Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 51.80267°N / 4.96582°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 1759 ft / 536 m
Sign the Climber's Log


“Demetia… with its seven cantrefs, is the most beautiful, as well as the most powerful district of Wales; Penbroch, the finest part of the province of Demetia; and the place I have just described [Manorbier], the most delightful part of Penbroch. It is evident, therefore, that Maenor Pirr is the pleasantest spot in Wales; and the author may be pardoned for having thus extolled his native soil, his genial territory, with a profusion of praise and admiration.”

Geraldus Cambrensis - Itinerarium Cambriae (1191)

Geraldus was of course biased in his exaltuous descriptions of his native Pembroke, or Penfro in Welsh, and although not quite a native myself, but having spent much of my childhood exploring its countryside, there’s a chance that my little guide might suffer a similar disposition. In our defence though, I think that anyone who has visited this remarkable area will agree that both Geraldus and I are quite justified in our enthusiasm.

Elegug Stacks (Photo by Nanuls)
Cool for Cats (E1 5a), Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Pembroke is a land of contrasts, both culturally and environmentally. Perhaps the most obvious juxtaposition is that between the land and the sea, and where the two meet, the landforms this has sculpted. The beauty of area’s coastline defies superlatives and is the reason de etra for Pembroke’s wide renown. This scenery is as diverse as it is spectacular, displaying precipitous cliffs, delicate sea stacks, mighty zawns, cavernous sink holes, spectacular rock arches, windswept islands and golden beaches, all packed into the modest confines of Wales’ south-western headland. The coast’s cliffs and outcrops expose the area’s underlying geology, which is just as varied as the landforms it yields, abruptly altering between limestone, sandstone, grit and igneous lithologies, all within a stone’s throw of one another (pun most definitely intended). The geology also gives rise to the distinctly different landscapes displayed by the southern and northern parts of the area. The south is characterised by flat, fertile, largely arable land, which is bound by immensely steep carboniferous limestone and old red sandstone cliffs; while the north is a mixture of igneous rocks and grits which create a much wilder, hillier landscape, which overshadows the surrounding lowlands.

Maelstrom Chimney Maelstorm Chimney (S), Stennis Head (Photo by Nigel Lewis)

The area’s natural contrasts may also be in part responsible for the cultural and linguistic divide which runs through the region. This divide dates back to the Norman and subsequent English occupation of the area, which although remained fairly stable in the south, was less successful in the north; and while Norman, English and Flemish settlers were happy to take to the fertile plains of the south, they where less willing to toil on the acidic slopes of the north. This combined with the effect of numerous Welsh incursions from Ceredigion, and the difficulty of governing such a wild landscape, meant that the area maintained more of its native identity. The split remains today, with an imaginary boundary known as the Landsker Line running from Marloes Bay in the west, and following a meandering course to Laugharne in the east. In the north therefore, the predominant language is Welsh, which is evident in everything from local culture and customs to architecture and place names; while in the south, a more English culture predominates, gaining the area the epithet of Little England beyond Wales.

The importance of the area’s landscape, geology and communities was officially recognised in 1952 with the establishment of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which is the only national park in the United Kingdom to have been designated primarily because of its coastline. Stretching in a 240km ribbon around the Pembroke coast, the Park covers an area of 629km² (243 square miles) and includes many nature sites and areas which are of national and international importance in their own right, including 7 Special Areas of Conservation, a Marine Nature Reserve, 6 National Nature Reserves and 75 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. At its narrowest point, Wiseman's Bridge, it's only 200m wide and even in the Preselis it is no more than 16km in breadth.

Sea Mist (HS 4a), Saddle Head (Photo by Nigel Lewis)
A puffin on Skomer Island Island (Photo by Nanuls)

The area takes its name from the town of Pembroke, which was an important settlement during the Middle Ages, and is still home to an impressive castle founded in 1093 by the Norman Lord Roger of Montgomery. Pembroke is derived from the town’s Welsh name Penfro, which means headland, signifying the areas protuberance from the rest of Wales.

At first glance, this page may seem out place on a website largely devoted mountains and mountaineering, and it may well be, if it weren't for the fact that the area is home to an almost infinite number high quality traditional rock climbs; most of which take place against the backdrop of the area's spectacular coastline. Furthermore, the aforementioned diversity of the area’s geology ensures that the experience of climbing here is always a unique and varied one. For the most part, the climbing is extremely technical in nature, and some of the hardest routes in Britain can be found here. Owing to the intrinsic nature of coastal climbing, routes also entail a high level of commitment, with most starts requiring an abseil to reach. Self rescue is rarely an option here.

Huntsman s Leap Shape-Up (E1 5b), Huntsman's Leap (Photo by Nanuls)
St. David s Head Step Up (S 4a), St. David’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Mowing Word Corner Crack (VS 4c), Mowing Word (Photo by Nanuls)

The area has more to offer than just rock climbing. The famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a long distance trail which provides almost continuous and uninterrupted access to the area's coastline. The trail is over 186 miles in length and starts (or finishes depending on your perspective) on the slipway north of St Dogmaels near Cardigan, and ends at the bridge east of Amroth Castle near Tenby. The path is extremely popular with hikers and visits some of finest landscapes Pembrokeshire has to offer. Particular highlights include over 70 quality bathing beaches, innumerable secret coves and zawns, over 40 Iron Age promontory forts, numerous Norman/Medieval castles/ towns (notably Tenby, Manorbier & Pembroke), a chain of Napoleonic forts, scores of lime kilns and other industrial archaeological remains and artefacts, and a series of picturesque fishing ports (notably Solva and Porthgain). As you would expect, countless other outdoor activities are practised in the area too, including surfing, sea kayaking, sailing, and scuba diving. However, as Summitpost isn’t really concerned with these sports, they shall receive only limited attention here.

At some point an explanation of the extent of the area covered by this page is going to be needed, so it might as well be sooner rather than later. It would be easy to limit its scope simply to the Pembrokeshire County Boundary, or even easier to that of the National Park, however, to a large extent these are both man made creations, and fail to adequately encompass all that the area has to offer. Therefore, this page's remit has been extended to cover those homogeneous regions that bound Pembroke's borders, namely southern Ceredigion to the north and western Carmarthenshire to the east.

Horrorscope (E2 5c), Triple Overhang Buttress (Photo by Nanuls)

Coastal Climbing

”Pembroke epitomises all that our eclectic world of climbing can offer: isolation, wonderment, freedom, space - and a feeling that you’re poised on the very edge of nowhere, a place that only the circling gulls and the diving seals can call home. These hinterland qualities, combined with the nuances of the wide-ranging tides, give the region that magical wild-coast flavour. Nowhere else on earth will you discover such a serene oceanic atmosphere coupled with the superb physicality of Pembroke’s perfect cliffs, and nowhere else can offer the sheer quantity of its endless tally of routes.”

Mike Robertson - Pembroke (2009)

Stennis Head Highland Fling (VS 4b), Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)

The principle climbing areas are split between the north and the south, and despite Pembroke’s relatively small size, differ considerably in character. They are described here starting in the north-eastern crags of Strumble Head, and work their around the coast in an anti-clockwise direction to finish in the south-east at the historic town of Tenby. Exploration first began in the 1960s and was largely led by Colin Mortlock, whose activity was mostly confined to the northern cliffs. His climbs tended to be on the easier end of the grading spectrum, but many are of extremely high quality, and take place among some truly spectacular surroundings. Over the succeeding years, exploration expanded to the south and Mortlock was joined by such characters as Jim Perrin and Pat Littlejohn, and the difficulty and quality of the routes climbed was increased further. The eighties saw the arrival of a new breed of pioneers such as Nipper Harrison, Martin Crocker, Garry Gibson, Dave Cook and Paul Donnithorne, many of who still put up new lines to this day.

Saddle Head Sea Mist (HS 4a), Saddle Head (Photo by Nigel Lewis)

The importance of Pembroke to British climbing cannot be understated. Some of the best trad climbs in the country can be found here, and despite the area's reputation, these routes come in all shapes and sizes – from the hugely entertaining slab of Flimston Crack (VD) to the demanding voyage of Nothing to Fear (E8 6b). There really is something for everyone here.

Because most of Pembroke’s crags require an abseil to access, the nature of the climbing is invariably quite serious – once you’ve committed to a crag, you must ascend it. It’s advisable therefore, that in addition to your normal climbing ropes, that a static rope, which can be left in-situ while you climb, be bought along too, and alongside this prusik loops and/or ascenders, which can be used to escape should the need arise. Where secure anchors are scarce, metal stakes have been provided, although many of the older ones are now in poor condition and may require backing up. An additional threat comes in the form of the tide, which is particularly prevalent on the west coast of Britain. Many of the crag-foot stances are tidal in nature, a few of them dangerously so, therefore before climbing a tide time table should always be consulted. These are often available in local climbing and surfing shops, or can be obtained online before embarking on your travels - see the Tides section for more details.

Abseils are often a necessity (but sometimes they’re just for fun!):

Saddle Head Saddle Head (Photo by Nanuls)
St. David s Head St. David’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Bullslaughter Bay Bullslaughter Bay (Photo by Nanuls)
Blockhouse Buttress Blockhouse Buttress (Photo by Nanuls)

And you may have to rely on one of these fellas (be sure to check their stability before committing):

Pembroke Peg A Pembroke stake… (Photo by Nanuls)
Pembroke Peg …and another… (Photo by Nanuls)
Pembroke Peg …and another… (Photo by Nanuls)
Pembroke Peg …and finally (Photo by Nanuls)

One final note on needs to be raised concerning fixed gear and ethics. In the past many of the more challenging routes in Pembroke were climbed with the aid of pegs on their first ascent. Most of these pegs should now be regarded as highly suspect and no new pegs should be placed to the area's cliffs, including stainless steel pegs. Routes that still have pegs are slowly being repeated without using them as key runners, an ongoing process with much still to be done. Threads are common throughout Pembroke and tend to be more acceptable to climbers because they rely on the rock's natural features. Climbers should be wary when using them, and if they decide to replace a worn out thread, they should remove the existing one before doing so. One good thread is after all much better than a collection of old tattered ones of variable length. Stuck wires and other forms of gear are also common among Pembroke’s crags, and should be removed if possible. Lastly, with the exception of Tenby South Beach Quarry, bolts have no place in Pembroke, a fact now firmly accepted by the entire climbing community.

Fixed Gear Fixed gear = badness (Photo by Nanuls)

There are currently a number of excellent climbing guidebooks available for the area. The Climbers’ Club have superbly and comprehensively described the area in five lavishly illustrated volumes:

Pembroke Volume 1: Pembroke North
Pembroke Volume 2: Range West
Pembroke Volume 3: Range East - Stack Rocks to Hollow Caves Bay
Pembroke Volume 4: Range East - Saddle Head to St Govan’s
Pembroke Volume 5: Stackpole and Lydstep

These books represent a monumental amount of work and effort and are essential for anyone who intends on doing a lot of climbing in the area. Another good option, which is especially useful for those who either infrequently visit the area or just want to visit the best known bits, is the:

Rockfax Guide: Pembroke

It is of course much less comprehensive than the Climbers’ Club offerings, but is nevertheless an excellent quality guide, especially for those on a budget. Either way, if you do plan to climb in Pembroke, be sure to consult one of these books first. Finally, there are also number of mini-guides available in various forms, check out the Guidebooks section for more information.

