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A few autumnal days in Pembrokeshire

Where to begin. Just a few days (four nights) away primarily on a walking trip with my very good (car owning) friend. Having access to wheels meant we could perhaps visit some of Pembrokeshire’s ancient monuments as well as the Preseli Hills that I had heard so much about. We has a small list - which omitted Carreg Samson as we had visited that on a previous occasion when travelling back from Fishguard ferry.
So, we had Pentre Ifan, Coetan Arthur, Carn Llidi, Carreg Coetan Arthur (Newport, Pembs) and St. Elvis, Solva on our list – plus a few other sites mentioned by Moss and Spencer which we didn’t manage to get to. St Elvis seemed easy as we were staying in Solva so we thought we would leave that one till last. We started our first full day by driving to Whitesands Bay and into a fierce westerly wind blowing in from the sea. The walk up to St David’s Head was pretty wonderful in spite of the wind, giant parasol mushrooms growing on cliffs slopes amongst the heather. Below in a small cove we saw a white baby seal with its mother and on another was a mature seal at the water’s edge. A raven came down and hovered overhead appearing to check us out. Later a buzzard. We could see the outline of Coetan Arthur on the headland with a thin track through the heather leading up to it. We made our way up the steep track and across a patch of water logged bog to the stones – where, sheltering behind the large headland rocks we ate our sandwiches while watching a couple of wheatears serenely pecking at the ground.
The next day we set off for Newport via Fishguard, where helpful people in the volunteer-staffed Information Centre told as us the best place to buy lunch and later provided a small hand drawn map with directions to Carreg Coetan Arthur. Quite easy to find using the little map – a near perfect neolithic burial chamber set in a small well-kept enclosure beneath a large holly tree.
Then on to Pentre Ifan, a short drive from Newport. We were told we could walk through woodland but might get lost so opted to drive and park in the designated area. Nothing quite prepared me for the impact this monument would make – firstly it is by far the largest I’ve seen in the UK (with perhaps Carreg Samson running it a close second). And again, as with the Irish monuments it was on a hillside facing west towards the sea. The weather for our short stay had been very changeable – we arrived in the rain and left in the rain but this particular afternoon was a window of bright breezy autumn sunshine. The visitors who were there when we arrived quickly left leaving us to enjoy a perfect half hour of discovery, sharing it only with the young brown bullocks in the next field. From Pentre Ifan we drove further into the Preseli Hills which, to me anyway, seemed steeped in mystery. Unfortunately the weather chose this time to close in so reluctantly we returned to Solva via Haverford West.
Solva is a lovely place – an inlet set between steep gorse covered hills on both sides. These hills are criss-crossed with way-marked footpaths. One of which takes you up to a promontory hillfort with spectacular views of the crashing sea. On our final day, after coastal path walking around St Davids we set off to St Elvis Farm to find the St Elvis dolmen. This involved walking up a steep track, down a steep track, up another steep track where we hoped to find what we were looking for – we didn’t. At this point the strenuous walking of the previous few days started to kick in. I became a bit tetchy so my patient companion led me back down another steep hill (past Solva sewage works) then back up ANOTHER steep hill where we came across a standing stone. Thankfully we could see Solva harbour below – by now the rain was sweeping through in waves. Just one more downhill walk to the sanctuary of the holiday cottage.
We didn’t get to see Carn Llidi on this occasion but I do hope to be back.
Just to mention as a footnote the drive back to Wiltshire was made in torrential rain – we broke the journey to visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Seen in the pouring rain but a splendid place, can’t recommend it too highly.

I would like to dedicate this blog to Moss who did so so much to inspire it, especially the stay at Solva. Keep on keeping on.

tjj Posted by tjj
12th October 2019ce

Comments (10)

A lovely read, glad you made it down there. It's a beautiful part of the world even in windy and wet weather. By not visiting St Elvis and Carn Llidi you've two good reasons to go back anyway.

PS Trethevy might give Pentre Ifan a run for its money :)
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
20th October 2019ce
Ah thanks tsc, yes indeed. Will always be happy to go back if and when the opportunity presents itself. tjj Posted by tjj
20th October 2019ce
I would also recommend, on your next visit, a trip to see The King's Quoit overlooking Manorbier beach; a splendid big red thing in the most picturesque of settings. ironstone Posted by ironstone
21st October 2019ce
Haste ye back, June. Thanks for the reminder about the National Botanic Garden, must do x spencer Posted by spencer
21st October 2019ce
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is a wonderful achievement Spencer - it has an old fashioned apothecary surrounded by all the medicinal herbs and information about their uses.
Ironstone - thanks for the recommend. I did discover King's Quoit at Manorbier the time I went to south Pembs (Tenby) several years ago. It is indeed splendid red sandstone with amazing views westward.
tjj Posted by tjj
21st October 2019ce
Thank you for that tjj, Solva is indeed a beautiful place and plenty of walking as well. St. Elvis is best approached from the track way to the farm of the same name, with its chapel/church hidden in the buildings. Last time visited a few years ago with Bucky and Loie and staying at the Cambrian Inn - recommended. moss Posted by moss
22nd October 2019ce
Thanks Moss, wish I had had those directions in advance. Friend does everthing according to OS map, the more challenging the better - your directions sound far too straightforward :) Maybe next time x tjj Posted by tjj
22nd October 2019ce
Personally I'd recommend visiting St Elvis as part of the walk along the Coast Path from Newgale rather than from Solva. The coastline on that section is stunning and you also get about four Iron Age cliff forts as a bonus. You can also miss the more up-and-down section out of Newgale by joining the path from Pointz Castle. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd October 2019ce
So long has you have stood next to Kings Quoit and looked back across the bay at least once everything else in life is just a bonus Posted by costaexpress
24th October 2019ce
Good stuff Tjj, a lovely read, quite right June no easy routes ;-) drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
24th October 2019ce
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