Day Six – Milford Haven to Dale, West Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Distance - Between 10 and 16 miles, depending the on tidal crossings at Sandy Haven and The Gann (see below).
Summary - Easy grade start to the Sandy Haven Pill then Moderate walking. What these grades mean
Mainly above the cliffs, with short climbs and descents in places around cliffs and coves as you exit the Milford Haven Estuary on route back to the Ocean.
Issues - Two Tidal Estuaries to cross today on the Wales Coastal Path that need some planning, but we advise all our walkers on the tides and options. Inland diversion routes if the crossings are under high tide will add anything up to 5.5 miles to the total distance today but we can also arrange transfers around the estuaries for those who need or want them.
The Wales Coastal Path leaves Milford Haven below the imposing 19th century Fort Hubberstone, that looks out in stark disapproval over the last of the huge oil pipelines stretching into the estuary at the wide bay of Gelliswick. Climbing low cliffs reveals views of a second dramatic 'Alcatraz' style fort on offshore Stack Rock Island, another of Palmerston's Follies, named after the Victorian Foreign Secretary, who had them built to protect against invaders, only to find they were never needed.
You now enter the Pembrokeshire National Park at South Hook Point, past long forgotten and overgrown World War II Bunkers and gun batteries that guard the entrance to Sandy Haven Pill. The Wales Coast Path is easy walking here, a warmup romp through grassy hummocks, coastal scrub and bright yellow gorse as you take little circuits in and out of red sandstone bays and crags.
If the tide is low, you can drop straight onto the golden sands and pick you way through a line of twisted teeth like rock sculptures that lead to the dark lush woods at the head of Sandy Haven Pill. A Pill is the Cornish and Welsh word for a creek and this one is a tranquil and enchanting spot, where the sight of herons and kingfishers make the ocean feel a long way away.
Around low tide, the receding waters reveal a narrow run of submerged stepping stones and wooden planks used to cross the waters. Passing crumbling ivy clad limekilns and a stretch of rich bluebell woodland, you then head past the mounds of two Iron Age forts at Little and Great Castle Head. Free of the refineries, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path proper now rises over huge cliffs, deep bays and barren headlands, some capped with huge shipping beacons and radar towers, a sign that the open sea is not far ahead.
The tiny inlet of Monks Haven throws a surprise as you reach its haunting gothic tower, a crumbling Victorian Folly that stands a lonely guard over a dense wooded creek. Below it, a tiny secret beach protected by a huge castle-like wall. In the Age of the Saints this was the landing spot of the Pilgrims heading to St Davids on the inland Welsh Saints Way trail anxious to avoid the dangers of the sea route around Skomer Island.
Beyond the remote waterside hamlet of Musslewick, the path drops right onto the foreshore, leaving you to pick your way across a bank of smooth egg shaped red sandstone boulders that have settled here at the entrance to the Gann Estuary. When the tide is right, you cross the rushing waters of The Gann, balancing on a double set of stepping stones linked with wooden plank boardwalks.
Beyond this, the narrow Pickleridge Shingle bank is an impressive causeway splitting the deep Dale Roads Bay from a series of tranquil inland lagoons and wetlands. There are fine views over the waters on either side, the inland pools flooded by the high tides provide a home for flocks of migrating and wintering wildfowl. A set of restored barrel like limekilns marks the entrance to the rather charming and laidback coastal village of Dale, and the Wales Coastal Path arrives by its sheltered beachfront to complete the section.
CLICK HERE to read on for those walking the full route to St Ann's Head and Marloes today.