Milford Haven - Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Southern Section.
Milford Haven marks the end of the Southern Section of the Pembrokeshire Coast path and, whilst it’s modern day links are heavily associated with the area's oil and gas refineries, it holds an interesting history, impressive waterside location, lively redeveloped marina and good facilities and transport for the arriving or departing walker.
Historically this location was a staging point for Viking invaders, but Milford Haven as we see it today is fairly modern, founded in 1790 by Sir William Hamilton who had great plans for a natural deep-water port in a sheltered location.
Construction, like that at nearby Pembroke Dock, expanded on the popular grid design of wide streets favoured at the time. Its first incarnation was as the home to American Quakers from Nantucket who were fleeing the War of Independence and set up whaling operations in the town, the whale oil being sent up country to light the lamps in London.
As the whales grew scarcer, more general fishing took centre stage along with development of the Royal Naval Dockyard which launched no less than seven Royal Vessels from here before it was moved to nearby Pembroke Dock. Fishing remained the main occupation and at one time this was the third largest fleet in the UK before the 1960’s saw the arrival of Esso and the explosion of refineries which today are the main employers in the town.
Lord Nelson was a regular visitor and a big supporter, claiming that Milford Haven was "the greatest natural harbour in the world". It may have been overtaken on that front by the likes of Sydney, Australia, but the modern harbour and docks remain a lively place though with more yachts these days than fishing trawlers.
Those staying overnight will enjoy impressive views from the main harbourside, and it's well worth a stroll up past the revamped Water Gardens at The Rath, both great places to watch the ferries and super tankers crawl past so close.
The Milford Haven Museum in the Old Custom House was once used to store the whale oil and charts the history of the town from its Quaker beginnings to its modern day refineries.
Milford Haven has long suffered bad press due to its refineries and industry but invariably this is from those who haven't been here, or at least not for many years. The revamped harbour area is a lively mix of good restaurants, coffee shops, boutique and independent shops and is a pleasing place to head for a drink by the waterside.
You might catch something on at the local Torch Theatre or head to the Old Sail Loft and Waterfront Gallery, a worthy showcase for local artists. West of the main town on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path you can see the impressive structures of Fort Hubberston, one of the largest of Palmerston's Defence forts whilst a great short walk takes you alongside the creek at Hubberston Pill to the hamlet of Priory.
Here you can view the impressive Chancel Arch and other remains of Pill Priory established by the Tironian order of Benedictine Monks who had links to the Abbey at St Dogmaels at the end of The Pembrokeshire Coast Path near Cardigan.
With a population of over 12,000 this is the second largest town in Pembrokeshire and, as such, its facilities and transport options (which include the train out to Cardiff and Swansea) make it a prime location for accessing both the Western and Southern sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.