A Walk Round the Castle

St Brides Haven ©Nigel Summerley

We’re going to be publishing some walks that you can enjoy virtually… or look forward to doing when the lockdown is finally lifted…

They say a walk is always quicker on the way back… And it certainly is if you go out along the coast south from St Brides Haven and return via inland footpaths.

In fact, it’s probably best to allow two hours for going outward and one hour for coming back – because the coastal path here offers up so many arresting sites that you’re bound to stop frequently simply to gawp.

The Haven itself is relatively unspectacular but the sand and sea are welcoming, as is nearby St Brides Church, worth visiting particularly for its beautiful entrance gate. St Bride is of course Brigid, the 5th-century saint who is said by some to have travelled to Pembrokeshire with St David. She is revered for her humility and charity, but she is also intertwined in the fog of ancient history with Brigid, the Celtic goddess linked to spring, fertility and healing.

Entrance to St Brides Church ©Nigel Summerley

Here, by her church, you may catch your first glimpse of the castle – also named St Brides – that will be your companion for much of the way, although always seen in the distance until towards the very end of the walk.

The coast path quickly takes you away towards Nab Head, giving you countless wonderful sea views all the way along to Tower Point – where the word dramatic can’t do justice to this immense rocky outcrop. Whatever angle or direction you look at it from, it demands attention.

The sea froths way, way below as you continue over more towering grey-red cliffs splashed with greenery and gorse. Eventually you find yourself above the flat, golden beach of Musselwick Sands, and a path takes you down to meet the sea at Black Cliff. Seldom was a name so apt – the huge cliff standing alongside and behind the sand here is of the very deepest dark hue.

From Black Cliff, a track takes you up and over the coast path, south to meet the road to Marloes. On the edge of the village another footpath leads northwards on the inland return to St Brides. With nothing much to see apart from farms (Musselwick and Eastfield to your left, Fopston to your right), the pace tends to quicken, with St Brides Castle now the ever-larger goal.

Built in the early 19th century, it’s not so much the romantic turreted castle that it looks like from a distance, but the more prosaic hotchpotch of buildings that you discover when you get close up. Originally a stately home, then a hospital, then a convalescent home, it is now given over to holiday apartments, complete with a spa offering such delights as Hopi ear candling, eyelash tinting and pet reiki.

The public right of way takes you through the castle grounds and out again, offering a pleasant stroll all the way back to St Brides Haven.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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