Climbing Areas

This page describes Pembroke’s climbing areas in little bite size chunks, which are in turn, split between the north and south of the area. Check the map below to see where these areas are, and hover your mouse cursor over the highlighted squares to get a bit of info on them. For more detailed information on areas and crags, just scroll down the page.

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Penbwchdy Area

The most north-easterly area on this page, the Penbwchdy Area is a wild and amospheric place to climb. Notable crags include:

Penbwchdy Head,
The People’s Cliff,
Llechdafad, and
Cerrig Gwynion.

Scroll down for more information

Abercastle and Aber-Mawr

The climbin in this area is split between a collection of outcrops around Aber-mawr, Abercastle and Trefin. Without a doubt, the highlight of the area is Craig Llong near Trefin, which is also probably the best crag in north Pembroke. Notable crags include:

Morfa Slabs,
Pen Castell Coch,
Craig Llong, and
Trwyn Llong.

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Porthgain Area

There are a number of crags surrounding the small fishing village of Porthgain, Abereiddy and Penberry. The pick of the crop is the crag of Penclegyr (west) in the latter area. Notable crags include:

Penclegyr (east),
Ogof Dwfn,
The Black Cliff, and
Penclegyr (west).

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St. David's Head

The St. David's Area is one of the most iconic landscapes in Wales and is home to some wonderful high quality climbing; everyone from beginners to experts will be happy here. The crag of Mur Cenhinen has some particularly high quality but difficult routes. Notable crags include:

Steep Zawn,
Trwyn Llwyd,
Craig Hebog,
Carn Porth Llong,
Mur Cenhinen,
Craig Coetan, and
St. David's Head.

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Porthstinian Area

The Porthstinian Area is located on the headland to the south of Whitesand Bay, and is one of the most picturesquely situated spots in north Pembroke, with Ramsey Island just opposite and St. David’s Head across the bay to the north. The climbing can't quite match the quality of the surrounding area though. Notable crags include:

Pencarnan Slabs,
Porth Cadno,
Llenrac Slabs,
Green Slab, and
Purple Slab.

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Southern Bays

The cliffs and crags on the southern coast of St. David’s Head are collectively known as the Southern Bays and are home to a remarkable range of superb little crags. Although most of the crags have at least one three star route, but the real gem of the area is Carreg-y-Barcud, a south facing cliff of compact sandstone furnished with small positive holds. Although the crag is relatively short, its routes are sustained, and it houses the hardest lines in this particular area, which tend to be poorly protected and can feel very committing. Notable crags include:

Porth Clais,
St. Non's,
Craig Caerfai,
Caerbwdi Bay, and

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Range West

Range West is one of Pembroke’s hidden gems, forming the westernmost portion of the Castlemartin Range. It's a landscape of unspoilt beauty, free from the intensive farming practices of the surrounding countryside and free from the crowds that often swarm the crags of Range East. However, access is difficult and permits must be obtained before climbing here. Notable crags include:

Berry Slade,
Western Walls,
Strata Walls,
Linney Point,
Cabin Door,
Mount Sion, and
Greenham Common.

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Range East

Range East is probably the most popular climbing area in Pembroke, boasting just the right combination of quality, beauty and accessibility, all packed into one compact little area. So many classics so little time. Notable crags include:

The Green Bridge,
The Cauldron,
Flimston Bay,
Crystal Slabs,
Mewsford Point,
Crickmail Point,
Triple Overhang Buttress,
The Castle,
Saddle Head,
Bosherston Head,
Huntsman's Leap,
Stennis Head,
Stennis Ford,
Chapel Point,
Trevellan, and
St. Govan's Head.

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Stackpole Area

Mowing Word and Stackpole Head form the first major headland after St. Govan's, and provide exhilarating climbing in a beautiful and isolated setting. Many, many classics can be found here, and you don't have to be a herculean climber to complete all of them. Mowing Word for example is home to what are probably the two best mid grade routes in the country. Notable crags include:

Broad Haven,
Saddle Bay,
Raming Hole,
Mowing Word,
Stackpole Head, and
Barafundle Bay.

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Lydstep Area

Lydstep was one of the first areas in south Pembroke to be developed for climbing and remains to be an extremely popular destination to this day, being home to some truly excellent routes of all grades. Undoubtedly the gem the Lydstep Area is the imposing Mother Carey’s Kitchen. This is a steep and intimidating place to climb, after all, it doesn’t go by the pseudonym of Mother Scarey’s for nothing. Notable crags include:

Forbidden Head,
Western Crags,
Mother Carey's Kitchen, and
The South East Corner of Lydstep Head.

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Giltar Area

The area around Giltar Point is a mass of small, generally easier angled cliffs, which offer many easier climbs, and are popular with beginners and outdoor centres. The area between Proud Giltar and Whispering Wall has a particularly excellent selection of routes of all grades. Notable crags include:

Proud Giltar,
Rusty Point,
Becks Point,
Giltar Slabs, and
Giltar Point.

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North Pembroke

In the north, most activity is centred on the sea cliffs surrounding the city of St. David’s, with well developed crags on both northern and southern coasts. Routes have been recorded around Fishguard, however, owing to the particular sensitivity of the local flora and fauna in this area, they have been kept secret, and to date remain unpublished. The difficulty and seriousness of the routes can differ markedly from crag to crag, but if you look for it, there’s definitely something for everyone. Crags generally require a longer approach than those in the south, and what you pay for in energy and time, is generously rewarded by a wild and romantic landscape that exudes a rare atmosphere unlike another. On certain crags, nesting birds mean that seasonal restrictions are often in force, however, access is much easier here than it is in the south, and the northern crags of Pembroke provide a good alternative to the crags of the Castlemartin Range which are normally closed mid week due to firing – see the Red Tape and Access section for more details.

St. David s Head St. David's Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Maiden Castle Maiden Castle (Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Llong Craig Llong (Photo by Nanuls)
Porth-y-Ffynnon Porth-y-Ffynnon (Photo by Nanuls)

Fishguard to Penberry

Although the cliffs of Pen Caer/Strumble Head are both extensive and solid in appearance, the only recorded routes lie on the stretch of coast between Penbwchdy Head, The People’s Cliff and Llechdafad. This is partially because the area is more remote and harder to access than the coast to the west, but it’s also because many of the routes have been kept secret for conservation purposes. Nevertheless, the routes that have been recorded should be enough to keep most climbers happy, provided that is, they have the ability to commit to a route and climb quite hard. Classics include Purple Heart (E5 6a) and the magnificent three pitch Suzie’s Plot (E7 6c) on Cerrig Gwynion/Purple Promontory.

Craig Llong Craig Llong (Photo by Nanuls)
Penbwchdy Head Penbwchdy Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Porthgain Porthgain (Photo by Nanuls)

The rest of the climbing crags in the area are more spaced out, with outcrops around Aber-mawr, Abercastle, Trefin, Porthgain, Abereiddy and Penberry. Without a doubt, the highlight of the area is Craig Llong near Trefin, which is also probably the best crag in north Pembroke. It consists of a series of dramatically overhanging walls of hard igneous rock, interspersed with easier breaks, and is home to the greatest concentration of three star routes north of the Castlemartin Range. An added bonus is its largely non-tidal nature and sheltered southerly aspect, making it an accessible and attractive proposition - even in winter. Check out the Asteroid Wall for some far out routes!

St. David’s Head Area

Mur Cenhinen Mur Cenhinen (Photo by Nanuls)

The St. David’s Head Area is a mile long stretch of gabbro cliffs running from Penllechwen in the far northeast to Whitesand Bay in the southwest. Penllwchwen, Steep Zawn and Trwyn Llwyd Slabs offer a number of quality climbs, mostly in the easier grades, but things don’t get really interesting until the length of coast between Trwyn Llwyd and Craig Hebog is reached.

Trwyn Llwyd has some great mid to high grade routes, many of which exceed 70 metres in length. The three pitch Barad (HVS 5a) is particularly worthwhile, while at the harder end of the grading spectrum, Raging Out (E5 6a) and Rumpy Pumpy (E5 6a) are well worth a look.

Craig Hebog is split into three facets, The South and West face offer some great easier routes, while the steeper North Face has some great lines up to E1. It also has one of the longest routes in north Pembroke, Missing Link (VS 4b), a 180 metre, nine pitch, girdle traverse from Trwyn Llwyd to the northern descent ridge of Craig Hebog.

Craig Coetan Craig Coetan (Photo by Nanuls)

A little further west is the Carn Porth Llong Area, the principle attraction of which is Craig Carn Porth Llong itself, a large complex cliff, which is easily identifiable by a promontory of black rock which juts out into the sea form its. The area is home to a number of interesting long routes, of mostly easy to moderate standards, many of which are rather good.

Next along the coast is Mur Cenhunen, which raises the bar of both the difficulty and quality of the climbs. The main face has the best routes, with a good collection of mid to hard lines, of which Matt Mutt (E4 6a) is the best. If you’re a good high end climber then this cliff is definitely the pick of the litter in these parts.

St. David s Head St. David’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)

West again is the red, slabby cliff, of Craig Coetan, which is located just a few hundred metres northeast of St. David’s Head, and is clearly visible from the coastal path. Routes, which mostly take place on excellent rock, are split between two tiers, a South Buttress and a low promontory called Penmaen Coetan. They’re mostly in the easy to moderate grades, although in places, harder lines do exist – Sharksville (E5 6b) being by far the best.

The eponymous Saint David’s Head is the most westerly point of this area, and is a popular destination for climbers and tourists alike. The recorded climbs are on the lower tiers of the furthest headland, however, such is the nature of the rock here, that there are an almost infinite number of short routes and variations possible. The crags are largely non tidal and approaches require nothing but easy scrambling. This, combined with the high number of easy climbs the crags yield, make the location an ideal venue for beginners or those just looking for an easy day out.

The Legend of St. David

St. David, who was to become patron saint of Wales, was born in around 500AD, possibly to the then king of Ceredigion, but possibly not. According to legend, David was conceived through violence and his mother, gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. He was probably educated at Whitland in Carmarthenshire under Saint Paulinus of Wales and was baptised by St. Ailbe.

He travelled widely, and became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany in a period when neighbouring tribal regions were still mostly pagan. He rose to a bishopric, and presided over two synods, as well as going on pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem where he was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch.

He is said to have performed many miracles, the most famous of which goes that while preaching to a crowd in Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, the ground on which he stood rose up to form a small hill, so that all the spectators could hear and see him. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder - a sign of God's grace and blessing.

He established a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn in Pembrokeshire, which was then one of the wildest, most remote places in Britain, and on which St David's Cathedral and city now stand. The cathedral in its present form was built in 1181.

Apparently David lived for over 100 years, and died on a Tuesday 1 March (now St. David's Day) in around 589 or 590. The monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'. He was buried at St David's Cathedral where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Unlike many contemporary 'saints' of Wales, David was officially recognised by Pope Callixtus II in 1120 thanks to the work of Bernard, Bishop of St David's.

