Day Four – Newport to St Dogmaels, The North Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Distance 15.5 miles - the section can be split using transfers or the Walkers bus after 8 miles at Moylgrove.
Summary - Strenuous grade walking apart from the last 2 miles into St Dogmaels - What this grade means.
An impenetrable line of remote and unrelenting huge cliffs that reach a crescendo at the huge, folded crags of Cemaes Head - you will climb 4068 feet (1,240 metres) today!
Lonely and isolated, this is a section of jagged rocks, inaccessible beaches and twisted geological formations, uninhabited but a wonderful roller coaster finale and probably the best walking of the whole Pembrokeshire Coastal Path route.
The Wales Coast Path bids farewell to Newport today as it crosses the old iron bridge over the Nyfer Estuary, offering good opportunities to view its Wildfowl and Heathland Conservation Area.
Skirting the restored lime kiln at Ffynnon Bryncyn, you enter the dunes and Marram grasses of 'The Bennet' Sand Bank, in an area known locally as Traeth Mawr (The Big Beach). One of the finest stretches of sands since Marloes and always in a state of churning flux as the tidal waters arrive or leave and collide against or run with, the freshwaters from the river Nyfer.
It's now a steady climb up to 500ft through the heathland nature reserve onto a solid stone trail along the edge of the coastal peak at Foel Fach. Here beautiful banks of purple heather cling to the slopes and mark the start of the day's huge ridge walk along a spine of towering coastal cliffs to Ceibwr.
The path takes a narrow, exposed but exhilarating route, traversing mid slope through the bracken and gorse, a walk along the edge of the world where the sheer size of the cliffs, looming mountain slopes and deep blue ocean are breathtaking and belittling. Steep climbs force you up and over huge landslips before a section of incredibly steep descents and ascents is rewarded by fine views of the impressive sea arch at Castleltreruffydd. Here, whirling below and above you in the air thermals, are a constant array of Fulmars, Razorbills, Guillemots and Cormorants.
At the approach to Ceibwr Bay is probably the finest chasm on the whole Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Huge wedges of disjointed rock mountains lead the way to a sudden drop where you almost fall into the spectacular rock formations at Pwll y Wrach (The Witches Cauldron). Here a huge collapsed sea cave creates a booming blowhole, which is crossed precariously on a towering natural bridge that takes the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on a tightrope climb out of this jagged amphitheatre.
The Cauldron is connected to the sea by a short tunnel, and the stream that flows down the valley disappears underground into the crater here to empty into the Cauldron's boiling pot. It's an impressive sight at any time but hit it at high tide and the whole place is one furious, tortured explosion of the ocean's fury, you literally have to climb over it all to pass by!
There is brief peace at Ceibwr Bay where you can marvel at the first of the Ceibwr cliffs displaying the contorted geological folds at close quarters, opposite a row of jagged teeth-like rock stacks at Careg Wylan.
A secluded tunnel of a cove, this is the first time in 6 miles that you have returned to sea level, and the reward is to find a bubbling stream charging onto the shingle beach from another deeply wooded glacial valley.
Inland of here is the tiny hamlet of Moylgrove, the only habitation between Newport and the end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at St Dogmaels. There are no real facilities but options do exist to catch a lift out at this point.
Cross an impressive granite clapper bridge, built recently after previous bridges washed away in the storms every winter without fail. The walk now reaches its climax, but you have to work to reach it. This climb is from sea level to the highest point on the whole 186 miles of The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Footpath within the next few miles. There is one monstrous descent on one of the steepest switchbacks to cross a mountainous ravine at Pwllygrannant, heralding the start of the final ascent to Traeth Godir-Coch - the highest point of the whole Pembrokeshire Coastal Path at 575ft.
Below you now are the immense cliffs of Pen yr Afr, with the most amazing set of folded strata thrust up hundreds of feet from the ocean floor in herringbone zigzags and rollercoaster arcs. You can throw away that geography text book, this is one of the finest examples of geological folding in the UK, right before you.
The path turns to cling to the top of these sheer cliffs and far below is an isolated beach, often filled with 30 or more Grey Seals basking on the rocks with their pups, fully protected from any human interference by the vertical rock faces.
Welcome to Cemases Head, with huge vertical cliffs at over 450ft, the highest in Pembrokeshire, they just disappear beneath your feet to oblivion. At this outstanding viewpoint, for the last time look back over the stump of Dinas Head to the winking light from Strumble Head Lighthouse three days walk behind you. In front, stare into Ceredigion and another section of the Wales Coast Path, framed in the distance by the imposing sight of the revered Welsh Mountain Cadair Idris some 50 miles north marking the entrance to Snowdonia.
If there is a psychological end to the walk, it’s this headland, and beyond it you start your final descent through a designated wildlife reserve with the last chance to spot Choughs, Ravens, Falcons and Kestrels hovering over the path. As you head into Cardigan Bay keep looking to the ocean for Bottle Nosed Dolphins and Porpoises close to shore – around July and August there are occasional sightings of Orca, Minke and even Killer Whale.
The last few miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path descend on a farm track to Poppit Sands in the fertile and gentle Teifi Valley. Here the snaking river Teifi traverses golden sand bars and lush green marshes on its course from Cardigan to meet the sea at the boiling mouth of the estuary.
At Poppit Sands you can take a boardwalk to divert via the beach which holds rarities in the dunes such as the Bee Orchid. There are good views to Cardigan Island, once famous for its large population of Puffins which were completely lost when rats arrived having escaped from the shipwreck of The Herefordshire which hit the island in 1934 - the rats not only left the sinking ship but wiped the Puffin colony out completely.
In the past this was Coracle territory, and the little round boats were used by the monks at St Dogmaels Abbey to net Salmon and Sea Bass in these sheltered waters.
After the ravages of the Witches Cauldron these last few miles have a tranquil air about them as you prepare to return to the normal world and bid farewell to the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Gradually you replace the fury of nearly 200 miles of colliding cliffs and ocean with gentle waters, shifting sands and mud estuary.
Your journey ends amidst the tranquil surroundings of the little Quay at St Dogmaels, where the paths commemorative plaque sits beside a carved wooden mermaid who stares wistfully over the marshes at the last of the 186 miles from Amroth.
A short wander beyond are the impressive remains of the Abbey itself, not only the end of the trail but indeed the end of Pembrokeshire itself, with the town of Cardigan in nearby Ceredigon County only a mile further along the road. From the Castle at Cardigan, another fine stretch of coastal path the Ceredigion Coast Path heads off excitedly for the north of Wales – but then that’s another story entirely!