Crossing the Landsker Line – Newgale to Solva
If you want to enjoy one of the top coastal walks in the UK then this one is a must – featured in many guides and recommendations for walkers exploring West Wales. Although only 4.6 miles (7.3km) this stretch of the Pembrokeshire National Coast Park coastal path has some strenuous sections and plenty of ups and downs, so you may be tempted to travel back to your starting point on the 411 bus or the seasonal Puffin Shuttle. I would suggest a half day walk to Solva, time for browsing and enjoying the harbour and a pub lunch or picnic before walking back.
Newgale beach is famed for its two miles of golden sands, the huge pebble bank, created in the Ice Age and for excellent surf. For me the spectacular sunsets all year round make it an inspiring and uplifting place and I would recommend visiting Newgale at any time of day or season.
Starting from Rickett’s Head or the car park at Pebbles Beach Cafe at the southern end, you will see the entire wonder of St. Brides Bay before you. At this end of the beach are some fascinating caves at low tide, including one you can walk right through, as well as a wide expanse of rock pools and geological features to marvel at.
Fulmars nest on the cliffs at this end of the beach and camper vans nestle into the narrow lay-bys above the cliffs. The middle section of Newgale’s immaculate sandy beach is closed to dogs from May to September, but the rest is dog-friendly and provides level, flat walking on firm sand. Two lifeguard stations ensure safety for swimmers, bodyboarders and surfers during the summer months. With its huge expanse, Newgale is also a favourite for kite- flying, kite-surfing, land-yachts and, in calmer conditions, paddle boarding.
Half way along the beach you will come alongside the A487 and the vast pebble bank, deposited here during the Ice Age. This stretch of road is not what you would usually expect from an A road – more like a minor road. The pebble bank sometimes shifts in extreme stormy weather conditions. In the winter of 2014, a major shift, together with breaking waves, trapped a bus and you may well have a pebble shower driving along here in a winter storm.
At the northern end of the beach at Newgale you will cross the Brandy Brook, which marks the Landsker Line between the “English” south and the more Welsh north Pembrokeshire. The coast path from here is steep and stepped and you may be able to walk across Cwm Mawr and the beach of Penycwm at low tide, which has some geological marvels of its own. Be mindful of the tide here as it comes in quite suddenly and you may need to jump over some incoming waves.
Follow the coast path as it winds up and down, but don’t forget to turn round and wonder at the views whenever you can. You will come down onto a cove called Porthmynawyd or Pointz Castle and this is a good place to break your walk, explore and scramble amongst the rocks and pools. Your steps will lead you up and over two isthmus, known as Dinas Fach and Dinas Fawr and past the arch in the cliffs, Ogof Felen. Wild horses on the moorland stretch may be your only companions or you may meet some cattle or sheep depending on the season. Wild flowers and blackberries, seabirds, songbirds and insects are in abundance along this route so some binoculars, a sketchpad and a camera could add to your pleasure.
Violets, squill and seapinks appear in spring as you walk on into the glacial valley just before The Gribbin – a ridge leading to Solva. Another beautiful beach to stop and explore is St. Elvis, with its “troll” bridge over the river and views of Green Scar and Black Rock islands just offshore. On warm summer days you may see ducks rounding the headland from Solva’s estuary and on very low tides you could skirt round to the far end of the dog-leg harbour. The steep climb up and over The Gribbin is well rewarded with breathtaking views of Solva and the remains of an iron-age fort to discover.
The path will lead you down onto the shore and harbour with its lime kilns and rockpools to investigate – if you are young or slim enough you can wriggle through the tunnel in one of the kilns! Solva itself is often described as the jewel in Pembrokeshire’s crown with its colourful houses, sheltered harbour and quirky shops, galleries and eateries.