Porthstinian Area

St Justinian s St. Justinian’s (Photo by Nanuls)

The Porthstinian Area is located on the headland to the south of Whitesand Bay, and is one of the most picturesquely situated spots in north Pembroke, with Ramsey Island just opposite and St. David’s Head across the bay to the north. There are three groups of crags in this area; Pencarnan Slabs, Llenrac Slabs and Green and Purple Slabs. Pencarnan lies between the glorious Whitesand Bay and Point St. John. There’s a good collection of routes here, which are enough to keep climbers of all abilities happy. Llenrac Slabs are further south, in a small bay between Point St. John and the lifeboat station at Porthstinian/St. Justinian’s. There’s nothing that will tax your abilities too much here, with nothing exceeding HVS in difficulty. Purple and Green Slabs are much smaller, and are much more limited in what they offer, although they’re worth a look if you’ve exhausted all the other routes in the area.

Although routes have been recorded on it in the past, climbing is now completely banned on Ramsey Island.

The Southern Bays

The cliffs and crags on the southern coast of St. David’s Head are collectively known as the Southern Bays, and run from St. David’s in the west to Newgale in the east. Outlying crags also exit, although they are few in number. The coast’s southerly aspect gives the area a sunny disposition, making it an ideal destination when the weather’s decidedly unfriendly.

Porth-y-Ffynnon Porth-y-Ffynnon (Photo by Nanuls)

The most westerly crags are Porth-Clais and Porth-y-Ffynnon, which are located just south of St. David’s. In fact, the inlet over which Porth-Clais sits was traditionally the city’s harbour, and is a popular landing site to this day. Both crags are relatively small, and although steep, they are well furnished with holds and cracks, making them an ideal destination for beginners, a fact that has not been lost on the local outdoor centres that regularly use the crags. Even though most of the climbs are at the lower end of the grading spectrum, the base of the crags are tidal and normally require an abseil to reach, making climbing here a potentially serious affair. Be sure to check out Red Wall (S 4a), Porth-Clais’ one must do route.

Initiation Slabs Initiation Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)

A little further east are the bays of St. Non’s, Caerfai and Caerbwdi, which are a treasure trove for those climbing in the mid grades. Like their westerly neighbours, the crags along this section of coast are relatively small and have a mixture of tidal and non tidal starts. The two pitch St. Non’s Pinnacle (S) and the single pitch Armorican (HVS 5a) are particularly worthwhile. Look to Initiation Slabs at St. Non’s for some pleasant and mostly easy going routes.

Half a mile east of Caerbwdi is the real gem of the Southern Bays, Carreg-y-Barcud, a south facing cliff of compact sandstone that comes fully furnished with beautiful small positive holds. Although the crag is relatively short, its routes are sustained, and it houses the hardest lines in this particular area, which tend to be poorly protected and can feel very committing. There are a number of stakes in place at the top of the crag which serve as both belays and anchors for abseiling. Most routes can be reached whatever the state of the tide, provided the sea isn’t too choppy of course!

Caerfai Bay and Craig Caerfai (Photo by Nanuls)

The area’s remaining routes are dotted between Solva and Newgale Beach, and are relatively few and far between. Newgale holds the most interest, the caves on its northern end being home to a number of interesting bouldering problems. There are even rumours of a three star V5 somewhere on the crag; unfortunately no one seems to know where it is.

South Pembroke

The character of Pembroke’s southern climbing venues differ greatly from those of the north, largely thanks to the prevalence of its very tall, and very steep, limestone cliffs. The cliffs of the Castlemartin Range are particularly noted for the quality of their rock, however, there is little for the novice here, with even the easier crags requiring an abseil or some form of down climbing to reach. The Range is also subject to various access restrictions, bought on by the area’s use as a military firing range and its designation as both a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area. Range West for example currently requires prospective climbers to attend a briefing session from the MOD before being given a season pass, while both it and Range East can generally only be accessed on a weekend, as firing takes place during on week days. Currently proposals are being considered to ease these restrictions and less draconian measures may be implemented as early as this year (2009). For more information on restrictions see the Red Tape and Access section.

Riders on the Storm (HVS 5a), Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Cool for Cats (E1 5b), Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Range West

Range West is one of Pembroke’s hidden gems, forming the westernmost portion of the Castlemartin Range. It is a landscape of unspoilt beauty, free from the intensive farming practices of the surrounding countryside and free from the crowds that often swarm the crags of Range East; trueky the area is a paradise for both wildlife and climbers alike. Originally all forms of access were completely banned from Range West, however thanks to the campaigning of local activists, concessions have now been made. Access is limited to only those who possess permits, and is restricted to the period between the last Saturday of May to the last Sunday of January, and even then, climbing is only allowed on weekends. For details on how to obtain a permit see the Red Tape and Access section.

Linney Head to Pen-y-Holt

Linney Head is the truly massive headland that defines the most northern limit of climbing in southern Pembroke and runs from the beach at Linney Burrows (adjacent to Freshwater West), in a broad sweep around to Pen-y-Holt Bay. The headland can roughly be split into ten sections; these are from north to east, Berry Slade, The Western Walls, Wind Zawn/Bay, Funlands, Strata Walls, Linney Point, Impending Inlet, Ye Olde Worlde Zawn, Arch Cavern, Hobbyhorse Bay and Arch Zawn. A prominent lookout station sits upon the headland with a rescue phone attached to its south wall.

The extensive stratified walls known appropriately as the Western Walls are particularly noteworthy. This is arguably the best low-grade crag in Pembroke having a large number of quality routes on generally perfect rock with solid finishes. Although technically a tidal crag, there are large terraces exposed even at neap high tides, although in moderate to high seas they are better off avoided.

Although Wind Zawn/Bay is not without merit, the next area that demands real interest is Funlands, an area of broken crags containing a number of slabby sections separated by short, steep walls and a narrow zawn with a rock bridge at its seaward end – the Funlands Crater. The Crater is home to some really impressive routes, with New Beginnings (VS 4c) being the pick of the bunch.

Wind Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

Starting immediately south of Funlands are the Strata Walls which are made up of a series of perfectly regular strata, running out to Linney Point beneath the lookout station. The walls are home to two zawns, one small and one large, and big terraces beneath which are uncovered at most states of the tide. Although the crag has a number of fine routes, belays are scarce and are often a long way from the route tops. Pre-placed belays are therefore advised for all routes.

A little further east are the walls and zawns of Linney Point, located just below the Lookout Station and are delineated on the west (left) by the large corner directly below the station and in the east by Hobbyhorse Bay. The Point is home to many fine routes, several of which are multi-pitch and take place among some truly magnificent surroundings. Trojan (E3 5c), Icarus (E4 5c) and Tombstone (E4 5c/6a) are some of the best routes of their kind anywhere in Britain.

The Western Walls Western Walls (Photo by Nanuls)
Funlands Funlands (Photo by Nanuls)
Pen-y-holt Pen-y-Holt (Photo by Nanuls)

Linney Point is bounded on the east by the narrow Ye Olde Worlde Zawn, a steep wall immediately below a ruined tank and just west of an arched zawn (Arch Cavern). The zawn is named after Mrs Weston’s iconic café in Bosherston, a must stop for all climbers in the area. The routes are reached via abseil from concrete blocks - the rope is best left in place for belay purposes as, with the exception of three routes on the East Face, all the routes are quite hard.

To the east of Ye Olde Worlde Zawn is a collapsed cavern with two seaward entrances – the West Tunnel and the East Tunnel respectively. There’s a good mix of routes here, although some of the faces are now slowly returning to the sea.

For the protection of the Iron Age promontory fort of Linney Camp, climbing is at present banned from most of the next three areas; Hobbyhorse Bay, Arch Zawn and Toyland. Metal stakes topped with stars mark the restricted area. The sizeable, boulder filled bay, complete with non-tidal stack in its centre, which is located some 300 metres east of the lookout station, is known as Hobbyhorse Bay. There is an attractive, but unfortunately restricted, cliff of crack-seamed walls on its eastern side. Climbing is permitted on the west side of the descent buttress on a wall with three cracks which lead to slabs above. This gives a handful of routes from M to E4 6a.

Hobbyhorse Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

The area of small but attractive cliffs immediately east of the Iron Age Fort is known as Toyland. The western part of the crag is non tidal and consists of numerous grooves and chimneys (the deepest of which is called Sweep) with narrow walls between. Further east the routes become increasingly affected by the tide. Climbing is banned on its western side, but its eastern reaches are home to a number of routes from S to E1/2 5b in difficulty.

The next feature along the coast is the beautiful Pen-y-Holt Bay, guarded on the east by Pen-y-Holt Stack. The bay is home to a plethora of easy to difficult climbs, the best of which have unfortunately been affected by a recent rockfall. The crag can be approached via a grassy ramp, and as an added bonus, its western side is virtually non-tidal. The Pen-y-Holt Stack also has a number of worthwhile climbs catering for a range of abilities and is reachable at low tide. The summit panorama alone, which encompasses everything from Mount Sion East to Linney Head, makes an excursion worthwhile.

Cabin Door to The Green Bridge of Wales

Mount Sion East Mount Sion (Photo by Nanuls)

Cabin Door is the area just east of Pen-y-Holt Bay, immediately adjacent to the prominent offshore stack of Pen-y-Holt – easily seen when approaching from Gupton Gate in the east. It’s an attractive area, but unfortunately suffers from much loose rock.

Dominating the landscape to the east of Cabin Door is Bulliber Bay, with its prominent right slanting slab system, and obvious anticline further right on its east side. East again is the large Keyhole Zawn and further east again are two smaller inlets, the farthest of which is known as Slab Bay. Further along again is the Singing Zawn, an unusual cavern which makes strange noises around low tide. The Bulliber area is terminated on its eastern end by the Beach Ball Wall. Although tidal, and probably quite lethal in high seas (but where isn’t?), this area is great for anyone looking for a large number of easy to moderate routes.

Mount Sion East Mount Sion (Photo by Nanuls)

Next along the Range West coast are the magnificent cliffs of Mount Sion, consisting of band upon band of striking and pristine horizontally bedded limestone. The cliffs can be split into four areas - Mount Sion West, Mount Sion Central, Juggy Point and Mount Sion East. Mount Sion Central is one of the most impressive expanses of rock in South Pembroke, forming a vast compact wall up to 50 metres high and 200 metres long, rising steeply above a huge platform system at its base.

The aptly named Juggy Point is another superb cliff; an excellent little buttress, with a plethora of sharp incut mega-jugs. Jug City (HVS 5a) for example, has the best collection of jugs in the whole of Pembroke. The crag lies midway between Mount Sion East and Mount Sion Central, and just west of a deep-sea cave.

The line of cliffs running westward from The Wash and rising above an extensive tidal shelf system is known as Mount Sion East, which can boast the best routes in the Mount Sion area, the finest of which is the huge tapering chimney of Spacewalk (HVS 5a). One of Mount Sion East’s highlights is the excellent 40 Foot Wall, a great non-serious and pleasant place to climb. The routes start on a platform some way above the tide, and climb the short wall to the top giving easy and atmospheric climbing at its best.

Greenham Common (Photo by Nanuls)

A little further east is the Greenham Common area. Almost all its crags are south facing, non tidal, of easy access and are a pleasant and unintimidating place to climb. The Nursery and Playpen crags have some great climbs in the lower grades, while the central section offers something a little (okay, much) harder.

