Pembrokeshire has long been an area I wish to explore more. With a stunning coastline and emerald green waters, it’s a haven for sea kayaking. So finally off we went for a beautiful long Bank Holiday weekend paddling in stunning Pembrokeshire. We were staying at Conifers Camp site with unspoilt views across the ocean and glorious sunshine. I could therefore think of nowhere else I’d rather be this August.
We also had flexible plans to meet up with Chucky and another group of sea kayakers, so depending on timings etc, hopefully it was going to be a great four days.
The nearby village of Newport welcomes visitors all year round. Offering great local pubs, restaurants and shops, this little haven is a pleasant 10 minute walk away from the camp site. The path passes the small harbour and is an easy walk.
With a plan to launch from Ceibwr Bay near Moylegrove, Day 1 needed an early start to grab one of the few parking spots near the beach. Steeped in history, this secluded little cove is often known as ‘Slippy Bay’. Perhaps due to its many tales of Pirates and smuggling, including a much more recent smuggling story.
It is here at Ceibwr Bay during the 1980’s, that ‘Operation Seal Bay’ was consequently launched. With the Police successfully cracking an international drug smuggling ring. After a number of tip offs from locals, the Police uncovered a buried tank full of drugs. Locals had noticed a number of launches going to and from the beach and a group of big-spenders had been buying rounds of drinks for locals in the nearby pub. Literally pulling wads of £20 notes out of bin bags. What the gang hadn’t accounted for was the ‘gossip factor’. As a result of which they were caught red-handed, consequently receiving lengthy prison sentences.
Fortunately our plans were a lot more simple. Our stash consisting of flasks of soup, bottles of water, and a packet of Haribo’s in Mark’s BA. The only slippy thing I encountered was the rocks as my arse hit them with a thud.
With Bumble finally launched onto the sea for the very first time and Mark also trying out a Dagger Charleston 15, we were going to take it easy, while getting used to the feel of the boats on the sea, plus some launching and landing practice on the gravelly beach.
Ceiwbr Bay offers good shelter. With caves and gullies aplenty making for some good boat control practise and a little exploring.
Bumble handled beautifully. I know I wasn’t pushing it in big conditions, that would almost certainly come on other trips. I was just so glad to be out. Playing on the swell around this beautiful coastline, with inquisitive Seals popping up to watch us. After a couple of hours paddling around the Pembrokeshire coastline we headed back for lunch and a drive to our next location.
The afternoon started with a drive through Parrog to the busier Newport Bay. Parking the van on the beach and after checking the tide times we head east to the headland. Thereafter deciding to cross the bay and follow the coastline west towards the popular Dinas Head.
I have to say this was absolutely stunning. Deep emerald green water laps gently against the boats. You are surrounded by completely unspoilt rock formations. Rising sharply out of the sea like daggers. Paddling in Pembrokeshire with the sun beating down. We investigated every cave as they lay hidden to the many walkers on the coastal path high above them.
Passing the small inlet at Bae Ceredigion and Aberfforest Beach with its Chapel and Cross looking poignantly out to sea.
Dinas Head, also known as Dinas Island, is a peninsula which partially joins on to the mainland, rising impressively some 460 feet above sea level. So after a good exploration we turned back for Parrog. Arriving at Newport Boat Club at low tide made for some delicate manouvering through the moored boats to stay in the deeper channel.
So with another impressive 16km under my belt, the boat club finally provided a welcome leg stretch and a refreshing cold drink. Sitting on the balcony we looked out across Newport Bay as the sun set at the end of our first day.
With blue skies melting into the sea, our second day began at Poppit Sands. At low tide a stunning long white sandy beach with a back drop of sand dunes for the kids. This is a popular beach for tourists and locals alike. The nearest village is St Dogmaels, with pubs, chip shop and the ruins of a beautiful Abbey. There are plenty of Guest Houses and B&B’s in the area.
At Poppit Sands the small car park soon fills up, due to this being the start (or finish) of the well known 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Facilities at the beach include an RNLI station and shop, café, toilets and a first aid point.
