Newport to Pwllgwaelod
Including Dinas Island.
My third day of walking the Pembrokeshire National Park Coast path from Newport to Pwll Gwaelod started off with a real change from day two’s exertions – this stretch from Newport Parrog to Pwllgwaelod is described as much less strenuous and demanding than the previous section. I had checked the weather forecast frequently as Pembrokeshire had been battered by autumn’s first storm for a couple of days and overnight had been very wild and windy – the day promised to be dry , getting warmer and with plenty of sunshine, but I was very glad to have put a woolly hat in the bottom of my rucksack as the morning was blustery. Later it became so warm that I met a friend swimming in the sea, and I seemed to spend every stop taking off layers ! If you set off for a day on the coast path, be prepared for anything and everything weather-wise would be my advice.
Leaving the picturesque old port at Newport Parrog, I was fascinated to observe the wonderful array of old cottages and to note the signs of its busy seafaring past. Until it silted up in the 1800s, Newport was a thriving port with slates, herring and wool being exported, while culm,limestone, fruit and luxury goods came in for unloading. Repair and restoration of ships was undertaken in the sheltered estuary, where nowadays the shore is scattered with pleasure craft and many people come here to enjoy holidays by the water. The little beach hosts an annual regatta and, at low tide, you walk along the shoreline to continue along the coast path. An alternative inland route is indicated for high tides.
If it had not been for the windy conditions, the path would have been so much easier than on days one and two of our trek, with astounding views back across Newport Bay and beyond – it was good to see how far I had already walked.”Sea quarries” were vital to the economy in past times and the remnants of this industry can be seen etched in the cliffs along the section of the path to Cat Rock. There are some steep steps, but not many very challenging inclines or descents. Inland views of the Preselis are good from the path and there are a few places where other footpaths join the coast path.
After some time we changed direction, were out of the wind and a muddy track led down to an idyllic and totally unspoilt cove at Aberrhygian – Cwtch the Collie was in seventh heaven so I took some time to relax and let her play in the tumbling stream and amongst the waves on the shoreline. Accessed over a little wooden bridge in the woodland, this beach can only be reached on foot so is a real treasure and felt like discovering a secret cove ! The sun had come out and more adventures beckoned, so we went on and before long reached the next little cove at Aberfforest – again a beautiful little bay. It has limited private access, which allows some small boats to launch and a few cottages along the forest valley. Later in the day I met some holidaymakers who had been staying in the one nearest the beach.
Balearic flavour in Pembrokeshire?
After a little climbing up, the path suddenly reached a long section almost enclosed in a tunnel of trees and shrubbery , with some woodland on one side and a tall hedge on the other. This valley, Cwm Dewi, is completely sheltered from the westerly winds and was so warm that there was still honeysuckle in flower, and blackberries good to eat. If we had not been able to hear the waves crashing against the cliffs on the seaward side, it would have been possible to forget this was actually still the coast path.
Eventually , we reached some semi-tropical trees and this path ended at the top of the steep narrow lane down into one of North Pembrokeshire’s real gems – the beautiful Cwm-yr-Eglwys (valley of the church). Due to its unique position, this little beach and village enjoys its own very mild micro-climate and the place has a tranquil Mediterranean feel. The ruins of St Brynach Church, almost completely destroyed in a storm in the 19th century, provide the most well-known feature, and around this are clustered the village, car park, shop and boatyard. In the holiday season it can be busy (by Pembrokeshire standards) and even on a midweek October day there were a few people around.
Cwtch and I were keen to climb over the ledge at the far end of the beach and access the hidden cove, where the sun is warmest and the trees most tropical in appearance. After some time relaxing there, we clambered back onto the main beach and were delighted to unexpectedly meet a friend, who is a keen all-year-round outdoor swimmer and had come to enjoy a dip. Her swim was applauded by everyone sitting enjoying the sunshine and we too sat for a while to have a chat.
From Cwm-yr-Eglwys there are two choices for the coast path walker to go on to Pwllgwaelod – a level wheelchair accessible path through the small mobile home park and then through some woodland teeming with wildlife OR to walk around the magnificent Dinas Island. I had walked the inland path before, so decided that we should explore Dinas Island.
This is not actually quite an island, but has scrubland, sheer cliffs and stupendous views, especially from the summit at Pen y Fan at 466 feet (142m). Managed by the National Trust and farmed on its inland areas, there are several paths around the island, some more precipitous than others. If you take the outer path it will give you a view over Needle Rock, home to many thousands of seabirds and give you the chance to spot seals, porpoises and dolphins below.
Beware, though, the views are so amazing that it would be easy to slip on the muddy tracks and some of the drops over the edge are sheer. By now, it was a warm and sunny day, but the breeze was brisk on one side of the island , so time to put some layers back on again. To do the circuit of Dinas is popular and the views make it appealing to many visitors and locals, so I probably met more people on this part of the coast path than on any other so far. (However, that only means about 20 in total – this is far West Wales and you can always find space on your own to stop and marvel at the scenery.)
After the summit, the path wound down gradually affording spectacular views towards Fishguard and beyond. Then, we saw Pwllgwaelod beach below us – this west-facing beach can seem a little exposed and shady after the delights of Cwm-yr-Eglwys -but the tide was out and with the sun sparkling on the water, it was stunning. I am convinced that Cwtch recognised this beach as soon as she saw it as we have enjoyed evening bonfires and lots of walking here in the past! The rocky winding path led to a stone track and then the little hamlet with its gaily coloured boats and popular pub beckoned. Pwllgwaelod also has toilets, a pick-up point for the coastal bus services in season and free parking. Cwtch quickly made friends with some other walkers and had the energy for a game on the beach and another dip in the sea – time then for a couple of mugs of tea for me and some dog biscuits for her.