The most eastern crags of Range West are found in Flimston and Perimeter Bays, a line of sea cave riddled cliffs that terminate at The Green Bridge of Wales. Climbers should be aware that this Flimstone Bay should not be confused with a second more popular Flimstone Bay some 800 metres further east. The climbs are mostly rather hard and much of the rock appears both intimidating and loose, although apparently it’s a lot more solid than it appears.

Range East

Range East is probably the most popular climbing area in Pembroke, boasting just the right combination of quality, beauty and accessibility all rolled into one relatively small area. Access isn’t as stringent as in Range West and it can be accessed by anyone at any time, providing firing isn’t occurring that is. Some of Wales’, if not Britain’s, most iconic crags can be found here including the mighty Huntsman’s Leap, Trevellan and St. Govan’s Head.

The Green Bridge of Wales to Mewsford Point

Perhaps one of the most photographed areas in Wales, the coastline between the Green Bridge and Mewsford Point adorn many a postcard stand. The area’s highlights are almost certainly the Green Bridge itself, a large and striking natural sea arch; and the Elegug Stacks (also known as Stack Rocks), two 40-50 metre high sea stacks which rise perpendicularly out of the ocean. Both the Green Bridge and the stacks have routes recorded on them; the Green Bridge in particular has many high quality lines, all of which are in the higher grades. It’s wise that one is able competently lead routes of at least HVS standards before climbing here, as any rescue would be particularly difficult to perform should things go awry. Elegug Stacks have one route each, both graded VS, however, given the infrequency at which they are climbed, the grades should only be treated as rough approximations only. The stacks should be approached at low tide and climbed swiftly, lest one become marooned by the incoming tide. Establishing a Tyrolean traverse ready for escape is probably a good precaution.

The Green Bridge of Wales The Green Bridge (Photo by Nanuls)
The Cauldron The Cauldron (Photo by Nanuls)
Elegug Stacks Elegug Stacks (Photo by Nanuls)

On the headland just to the east of Stack Rocks is a hugely impressive feature known as The Cauldron, a large, 200 foot deep sink hole that tumbles drops into the sea below. There’s a good collection of hard routes to be found here, and like its western neighbours, being a good leader is a must for anyone wanting to attempt them - the easiest route is a committing and sustained VS 4b (Toil and Trouble). Its sheltered nature gives its routes a dark and eerie character, and because of the limited sun light that reaches its walls, it can be wet even in high summer, and on occasion, pretty miserable.

A little further east along the coast is Castlemartin’s second Flimston Bay, a small sandy beach bounded by a number of steep slabby faces. The most interesting face is probably Bow-shaped Slab on the bay’s eastern side, which has several very enjoyable routes graded around the HS mark. A little further to the east again is the slightly larger Bullslaughter Bay, one of the few locations along this stretch of coast that does not require an abseil to reach. The bay is home to a number of fine routes, many of which are in the lower grades. Something worth considering when climbing at both these bays is that the exits to many of the routes have rather precarious exits over unprotected and often crumbling mud and turf, some of which can be quite long and are probably quite lethal. Having personally topped out of a relatively easy and straight forward route to be greeted with a narrow crumbling ridge of mud of some 10 metres length, you can take my word for it that this can be a serious issue. In my case, backing out was seen as the preferable option.

Moody Nose Flimston Area (Photo by Nanuls)
Crystal Slabs Crystal Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)
Bullslaughter Bay Bullslaughter Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

Between the two aforementioned bays is hidden a little crag worthy of mention, the Crystal Slabs, which comprise of a series of slabs and buttresses, which yield a number of climbs that are mostly in the mid to high grades. The area’s main point of interest is the Crystal Slabs themselves, which form a clean wall of rock some 50 metres in height, and are home to a number of interesting mid grade routes. Access is also relatively straight forward, only requiring an easy above tide scramble to reach.

A little further east of Bullslaughter Bay is one of Castlemartin’s best crags, Mewsford Point, which is home to a considerable number of high quality multi-pitch climbs. The Point is easily identifiable by a huge tilted rock platform at its base. The platform provides access to the South and South West face and is accessible for two or three hours at low tide, after which the sea fills a channel between the slab and the cliff face, effectively preventing any kind of retreat. The routes on this part of the crag are therefore quite serious. The more broken West Face offers an alternative, with some excellent routes of a less serious nature.

Mewsford Arches to The Castle

Although, his stretch of coastline is visited less often than Castlemartin’s other areas, it does have a number of routes of some interest. Mewsford Arches is home to Pembroke’s longest route, Underneath the Arches (E2 5b), a 250 metre, ten pitch, committing, right-to-left traverse under the crag’s distinctive overhangs. The remainder of the area’s cliffs – Panzer Walls, Battleship Buttress, Crickmail Point, Seaside Gully, Triple Overhang Buttress, Ripper Cliff, Blockhouse Buttress, Space Buttress, Buckspool Down, Sitting Bull Buttress, and The Fortress – are slightly less interesting; although Galactic Co-ordinator (HVS 5a), Deepthroat (E3 5c), Beachcomber (E4 6a), Pigs on the Wing (HVS 5a) and Welcome to the Cruise (HVS 5a) on Triple Overhang Buttress are all more than worthy outings.

Range East Rusty Walls (Photo by Nanuls)
Blockhouse Buttress Blockhouse Buttress (Photo by Nanuls)
The Castle The Castle (Photo by Nanuls)

A little further east is The Castle, a fine headland which is home to a number of high quality, but relatively short, crack climbs. It also boasts a spectacular through cave, which come complete with a huge skylight, linking The Castle’s East Face to The Fortress. The crag is well worth a visit if you’re a high end climber. Midway between The Castle and Rusty Walls is Anthrax Zawn, a small inlet directly below the radar station; the routes are relatively few in number and quite ordinary in nature, although Castle Anthrax (E1 5b), is worth at least a star.

Rusty Walls to St. Govan’s Head

The cliffs between The Castle and St. Govan’s Head may well be the most popular stretch of coastline in the Pembroke. This popularity is probably down to three reasons. Firstly, access to most of the cliffs couldn’t be easier, just park the car at the St. Govan’s car park and stroll over to the cliff tops. A short abseil will take you to the base of most climbs. Secondly, the area is home to a remarkable concentration of high quality climbs, a significant proportion of which are graded E1 and above. Thirdly, this is one of the few areas in South Pembroke that has a crag with a large number of easy routes on it, making it a great introduction to the area for the novice – Saddle Head.

Between The Castle and Saddle Head are a series of crags and bays which are characterised by short, steep walls, several of which are home to routes of some note. The routes on Rusty Walls, the most westward of the crags on this section of coast, are particularly good. Lucky Strike (E2 5b) and Circus, Circus (E5 6b) are well worth every one of their three stars. A little further east Misty Wall and Hollow Caves Bay are also home to some great routes.

Saddle Head Saddle Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Bosherton Head Bosherston Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Stennis Head Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)

The aforementioned Saddle Head is the most western headland on this stretch of coast, and is easily recognisable from the small radar station located on its highest point. Most routes are located on its western face, which can be accessed by abseil or by scrambling down a ridge to the south, onto a non-tidal platform. The crag is notable for the number of easy routes it holds, which begin as low as Diff standards. Although the routes are easy, they are steep and can be quite intimidating, but generally take place on large juggy holds and have good protection. Creating belays is also easy, however, there’s a lot of loose rock at the top, so take care while building them. As a side note, using the fence around the radar station, or any other part of its infrastructure, is strictly prohibited and doing so may endanger future access to the crag.

To the east of Saddle Head is a large double zawn known as The Devil’s Barn. Aside from the period around high tide it is always dry, and can be reached by abseil from a concrete post at the back of the landward zawn. To be honest there is little of interest here, and given the sheer number of quality routes on the headlands to east and west, it’s probably better off ignored until you’ve exhausted all opportunities elswhere.

Huntsman s Leap Huntsman’s Leap (Photo by Nanuls)
The Big Issue The Big Issue (Photo by Nanuls)
St. Govan s Head St. Govan’s Chapel (Photo by Nanuls)
Stennis Ford Stennis Ford (Photo by Nanuls)

The next headland along is Bosherston Head, another excellent cliff, but with very few easy routes. The crag is home to one of Wales’ hardest climbs, The Big Issue (E9 6c), which directly ascends around 40 metres of steeply overhanging rock. It’ll make you feel dizzy just looking at it! Another interesting route, Preposterous Tales (HVS 5a), takes a sea cave on the crags western side, and up through the headland, exiting through a small blowhole some way back from the cliff edge.

The next feature to the east is the magnificent, extraordinary and enthralling Huntsman’s Leap, a narrow and bewilderingly steep zawn that cuts deeply into the surrounding coastline, and is home to the greatest concentration of quality routes in Pembroke. Intricate and weird lines, outrageous rock formations and the curious feeling of someone else struggling up a route about 10m behind you all contribute to its appeal. As once said by its most prestigious developer; “Once you get enmeshed with Huntsman’s Leap, the remaining desire is to climb nowhere else”. For anyone leading in the high E grades, the routes here really are a must do. In fact there are so many classics, even attempting to recommend just a few is impossible – just go climb!

A little further east is another impressive headland known as Stennis Head. Most of the best climbs are on its South-west Face, which has excellent rock, a sunny aspect, is non-tidal, and is easily accessed via a rock ramp that slopes down from the west. The Face is home to a series of excellent, but difficult, single pitch routes, as well as a handful of friendlier mid-grade ones. A small inlet separates the South-west Face from its South Buttress, and as a consequence the routes on this crag must be approached leftward from Stennis Ford or by abseil.

Trevellan and St. Govan’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)

The large zawn to the east of Stennis Head, and the first reached when approaching from the St. Govan’s car park, is Stennis Ford. The western side of the zawn is a major cliff with a number of very fine and high standard routes. The zawn bed is only accessible by abseil, and while the climbs towards its mouth are tidal, those on its landward end are hardly tidal at all. As of 2010, Stennis Ford has become home to Wales hardest route, surpassing the infamous Big Issue (E9 6c), which is just around the corner on Bosherston Head and Snowdonia’s equally notorious Indian Face (also E9 6c), which can be found on Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. The new route, known as Muy Caliente, comes in at a hefty E10 6c and was claimed by Tim Emmett, who has been very active in perusing a number of hard projects in the area over the last few years. The route features very hard physical climbing (mid F8's) with a huge run out, a fall from the end of which could result in a ground/ground-sweeping fall from around 25m.

Newton Head is the flat-fronted headland situated to the east of Stennis Ford and is separated from Chapel Point by a large zawn. The headland consists of two short tiers; the top tier offers good bouldering, while the lower tier has some interesting short trad routes, many of which are in the low to mid grades. The lower tiers are also popular with Deep Water Soloists.

The area around St. Govan’s Chapel, known as Chapel Point and Chapel Cove, offers a mixed bag of routes. Chapel Point has a number of quality climbs and is a popular destination, probably due to the fact that it is so close to the car park. Although routes have been recorded there is the past, for the purpose of public safety, climbing is permanently banned within Chapel Cove.

The Legend of St. Govan

St. Govan, or more likely St Gobhan or Gobban (which means a smith), was born of the Hy Cinnselach clan in County Wexford in Ireland sometime in the 6th century. As a boy St. Govan was attracted by the preaching and teaching of St. Ailbe, a native of Solva, Pembrokeshire, who founded the monastery of Dairinis, in Wexford, and Govan joined the monastery there. Following St. Ailbe’s death in 527, he was elected Abbot of the monastery; how long he held this position is unknown.

