There is only one creature I am developing an affinity with as I also try my darndest to relish this ‘playground’– the limpet. The conical molluscs are suction-capped in their thousands to the wave-battered limestone walls of the coast, tightening their grip with every vibration. I, too, am clinging to the jagged rock face, for a downward glance reveals the Irish sea – and it ain’t balmy down there.
But, just 20 minutes into this morning’s coasteering expedition, and this here city girl has warmed to the wild water. Quickly I realise how amenable this most beautiful stretch of the British coastline is – especially when I’m bedecked in a double wetsuit, a life jacket, helmet and booties. Plus, there are two local guides to give me faith I’m not going to be a shark’s dinner today.
I slide down a rocky slope, my buttocks wiping out barnacle colonies in one fell swoop, and throw myself straight into the drink, surrendering to the motion of the ocean, bouncing, tossing and turning in the washing-machine-like conditions. My fellow adventurers whoop and laugh, and I check I’m still wearing my wetsuit – just in case.
Coasteering is exhilarating. You get to explore a coastline at water level, face to face with jagged rock faces, ocean caves, unspoilt gullies, plus our feathered friends that soar above and the scaly critters that lurk below. It is the most exciting, and possibly the safest, way to get intimate with the big blue. And this particular area is the talk of the travelling cognoscenti, its path part of the recently completed route tracing the country’s entire 870-mile coastline. Lonely Planet has named it the greatest region on earth.
We explore that tomorrow. But for now, I’ve piled in a bus from our eco lodge in Mathry, through the countryside, to the ancient fishing village of Abercastle. It is here we find ourselves scrambling across lichen-raked rock walls, creeping through dark caves and clambering atop spongy, grass-covered cliffs. But, of course, what goes up must come down, and in this land of Welsh adventure and enterprise, where men are warriors, and the sheep are, erm, plentiful, it’s not the thrill factor that takes a southward turn, but us.
One by one, we become human cannonballs, hurling ourselves off a 15m-high rocky ledge. I keel forward and make a dramatic face-plant into the water, to the mirth of my audience. My second attempt is equally pathetic, and for my sins, I am turned away from the loftier platform, to which everyone has already graduated, in order to master the first. Attempt number three reinforces my future in face-planting. Regardless, I crawl to the higher ledge, and as my guide John whispers a disclaimer in my ear, I launch off the rock and tumble into the sea. A perfect 10. He had little faith.
Bearing bruises from being bashed against rocks, we retire to the lodge to sip hot soup by a log fire. But it’s far from the end of our adventures at Abercastle. By 3pm we are back in the ocean, upon sea kayaks, buffeted by powerful gusts of wind. We paddle headlong into the gale, backwards into a cave, and dabble with ‘rock hopping’, the exercise of catching a swell as it washes over rocky mounds. Miss the wave and you risk a battering. Conquer one, punching the air victoriously before first composing yourself, and there’s every chance you’ll capsize … just as I did.
Nursing aching limbs, we set off the following day for a spot of hiking, gaining a new perspective of this corner of the world as we traverse sheep fields and bluebell woods, enjoying Britain at its bucolic best. The Pembrokeshire coastal path calls for a total of 6.6 miles of ascent over its 186 miles, which is a lot of ups and downs when you consider Everest is less than six miles high. But for the chance to revel in this pleasure garden, I’ll take it.
Catch a train from London Paddington to Fishguard & Goodwick station with Arriva Trains from £39 one-way. The journey is about five-and-a-half hours. arrivatrainswales.co.uk.
Rebecca did the Adrenalin Cocktail weekend with Preseli Venture Lodge, including two nights, six meals and station transfers. £229 preseliventure.co.uk
Image: preseliventure.co.uk, TNT