Pembrokeshire Walks - Solva to Trefin
Rachel Broomhead from Country Walking pulls on her walking boots to explore Pembrokeshire’s coastline.
The scenery around St Davids Head is so captivating that one day here just isn’t enough. The exceptional coastal views make for one of the UK’s most beautiful walking weekends.
The two-day walk between Solva and Trefin via St Davids Head bundles up Pembrokeshire’s most enchanting landscapes and gift-wraps it with divine approval. There are saints, seabirds, one sensational beach and endless views. Day one traces the 11 miles of cliffs and coves from Solva to Whitesands Bay while the second day soars from Whitesands over St Davids Head to Trefin, a further 11 miles up the coast. If you had just one weekend on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, this is the walk you’d do.
Starting from the fanciful village of Solva with its rainbow high street and glacially carved harbour, the path rockets skywards onto the rippling line of cliffs pushing out into the Celtic Sea. The coastline becomes increasingly contorted, twisting into tortured shapes and only relenting briefly for the placid Caerfai Bay before rearing up once more at St Non’s Bay where the charred and splintered rocks mark the start of Biblical territory.
The bay is named after St David’s mother who, according to legend, gave birth to the future patron saint of Wales here around AD 462. He came into the world under thunderous skies, a bolt of lightning striking the rocks as he was born. The nearby ruined chapel marks the exact spot of his birth and, for those in search of miracles, the healing water of its Holy Well is said to be particularly potent.
The ancient port of Porthclais, less than a mile down the coast, used to be a hopping off point for pilgrims, disciples and saints, but today its aquamarine waters are worshipped by kayakers and crab-catchers. A kiosk invites walkers to linger by the greeny-blue quay for longer, but there are even rarer sights to pack in before the day is out.
The haven of St Brides Bay is left behind and the terrain turns wild. Swinging northwards round the headland of Pen Dal-aderyn, Ramsey Island gradually unravels itself from the mainland and drifts offshore, leaving a churning channel in between. Known as the Ramsey Sound, the thrashing waters are beloved by porpoise and dolphins but hated by seafarers.
Rattling past the red-roofed lifeboat station at St Justinians, the first day draws to a close at the halcyon bay of Whitesands where jagged rocks and choppy seas are replaced by velvet sands and quiet surf. It’s a blockbuster setting, the tipi peak of Carn Llidi pitched in the background and the setting sun soaking it all in sepia tones. St Davids is just a short walk or bus ride away, but not even the winsome village-city will keep walkers away from the coast path for long.
St Davids Head seduces footsteps onwards in the morning light, the path passing the hidden cove of Porthmelgan before scrambling over a smattering of volcanic boulders to reach the end of the world. Or pretty close to it, anyway. St Davids Head flings its visitors far out into the Irish Sea, where Ramsey Island and Whitesands Bay furnish an otherwise empty panorama. Humanity found peace here as far back as 4000 BC when Neolithic man built the Coetan Arthur burial chamber, now a wistful triangle of slumping stone. Afterlife or present life, it’s good for the soul to rest here a while.
Picking up the path once more as it surges northwards, the cliffs bubble and bulge against the backdrop of Strumble Head, the bulky lighthouse-capped headland now visible on the horizon. The remaining few miles are punctuated by the industrial relics at Abereiddy and Porthgain, the sea continually chattering below the high paths on the way to the walk’s end at Trefin, fizzing and sucking at the rocks. It’s a landscape with a lot to say, but the scenery speaks for itself. Whether or not you believe in miracles, there’s no doubt this corner of Pembrokeshire is sacred.
- Distance: Day one: 11 miles/17.7km ; day two: 10.5 miles./17km
- Time: Day one: 6 hours ; day two: 6 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Start: Solva
- End: Trefin
- Coastal bus service: The Puffin Shuttle (400), runs three times a day between St Davids and Solva while the Strumble Shuttle (404), also does three runs between St Davids and Trefin. To cut out the walk between Whitesands Bay and St Davids, catch the Celtic Coaster (403).
Read more about walking in Pembrokeshire as Rachel Broomhead tackles Dale to Marloes or search for a walking provider.