Day Twelve - Trefin To Goodwick / Fishguard, The North Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Distance - 18 miles to Goodwick - but can be split into two days walking after 12.5 miles at Strumble Head.
Moderate to strenuous grade walking throughout - What these grades mean
Summary - superb coastal scenery including a classic ridge climb to the huge cliffs at Pwll Deri. After the remote island lighthouse at Strumble Head a section of hidden valleys onto Goodwick.
Issues - This is a long walk in probably the most remote area of The Pembrokeshire Coast Path – apart for a very basic Youth Hostel half way, there is no accommodation or facilities at all. Fit and strong walkers should aim to make the section in a long day of around 6-8 hours. For those that can’t manage this we can provide options for you to split the walk half way at Strumble Head using the Coastal Walkers bus link or a taxi transfer.
It’s a high-level coastal cliff roller coaster this morning, switching from headland to cove and back again before reaching the last habitation at the tiny fishing hamlet of Abercastle, Welsh for the “Bay of Boats”.
On your way down the cliffs, divert to see the best preserved Cromlech (Burial Chamber) in the area at Carreg Sampson, where the huge capstone is over 18ft in length, somehow still sitting above six uprights after a mere 5000 years.
Little fishing boats lie in the channel as you round the harbour, below a cluster of tiny cottages and jumble of old lime kilns. Note the pair of upended cannons planted and used as bollards, recognition that this was a feared pirate and smugglers outpost in past times.
It’s all wild walking now, past “The Bay of the Pig” and the Castle Coch fort earthworks to the twin bays at Abermawr and Aberbach . A steep descent on an ancient, rutted trackway through some rare coastal woodlands, brings you to the first beach with its huge pebble backed shingle bar and not a house in site.
At Pwllcrochan, in the shadow of the mountainous peaks rising in front of you, there is a steep diversion into a deep canyon known as “the cauldron pool”. A racing waterfall cascades onto the beach and the brave can get down to a secret bathing spot here by clambering down the cliffs on a rope placed there to assist you. If you take one wild swim on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, then this is the place to do it backed by an amazing triangular wall of folded rock strata.
Deep ravines follow, with steep climbs and tumbling streams cutting between volcanic rock outcrops and cairns, as you scramble up the exposed and treeless ridge over the Penbwchdy (Goats Nose) headland. Now savour a classic mile long ridge climb - an exhilarating high cliff walk in the clouds, with probably the best views of the whole Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Exposed in front of you, is the breathtaking spectacle of the immense bowl of cliffs below Pwll Deri, whose sheer walls climb from an almost bottomless chasm to over 400ft. There, the solitary Youth Hostel precariously hangs, whilst above this the mountainside of Gawn Fawr stretches up to the sky a further 300ft into the heavens.
It’s a formidable scene, and the cliffs are so huge it feels like something more than the sea must have bitten this amphitheatre out of the peak. As you reach the top a memorial to Dewi Emrys the Welsh Poet, simply states “These… are the thoughts that will come to you when you sit at Pwll Deri.”
The path now drops past the huge Elephant Head rock at Dinas Mawr, “The Great Fortress,” another Iron Age Fort swathed in carpets of bright yellow gorse and pink thrift. Eventually the squat white lighthouse of Strumble Head appears at distance, guarding a trio of hump backed offshore islands, and you pick your way over little crags of volcanic rock and marshy valleys to reach it.
A remote area with rare breeding Choughs as well as seals and basking sharks at the right time of year. At the wrong time it’s a wild savage spot, the closest point on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to Ireland!
Beyond Strumble at Carrage Wastad (Flat Topped Rock) Point you find a memorial commemorating the last invasion of Britain. This took place at the cliffs here in 1797 where one of the worst invasion plans in world history arrived in the form of Colonel Tate, an Anglo American heading a French Revolutionary Invasion Force.
His appropriately named 'Legion Noire' numbered 1400, over half of which were disinterested convicts and conscripts who having been blown off course were less happy still at landing in this “godforsaken” spot.
The loose plan was that the group would link up with Welsh rebels and create chaos and anarchy in the UK – unfortunately they found little of either. The marauding “army” looted a few isolated farms on the headland which, it just so happened, were all stocked full of liquor “liberated” from a recent shipwreck… drunk and disorganised several hundred of the “invaders” absconded at the first opportunity.
A local force of farm workers, armed with little more than sticks, rounded up the rest who were already in mass retreat, having mistaken a distant group of Welsh women in tall hats to be a crack force of advancing troops. Now wet, cold and sobered up, the hapless French invaders hurriedly surrendered on the beach and Britain was saved! Commemorated in nearby Fishguard, the local heroine in all this was one Jemima Nichols, a local farmers wife who single handedly captured 12 of the hapless soldiers armed only with her pitchfork.
Back on The Pembrokeshire Coast Path you descend into a delightful thick wooded valley at Cwm Falin, where a tumbling joyful stream creates a lovely shady spot full of songbirds and woodland flowers that appear to have no place in these wild parts.
Beyond the final headland you meet the wide arc of Fishguard Bay where the huge ferries for Ireland emerge into the open sea, and as you descend to the harbour on an ancient green trackway you will at last feel the satisfaction in having completed the longest and most difficult day of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.