Oh we do love to be beside the seaside… especially when it offers steepling cliffs, rolling breakers, clear waters and clean beaches
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of the smallest in the UK, but what it lacks in surface area it more than compensates with spectacular beauty. The park covers almost the entire Pembrokeshire Coast, including offshore islands, the Daugleddau estuary and a decent sweep of the surprisingly rugged Preseli Hills (thought to be home to the bluestones used to build Stonehenge). Even at its widest, the park is only 16km, hugging the 420km coastline. A national trail, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, runs virtually the entire length of the national park, opening recreational access for walkers and runners, and there are watery adrenalin fuelled opportunities for any outdoor adventure-seeker with a dash of brine coursing through their veins, including surfing, coasteering, sea kayaking and kite surfing. Late spring is a great time to visit as wildflowers run riot along the coast, but as the summer develops and water temperatures rise, the idea of including a plunge into the sea, whatever your favourite sport, becomes ever more enticing.
There’s only one place to start with outdoor adventure in the national park, and that’s the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It runs like a spine along the edge of the park, covering 186 miles from Amroth in the south to St Dogmaels in the north. Allow about 12 days to hike its full length, and don’t be deceived into thinking this is an easy seaside stroll. If you tackle the path in its entirety, your total ascent and descent is 35,000ft, which is greater than scaling Everest from sea level. There are many one-day walks along the national trail where the elevation gain is greater than walking up Snowdon. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is now a section of the mightier 870-mile Wales Coast Path – which our staff writer Will Renwick has walked! Read about his journey here.
Choose from beach breaks and reef breaks for waves that have had the chance to develop in the Atlantic, before the prevailing south-westerly winds blow them onto the Pembrokeshire Coast. If you’re new to surfing, try Newgale, an ideal spot for beginners. Intermediate and experienced surfers will find bigger swells at Marloes, Whitesands and Freshwater West. For surf lessons, try surfmasterclass.com and outerreefsurfschool.com
Climb, jump, swim to shore, repeat… for thrill-seeking adrenalin junkies, coasteering is about as much fun as you can have in a wetsuit on British shores. The concept is simple – work your way along a sea cliff by scramble-climbing its face (there are no ropes involved), then jumping into the brine when you can go no further, swimming to shore, then tackling the next stretch of cliff. You decide how high you climb before jumping; daredevils might get as high as 10m. Try celticquestcoasteering.com and dragonactivityguides.co.uk
Enjoy a swift (how swift depends on your running speed) taste of 26.2 miles of the coast path, with the Ras Dewi Sant (City of St Davids Marathon), a point-to-point run along the coastal path from Porthgain to Whitesands. There’s a half marathon too. The next event is February 2017 (man-upuk.com). For those who prefer Tarmac below their trainers, the Pembrokeshire 10K and Half-Marathon take place in Dale in September (pembstri.org.uk).
With such a fantastic coastline, triathlons take full advantage of an open water sea swim to start their races. The Pembrokeshire Coast Triathlon offers Olympic distance (every June, pembstri.org.uk), while the ultra-fit will zero in on Ironman Wales, which takes place in Tenby in September (ironmanwales.com).
Road cycle here
There may not be many roads through the national park, but there are still spellbinding cycling routes with spectacular sea views. The Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive is an early season test of how much training you’ve done over winter with challenging climbs in each of the 50-, 75- and 100-mile route options (tourofpembrokeshire.co.uk). The Wales Sportive offers similar distances but with the comfort of July weather (thewalessportive.com).
Mountain bike here
The Preseli Hills offer a fabulous series of circuits to get your cross-country juices flowing. For a challenging route, pedal out north from Rosebush then follow the Preseli Ridge east and return via National Cycle Route 47. Opportunities to ride along the Coast Path are limited because it’s a footpath, but you can bike between Stack Rocks and St Govan’s, and Amroth and Saundersfoot.