Ten days after arriving back from cycling the length of Japan (and a few days after catching a cold), my bestie from the PCT, KC arrived in London from the States.
KC & I on the PCT in 2015:
And in 2019:
Before her arrival, we’d talked about various hikes that could fit into the 9 days of holiday she would have here, and all of them were two weeks long and quite challenging! The GR20 was on the table, as was the Coast to Coast. Neither of us big planners, it was only once KC arrived (and the day before we would start the hike) that we started to seriously try and choose something. We looked at every single UK National Trail, as well as the Westweg in Germany, Kungsleden in Sweden, Camino Primitivo in Spain and heaps more.
After checking out train timetables, converting miles to kilometres (for me) and lots of procrastination, we decided on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The decision was influenced by the fact KC has never been to Wales but has hiked in Scotland and Ireland over the last two summers and I’ve only been to Wales once, many years ago. The weather also looked good with a whole week of sunshine forecast. We headed to my local book store and bought the one and only guidebook in store on this trail, by Trailblazer. We then did some grocery shopping (tortillas, cheese, pepperoni, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, tissues (for my cold) and more chocolate, then came home and packed our backpacks for 8 nights away. I also downloaded the GPS track onto my Garmin from the National Trails website. We were planning to camp wherever possible which took the pressure off not having to try and make last minute accommodation reservations.
So what is the Pembrokeshire Coast Path?
The National Trails website summarises it like this:
‘The Pembrokeshire Coast Path twists and turns its way for 186 miles along the most breathtaking coastline in Britain. It covers almost every kind of maritime landscape from rugged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches and winding estuaries.’
This National Trail in Wales can be walked in either direction between Amroth and St Dogmaels with the most challenging section thought to be the last 17 miles leading to St Dogmaels. Knowing this, and also seeing that it was easier to get to Amroth than St Dogmaels, we decided to walk northbound from Amroth.
Word of warning
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is 186 miles long (279km) and the time recommended to hike the trail is two weeks. Now that I’m writing this after finishing the hike in the comfort of my home but with no feeling in my blistered feet and an aching body, I can strongly attest to this recommendation. What follows is two crazy female hikers with limited time, pushing their bodies to the max in order to complete the trail. I do not recommend hiking the trail in 8 full days like we did. Instead, take your time and book B&B’s so you can relax in the pub each night, swim at whichever beach that takes your fancy and maybe even read a book or two. I couldn’t even stay awake to change out of my hiking clothes most nights!
Kilgetty is the closest train station to Amroth, so we boarded the train from Paddington towards Tenby at 10:45am (as we only booked the day before, the cheapest tickets were off-peak which meant the later start, for £50.60). We changed trains at Swansea, then got off at Kilgetty at 15:25. It looked like we had timed it just right and would be able to catch the bus from Kilgetty to Amroth, but alas, after waiting about 20 minutes, it turned out we were stood on the wrong side of the road and the bus flew right past! No more busses for another two hours, we tried our hardest to hitch with no luck (no cars!), before calling the local taxi company and after a further £12, we were finally at the starting point of the trail opposite the New Inn pub in Amroth just after 5pm.
- Day 1: Amroth to Giltar Point
- Distance: 16km
- Ascent / descent: 476m / 461m
- Weather: sunny and hot
And so, at about 5:15pm we started our first day on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Sunset wasn’t until 9:30pm which meant we knew we had plenty of time to get some miles under our feet before dark. It was a gorgeous, sunny and warm afternoon. Much warmer than we had expected, after both packing hiking trousers for this trip! The trail started with an immediate climb, then continued up and down to Tenby.
I couldn’t have been happier to pass this fresh donut kiosk, my favourite type of donuts and only £2.50 for four!
Somewhere in the forest near the above pic, we ran into a man who was almost at the finish of his hike along the same trail, going southbound. He told us he was an ultra marathon runner and he certainly looked like one. He also told us he had been camping and had hiked the trail in the same amount of time that we were planning to, but he didn’t seem convinced that we could! He was carrying the smallest pack I’ve ever seen, more like a runners pack with two water bottles in front and a fanny pack. Maybe it was our backpacks full to the brim on this our day 1, or the fact that we don’t look like ultra marathon runners, that made him second guess our ability. Knowing KC, this was like putting fuel on the fire, which was a good thing, because I’m sure if and when we’re doubting ourselves over the next week, we’ll both replay this scene and it will edge us on!
Tenby was a lovely surprise and it’s somewhere I’d love to come back to. It was teeming with families eating fish and chips on benches, and seagulls waiting patiently. We passed colourful old buildings and inviting pubs with beer gardens, but alas we kept walking.