The Wales Coast Path traces the cliffs high above Ramsey Sound

Dennis Kelsall marvels at Ramsey Sound’s rugged coast on the St Davids peninsula, Pembrokeshire

PEMBROKESHIRE AND ITS COASTAL SECTION OF THE WALES COAST PATH are a great destination for either holiday or mini-break. There is no shortage of excellent accommodation and camp sites, with local pubs and restaurants providing a friendly end-of-day welcome. As a taster, here is one of my favourite rambles around the St David’s peninsula, which begins from Porthclais, one of the most picturesque settings for a harbour imaginable

It follows a constantly twisting cliff path above a spectacular jumble of rocks and boulders, where each turn reveals something new. Rounding the point, the way overlooks Ramsey Sound, before returning along quiet country lanes below the site of a prehistoric settlement.

The fast flowing tides that surge through are dramatically highlighted as the sea flows across The Bitches, a group of low rocks towards Ramsey Island.

Cliffs and islands

Walk from the car park down to the harbour and keep ahead to join the Wales Coast Path. Climb easily away above a group of lime kilns along the inlet before turning at the open sea to follow the coast west. One of the most impressive features is a gaunt stack dramatically pierced by a slanting rectangular ‘doorway’. It is not far along the coast, but you have to look back at it to see the arch. Offshore ahead, a jumble of islets and bare rocks break the waves, whilst behind them more small islands run from the tip of Ramsey.

Rounding the point behind Carreg Frân, the cliffs turn in towards Porthlysgi Bay. The path gently looses height towards the head of the beach, passing the ruin of a small building that once housed the St David’s lifeboat. The onward climb is not as kind as the descent, but the cliff top is soon gained and the going again agreeable. As you reach the Treginnis peninsula, look to the small islands of Carreg yr Esgob in the centre of the bay. The middle one is almost severed by a sloping, needle-like gash.

Cromlech on St Davids Head, Pembrokeshire

Cromlech on St Davids Head, Pembrokeshire

Ramsey Sound

Climbing across the headland, the way continues beside Ramsey Sound, a narrow and treacherous stretch of water. The fast flowing tides that surge through are dramatically highlighted as the sea flows across The Bitches, a group of low rocks towards Ramsey Island. Indeed, when the tide is in full spate, the water levels actually appear to differ on either side. None of this seems to inconvenience the seals, however, who invariably drift and bob offshore around the point. Another common sight is the school of resident porpoises who patrol the channel, leaping and diving amongst the waves.

St Justinian’s then comes into view, the present home of the St David’s lifeboat. Launchings are dramatic from the station perched high on stilts above the water. Cross the path leading to the quay below, being careful not to trip over the winch cable at the top of the incline. Shortly the vast expanse of Whitesands comes into view and the path dips to a stream at the head of a small beach behind Porthselau.

Cross the stream and climb away beside it to meet a track at the top. Turn right, and walk out past a small caravan site to reach a lane. Go left, and at the next junction, right, keeping with the lane as it winds below a prehistoric hill fort, Clegyr-Boia. Head over a crossroads and follow the narrowing lane down to Porthclais.

Dennis Kelsall - outdoor author

Dennis Kelsall – outdoor author

This article first appeared in The Lancashire Evening Post in July 2005, and is re-published here with the author’s permission. Copyright © Dennis Kelsall 2005. All rights reserved.

Dennis is a long-established writer and photographer specialising in hill and countryside walking as well as more general UK tourist destinations. He has authored a long list of guide and travel books for several main-stream publishers, scripted audio commentaries and contributed to outdoor magazines and regional newspapers.

Dennis is a former chairman and lifetime member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild; and is available for commissions.

Contact: dennis.kelsall@gmail.com