Hiking Wales: The Pembrokeshire Coast Path in 10 Questions

January 18, 2021 by
POSTED BY January 18, 2021

The Prembrokeshire Coast Path is a beautiful long distance hiking trail that follows the coast of Wales for over 300km. Seal pups, heavenly beaches and impressive geology are just some of the highlights that await you on the PCP.

Find out everything you need to know here to prepare for your hike on the enchanting coast in the “land of mystery and enchantment”.

1. Where is the Pembrokeshire Coast Path located?

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs along the coast of Wales, more precisely in the south-west of the small country in the county of Pembrokeshire. The start and end point of the approximately 300km long hiking trail are Amroth and St. Dogmaels.

More than 80 percent of the popular long-distance hiking trail is in the Pembrokeshire National Park area.

St Catherine's Island, Tenby PCP
St Catherine’s Island, Tenby, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

2. How long does a hike on the PCP take?

According to the official recommendation, you should plan 12 days for the entire Pembrokeshire Coast Path. However, to cover the 300 kilometers in this period, you have to hike approximately 15 miles (24km) a day. If this seems too strenuous for you, you can benefit from the fact that the PCP consists of many short daily routes and circular hiking trails. So you can easily walk only part of the entire route. You can also use the excellent shuttle bus system to get to the starting point or your accommodation.

Hillwalk Tours offers self-guided walking tours on the most popular southern sections of the PCP. From Amroth, you can walk exactly 100km to Pembroke which makes for a lovely end point to your walk. This section of the trail offers some of the best coastal walking in Britain and passes through charming seaside towns and villages such as Saundersfoot, Tenby, and Manorbier, before finishing at the impressive Norman castle in Pembroke. Not only is this route extremely scenic, it’s also less challenging than the wilder northern sections and avoids the very industrial section after Pembroke.

The Green Bridge of Wales, PCP
The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

3. What is the difficulty level of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path?

Anyone who tackles the entire Pembrokeshire Coast Path has a real physical challenge ahead of them. The total ascent and descent is 10,668 meters in altitude, which corresponds to an ascent of Mount Everest!

However, the southern section is considered moderate and can be easily completed by hikers with different degrees of fitness. There are some climbs, but they are short. In addition, due to the numerous accommodations, you can choose shorter daily stages and only hike as many miles/kilometers a day as you’d prefer.

St Govan's Chapel, Pembrokeshire Coast Path Wales
St Govan’s Chapel, Pembrokeshire Coast Path Wales

4. In which direction should I walk the PCP?

Although many hiking guides describe the Pembrokeshire Coast Path from north to south, there are some good reasons why tour operators recommend the other direction. The sections in the south are gentler, so offer a better starting point at the beginning of your hike (building up to the more strenuous northern sections). There is also more accommodation in the southern section. So if you don’t make it as far as you thought you would, help is never far! Another aspect is the wind direction. If you walk from Amroth to Pembroke, you will usually have the wind in the most exposed areas in your back and not in your face.

Tenby Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
Views of Tenby on The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

5. When is the best time to travel?

The best time to visit Wales is from May to mid-September. The ideal time depends entirely on your personal preferences: in spring you can marvel at wildflowers and migratory birds, in summer you might go surfing on one of the countless beaches after a day of hiking and, with a little luck, watch baby seals in autumn.

The seaside resorts are busy in July and August when Wales is on vacation. In these months you should definitely book well in advance.

Although the Pembrokeshire Coast Path can be walked all year round, you should think twice about a long-distance hike in the cold and windy winter season due to the exposed coastal location.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Pembrokeshire Coast Path

6. How can I travel to Wales for my hike?

There are different options to get to the starting point of the PCP in Amroth. Cardiff is the nearest airport. There are flights to various major European cities, including Hamburg, Cologne-Bonn and Munich, as well as to Basel, Paris, Amsterdam and many more. Flight connections to Bristol, Manchester or London, together with a train ride to Wales, are also possible for the journey.

If you want to do something good for climate protection, you can also take the Eurostar to London from mainland Europe, for example via Paris. From cities like Bristol, London and Manchester, take the train to Haverfordwest. Then the bus continues to Amroth. This is a handy website to help you plan your Wales trip.

Lily Ponds, Bosherston PCP
Lily Ponds, Bosherston, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

7. Where can I stay overnight?

There are plenty of places to stay in the southern part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. B&Bs are particularly popular with hikers because they offer affordable comfort and support the local economy. Here, you can expect not only a comfortable bed and a warm shower after a day in the fresh sea air, but you can also fuel up for the day ahead at breakfast and benefit from the local knowledge of your hosts.

The more adventurous can also consider camping. However, campsites on the PCP are rare and wild camping is generally prohibited.

Bird PCP
Meet the locals on the PCP

8. How can I get my meals on my hike in Wales?

The infrastructure around the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is well developed, so you can find amenities in many places. Some B&Bs also prepare packed lunches for hikers. You can stop off cheaply in pubs and take-aways and in more remote locations, B&B operators can also provide a warm evening meal by prior arrangement.

* Welsh cakes are a special tip for a small snack. The Welsh variant of the English scone is a biscuit with raisins that gives a lot of energy on the go.

