Thursday, January 19, 2017

UK visit: Wales Part II

Taking a break on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales

The weekend of Guy Fawkes, a.k.a. Bonfire Night on November 5th, we traveled out to Pembrokeshire to stay at a cottage in a little village there. Pembrokeshire is a county in Wales, in the south and western most point. It's a really beautiful area with white cliffs, lovely beaches and rolling hills throughout the countryside. 

Our first day there we drove out to a beach near where we were staying and walked along the Pembrokeshire coastal path. It wandered along tall, flat cliffs that abruptly dropped out over the sea, spotted with the occasional sinkhole and flock of sheep. The trail dipped down to quiet beaches along the route.

Headed down to a beach along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Quiet beaches
Walking along the edge of the cliffs on the coastal path

We turned off the coastal path to walk through the lily ponds nearby. There were a lot of birds in the wetlands and parts of the trail passed through the forest. It was a beautiful area to walk around and not a difficult trail at all.

Small forest by the beach

Boardwalk through the lily ponds

A beautiful evening walk around the lily ponds near the beach

The local ducks were more interested in finding food than posing for my camera

Farther up the coast is an area that is mostly used by the military for training, but it's possible to drive around this to a part of the cliffs that is particularly stunning. The view here is really dramatic, with big standing rocks protruding from the ocean and one rocky natural bridge descending from the cliffs into the waves below. We could see lots of coastal birds and even a seal.

Up on the cliffs at sunset

A natural bridge formation in the rocks

The next day we visited Tenby, small coastal city in Pembrokeshire. Tenby is a really charming town, with a nice harbor area to walk around, lots of winding cobblestone streets, and of course, plenty of good pubs and tea shops. It was very touristy and there were many places selling souvenirs and gifts. 

Tenby harbor

Walking through the streets of Tenby

Along the beach there is an island, with a fortress-looking building perched on top that made me think of Alcatraz Prison. When the tide is out, you can walk right up to the island. I did a little research to find out the history of the fort on St. Catherine's Island, and it turns out that it's been many things over the years. Apparently the first record of a fort existing there is in 1066 around the time of the Battle of Hastings, in which the Anglo-Saxxons fought the invading Norman-French.

It later had a chapel and was a place of worship, and then was used again for military purposes in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Following WWII, the military released ownership of the island, and the old fort was converted into a zoo in 1968. It was closed in 1979 and has remained empty ever since then, despite some talks of re-opening it as a new tourist attraction of some sort.

St Catherine's Island

Near St. Catherine's Island is a hill, one of the tallest points in Tenby, where you can find Tenby Castle. It's not much of a castle anymore, since all that remain of it are part of the walls and a single tower. But considering that the original structure was built prior to the Welsh capture of it in 1153, the fact that even that much is still intact is pretty impressive. The walls and a lot of the masonry that exist now were built later, however, in the 13th century or later. It's a nice area to walk around, with a small garden surrounding the tower and great views of the beaches and Tenby town.

The sole remaining tower at Tenby Castle

Hiding from the wind in a bit of crumbling castle wall

I really enjoyed Tenby, it's a great place to spend a day or a weekend, with a lot to see and do, and plenty of places to stop for good food and drinks. If you find yourself in Wales, I definitely recommend putting Tenby on your list of places to visit.

The last little trip we did in Pembrokeshire was to a small town called Laugharne (which is somehow pronounced "larn", don't ask me how). It has a really nice area with a bay and estuary where you can walk around, and next to it is a pretty intact castle. We didn't go inside this one, but it was nice to look at from the path along the bay. This path will also take you up to the house of one of Wales' most famous writers and poets, Dylan Thomas. Both his home and his little writing cabin are here, looking out at the ocean. 

Laugharne Castle, built around 1116

Fishing boat on the estuary in Laugharne

The poet Dylan Thomas' tiny writing cabin in Laugharne

Pembrokeshire was everything you might want in a weekend away, with gorgeous scenery, great beaches and plenty of charming villages. I'm really looking forward to going back there again one day soon.

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