At some point in his later life, and for reasons that are lost in time, he decided to move to Pembrokeshire. While in the county, legend says that pirates from Lundy Island tried to capture him. This is quite feasible, for he would have been dressed as an Abbot, and his capture therefore, could have resulted in a large ransom being demanded from the monastery, the wealthy house of the day. While evading the pirates the cleft in the rock at St. Govan's Chapel opened miraculously for Govan to hide in, closed over him, opening miraculously for a second time after the pirates had gone away. If St. Govan was chased he probably found the fissure a safe hiding place. As he saw the pirates leaving he was filled with a sense of shame at his cowardice, and decided to remain so that in future he might convert the pirates. St. Govan apparently stayed for the rest of his life in his cell, worshipping, preaching and teaching in South Pembrokeshire. His saintliness was marked by the Church, which designated March 26th as St. Govan's Day, and by his followers who built the Chapel in the cliffs. Tradition says that St. Govan lies buried under the altar in the chapel which bears his name. He died in 586.

St. Govan s Bomb Bay (VS 4c), St. Govan's (Photo by Nanuls)

Sweeping eastwards from Chapel Cove towards St. Govan’s Head are the cliffs of Trevellan, which are home to plethora of high quality climbs, of both the single and multi-pitch variety. Around halfway along the cliffs is a strikingly white wall split by a thin crack. This is known as Sunlover Wall, where some of the best routes in Pembroke can be found. Be aware though, there’s not much for he novice here. In 2009 Trevellan was one of the locations used in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (May 2010).

With a length of well over 300 metres, St Govan’s Head is one of the most important cliffs in Pembroke, and presents a great variety of high quality, powerful climbs on good rock. Access is a short walk from the St Govan’s car park, and the base of the crag can be reached via a steep abseil. Unsurprisingly the majority of the routes are rather hard.

Trevellan and St. Govan s Head Trevellan and St. Govan’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)

To the east of St. Govan’s Head, is the aptly named St. Govan’s East. The crag is tidal at either of its extremities, but towards its centre remains unaffected. The highest cliffs are on its western and are characterised by powerful cracklines. Again, the routes are rather hard, but for those climbing in the mid grades there are a number of little gems worthy of your attention, including Ganymede (HS 4b) and Rear Wind (HVS 5a).

Broad Haven to Stackpole Quay

Raming Hole Raming Hole (Photo by Nanuls)

The coastline immediately east of St Govan’s Head changes from one of steep cliffs and rocky platforms to a more open landscape, the show piece of which is the sweeping golden beach and sand dunes of Broad Haven. The beach is understandably popular with tourists and is a great place to spend a few hours of post-climbing relaxation. Routes are comparatively few in the area’s immediately around the beach, although Star Rock on the bay’s western end offers some interesting lines among very pleasant surroundings. For anyone looking for something a bit more adventurous, Church Rock, a rocky islet located several hundred metres beyond the low tide line, offers a climb of severe standards up its South Ridge, the only problem is you have to be a good swimmer to reach it!

Mowing Word Mowing Word (Photo by Nanuls)

A little further along, Saddle Bay, Raming Hole and Gun Cliff have some interesting propositions for the able climber. Raming Hole, a long narrow zawn around halfway between Broad Haven and Mowing Word is particularly noteworthy. The zawn is sheltered from the worst the weather can throw at it and has a variety of excellent steep and sustained hard climbs.

Mowing Word and Stackpole Head form the first major headland after Broad Haven, and provide exhilarating climbing in a beautiful and isolated setting. Mowing Word can be windy and exposed, although often this is far more pronounced on the cliff top than on the routes themselves. The crag faces south west and receives afternoon and evening sun and especially stunning when the low sun turns the whole cliff a delightful orange. In general the routes are rather hard, although it’s also host to a good compliment of mid grade climbs - Diedre Sud (HS 4a) and Heart of Darkness (HVS 4c) are two of the best routes for their grades in the country. Stackpole cranks up the difficulty a little more, with bold and powerful overhangs becoming de rigueur. Almost every climb here is a potential classic - Always in the Sun (E6 6c), Heaven’s Door (E3 5c), Swordfish (E3 5c) and Silver Shadow (E2 5b) are all unbelievably brilliant.

Stackpole Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Lydstep Area

Lydstep was one of the first areas in south Pembroke to be developed for climbing and remains to be an extremely popular destination to this day, being home to some truly excellent routes of all grades. Although there is climbing all along the this stretch of coast, the most interesting routes are concentrated in four sub-areas, namely the Forbidden Head, the Western Crags, Mother Carey’s Kitchen and the South East Corner of Lydstep Head.

The Forbidden Head is the most westward of these areas, forming a low headland just to the east of Skrinkle Haven. It has two impressive faces, both of which exceed thirty metres in height. Unlike the other areas of Lydstep, all but one of the routes on this section of coast are in the Extremely Severe grades, and of these, Gorak (E5 6b), and Hungry Heart (E5 6b) are the best.

Mother Carey s Kitchen Mother Carey’s Kitchen (Photo by Nanuls)
The White Tower The White Tower (Photo by Nanuls)
Skomar Towers Skomar Towers (Photo by Nanuls)

The Western Crags are a collection of zawns and headlands that boast an excellent selection of routes of all grades. No Man’s Zawn and Frontier Zawn are the area’s most westward features, and both have some excellent hard routes, too many in fact, to list here. The most eastward features are the impressive and rambling Skomar Towers, which give a number of steep climbs on variable rock. Most of the routes are rather hard; however, there are a few mid grade routes for anyone not wanting to scare themselves silly. For those with a taste for soloing, this little bit coastline benefits from being surrounded by deep water, which is blissfully free of submarine obstacles, and has a good number of suitable routes of all DWS grades.

Undoubtedly the gem the Lydstep Area is the imposing Mother Carey’s Kitchen. This is a steep and intimidating place to climb, after all, it doesn’t go by the pseudonym of Mother Scarey’s for nothing; something that’s extremely easy to appreciate when hanging precariously on one of its steeply overhanging faces. The Kitchen provides a concentration of superb climbs, mostly in the higher grades, on mostly good quality rock, which is well furnished with excellent holds and interesting and exciting natural features. It’s not all hard routes and scary positions here though, the crag is also home to some of the best Severe and Very Severe grade climbs in Pembroke.

Lydstep Point and Haven (Photo by Nanuls)

The climbing at Mother Carey’s can be split between six sections: Blind Bay, Strait Gate, Brazen Buttress, Star Gate, The Space Face and The White Tower. Blind Bay is often ignored but has some of the best hard routes in the area, while Strait Gate also houses some fantastic routes, including the huge overhanging corner of Rock Idol (E1 5a), probably the best climb in the Lydstep area. The centre of Mother Carey's is dominated by the tall tower of Brazen Buttress, which is home to the crag’s best ‘easy’ route, the brilliant and highly entertaining Threadneedle Street (S). Star Gate forms the deep cleft behind Brazen Buttress and is home to some of the most bizarre and wild adventures in Pembroke. Deep Space (E2 5b) and Star Gate (E3 5c) are highly praiseworthy, although to be fair, all the routes here are pretty darn good. Next is the incredibly steep Space Face, which apparently, feels even steeper once you’re on it. Standing alone and proud just to the east, is the shapely and classic White Tower, which offers some of the best wall climbing anywhere in the world. The greatest routes are all frustratingly hard, but it is home to one noteworthy and slightly ‘easier’ alternative – the classic Sea Groove (VS 4b).

The interest of this section of coast wanes slightly further east, the East Corner of Lydstep Head not quite being able to match its western neighbour in class or atmosphere. Lydstep Point has the most attractive routes, with Mex-the-Flex (E5 6b), Inca (E5 6b) and The Rip (E2 5b) being the best.

Giltar Area

The area around Giltar Point is a mass of small, generally easier angled cliffs, which offer many easier climbs, and are popular with beginners and outdoor centres. It should be noted that much of the area is part of the Pennally Army Camp, and is off limits whenever the camp’s residents are undertaking a bit of light firing. Red flags fly as a warning at these times, and it should be noted that weekends are not necessarily exempt from this activity.

Giltar Hidden Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)
Giltar Crescent Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)
Giltar Proud Giltar (Photo by Nanuls)

The area between Proud Giltar and Whispering Wall has an excellent selection of routes of all grades. Proud Giltar has some great long (at least for sea cliffs) easy climbs, while Rusty Point is well worth a visit by anyone who climbs in the mid grades, having some excellent , but sparsely protected, slab climbs. Anyone who’s after adding the once highly engaging Sea Tube (VD) to their repertoire will now be disappointed, on a recent trip I found that a cave-in in the upper ‘tube’ has now rendered this section completely impassable… unless you bring a spade of course.

Further east Giltar Slabs also have a good selection of routes, most of which are in the easy grades. Check out Chimera (E2 5c) (not easy I know) and Super Slab (D) for a taste of the best this section has to offer.

Tenby Area

Tenby is a picturesque coastal town of medieval origin, which grew in importance as a trading port and 19th century holiday resort. The town is flanked by sandy beaches and rocky outcrops and remains to be a popular tourist attraction to this day. In climbing terms it offers something quite different to Pembroke’s other venues as it is home to the county’s only sports crag, Tenby South Beach Quarry, the only rock face in the area where bolting is currently permissible. Climbing on the rocks of the town’s beaches, which can get very crowded in summer, is generally discouraged as loose rock can pose a significant threat to other beach users. Bouldering however, is permissible, with some of the best problems lying in the narrow caves and inlets of South Beach. Although the rock looks highly inviting, climbing is completely banned on St. Catherine’s Island (Ynys Catrin), a small tidal island linked to the same beach. The island is home to the remains of a 19th century fort completed in 1870 to defend Pembroke Dock from the French (well they do have form – see below).

St. Cathrine’s Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Oddly enough, some of the best bouldering in Pembroke is on the concrete back wall of Tenby’s North Beach. The wall has the distinct advantage of being solid, with excellent landings, access to almost high tide, and a shop/café within 3m. It’s altogether far more attractive than the slightly loose sea cliffs of the South Beach. Bouldering on the South and Castle Beaches is possible up to mid-tide, although it may be a scramble to get into the aforementioned caves.

Outlying Crags

Outlying crags do occur in places. In the north Mynydd Dinas near Fishguard is home to some excellent short routes on grit like rock. Mynydd Dinas is also home to what is probably the best bouldering in all of Pembroke, with the activity being split between four small outcrops which dot the upper reaches of the hill. For more information on upland crags see the Highlands and Islands Section. Further north, a number of routes have also been recorded on the sea cliffs at Craig Lochtyn near Llangrannog in Ceredigion. Towards the centre of the area the rocks of Treffgarne and Plumstone Mountain yield a number of easy trad routes as well as innumerable bouldering problems. The problems here are second only to those of Mynydd Dinas. Routes have also been recorded at Marloes and Skomer Head. In the south, development is underway at a number of new sites around Pendine in Carmarthenshire, the routes of which are reputed to be at the upper end of the grading spectrum.

