Day Two - Manorbier to Bosherston Village - Pembrokeshire Coast Path South
Distance - 10.5 miles. Strenuous grade walking to Stackpole Quay with a moderate finish to Bosherston - What these grades mean.
Summary - A day of wild walking between grasslands and gorse above huge sheer limestone cliffs, with regular ascents and descents through a roller-coaster of unspoilt sandy beaches.
Today a lung busting climb on the Welsh Coast Path from Manorbier snakes along the narrow ridge spine of cliffs at East Moor, before circling the back of the huge lost bay at Swanlake with its shingle and sand banks.
A long way from the nearest road or house, this is a remote spot that you are likely to have all to yourself! Beyond it, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path has you quickly climbing once again to open heathland at West Moor, before yet another descent through tunnels of gorse, to the half-moon curve of sand at Freshwater East Bay.
If the tide is out, follow the waterline in front of the bush lined dunes. Despite the holiday park here, this area is a protected Nature Reserve and a haven for wildlife rarities including adder snakes and glow worms that have long since disappeared from the more developed areas of the Welsh Coast line.
Staying high now on a line of headlands jutting into the ocean, the climbs and descents are initially through wildflower meadows to Greenala Point, where the deep ditches and earth banks of a mighty Iron Age cliff fort can be seen bolstered by the steep cliff sides to give a perfect natural defence.
Watch out all along this section for the variety of seabirds that include guillemots and oystercatchers as well as rarer inhabitants like puffin and chough. Eventually you descend to the abandoned harbour at Stackpole Quay, a tiny inlet that harbours only a handful of boats.
Huge slabs of Limestone were loaded here in the 18th century from a tiny flat stone jetty, which is still here today in front of long lost and overgrown quarries. Rest up at the welcoming National Trust Tearoom in The Old Boathouse for lunch and explore the well preserved limekilns just inland.
The next cove is reached by descending a remarkable old stone staircase through bright yellow gorse bushes to reveal beautiful Barafundle Beach and its Smugglers Cave. Totally unspoilt and idyllic, huge and lonely pine trees cling on to its southern flanks. This place regularly gets voted into lists of the top ten UK beaches, its pure golden sands and crystal clear, azure water more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than South West Wales - it's certainly one of the best shorelines on the whole Welsh Coastal Path. Thankfully its remoteness and the lack of road access keeps the crowds away.
From Barafundle you climb through the shady pines onto the National Trust's Stackpole Warren Nature Reserve. Another contrast, this is now a superb high cliff top area, in past times a breeding site for rabbits, whose descendants still roam throughout the wild orchids that mark this headland and its distinct dune system.
There is a real sense of space now where you can roam free through huge flat grasslands that suddenly just vanish to plunge over the sheer cliffs.
All along the cliff tops are little metal pegs as these crags attract the best rock climbers in the UK and you can pause to watch them inch up some of the most dramatic sea climbs in the country.
Look out for the double rock archway known as Griffith Lorts Hole set within black caves, huge crumbling rock stacks and giant pinnacles as you round Stackpole Head. On the vertical 100ft cliffs you can often spot puffins nesting amongst huge colonies of razorbills, fulmars and guillemots.
Beyond the wild headland, the dramatic rock features continue as you are forced inland to cross the narrow miniature fjord of the "Ramming Hole" and the huge sink hole at Sandy Pit, where the adventurous clamber into its depths and out through a sea tunnel to a secret beach.
Beyond, the huge collapsed sea cave at Saddle Point fills with fiery water at high tide exploding in a natural blow hole spectacle for those happy to inch along the outer wall to see it.
The day ends with respite from the ocean's fury at the sheltered sands of Broad Haven beach, where you pass into a protected wild dune system picking any one of a maze of paths through mountainous sand dunes, home to wild orchids, ragwort and marram grass.
Offshore, the atmospheric, pointed limestone stack of Church Rock looks just like an oceanic House of God and marks the point to turn sharply inland off The Pembrokeshire Coast Path crossing a little sand lagoon to reach an entirely different inland scene.
Here the National Trust nature reserve of Bosherston Lakes draws you away from the coastline into a series of long, narrow freshwater pools that were created by damming the three river valleys that meet here on their run to the coastline. It’s an oasis of tranquillity after the raging ocean, calming water lilies and reed banks, stunning when they flower in June and fringed by shady woodland that is home to over 20 species of dragonfly. Otters, moorhen and heron can be spotted, whilst huge pike stalk the waters below the lilies. It is an outstanding area of dark, lush vegetation where you follow twisting paths over long and narrow wooden bridges and causeways to emerge at the inland hamlet of Bosherston.