then take the walker bus or walk to St Dogmaels.
If you’re not starting and/or finishing at the aforementioned places but just looking to take on some sections of the path, it is still very accessible.
Trains on the west spur meeting the National Trail at various places and the Pembrokeshire coastal bus service covers the entire path and most major points along the route you can drive to and base yourself for a couple of days for local exploration.
There are National Express bus services from London and Birmingham and for those coming from further afield, the main hubs nearby are Swansea and Cardiff – the latter of which has relatively regular inbound and outbound flights.
If you complete the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in full, the route is 270 kilometres (168 miles).
For an average trekker and standard itinerary, this takes 12 to 14 days and up to 18 for anyone wishing to take in the sights on a more relaxed schedule.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
Although the walk is not a technical and on the whole not overly strenuous, the route constantly climbs and falls with the shape of the cliffs.
At its highest point on Cemaes Head it reaches a peak of175 metres and at its lowest point near Milford Haven, it is just a metre above the water. Although this may not sound tough, completing the Coast Path in one go, involves 10 to 15 days of ascents and descent that add up to the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest – almost 10,000 metres!
There are also many narrow sections, including stiles, and so many visitors break the walk down into sections that they come back and complete over the course of a few years.
As mentioned above, the route is very doable but worth breaking down unless you are a seasoned hiker.
Due to renovation and upkeep of the path, it is one of the best maintained long distance footpaths in the whole of the UK and can be attempted by anyone with decent fitness (and footwear).
The toughest part s the constant climbing and descending from cliff to cove, which is physically tiring and requires some level of hill training. Walking the entire route in a limited time window is enough to test even the trekking pros.
For anyone with less experience, it’s worth building an itinerary that starts with the gentler South Pembrokeshire sections with rest days and working up from there.
Winter is for experienced and well-equipped walkers only, particularly because of how exposed some of the coastal sections are with eroding clffs and British weather has the ability to pick up at short notice.
As with most National Trails, there is no need for a permit to complete some or all of this route, which means you can keep coming back time and time again.
Guided or Self-Guided
Although there are organised walks and holidays, this route is usually done without a guide.
The Pembrokeshire National Park have spent the last 40 years improving the route, its access and signage, and removing difficult stiles.
As a result, the trail is easy to follow and in summer you can basically just follow in the tracks of others.
As with any walk in the UK, summer is typically the best time to go due to the higher likelihood of sun, no rain and longer days.
The main season on the Coast Path runs from April to October. Spring is one of the most popular times, as you dodge the crowds but also get to enjoy the blooming wild flowers, migratory seabirds, and even a chance encounter with basking sharks.
If you can face a slightly busier path, the summer months (June-August) provide more opportunities on the beaches, including water sports and offshore island trips.
Early Autumn is also a good time to avoid crowds and you’ll also catch butterfly season and may have the chance to watch seals with their pups beached up at the foot of the cliffs.
A standard 14-day route would look like the below:
Amroth to Manorbier – 15 miles
Manorbier to Bosherston Village – 10 miles
Bosherston to West Angle – 15 miles
West Angle to Pembroke – 14.5 miles
Pembroke to Milford Haven – 12.5 miles
Milford Haven to Dale – between 10 and 16 miles
Dale to Marloes – 13 miles
Marloes to Broad Haven – 9.5 miles
Broad Haven to Solva – 11 miles
Solva to St Justinians (St Davids) – 13 miles
St Justinians to Trefin – 13.5 miles
Trefin to Goodwick – 19 miles
Goodwick to Newport – 14 miles
Newport to St Dogmaels – 15.5 miles
If you’re not in a hurry, building in a couple of rest days is worthwhile so that you can visit offshore islands or have some down time relaxing in a beachside town.
If you don’t want to do the full route, the path can be split into three sections: South, West and North.
All offer great views and varied gradients so you can pick the best section for you.
Most people choose to walk from south to north as starting in the Tenby area allows walkers to build up physically from the easier sections and saves the tough and dramatic highlights from St David’s into Cardigan.
Additionally, on the most exposed parts of the path, the prevailing winds and wet weather will be on your back and not your face.
Where you choose to stay and what level of comfort you’re looking for will dictate how much you’ll need to budget for accommodation along the Coastal path.
There are plenty of small hotels and guest houses en route and cottages or Airbnbs for hire.
Scattered along the route are coastal villages, such as Tenby, Solva, Newport and the popular St. Davids. If walking in summer it is advisable to book accommodation well in advance of setting off.
In remote locations there may be only a single lodge or B&B with no other choices nearby.
The more built up areas such as Tenby offer more options and luxury choices if required. For those walking the whole path, there are plenty of shops and campsites along the way, but food and water may need to be carried on some sections where distances between seaside towns increases.
Attractions along the route include Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre, and Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort – where kids can re-enact battles or just learn about local history.
Depending on what time of year you choose to visit, there are walking festivals, fundraising challenges, family events, museum exhibitions and farmers markets.
Throughout spring and early summer, trekking the path offers opportunities to see an array of wild coastal flowers and a wealth of bird life.
For keen bird-watchers it is worth bringing a pair of binoculars to get a close up of the colonies of seabirds that nest along the cliffs or taking a boat ride around uninhabited offshore islands that act as bird sanctuaries, such as Skomer, Skokholm and Ramsey Island.
If you’re lucky, you can also spot seals, porpoises and dolphins swimming offshore.
If you’re more of a history buff, there are plenty of historic sites that you will pass by with evidence of human activity from Neolithic times to the present.
Remnants of Neolithic cromlechs and hut circles can be seen on and from the path, dating back to the Bronze Age settlements, and remains of coastal promontory fortifications linger from Iron Age settlers that came over from France.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||1/5 - 2/5|
|Starts at||Amroth, UK|
|Finishes at||St Dogmaels, Cardigan, UK|
|Length of route||270 Km|
|Average time to complete||12 - 16 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||175 metres|
|Equipment needed||Trekking gear, walking boots|
|Countries visited||England, UK|