Highlands and Islands

“ Making enquiries concerning Pembrokeshire in general, the Rev. Mr. Hall, who resided much in it, informed me, that one third of the county is mountain; and that the other two thirds let from 10s [Shillings]. to 20s. an acre; average 15s. That a part of it consisted of a very fine red loam at 20s. excellent for every sort of crop: the other parts clay, or clayey, with a tract to the south of lime stone land.”

Arthur Young - Tour of South Wales and South Midlands (1776)


The landscape of Pembroke and its surrounding area, with the exception of the occasional isolated hill, is generally quite flat and undulating. The exceptions that do exist however, sit perfectly in their surroundings and command a character unlike anything else in the British Isles.

Mynydd Preseli

Mynydd Preseli, known as the Preseli Hills or Preseli Mountains in English, is an east-west aligned ridge which runs from Foel Eryr (468m) in the west, to Y Foel Drygarn (363m) in the east. Its highest summit, Foel Cwmcerwyn, which is also the highest summit in Pembroke, is situated a little south of the main body of the ridge, and reaches a height of just 536m. The hill slopes are rarely very steep, and the characteristic cliff and scree-slopes of other Welsh Mountain massifs are conspicuously absent. However, the summits and slopes are scattered by distinctive doleritic tor-like rock formations, which characterise the area and give the hills their unique identity. These are particularly prominent at Carn Menyn (365m), where a spiky ridge formed by the outcrops dominates the skyline.

Foel Feddau Foel Feddau (Photo by Nanuls)
Cerrigmarchogion Cerrigmarchogion (Photo by Nanuls)
Cerrig Lladron Cerrig Lladron (Photo by Nanuls)

Mynydd Preseli has long been the focus of human activity from prehistoric times to the present day. In around 4000BC, the first farmers in Wales began building chambered tombs, such as Beddyrafanc near Brynberian. This began a tradition of monument building that continued well into the Bronze Age, c.1300BC. As people adapted to a new way of life as farmers, emphasis shifted to the construction of permanent settlements – such as the hillfort and levelled platforms for houses on Foel Drygarn. The hills appear to have been of great significance to the area’s Stone Age inhabitants, and these archaeological artefacts scatter the surrounding landscape. In fact, it is Preseli bluestone that was used in the construction of Britain’s most famous Neolithic monument, Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, which is located around 160 miles away. Whether these stones arrived at Stonehenge by human effort alone, or whether they were deposited nearer to the site during the last ice age as glacial erratics is unknown.

Mynydd Carningli and Mynydd Dinas

Mynydd Carningli and Mynydd Dinas are twin peaks that sit opposite Mynydd Preseli on the northern side of the Gwaun Valley. Like their southern neighbours, they are unremarkable in their stature but more than make up for it in raw character.

At 347 metres, Mynydd Carningli is the higher of the two, and dominates the landscape around it. Like its neighbours in the Preselis, it lacks the steep slopes and crags of Wales’ other mountains, but has the doloritic tors that characterise Pembroke’s upland landscape.

Garn Fawr Garn Fawr (Photo by Nanuls)
Pentre Ifan Pentre’r Ifan (Photo by Nanuls)
Carn Enoch Carn Enoch (Photo by Nanuls)

The mountain is thought to have had a long history of religious significance. One theory surrounding Neolithic burial rituals is that burial chambers were designed to mimic their surrounding landscape, and has been suggested that the nearby tomb of Pentre Ifan was built to match Carningli’s profile. This theory however, is not universally accepted. During the Dark and Middle Ages the mountain was probably known as Mons Angelorum, and according to local legend, the 6th century Saint Brynach used to climb to the summit to find serenity, to pray, and to "commune with the angels". Early texts and maps spell the mountains name as Carn Yengly or Carnengli, which are probably corruptions of Carn Engylau; Carn being the Welsh word for rock and Engylau the Welsh word for angels.

The Mountain’s most striking feature is the Carningli Hillfort which crowns its rocky summit. It covers an area of about 4 ha, is about 400 m x 150 m in extent, and its defences incorporate a series of substantial stone embankments as well as the natural rock cliffs and scree slopes which surround it. It seems to have acted as a fortified village and there are traces of about 25 circular houses within its North East Portion. The hillfort is generally thought to date back to the Iron Age, however significant finds of Bronze Age artefacts indicate that occupation began much earlier. In fact, use of the site may well date back to the Neolithic as inside the forts outermost defensive wall and beneath the scree slopes of its South East flank, there is something that looks suspiciously like a sub-Neolithic burial chamber, this however remains to be confirmed. Occupation is thought to have ended around the first century AD, and evidence of damage to the hillfort’s battlements indicates that it may have ended violently. Evidence suggests that temporary occupation continued up until the Middle Ages, when homeless individuals used the site as a makeshift shelter.

Garn Fawr Lower Tier

Mynydd Dinas (305m) is Carningli’s western sister, and is perhaps visually less impressive and archaeologically poorer than its eastern sibling. However, it does make up for this by being the best bouldering venue in Pembroke, and being home to a handful of short trad routes to boot. This activity is split between Mynydd Dinas’ four doloritic outcrops, namely Carn Enoch, Garn Fawr, Carnsefyll and the intriguingly named Elephant’s Arse Boulders. The best problems are shared between Carn Enoch and Garn Fawr, with problems ranging from VB to V7, although this is not entirely clear as the harder problems are graded using British Technical Grades which are ill-suited for describing harder bouldering problems. Garn Fawr is also home to all of the hill’s only trad routes, none of which exceed 10 metres in length, and range in difficulty from Severe 4b to E3 5a.

Garn Fawr

Garn Fawr Garn Fawr (Photo by Nanuls)

The large rounded peninsula of Pen Caer/Strumble Head is home to a number of small rocky hilltops that rise above the flat Medieval field landscape of the surrounding area. Garn Fawr (213m) is the largest of these, and its summit offers a fantastic panorama that encompasses most of northern Pembroke. The hill is topped by an Iron Age fort, and on its eastern flank, has the crumbling remnants of a First World War era watch tower. There are a number of other forts on neighbouring hills, and in addition to these, there are also several chambered tombs, standing stones and round barrows. The hills are a great place to go for a walk; however, those looking for something to climb will find their crags and boulders too short or broken to satisfy. The area is best known as the theatre for the last invasion of mainland Britain, the tale of which can be found below.

The Last Invasion of Britain

At 2am on the 23rd of February 1797 troops of Revolutionary France, under the command of Irish American Colonel William Tate, landed at Carreg Wastad near Fishguard, marking the beginning of the last invasion of mainland Britain. They had originally been part of a much larger invasion force, however, owing to atrocious weather, outbreaks of mutiny and indiscipline, only Tate’s force made landfall, and he did so in the wrong place. The original plan was to land near Bristol.

Tate and his well armed force of 600 Regular Troops, and another 800 Republicans, deserters, convicts and Royalist prisoners, made their way inland and established a base near Trehowel Farm, about a mile from their landing site. Unfortunately it appears, deserters, convicts and prisoner do not make reliable soldiers, and within a few hours, most had decided to part with the invasion force and do some looting of their own. Discipline broke down even further when those who remained discovered the locals’ wine supply (salvaged from a Portuguese wreck a few weeks earlier), and with some enthusiasm, set about the task of devouring it.

Originally the French had hoped that they would be seen as liberators and that the Welsh would join them and rebel against the English, making the task of invasion a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, by looting, shooting and worst of all, drinking all the booze, the French failed to impress their local hosts, and by the evening of the 23rd a ragtag force of around 700 reservists, militia and sailors, plus an unknown number of angry locals, had assembled in Fishguard. Demoralised and by now outnumbered the French considered surrender and approached the commanding British officer, Lord Cawdor, to discuss terms. Cawdor demanded nothing short of unconditional surrender and issued an ultimatum to Colonel Tate.

At 8am the following morning, the British forces lined up in battle-order on Goodwick Sands, and up above them on the cliffs, the inhabitants of Fishguard had come to watch and await Tate's response to the ultimatum. Tate tried to delay but eventually accepted the terms of the surrender, and at 2pm the remaining French force lay down their arms, thus ending the last invasion of Britain. Legend has it that Tate, mistaking the traditional red costumes of the spectating women on the cliff tops for the red uniforms of British soldiers, thought his opposing force was far larger than it actually was, persuading him to surrender without a fight.


The hills to the west of the hamlet of Treffgarne are home to a series of rhyolite tors which are notable for the quality of their bouldering, as well as for a small handful of trad routes. Great Treffgarne Mountain is home to two of these outcrops namely Maiden's Castle, also known as Lion Rock or Treffgarne Pinncales; and Poll Carn, which is also known as Wolf Rock. Of these, the former yields the best lines, which generally take place on good rock and benefit from the spot's sunny aspect. Poll Carn has a more imposing character, but its rock is more broken and less solid in nature, and consequently its bouldering is less impressive. That said, some of its problems are truly superb, most of which are steeply overhanging. The outcrop is also home to the hill's only recorded trad routes, all of which are in the easier portion of the grading spectrum and are ideal for beginners.

Poll Carn Poll Carn (Photo by Nanuls)
Maiden Castle Mainden Castle (Photo by Nanuls)
Plumstone Mountain Plumstone Mountain (Photo by Nanuls)

Plumstone Mountain is located some 3 kilometres to the west, which is home to a single outcrop of good quality steep rock. The bouldering is of a high quality and includes roof problems, arêtes, grit stone laybacks and steep faces all packed into one small area. Much of the climbing is overhanging by around 10º or 20º, and as a result is fairly powerful.

Penmaen Dewi/St Davids Head

Carn Llidi Carn Llidi (Photo by Nanuls)

Penmaen Dewi, or St. David’s Head as it is more commonly known, is probably one of the most recognisable parts of Pembroke, and is home to a perfect combination of beaches, sea cliffs and uplands. The word upland might be stretching it a bit as the highest summit in the locale, Carn Llidi, only reaches 184 metres, however the character of the hills in this area are more akin to those of more mountainous regions, and are distinct from the coastal plain that surrounds them. The high points of the area are made up of a series of rocky protrusions, namely Carn Llidi (184m), Carn Lleithr (140m), Carn Perfedd (142m), Carn Trellwyd (142m) and Carn Penberry (175m), which run parallel to Pembroke’s northern coast, and are the remnants of a long extinct volcanic system. Of these, Carn Llidi is of most interest as it boasts the only proper scramble in south west Wales as well as a handful of moderate rock climbs including Carn Llidi Groove (S 4a) and the Long Climb (S 4a). The views from its summit encompass a considerable portion of Pembroke including all of St. David’s Head, Whitesand Bay and Ramsey Island, and on days of exceptional clarity, the eastern shores of Ireland. It‘s also probably the best spot in Wales to watch the evening sun go down.


There are innumerable islands, islets, stacks and tors off the Pembroke coast, which vary in size from single rocky protrusions to large inhabited strips of land with high cliffs, sandy beaches and rocky hills. Owing to their isolated nature, many of these islands have remained relatively untouched by man and are home to not only some of the finest Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeology anywhere in Britain, but are also some of the richest nature sites anywhere in Europe. This section describes the largest of these islands.