Once the boats are unloaded and carried down to the beach we decide to speak to the local Lifeguard crew. We checked up to date information on tides and conditions. Local knowledge is always useful to have particularly if you have never paddled an area before. They pointed out a strong rip current to the east of the beach for us to avoid. I know we are likely to be coming back at low tide therefore the trolleys are loaded into the hatches.
Should I pack my C-tug?
When buying a set of wheels for Bumble I had checked the specifications for various brands and the only one guaranteed to fit was the C-tug. Recommended by Tiderace Ambassador Alice McInnes, I had consequently bought these from Roho prior to our trip. C-tug wheels are great. They dismantle easily to fit in the hatches and the wide wheels make them an easy pull on soft sand as opposed to some other brands I had tried.
With the long sweeping bay behind us, we launched into the surf for a play. Dodging children in the water on inflatables of every kind. I tried to manoeuvre around them. The chances of me being taken out by a giant inflatable Swan or a Pink Flamingo are high. Therefore our best option was to head west along the much quieter coastline until the beach was emptier later in the day.
The coastline, as expected, didn’t disappoint as we followed the route of the coastal path high above us on the cliffs. Once passing the tall headland after 5km we consequently became exposed to a strong F4, making it noticeably tough going for a while. Bumble handled well as I pushed into the headwind. Mark has plenty of upper body strength, therefore despite this being his first weekend out in these conditions he certainly has the power to paddle back with ease. After a quick stop for lunch we headed down the Teifi Estuary on the eastern edge of Poppit Sands.
The Teifi Estuary
The Teifi can be followed up past St Dogmaels and Cardigan. With a total length of 73 miles, making this the longest river in Wales. It starts in the Cambrian Mountains, winding through with deep gorges, past Castles, Abbeys and a nature reserve before entering the sea at Cardigan Bay. We had no intentions of paddling that far today.
Staying clear of the boats and jet skis in the area was a must. This is a busy area for fishing and with a busy boat club enjoying this fine weekend weather.
Bizarrely, him indoors seemed to know the area well, as he started to tell me what lay ahead.
“How do you know? You haven’t been paddling down here in Pembrokeshire before” I asked.
“I might not have been on the water but I’ve flown past it on the bike, there’s some cracking roads around here and if I remember rightly there’s a pub just down there on the banks of the river”
Mark has always been a biker, having toured all over Europe on his Triumph Tiger 1050 before then changing it for a Ducati Pikes Peak (I have to say that was an exceptionally stunning bike. We had some great rides on it). Anyway…
“Look to your right Lynne. I knew I was right” he shouts. Clear enough there it was, The Ferry Inn. I should’ve known, this paddling encyclopaedia of pub stops I had with me never misses a trick!
What can possibly go wrong?
You can probably guess what happened for the rest of the afternoon. With the kayaks moored on the small landing area below, we spent a sunny couple of hours on the balcony overlooking the Estuary.
As the afternoon drifts on it’s time to get going. Paddling back up the estuary was now clearly more difficult. At low water it is hit and miss to find a deep enough passage through. We finally run aground, probably a few hundred yards or so from the head of the estuary. C-tug you little beauty, I was so glad I’d brought them! With Bumble taking a rest we took a long hike back to the sea, towing our toys behind us like a couple of naughty kids going home late. Consequently that’s what happens as a result of you chilling in a pub. We are here to be paddling in Pembrokeshire, not walking through up estuary.
Once back to sea and near Poppit Sands we are finally welcomed by a noticeably quieter beach. The kids are all tired and their parents cleaned out by the café and ice cream kiosk. There to welcome me, beautiful rolling waves crashing onto an empty soft sandy beach. Oh baby you’re mine.
“Surfs up. Mark I’m off out to play”
I had never actually been taught to surf but I thought what the hell, the worst that can happen is I get wet and a mouthful of sea water. Paddling out over the crests I loved it. Trying to turn quickly enough to hitch a ride back. This was absolute bliss. Bumble was so light and effortless to paddle as I braced onto the crashing waves as some of them caught me sideways, chucking me back towards the beach like a steam train. No doubt boosted with a glass of confidence courtesy of The Ferry Inn, I just kept trying. Pembrokeshire was certainly proving to be a great paddling experience.
