Pembrokeshire Walks - Dale to Marloes - 12 miles
Rachel Broomhead from Country Walking pulls on her walking boots to explore Pembrokeshire’s coastline line.
Pembrokeshire is world famous for its unspoilt beaches, and this walk takes in some of the finest examples in Britain.
There really is something special about being beside the seaside. Particularly in Pembrokeshire. The beaches here are as nature intended them: wild, empty and beautiful. In that borderland between ocean and earth, there is space to breathe, and space to unclutter your mind. That’s what makes the walk between Dale and Marloes so enchanting.
“It’s the beaches,” says Dave MacLachlan, official Trail Officer for Pembrokeshire Coast Path. “Watwick, Westdale, Marloes – they’re just spectacular.” There won’t be many who have walked as much of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path as frequently as Dave. He’s responsible for maintaining and overseeing every inch of it, and out of the entire 186 miles, he rates the section of path between Dale to Marloes as his favourite day walk.
The full unabridged route clocks in at a testing 12 miles, though there is an escape route for tired legs if desired. Starting at Dale, the trail curls round the antler-shaped Dale peninsula and sweeps westwards to famous Marloes Sands before surging out to the twin promontory of Wooltack Point where the path drops down to Musselwick Sands and Marloes village.
From the busy sailing centre of Dale, its leggy peninsula and the intriguing Dale Fort are reached in just a few energetic strides. The fort is an interesting, if unpretty, relic of Pembrokeshire paranoia. Viking interlopers, Norman conquerors and monarchs-in-waiting have all washed up on Pembrokeshire’s shores over the course of the last millennium, including the future Henry VII who landed just round the peninsula at Mill Bay in 1485 before claiming the English throne at the Battle of Bosworth.
Dale peninsula itself forms a natural defence for Milford Haven, protecting the vast fjord-like inlet not only from belligerent European neighbours, but from the elements. The rocky promontory seems to change its appearance in sympathy with its defensive role. On the east side, facing into the still waters of the Haven, the landscape is all bucolic wooded vales and tame sloping hills. Watwick Bay, a secluded golden alcove carved out of the land, is a swimmer’s dream. But on the other side of the headland, the rocks rear up in a twisted mass of red sandstone to meet the westerly onslaught of wind, rain and angry surf.
Westdale Bay, looking out to low-lying Skokholm Island is a tangle of dangerous currents underneath its sheltered shore, but its uncomplicated thumb of sand is a charming sight if not a relaxing bathing spot. The neighbouring red cliffs beckon dithering boots onwards and lead them straight to a wedge of beach heaven. Laid out gloriously below the coast path, Marloes Sands is what gold dust would look like if sprinkled at the edge of the world. Toothy rocks frame the beach open-mouthed, yawning to the sky. It is, quite simply, one of the finest beaches in Britain.
A couple of miles can be guiltily lost by cutting back to Marloes village at this point, but with the wild peninsula of Wooltack Point lying just beyond, it would take a tough soul to tear themselves away from the coast path now. The official trail cuts across the headland, but a permissive path sticks to the edges, soaring over gnarled, folding lumps of rock to meet up with Wooltack Point and its natural viewing platform over Skomer Island and St Brides Bay. Look out for puffins, guillemots and gannets diving for prey off Skomer before winding down to Musselwick Sands, a fitting sandy finale to a walk with more than its fair share of exquisite beaches.
Distance: 12 miles/19.2km
Time: 6 hours
Bus: From Marloes village, bus 315 runs three or four times a day to Dale, except on Sundays.
Read more about the Pembrokeshire coast path trail, or find a walking provider in Pembrokeshire.