Cardigan Island

Cardigan Island Cardigan Island (Photo by Cered)

Cardigan Island is the only island described on this page that falls outside the county of Pembrokeshire. The island, which consists of maritime cliff and slope and grassland plateau, is located on the northern side of the Teifi Estuary, in the county of Ceredigion. Habitation on the island can be traced back to the Bronze Age, although this is the only period when it is likely to have been permanent. Unlike the area's other islands, its English name is direct translation of the Welsh, Ynys Aberteifi, rather than a bastardisation of Old Norse. This is significant as it is indicative of the historical and cultural split between Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, the latter of which remained independently Welsh until the 13th century.

The island is now a nature reserve owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. The breeding seabird assemblage is dominated by gulls, including an increasing population of Herring Gulls, around 1400 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and up to 20 pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls. Razorbills began to breed in 1982. Other birds breeding include Guillemot, Chough, Fulmar, Shag, Oystercatcher, Raven, and Rock Pipit. Canada and Barnacle Geese also use the island.

Although there is evidence of rabbit farming, the only mammals that now inhabit the island are a flock of Soay Sheep, which were introduced in 1944 from the Duke of Bedford’s flock at Woburn, and Grey Seals, which use the islands sea caves for breeding. In the mid 20th century the island became infested with brown rats which arrived as the result of the wreck of the steamer Herefordshire in 1934. Thankfully, these were eradicated in the late 1960s with aid from MAFF pest officers.

Landing on the island is prohibited; however it can be viewed from the recently opened Ceredigion Coastal Path, part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s drive to give the public uninterrupted access to Wales’ coastline.

Ramsey Island

Ramsey Island Ramsey Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Ramsey Island is located less than a kilometre west of St. David's Head, and as such is the most westerly point of Wales. The island is more rugged than the area's others with its landscape being dominated by the two rocky peaks of Carnsgubor and Carnllundain, the latter of which reaches 136 metres in height.

Evidence of habitation in the form of burial mounds and a possible field system goes back to the Bronze Age, and permanent occupation is thought to have continued ever since. During the Middle Ages the island was part of the Parish of St Davids under the ownership of the Bishopric. Following the Norman Conquest of Pembrokeshire the island became an important pilgrimage site with no less than two small chapels, one of which was dedicated to St David. According to church records the island was extremely fertile and a wide range of mixed farming was practised. Beef cattle, sheep and goats, and also wheat, oats and barley are recorded. A detailed account in the Black Book of St David's of 1326, records that the bishop had 2 carucates of land on the island, containing 100 acres, on which could be kept 10 horses, 100 head of 'great cattle' and 300 sheep.

Today the island is owned by the RSPB and provides a home for nesting chough, peregrine falcon and several species of seabird. Its vegetation includes important stretches of heathland and maritime grassland which are among the few truly unmodified semi-natural habitats in Britain. Little surprise that associated with these habitats are many species of plant and invertebrate that are national rarities. The breeding colony of grey sears is the largest in south west Britain, with up to 300 seal pups being born each year at the back of the cave systems and on the small beaches around the shore.

The reserve is open every day from 1 April or Easter (whichever is earlier) to 31 October, between 10 am and 4 pm, with boats departing from the landing station at St. Justinian’s.

Skomer Island

Skomer Island Skomer Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Skomer Island is almost not an island at all, situated less than a kilometre from the mainland, and only separated by the treacherous waters of Jack Sound. The island is a true gem of the British coastline, being as it is, both archaeologically and ecologically wealthy. In addition, Skomer’s coastline is nothing if not spectacular, characterised by sheltered bays, exposed headlands, towering offshore rocks and shaded inlets, all painted with the varying hues of the island’s lichen.

During the prehistoric period, the island was occupied by farmers and the physical remains of field systems with cultivation marks, enclosures, clearance cairns, huts, dams and even settlements, survive more-or-less undisturbed to this day, particularly in this peripheral area, which occupies nearly two-thirds of the island. These remains cannot be closely dated, but a study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust noted that “nothing like the arrangement of the fields or the shape of the huts is known from the Roman or later periods” and ascribed the features to a date-range from the Neolithic to the Iron Age periods. Their exceptional survival is due to the fact that though the island was rented for the seasonal depasturing of cattle during the Middle Ages, and was rented annually for £4 7s in the 16th century, there appears to have been little permanent settlement, and it was not until the 18th century that the present farm was established in the central part of the island.

Skomer Island Skomer Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Although Skomer is home to some world class archaeology, it is better known for its wildlife, and in particular its bird life, which is particularly diverse. The island is home to around 6,500 pairs of puffin, which nest and breed on its cliffs from late spring to early summer. The puffins are remarkably comfortable in the presence of humans and area a primary reason for the high visitor numbers the island receives. Skomer is probably the most important breeding site of Manx Shearwaters in the world, with an estimated population of 165,000 pairs. It is difficult to find spots on the island which are not burrowed by them. Other significant bird presences are the Lesser Black-backed Gull, Chough, Short-eared Owl and Storm Petrel.

The island is also home to one unique species of mammal - the Skomer Vole (Clethrionomys glareolus skomerensis) - a distinct form of the Bank Vole. The lack of land-based predators on the island means that the bracken habitat is an ideal place for the vole - with the population reaching around 20,000 during the summer months.

If you would like to visit the island, boats sail from Martin's Haven every day except Monday (Bank Holiday Mondays excepted) from April to October. There are limits on the number of people allowed to visit the island (currently 250 per day), and long queues can develop early each morning.

Skokholm Island

Located around 4km, or 2.5 miles, west of Marloes Sands, Skokholm is one of Pembroke’s remotest islands. Like its neighbours its name is of Norse origin, meaning “Wooded Island”, an indication that Skokholm’s now bare landscape was once covered in trees. The island is bounded by cliffs of Old Red Sandstone which reach up to 50 metres in height in the southwest and are frequently battered by storms. This has given rise to a coastline of deep bays and gullies, exposing much of the interesting underlying red and purple tinted rock strata. Surrounded by these beautiful cliffs the island is a plateau, which slopes from south west to north east, with few undulations, but several rocky outcrops.

Skokholm Island from Skomer Island (Photo by Nanuls)

The island is owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, and in 2008 was designated a National Nature Reserve. It is home to a colony of Manx Shearwaters, which is probably the third largest in the world, containing some 15 percent of the World population. In addition the islands breeding Storm Petrels could account for up to 20 percent of the EU population. These two birds spend most of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed, and then only at night. The island is also home to around 4,500 Puffins and around a 2,000 Razorbills and Guillemots which breed on its cliffs.

Like the area’s other islands, Grey Seals are present in the waters around Skokholm throughout the year, and seen basking on rocks at low water daily. Cetaceans are seen close inshore, with daily sightings of Harbour Porpoise, and infrequent sightings of Common, Bottlenose and Risso’s Dolphins.

Public visits to the island are infrequent, but do take place from May to August. Bookings must be made well in advance as places are few and fill up quickly. For further information see the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ website.

Grassholm Island

Grassholm Grassholm Island (Photo by Dave Callender)

Grassholm Island is the most remote of the area's islands, lying some 11km, or 7 miles for the imperially minded, west of Skomer. The island is and RSPB reserve and is home to some 32,000 pairs of breeding gannets. Estimates at other sites vary but it’s probably the third largest Atlantic gannet colony in the world (behind St Kilda and Bass Rock), supporting in the region of 12% of the entire world population. It's this profusion of birds that give the rocks of the island their white colour, thanks to the enormous volume of droppings they deposit every year.

Landing on Grassholm is forbidden, however, you can take a boat trip around the island either from Martin's Haven on Mondays or from St. Justinian's.

Caldy Island

Caldy Island Caldy Island (Photo by Nanuls)

Caldy Island, whose name comes from the Norse name Keld-Eye meaning "cold island", is unique to Pembroke, being the only island in the area to still be inhabited on a permanent basis. In the 6th century Celtic Monks founded a monastery there, which from 1136 to 1536, like many of Wales’ other monasteries, was run by Roman Catholic Benedictine Monks. From 1906 an Anglican Benedictine foundation was established on the island and in 1910 the present abbey buildings were completed in a traditional Italianate style. In 1913 the Anglican Community converted to Roman Catholicism and in 1926 sold the Abbey to monks of the Cistercian Order. The Cistercians took up residence in 1929 and still occupy Caldey Abbey today.

The island is now home to an eclectic mix of architecture including a Norman Chapel, a twelfth century church, the sixth century Ogham cross, the aforementioned Italianate Abbey and a 19th century Lighthouse.

Like all of the area’s islands, Caldy is a haven for wildlife, and from May to June nesting birds cover its Old Red Sandstone cliff face. The Island also has one of the best and least visited beaches in Pembrokeshire, Priory Beach, which looks out across Caldey Roads back to the mainland.

If you would like to visit the island, boats run from Tenby from early April to late September, every half an hour from 10:30 onwards. Regular round-the-island nature trips are also available. As the Island is a religious community, it is closed every Sunday.

Beaches and Bathing Waters

“The Sea now retyring South-ward, and with a mighty compasse and sundry baies incurving the shores, preasseth on every side upon the Countie of Penbroke, commonly called Penbrockshire... A country plentifull in corne stored with cattaile, and full of marle, and such kind of fatty earth to make the ground fertile...”

William Camden - Britannia (1586)

After a good day’s climbing, or hiking, or whatever your interest may be, there can surely be no better way of winding down than spending a few relaxing hours on one of Pembroke’s magnificent sandy beaches. So to help you on your way, listed below are a few of my personal favourites, the only caveat for their inclusion being that they must be a reasonable distance from a climbing crag.

After a good day’s climbing, or hiking, or whatever your interest may be, there can surely be no better way of winding down than spending a few relaxing hours on one of Pembroke’s magnificent sandy beaches. So to help you on your way, listed below are a few of my personal favourites, the only caveat for their inclusion being that they must be a reasonable distance from a climbing crag.


The little fishing village and beach of Llangrannog can be found at the end of a narrow wooded valley in the heart of south Ceredigion, and is some way from Pembroke’s more popular destination. This is a local’s beach, a hidden secret of west Wales and coming here will give you a true flavour of the county’s relaxed way of life. The beach itself is a small sandy strip enclosed within a rugged bay of dark stratified rock. When the tide is out it is also possible to walk out of the bay and explore the sandy coves to the north, which become evermore deserted the further you go. For those looking for a climb, the relatively unknown Pen Bilis and Ynys Lochtyn, some 15 minutes to the north, offer some interesting and adventurous routes, which you will almost certainly have to yourself. Note that Ynys Lochtyn island and is only accessible, via a rocky beach, approximately 2.5 hours on either side of high water during neap tides (more time should be allowed during spring tides), so you will have to plan your trip carefully.

Newgale Newgale (Photo by Nanuls)
Llangrannog Llangrannog (Photo by Nanuls)
Tenby South Beach Tenby (Photo by Nanuls)

Whitesand Bay

Whitesand Bay is probably the most popular beach in North Pembroke, and understandably so, for it offers the golden combination of luxuriant sand and world class surfing. The bay is surrounded by the iconic landscape of St. David’s Head, the Porthstinian Area, and across the turbulent waters of The Bitches, Ramsey Island. Climbers and hikers alike will be very at home here, the coastline to the north is a veritable playground for both, while those looking for lazier option, will find the beaches onsite café and ice-cream vans much to their liking.


Located to the east of the Southern Bays, Newgale forms a huge swathe of sand so large that it rarely feels busy. On its northern extremity, the beach can boast a short bouldering crag, while a short walk along the coastal path to the north will be more than enough to keep the hiker happy. The beach also has a nice little pub and a convenient, if not slightly exposed, camp-site.

