Tucked away on the far west of Wales, Pembrokeshire has an unfair abundance of sensational walking landscapes.
A truly epic coastline hems in the fabulous Preseli Hills and history-rich peaks like Carn Ingli. To use a sporting analogy, the walks here are �straight from the top drawer,� led by the challenging and majestic Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
But whether you�ve got a fortnight to walk the national trail�s 186 imperious miles, or just a long weekend to tick off a section, Ordnance Survey Explorer OL35 is home to walking encounters you�ll never forget.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
If ever a long distance path took no prisoners, it�s the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. By the end of your first day on the national trail, walking south, you�ll have climbed an altitude equivalent to an ascent of Snowdon.
As an introduction to the trail, it�s both brutal and beautiful, cliffs diving into crashing white waves below, beguiling beaches beckoning you into the rolling breakers. Even on good paths and with straightforward navigation (sea on your right, path ahead), the PCP represents tough walking, steep ascents followed by rapid descents, buffeted by winds and weather systems that last saw land on the far side of the Atlantic.
But it�s worth it, oh, how it�s worth it, because this is the path that dispels any notion of coastal walking being a bit �samey�. Skyscraper cliffs lead to surfing beaches and on to Giant Causeway-style basalt columns, pillow lava, and up into genuinely remote, desolate wilderness.
Post walk pit-stops
Sloop Inn, Porthgain
Nestled in an idyllic inlet, the Sloop Inn is a character-packed pub, decorated with nautical memorabilia and fascinating black and white photographs of this tiny village when it was a local centre of industry (brick works). Good food and a real fire make it a top place to call in if you�re walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Tel: 01348 831449.
Harbour Inn, Solva
Even if the beer were awful and the interior cold and drab, you�d be hard pressed to find a better summertime place to stop for a post-walk pint than the Harbour Inn. Because this pub�s front garden has grandstand seats for the picturesque River Solva harbour, a south-facing haven where only the clanking of rigging among the moored yachts and the call of gulls and rooks disturb the peace. Add in a good selection of Brains real ales, and it�s a top place to break your walk. Tel: 01437 720013
The Old Sailors, Pwllgwaelod
Once called the Sailor�s Safety, this caf�-cum-restaurant should now be called the Walker�s Danger. After a blustery yomp up to the spectacular views of Dinas Head, the warmth and shelter of the Old Sailors is enough to encourage you to undo your laces, kick back and relax, gazing at the marvellous beach and rocky cove through the giant picture windows. Tel: 01348 811491
There�s a lovely short walk south from the city of St David�s out to St Non�s Bay, where you�ll find a ruined church and holy spring dedicated to St Non (St David�s mother). It�s a linear walk, no more than 2km there and back, but you�ll still enjoy a refreshing blast of sea air, and the simple and rather moving ruined chapel.
Follow this lollypop shaped route for a spectacular walk to the towering viewpoint on Dinas Island. You�ll appreciate every one of your 135 metres above sea level on Dinas Head, as you gaze at the amazing 360-degree panorama. It�s not a trail for vertigo sufferers, but it is a magnificent walk,that starts at Newport and heads west, circumventing the faux-island of Dinas, before retracing its steps.
If the smell of salt and sea air aren�t to your taste, head inland to the glorious Preseli Hills, for walking that climbs the contours to over 400 metres, making these the tallest hills in Pembrokeshire. Rocky outcrops puncture the landscape, and the slopes fall away sharply enough for fabulous views in all directions.
Whether you�ve got a free afternoon, weekend, week or fortnight, you can�t go wrong on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. It�s exceptionally varied, decorated with carpets of wild flowers, and in late summer offers terrific opportunities to spot porpoises, dolphins and even whales. Don�t forget to pack your �big legs�, though, because the ascents in some sections are steep, frequent and exhausting.
It�s a genuine archaeological mystery. If you�ve ever stood and wondered how the stones of Stonehenge were levered into place, then consider how 82 of the two-tonne stones they made their way 250 miles south from the wilds of Pembrokeshire.
Recent research found that bluestones from Carn Menyn in the Preseli Hills form the inner circle at Stonehenge � but there�s no consensus on whether they were sailed, carried on a cart or whipped along like flotsam on a giant glacier.
Whatever the truth, there�s an inescapable sense of millennia of history below you feet as you walk in the Preselis. Rocky outcrops reminiscent of Dartmoor pepper the hills, creating silhouettes against brooding skies.
There�s superb clambering and scrambling opportunities for kids of all ages, and it�s a terrific place to let elder children run wild and explore.
Alternatively, just revel in a classic hill walk as you head west from the car park at Blaen Llethr (grid reference SN164332), and weave your way between the carns to Cerrig Lladron (grid ref SN 066321) for a cracking linear trail.
LFTO found welcome shelter from a raging storm in The Waterings, a warm, spacious and very comfortable bed and breakfast, handily located in St David�s. Tel: 01437 720876, www.waterings.co.uk