Walking along the peaceful Pembrokeshire Coast Path is the perfect way to escape big city life. WORDS: Amelia Bentley.
Once you get a lungful of oxygen at the Welsh seaside, you might not want to return to bustling, busy London. Especially if you happen to be staying in Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast, where no one is in a hurry and nothing is too much trouble.
In fact, it’s so laid-back here the staff at my hotel forgot to turn their clocks forward an hour for daylight saving and weren’t around to serve breakfast.
“Oh well,” smiled the woman who had to cover for them.
As I said, nothing much fazes Pembrokeshire locals, possibly because they have a lot to be thankful for. They’ve beaches, quaint houses, quiet streets and great fresh food for a start.
And everyone wants to have a chat with you.
“I went to London and I just felt like I was forever opening my wallet,” says the lady at the coffee shop. “Everyone looks miserable. I could never live there.”
The sun sets 25 minutes later in Pembrokeshire than in London – yet another reason why the people of Tenby don’t seem tempted by life in the big smoke.
I’m here to stretch my legs on a section of the windswept Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The 300km trail meanders around the south-west tip of Wales, from Amroth to Poppit Sands, crossing streams and sheep-filled pastures before winding through leafy forests and along plunging cliff tops.
The coastline is varied, changing from rugged cliffs and sandy beaches to little villages with rows of colourful houses. There are 18 kissing gates, 16 sets of stepping stones, 33 pubs and 19 restaurants along the way. Not to mention 615 signposts to stop you getting lost.
The path would take you 10 days to do in its entirety, stopping in a different town or camping each night. But I’ve only got a weekend so I settle on a round trip from Tenby to the neighbouring town of Saundersfoot.
Starting on the beach, I’m amazed to see real sand – fluffy golden grains, almost like back home. And 10 minutes later I’m on a tranquil, shaded path which makes me feel like I’m walking in a rainforest. Is this really Wales?
I cross a creek and trudge upwards along a cliff path until I reach the top and pause for a breather. When I turn around I see Tenby – now tiny in the distance, sitting on the shores of the glistening Carmarthen Bay.
Plodding on, I walk up and down hills, and past patches of daisies and signs warning you not to get too close to the edge.
After five hours I’ve only seen about three other people – though lots have been here before me, judging by the well-trodden track. If it’s rained recently, you’ll be slip-sliding all over the place. Thankfully I’m not the only one wearing mud-spattered trousers in the pub later.
You’re spoilt for choice when deciding on a cosy pub in the area, many of which offer roasts with all the trimmings, plus dessert if you still have room. The local speciality is seafood – so if it’s on the menu, make sure you order it.
Then there are the local tea houses and cafes serving home-made cakes and scones. Basically, you’ll eat so well in Tenby you might need to stay and complete the Coast Path in its entirety.
» Amelia Bentley stayed in Tenby courtesy of Tenby House Hotel (01834-842 000; www.tenbyhousehotel.com).
B&B accommodation is £90 per night for two sharing.