“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter that the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” -Walt Disney
Guys I have no idea where to start with this post, this hike was by far the most emotional hike I have ever been on while walking the Wales coastal path. I literally went through every single emotion! I cried, hysterically laughed, was angry, was happy, sad and at several points sat down wanting to give up! All topped off by crying into my can of coke at the end of the hike! If there was ever a hike I wanted to give up on it was this one! Not to mention dehydration, sunburn and extreme pride! Saying all this I plan on returning next summer to do this very walk again because I am slightly crazy and I know next time I will be stronger, fitter and mentally more able (well I hope for sure). There is a lot of pictures in this post, even if you can’t be arsed reading it please look at the pictures because it really is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal path!
So lets start at the beginning and with my first emotion of anger! So I am doing the whole coastal path based on the official guides of the Wales coastal path, seems smart right? Seems logical! what the books don’t tell you is that people don’t like you crossing areas and Pembrokeshire doesn’t seem to follow the official guides or really care for them! Even writing this I am getting pissed off remembering the number of people in Pembrokeshire who told me that Cardigan isn’t Pembrokeshire and it didn’t matter the number of times I explained myself they didn’t give a shit! Also just a FYI this section of the path is only about a mile outside the Pembrokeshire boarder! I was told to miss parts out because “that’s not Pembrokeshire” like I am going to do the whole Wales coastal path missing out just one mile because of some kind of beef with the neighbouring county! I have never been so angry over a mile stretch of road before!
And then there is the buses or the lack of buses. I knew that buses (how many times can I say buses) in Wales aren’t great on a Sunday, I am used to this and manage to make it work! And it would seem that I have been extremely spoilt by the bus service around Snowdonia which I will never ever complain about again. During the summer months or at least the summer holiday weeks there are coastal runners along the Pembrokeshire coast but only to sections they want you to walk, in fact I had to do this walk because out of the 14 sections in Pembrokeshire this was the only one with decent transport. To do any of the other sections I had to take bus journeys using a number of different buses taking up to three hours just one way! An impossible transport system! So you have two choices either 14 nights doing the whole section with wild camping or end up rewalking parts of the coastal path in a bid not to miss any. This was the most disappointing part of my whole trip, especially since most of the tourists are actually walkers and hikers! The bus driver told me off at least four times during the trip about starting in Cardigan while locals told me I was crazy! Eventually happy to get off the bus they had taken the shine off the start of my day!
Eventually I made it to the start of the Pembrokeshire section of path and the first mile allowed me to walk my bad mood off! I also fell in my first mile and thought I broke a bone in my foot which added to my fowl mood! But seriously really thought I had broken something and was far to scared to take my boot off just in case! At this point I should have probably stopped because two weeks on my foot is still a little painful! Eventually you get to St Dogmaels and just past a flag-draped mermaid, is the plaque and plinth declaring the official start of the Pembroke Coast Path. The plaque has a footstep marked on it and of course I put my feet in them! The blue house at the top of this post is in St Dogmaels and is my dream house, how bloody pretty is it!
The route take you past Poppit Sands which is the first beach along the path which leads along small roads or paths beside them, past the final café of the day and a stark sign warning you that you are about to enter a ‘remote, rugged and challenging stretch’ of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, 13 miles with ‘numerous very steep hills’ and few exit points. I should have listened to this sign and probably headed back! I never would have done but I should have! Within the first mile after the sign I fully understood!
I did read about this section of the coastal path in the official guide before setting off but re reading it as I am writing this has opened my eyes a little more!
” A long, tough day along the top of wild, rugged and relatively remote cliffs, always surrounded by dramatic coastal scenery. This is one of the toughest days, its long, there is a lot of ascent and descents and there is no facilities on route.”
I am pretty sure it was all ascent and descent and at the start I saw a couple of people but after a max of four miles they turned back for a good six hours I saw no one!
I saw so many pretty things, plants and bugs that I wished my friend Sarah was with me for because she seems to know the names of everything and I am forever asking her questions. I posted this picture on my insta stories and she replied with peacock butterfly. I will forever remember what a peacock butterfly looks like now! One of my favourite parts of walking the coastal path is the sheer number of butterflies, they are everywhere and I feel like a princesss when walking through fields of them fluttering around me!
These pictures do not even come close to how incredible the view was and how inviting the sea looked. Looking out over the cliffs to the bluest sea I have ever seen with its patches of crystal clear turquoise spots! I did keep looking for seals or dolphins, unfortunately I didn’t see either not that I could have my eye sight is awful! By this point I was hoping for a little bit of flat ground, which never came!
