Coasteering, a Gritty Industrial Past and a Hidden Gem

Two Days Hiking the North Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - Day 2

Day 2 – A 9.4 mile walk from the picturesque fishing village of Porthgain past Traethllyfn Beach, the Blue Lagoon and Abereiddy Bay around the wilderness of St. David’s Head and descending to the Hidden Gem of Porthmelgan for a cooling dip in the sea before returning to St. David’s via Whitesands Beach.

Our second day’s hiking began with an early(ish) morning (8.30am) taxi ride from our hotel to the picturesque little fishing village of Porthgain.  The cost, at the time of writing, was £20.

Porthgain

Porthgain  has a gritty industrial past.  The harbour is flanked by the eerie remains of brick hoppers and ruined buildings connected to the old granite quarrying industry – a lasting legacy of this area’s industrial heritage.  As I stood by the little harbour, I was trying hard to imagine the hundreds of workers that would have been labouring hard in days gone by.  

North Pembrokeshire Porthgain
Porthgain - A Gritty Industrial Heritage

These days, there is little there except a few sturdily built houses and a couple of very highly rated (by the locals) eateries.

The Shed Bistro – tantalisingly perched right on the harbour’s edge – serves seafood straight from the sea to your plate.  No frills, no fuss – just delicious fresh seafood.  It is often fully booked, so you will need to reserve a table if you want to sample a shellfish supper here.

Porthgain The Shed Bistro
The Shed Bistro - Porthgain

The Sloop Inn is equally popular and has been since 1743 (!)  I’ve heard that their crab sandwiches are very good – especially washed down with a pint of Rhymney Bitter.  You can get a lot more than good pub grub here too.  Stop by for tide times, scrap metal and red diesel prices and browse their collection of old photos of Porthgain at the height of its gritty industrial past.

Coasteering - The Blue Lagoon

Walk a little further along the coast path and you will soon hear the dare devil screams of the coasteering parties enjoying the hidden depths of the Blue Lagoon.

The lagoon was formerly a slate quarry – one of 100 or so in this area in the late 18th century.  When the quarry was eventually abandoned, the channel connecting it to the sea was blasted and the sea flooded in.  It is the slate that gives the water its intoxicatingly brilliant aqua blue colour.  

Coasteering The Blue Lagoon North Pembrokeshire
The Blue Lagoon - North Pembrokeshire

In a nutshell, coasteering involves climbing/scrambling to the top of a sheer rock cliff face, leaping off into the sea, swimming back and then doing it all again – from an increasingly higher level.  Take a look at the photos below to get an idea of whether this is something you would like to try – or not.  

Coasteering The Blue Lagoon North Pembrokeshire
Scramble, Leap ...
Coasteering The Blue Lagoon Abereiddy
Scream, Grin (or Grimace?), Splash ...
Coasteering The Blue Lagoon North Pembrokeshire
Climb Higher ...
Coasteering The Blue Lagoon North Pembrokeshire
Scream louder ...
Coasteering The Blue Lagoon North Pembrokeshire
and repeat! Enjoy (?!)

The water may look an alluringly deeper shade of blue, but on this occasion, I decided that it was more fun to watch than to take part.  If you DO want to have a go at coasteering yourself, you can book a trip with TYF, based in the High Street in St. David’s – the original home of coasteering.

Traeth Llyfn Beach

Take time to climb down the metal stairway (over 100 steps!). to the sandy cove at Traeth Llyfn.  Check your tide times first – it is probably only worth the climb at low tide.

Coasteering Traeth Llyfn Beach
Traeth Llyfn Beach

Abereiddy Bay

Coasteering Abereiddy Bay
Abereiddy Bay

Eva Cassidy’s beautiful song – Fields of Barley came to mind as we made our way down the coastal patch back towards Whitesands Beach.

Coasteering North Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Fields of Barley
Walking through Fields of Gold

St. David’s Head

It is a long stretch from Abereiddy Bay down the coast to St. David’s Head – but it is such a beautiful walk and well worth the effort.  The landscape becomes suddenly and rather excitingly much wilder here. The path completely disappears in places – but you really can’t get lost if you always keep the sea on your right?!

Flora and Fauna

Horses inhabit this wild part of the coast and kept us company on the path for a good portion of this stretch.

Coasteering St. David's Head Horses
Horses on St. David's Head
Coasteering Coasteering St. David's Head Horses

Porthmelgan - A Hidden Gem of a Beach

Although the walk finishes at beautiful Whitesands Beach, if you want a dip in the sea, the much smaller neighbouring Porthmelgan Beach is probably a better option.  Even on a hot sunny day in the school Summer holiday season, there were very few people here when we visited.  The sand is soft, the sea is clear and cool and the pleasure of swimming here takes some beating on a sunny day.

Coasteering Porthmelgan Beach
Porthmelgan Beach
Coasteering Porthmelgan Beach
Swimming at Porthmelgan Beach

If swimming isn’t your thing, maybe plan a beach picnic instead?  We saw a group of friends enjoying a rather elaborate affair – complete with champagne glasses.  It’s one of the things we do really well in Britain?

It is 15 minute walk along the coast to complete your walk at Whitesands Beach.  Follow the link to find our more about the bus service back to St. David’s.

Foodie Firsts

The Twr Felin Hotel has a good collection of Welsh gins on offer.  The bar tender recommended two gins from his selection for us this evening:

Da Mhile Gin (pronounced da-vee-lay, and Gaelic for ‘2000’) is a small batch, 100% organic Welsh gin featuring 18 botanicals. It has a distinct herby, floral character.

Pollination Gin is made from botanicals foraged from the Snowdonia foothills including wild flowers, aromatic leaves, fruits and conifer tips and has a taste of wilderness about it for sure.

Coasteering Welsh Gin
Sample a local Welsh Gin

Fascinating Facts

It is always so interesting to talk to taxi drivers.  Wherever you are in the world, they help to give you a unique local perspective on life.  Here are two things I discovered during our short taxi ride to Porthgain this morning:

Welsh Language

Many schools in Pembrokeshire are now teaching solely through the medium of Welsh.  Some parents are finding that they need to attend Welsh Language classes themselves to understand what their children are talking about these days!

Paying Farmers to Retire

The average age of a farmer in Wales is now 58.  To encourage new entrants and help older farmers retire with dignity, the Welsh government has launched an initiative that would pay farmers looking to leave the sector up to £100k – especially if they do not wish to follow new and more sustainable ways of farming.

Parting Thoughts

Walking by the sea has always been one of my favourite things to do.  I have decided to set myself the challenge of walking all around the coast of the UK.  Well – I’m aiming to hike all the pretty bits of the coastline at least.  No rush though – I’m going to take it nice and slow – one trip at a time.  Subscribe if you want to keep in touch as I gradually make my way around.