Mark left the Dagger on the beach and waded in up to his chest with a GoPro on his head, grabbing me some cracking shots. How he managed to stay on his feet goodness knows, but I’m eternally grateful for the images he got. Now I make no apologies for the number of photos here but I was just so happy, as you can probably tell by the look on my face!
As the sun set on another stunning day I felt invigorated. Pembrokeshire is a paradise for paddling, I would definitely be back. It was a bloody long walk back to the van though.
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
So where the hell was Chucky anyway? We have been trying to meet up for the past couple of days. He and Jo stay down at St David’s. Being part of a larger group his timings are dictated by them, giving us too little time to meet up. So we decide our final day will be spent hiking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. The path hugs the bays and headlands with cliff top views all the way along its 186 miles from Poppit Sands to Amroth.
Starting from Conifers camp site we made our way down to Parrog to join the trail. The weather was glorious and the views across the sea breathtaking. It was also great to follow the track of where we’d been paddling that weekend. We came to Aberfforest and as we queue for a drink I spot Chucky’s van in the car park. I figured they must be doing the Needle Rock trip. We knew he was with a group who regularly meet each August to go paddling in Pembrokeshire.
Aberfforest to Dinas Head
Aberfforest is a small sheltered cove at Cwm-yr-Eglwys to the east of Dinas Head. The ruins of the Church of St Brynach are a popular tourist attraction. The church has been damaged by many storms during its history. Finally succumbing to the elements, it was abandoned in 1859. Now standing proudly as a poignant reminder to all the souls who have enjoyed this beautiful earth before us.
Heading down to the beach I spotted Jo and little Noah playing in the sand so went over to say hello.
“Where’s Chucky?” I asked. Jo told us he’d gone out with a group to Fishguard and Needle Rock, so we may see them on our walk.
Dinas Head to Fishguard
Hiking up to Dinas Head we sat on the rocks to enjoy the panoramic views across the sea. It’s such a beautiful area though the walk is tough going with goodness knows how many steps twisting up and down around each cove and inlet.
Continuing on our way Mark spotted a large group of sea kayakers paddling in and out of the rocks. Chucky there you are! He was in a group of maybe 15 paddlers all enjoying what must have been a great trip.
Our next rest stop was the very busy bar/café The Old Sailors at Pwllgwaelod Beach. As we sat on the wall I spotted Mike Mayberry paddling back to the beach with a fellow kayaker. Blimey they were all out paddling in Pembrokeshire today. Can’t say I blame them, there was nowhere else I’d rather be at this point.
On to the final stretch now and we finally arrived at the small town of Fishguard after a good 19.3km hike in the scorching heat. Heading straight for the bus stop in Lower Fishguard we checked the times of the next bus back to Newport.
“What do you mean it’s tomorrow?” I gasped, looking at Mark in despair. We checked with a local and yes we’d missed the last bus. The next one wasn’t until the following morning.
We passed the time in the local listening to a folk band murdering some tracks and reading the old nautical maps covering the walls. It had been a long walk but a fitting end to an amazing weekend. So with Mark resembling the rich tones of the mahogany door behind him we tried to work out a plan.
Leaving the pub a couple of hours later I saw an empty bus coming round the corner. Running out to flag it down quickly, we were lucky enough to hitch a lift from the understanding driver on her way back to the depot after finishing her shift. We landed back at the camp site and started packing up. I was sad to be leaving. This August Bank Holiday weekend paddling in Pembrokeshire had been brilliant. To be honest all my weekends away are. I cherish them and the memories they leave with me.
Pembrokeshire you are amazing.
As we drove home the following day I reflected on the paddling, surfing, hiking, the kind hospitality of the locals, the views and the laughs I’d enjoyed with my best mate. Roll on next August!