Wild Pony, Castles Bay PCP
Wild Pony, Castles Bay, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

9. What equipment should I pack?

The most important thing you need to pack on a hike on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is well-worn walking shoes. These will provide the best outcome for your hard working feet in combination with special hiking socks. Otherwise, rainwear (jacket, pants and rucksack protection) is indispensable as the weather can quickly change on the coast. Sun protection is recommended even on cloudy days. Those looking to observe animals should also consider bringing small binoculars.

The management of the hiking trail also states that cell phone reception is poor in places and that mobile internet is not available everywhere. The signage of the PCP is so good that you don’t actually need a GPS, but the GPS reception is good if you are interested in navigation.

A guide on what clothes to wear while hiking can be found here.

Start of PCP, Amroth
Signage on the PCP

10. What to see on the Prembrokeshire Coast Path?

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path was named the second most beautiful coastal travel destination in the world by National Geographic in 2011 and was specially praised for sustainable tourism. So it is not surprising that experiencing nature and scenic beauty are essential features of the region.

Here are a few more highlights to expect in Pembrokeshire.

Beaches

The entire Pembrokeshire Coast Trail has 58 beaches and 14 harbors. Some of them are known for their beauty far beyond the Welsh border. Barafundle Bay, for example, has been voted Britain’s most beautiful beach. This beach impresses with its secluded location behind a forest, far away from streets and houses. Manorbier Beach is also just off the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. A medieval castle looms behind it and gives this beach a special atmosphere and historical significance.

The 56 other beaches also have a lot to offer, whether it’s surfable waves, sunsets or natural solitude.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Barafundle Bay is a remote, slightly curved, east-facing sandy beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales

Geology

There are so many impressive and unique rock formations on the coast of Pembrokeshire that there are not always names for them in other languages. Sea stacks, are large, free-standing rocks that jut out of the water and are even climbed by the particularly adventurous. “Sea arches” are naturally created arches under which the sea roars. Sea caves also shape the geological landscape and show what special places are created when sea and coast meet.

All of these elements are among the most popular photo opportunities in the region.

Pembroke Hiking Tour
Church Doors, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Animals

The prospect of spotting wild animals gives every landscape a special magic. In Pembrokeshire, you can look at the shimmering sea surface, the lush countryside and the sky. With a bit of luck you might see seals or even a dolphin. The seal pups are born in autumn and are a particularly cute sight.

Otherwise, Pembrokeshire is also known for various migratory birds that fly over the coastal region in spring and autumn.

Seals PCP
Seals off the coast of Pembroke

Castles

Along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path you can catch glimpses of bygone days as you walk past imposing castles, historic town centers and medieval chapels.

A particular architectural highlight is the Norman castle of Pembroke. In the 11th century a fortress was built on its site for the first time and later reinforced with stone walls. The location of the castle is almost ideal: Pembroke Castle lies on a rocky promontory and is surrounded on three sides by a river and is therefore nearly inaccessible. The walls on the land side are sometimes a full five meters thick.

In the 17th century, however, Oliver Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed and even called on the residents of Pembroke to help themselves to the stones and use them again for their own purposes. After Pembroke Castle fell into ruin, the fortress was finally rebuilt in the 19th century.

Pembroke Castle PCP
Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Charming Villages and Towns

Tenby

Tenby is an award-winning town for its excellent beaches and is located directly on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The enchanting place attracts visitors not only with the prospect of building sandcastles and bathing in the waves, Tenby also has a lot to offer culturally. For example, there is the medieval city wall, the oldest independent museum in Wales and particularly interesting for hikers: the visitor center of the Pembrokeshire National Park . Here you can learn everything about the wild inhabitants of the national park’s coastline.

If you love unusual, spiritual places, you should also think about staying a little longer in Tenby and paying a visit to Caldey Island . As early as the sixth century AD, the island was inhabited by monks who belonged to different orders. The monastery island has been administered by Cistercian monks since 1925. From Monday to Saturday, visitors are free to visit this place of silence and prayer.

Tenby
Tenby, Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Saundersfoot

Saundersfoot is very close to Tenby. And although the town is a lot smaller than Tenby, there is an impressive selection of excellent restaurants. The Cliff Restaurant above the harbor combines excellent cuisine with an intoxicating view of the sea, at Marina Fish and Chips you can enjoy the same classicsthe Mulberry Restaurant in the harbor is a hip alternative and a short walk takes you to the Coast Restauarant,  which has views the beach and where local ingredients are used for cooking.

Incidentally, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path around Saundersfoot is one of the most exciting sections, as it leads through a tunnel. Here you walk on the route of a former tram that was supposed to bring coal from the mines to the port in Saundersfoot. The coal mines have long since been closed and the tram route is now very popular for cycling or hiking.

Sheep Island PCP
Sheep Island, PCP

Self-guided walks in Wales

If you dream of seeing the picture perfect Wales coastline with your own eyes, how about a self-guided walking tour? All you have to do is determine how many kilometers you want to complete per day and Hillwalk Tours will plan all of the stages for you. You will receive a Walking Pack with all of the information you need, accommodation will be booked in cozy hand picked B&Bs, and even your luggage will be transferred each day so you can go out with just a daypack and enjoy the magic of Pembrokeshire carefree.

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