By mid point I was doing OK! In fact I was loving the scenery at this point I had no idea that I was only mid point if I had known I might not have been smiling so much! At this point I also eat a chicken bagel and some nuts, trying not to stop for too long I had to be back at my car for 8pm to get to my next hotel for 9pm! Plus the last thing I wanted at this point was for my legs to stop or my sore foot to relax! And lets not mention the knee, Christ I have old lady bones and joints! I was also carrying 4L of water with me, what I did not know at this point was that wouldn’t be close to enough!
I completely lost count of how many times I descend to sea level then climbed back up, just know it was a lot. And even when not going up or down the path was so narrow that I kept twisting on my ankle (naturally the only ankle I twisted on belonged to the bad foot). I am not sure when the last time it had rained in Pembrokeshire I knew it had been a while as I overheard some locals complaining about the dry spell. Which meant a lot of the path was basically covered in slippy hay which involved having to go up and down on all fours because trying to walk normally was impossible without falling! Adding an extra little workout to my glutes!
As you continue to read this post it does sound like I am wingeing and complaining a lot, which I am this shit was hard as fuck! But it was all worth it for the view, I spent most of the walk in complete awe of the coasts and Pembrokeshires beauty! I don’t think I have ever seen an area as beautiful in all my life! I also don’t want to miss out the bad bits or gloss over my struggles and achievements, I want you to know that I struggle and don’t find everything easy. Yes I am happy most of the time but sometimes I cry even when happy. I hike a lot but there are times I want to give up!
So this bay I think is Ceibwr Bay and the first time in 3 hours I saw another soul and the last time for the next 3/4 hours. It was also the last chance I would get to ask for help and if I realised at this point how hard it would get for me I would have probably asked someone for help!
But then I saw this sign and thought 8 miles is easy I will be done in a couple of hours! That couple of hours was more like 4 hours and involved lots and lots of tears as well as me encouraging myself to keep going no matter what, it also involved some running! If I had known what I know now I would have most certainly given up so I am kind of glad I didn’t know. Plus I am not sure I want to test just how friendly and helpful people really are!
Another sign threatens more challenging walking for the final, and totally inescapable, seven miles. At this point I should have definitely given up but I didn’t and the next 7 miles may as well have been 77 miles! But with no way at all of getting off the coastal path and no where to stop I had no other choice but to keep going on a very emotional 8 mile walk!
Welcome to the witches cauldron or Pwll y Wrach. One of Pembrokeshires most impressive geological features. This enormous chasm was created by the collapse of the roof of a sea cave. I did have a little flirt with one of the gentlemen kayaking!
Pretty much at this point it was unbearable, I had realised now that a day of walking next to the sea in the sunshine had burnt me, I had run completely out of water and was starting to dehydrate! The constant having to ascend and descend on slippy surfaces had taken its toll on my legs and will power, I was starting to run out of time and energy very quickly! With about three miles left I sat down and started to cry basically hoping that a magic carpet would take me back to my car! I felt defected and unable to continue I just wanted to call for help or curl up and sleep. I had zero idea how I would make it back to my car, the thought of picking myself up off the ground was even too much for me!
However when something seems to physically tough for me I remember Jurassic park, yep the dinosaur film! Towards the end of the film Ellie (female lead) has been out all night, chased by dinosaurs, exhausted but then she sees Alan she grits her teeth and runs to him! While minus the man and the dinosaurs I do that, I grit my teeth, pick myself up, think about dinosaurs and start moving forward like my god damn life depended on it! That thought kept me going for at least the next 1.5 miles!
Now the problem with the coastal path is that everything seems around the corner when in fact everything is at least three times further away. Eventually after the last turn in the cliff I could see Newport beach which meant my car was parked about a mile away. I thought 10 minutes max to the beach, 15 minutes max to my car! 25 minutes easy peezy! No no no, took me 25 minutes just to get to Newport beach included a further two descends and an ascend! Once I hit Newport beach, knowing for sure I was only one mile of flat roads away from my car I still thought about knocking on each door I passed and asking for help, begging for help.
I always have a can of coke in my car for my finish it gets my blood sugar back up and I just love it! So I finally made it back to my car at this point the sun was getting pretty low and I didn’t have a touch in my bag (will be putting one in now) but the first thing I did was drink a litre of water followed by my can of coke which lead to me bursting in to tears I litrally couldn’t believe I had finished it, I was so proud of myself, I had pushed myself further then ever before and I did it!
The day had been a different kind of hard: physically and mentally, but more emotionally demanding then anything I have ever done before and add sunburn onto the day and I was ready for a cup of tea and a hot bath!