A Pembrokeshire coast walk to a warm, welcoming pub | Pembrokeshire holidays

The coastal hamlet of Abereiddy (Abereddi in Welsh) is not as sun-drenched or glamorous as Acapulco, but the two places share one claim to fame: both are renowned cliff diving destinations. The Welsh version is the Blue Lagoon at the northern end of Abereiddy Bay, a 30-metre drop into deep green water (it is not as blue as the name suggests), which has hosted the Red Bull Cliff Diving championships a number of times.

The “lagoon” is actually a former slate quarry, formed when its seaward wall was blasted open after it shut down in 1910. While there isn’t anyone flinging themselves from the top on my visit, there are wetsuited tourists coasteering around the lower levels of the lagoon and the surrounding cliffs. Pembrokeshire is the home of coasteering, which was “invented” here almost 40 years ago.

I stroll along Abereiddy’s black sand beach, which is famous in geological circles for its fossil graptolites: tiny, fragile-looking marine invertebrates embedded in Ordovician shale 450m years ago. I come across a couple impressed into pebbles, but leave them for someone else to discover, or for the sea to bury for another few million years.

On the path west of Porthgain. Photograph: Aled Llywelyn

From the beach I set off towards my destination, Porthgain. It’s a short but steep climb past the Blue Lagoon to the clifftop, 40 metres above the churning Irish Sea, and I follow the coast path between the cliff edge and green fields towards Traeth Llyfn. There’s a steep metal stairway down the cliffs to this lovely golden sand cove: it was installed when the natural steps worn into the soft, shaly cliffs became, as far as the authorities were concerned, too hazardous.

When I do this walk in August, I look out for grey seals and their new-born pups bobbing in the swell. They sometimes haul themselves on to beaches, in which case the advice is to remain at a good distance and keep disturbance to a minimum as they’re easily stressed.

Continuing along the coast path, I pass above the coves of Porth Egr, Porth Dwfn and Porth Ffynnon, all accessible only to kayakers and enthusiastic coasteerers, before coming across more remains of the coast’s industrial heritage in the form of derelict buildings and the bones of a tramway dotting the clifftops. This is all that’s left of a Victorian quarrying and brick-making industry that thrived until the early 20th century.

Old brick warehouses in Porthgain harbour. Photograph: Aled Llywelyn

Slate quarried at the Blue Lagoon was taken by the tramway to the harbour at Porthgain (Welsh for “chisel port”). Later, bricks and roadstone aggregate were also shipped from there. In 1900, 30 ships were registered at Porthgain, and there were eight warehouses plus large brick hoppers for storing the stone. Some are still standing and I pass them as I descend the steep steps to Porthgain harbour.

Still a working port, Porthgain has a rugged charm, with fishers heading out in search of lobsters, crabs and mackerel. On their return they can kick back at one of the best pubs in Pembrokeshire. The warm and welcoming Sloop sits low and squat, just 100 metres from the harbour. The “warm” bit is especially welcoming when walking the coast path in winter or, I imagine, if you’re returning from several hours out on the choppy Irish Sea.

It’s not a long walk from Abereiddy, but I use the exercise as an excuse to pop into the Sloop before continuing on my way. In summer I have lunch on the terrace (a mature Welsh cheddar and chutney sandwich with a pint of local Whitesands pale ale).

The Sloop Inn, Porthgain. Photograph: Aled Llywelyn

Heading south, I take a dirt track that forks left off the road and leads to a footpath, passing up through fields via a series of gates, including two old wrought iron kissing gates, and stop for a chat with a garrulous farmer about, yes, the weather (it was “too dry” last summer; now it’s “too wet”). At the brightly whitewashed Felindre Cottages I take a sharp right across more fields.

Cattle are often grazing here. They can be avoided by taking a short cut from Porthgain along the road towards Llanrhian (traffic is light and generally slow-moving) and picking up the route where the track turns right to Ynys Barry, but it means missing some lovely views down the valley towards the harbour.

I have a fresh sea breeze in my face as I head towards Ynys Barry holiday cottages and reach a footpath through open farmland with lovely views across coast and countryside little changed since the days when the quarries were being worked, before dropping back down to Abereiddy Bay.

On a warm day I’ll cool down by diving into the Blue Lagoon – but not from 30 metres up …

Google map of the route

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Start Abereiddy Beach car park (£4 Apr–Oct, free rest of the year)
Distance 4½ miles
Time 1½–2 hours
Total ascent 144 metres
Difficulty easy-moderate

The pub

The warm and welcoming Sloop. Photograph: Aled Llywelyn

The Sloop has a cosy buzz whatever time of year you visit, and the south-east-facing terrace is especially pleasant on summer evenings.

The original bar dates back to 1743, but a 1997 extension hasn’t altered the character of the pub – the walls are festooned with photos of the harbour in its working heyday, along with old seafaring, fishing and quarrying gear.

There is regular live music in summer from local bands. I once popped in for a pint to find Cerys Matthews belting out a few acoustic numbers (she lived a couple of miles away in Trefin village as a teenager).

The menu includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes, and, unsurprisingly, there’s nearly always fresh fish among the specials and, when in season, local lobster, crab and mackerel. (Breakfast 9.30–11am, lunch noon-3pm, and dinner 5-9pm). It’s a good idea to book ahead. Dog walkers should note that pets are not allowed inside the pub in summer.

Where to stay

The Sloop has a self-catering cottage (from £98 a night, three-night minimum) nearby that sleeps four in one double and one twin. Half a mile away at Ynys Barry, self-catering cottages sleep between two and nine (from £115 a night, three-night minimum).


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