Carn Llidi Whitesand Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

Freshwater West

A wilder option, Freshwater West has an exposed westerly position and is continual buffeted by the wind and the sea. It’s proximity to Range West make it an ideal post crag destination, although don’t expect the facilities of more popular areas, there are no cafés or ice-cream vans to be found here. One final point of interest is that this beach has recently been used for the filming of two Hollywood movies – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, both released back in 2010/2011.

Flimstone and Bullslaughter Bays

Barafundle Bay Barafundle Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

These two bays lie in the heart of Range East, just a few miles east of the Green Bridge of Wales. Remote and secluded, these beaches are ideal for those looking to quit the crowds of Pembroke’s more populous areas. Be aware though, these beaches are on an army firing range and will be out of bounds for much of the week. They’re also not easy to access, and a day on Flimstone may require an abseil rope to make possible.

Broad Haven

Not to be confused with a second Broad Haven on St. Bride’s Bay, this Broad Haven sits neatly, and conveniently, between two of Pembroke’s best climbing areas – Range East and the Stackpole Area. The beach also has some climbing interest of its own; Star Rock on its western side has some interesting climbing up to Severe, while Church Rock, an offshore sea stack, also boasts a single recorded route of the same grade.

Barafundle Bay

This is one of Pembroke's most beautiful beaches, often described as the 'Jewel in the Crown'. The beach is backed by dunes and trees and is conveniently en route to the magnificent Stackpole Area. There’s also a café at Stackpole Quay.

Broad Haven (South) (Photo by Nanuls)


Popular since as long as people have had the time (and the money) to go on holiday, Tenby’s South and North Beaches may be too crowded for some, but you like a bit of liveliness, there can be no better place to go. Furthermore, both beaches have some interesting bouldering problems, while Tenby South Beach Quarry is Pembroke’s only sports crag.

Natural History and People


”The air of this county is... found to be very healthy to the county's inhabitants.”

George Owen - The Description of Pembrokeshire (1603)

You'll be pleased to know that Pembroke has what is probably the best climate in Wales, although to be honest, that isn't saying very much. Summers are pleasantly warm, with average temperatures along the coast around 18 degrees C, and up to 2 to three degrees warmer inland. Dale near Milford Haven has the honour of being the sunniest place in Wales, and the St David's and Castlemartin Peninsulas have similar sunshine totals. The driest months tend to be April through to June, and again Dale has some of the lowest rainfall levels in South Wales, with average annual levels of only 31 inches! Extremes of weather, other than gales and storms, are rare, in fact a cold day in summer may be almost the same as a warm day in winter. Snow is seldom seen outside Mynydd Preseli, and it is rarely seen there. If it does fall at all it never remains on the ground for more than a few days. In winter, temperatures are influenced to a very large extent by those of the surface of the surrounding sea, which reach their lowest values in late February or early March. Around the coasts February is therefore normally the coldest month, but inland there is little to choose between January and February.

Carn Llidi Glorious weather! (Photo by Nanuls)
Coetan Arthur Nasty Weather! (Photo by Nanuls)
The White Tower It’ll do… (Photo by Nanuls)

Despite Pembroke's comparatively pleasant climate, it is prone to a great deal of variability. The area's westerly location means it experiences the best the Atlantic can throw at it, and experiences on average 32 gales a year, and storm force winds are not unusual on the coast. These can result in some of the most spectacular natural sites, when swells of up to 20 metres in height strike and submerge the headlands. Rainfall also increases significantly the further in land you go, for instance Haverfordwest gets around 45 inches annually, and Mynydd Preseli reaches more than 60 inches.


”Stones, the sea and the weather have moulded the look of Pembrokeshire. Man has merely scratched the surface.”

Vyvyan Rees - South West Wales (1963)

As I’ve previously eluded to, Pembroke’s geology itself is an attraction in itself. The most striking feature of this is perhaps the amazing variety of rock types which can all be found compressed into such a small area. The remarkable contrast one sees when travelling through the area is thanks to the great mountain building periods known as the Caledonian Orogeny, which occurred some 400 million years ago, and the Amorican Orogeny which took place around 250 million years ago. The mountain ranges of the former period had a general E.N.E. to W.S.W. trend, while those of the latter followed an E.S.E. to W.N.W. In Pembroke the remnants of these once great ranges are in particularly close contact. Because of this particular pattern the oldest rocks can be found in the north, while the younger ones are largely in the south.

Bedrock Geology of South Wales

The bedrock geology of South Wales

The oldest rocks date from the Late Pre-Cambrian Period (650-545 mya). They consist of metamorphosed sedimentary and volcanic rocks over 6000m thick, highly deformed by earth movement. Lower Palaeozoic rocks mark the development across the area of a great depositional trough in which accumulated thousands of metres of marine sediments. The lower rocks (Cambrian) rest unconformably on the older formations. This trough marks the establishment of a sedimentary basin that covered all of Wales, much of England, parts of Ireland and extended into Belgium. The basin was situated on the edge of a continental mass which lay to the south-east, with the Iapetus Ocean on the north-west.

The oldest of these rocks in Pembroke are the Treginnis Peninsula (SW of St David's). An associated intrusion (the St David's Granophyre) can be seen on the headland adjacent to Carreg Fran. Towards the end of the Pre-Cambrian there was a period of uplift and erosion. The volcanic rocks were folded and the microgranite intrusion was exposed at the surface.

The beginning of the Cambrian Period (545-495 mya) saw the volcanic landscape flooded by the the sea, leading to accumulation of a fining-upwards sequence of sediments (conglomerate, sandstone, mudstone) as the water depth increased. Shallow seas persisted through much of the this period, except for deeper water conditions for part of the middle Cambrian. Fossils are fairly common in rocks formed after the early part of the Cambrian Period, and include 'giant' trilobites of the Solva area.

At the end of the Cambrian, slight uplift exposed the erosional deposits, and a new period of submergence during the Ordovician (495-443 mya), led to more deposition and more unconformity. Volcanic activity is the outstanding feature of the Ordovician period. The basalt pillow lavas of Strumble Head and spectacular rhyolitic rocks of Ramsey Island provide good examples of the products of underwater eruptions. Associated intrusions (mostly sills) are marked by prominent tors visible along the north Pembroke coast (eg. Carn Llidi, Penbiri, Garn Fawr) and in the Preseli Hills (eg. Carn Meini, source of the bluestones of Stonehenge). Turbidity currents (underwater landslides initiated on the margins of the adjacent coastal shelf ) also contributed to sedimentation in the Welsh Basin (good examples can be seen at Poppit Sands).

Though volcanic activity had ceased by the end of the Ordovician, marine sedimentation continued into the Silurian (443-416 mya). Warm tropical seas persisted along a shallow shelf area with volcanic islands & lagoons (Skomer Volcanic Group). At the end of the Silurian, earth movements culminated in the aforementioned Caledonian Orogeny, a major period of uplift, folding and fracturing which partly destroyed the marine trough and resulting in the closure of the Iapatus Ocean and the resultant continent-continent collision. The Lower Palaeozoic seas retreated from the area and the strong earth-movements transformed the landscape, and the marine rocks of the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian periods were replaced by the continental rocks of the Devonian period.

Craig Hebog The Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian rocks of St. David’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Freshwater West Strikingly coloured Old Red Sandstone Cliffs north of Freshwater West (Photo by Nanuls)
Cardigan Island Folding on Cardigan Island caused by the Caledonian Orogeny (Photo by Ray Jones)

Continental conditions continued into the Devonian (416-359 mya) and the Old Red Sandstone rocks of south Pembroke date from this period, representing sediments deposited on coastal plains with braided river channels and fringing 'saltmarsh' (early land plants were evolving at this time - examples can be found at Freshwater East).

The Devonian period is followed unconformably by strongly transgressive Carboniferous rocks. The marine transgression in the Carboniferous Period (359-299 mya) covered most of Wales with only the highest mountains probably remaining unsubmerged as islands. During the early part of the period warm equatorial seas occupied a broad gulf with abundant corals, crinoids (sea lily) and orthocones (squid-like creature with elongated conical shell).

The coastline west of St. Govan's Head is probably the finest example of carboniferous limestone sea cliffs anywhere in the world. Cut into massive limestones of Carboniferous age, the cliffs include exceptional examples of the development of geo (zawn), stack, cave and arch formations. Faults and other lines of weakness have been exploited by the sea to produce such well-known features as the Green Bridge of Wales, Elegug Stacks and Huntsman's Leap. The importance of this site is greatly increased by the retreat of the coastline into an area of karstic landforms. Thus, the combined effects of solution, collapse and marine reworking of these landforms have produced an intricate and geomorphologically important assemblage of forms.

Stennis Head Steep Carboniferous limestone cliffs at Stennis Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Bullslaughter Bay Horizontal bedding of limestone at Bullslaughter Bay (Photo by Nanuls)
Green Bridge Area A large sea arch in the Green Bridge Area of Range East (Photo by Nanuls)
Elegug Stacks The famous bird covered pinnacles of Elegug Stacks (Photo by Nanuls)

During the later part of the period a second period of major earth movement known as the Aromrican Orogeny (Hercynian) affected the Carboniferous and older rocks, with the main movements occurring along existing fractures. In Pembroke this collision of continent caused the folds and faults of South Pembroke eg. Middle Cove at Stackpole Quay, Cobbler's Hole (St. Ann's Head), and the Ladies Cave Anticline (Saundersfoot).

The rocks of the succeeding periods - Permian, Triassic and Jurassic (290-142 mya) - have since been weathered, eroded and removed from the Pembroke area and no marine influence is evident fin the area, but marine fossils (including ammonites, reptiles and sea mammals) can be found elsewhere in South Wales. During the Cretaceous Period (142-65 mya) globally high sea levels caused the inundation of much of the area. The plateau surfaces of Pembroke (well developed around St David's and best viewed from Carn Llidi on St. David’s Head or Carn Llundain on Ramsey Island) were cut by marine erosion.

Crinoids – a common fossil in these parts (Photo by Nanuls)
Fossil coral – also rather common (Photo by Nanuls)

During the Tertiary Period (65-2 mya), Pembroke was situated at the edge of a landmass which was undergoing uplift in relation to the development of the North Atlantic Ocean. This uplift of the landmass bought about the development of the scenery which we see today. The main processes that have shaped this landscape are marine erosion, which lead to the development of the area’s spectacular coastline; weathering, and erosion by streams and rivers, which lead to the development of the area’s drainage pattern now dominated by Eastern and Western Cleddau rivers.

The Quaternary Period (2 mya to present day) saw the onset of oscillating phases of cold and warm conditions (stadial and interstadial conditions). During stadial conditions ice sheets developed over much of Britain, however relatively few were severe enough to affect Pembroke. However, conditions were severe enough during the Anglian Glaciation (450,000 and 30,0000 years ago) when ice crossed Pembroke and reached the north Devon Coast. During the most recent glaciation, the Late Devensian (maximum extent c. 18,500 years ago) only north Pembroke and St. Brides Bay were covered by ice - south Pembroke experienced tundra conditions where severe freeze thaw action heavily modified the area's cliffs. Ice from glaciers in the mountains of Snowdonia, Mid Wales and Ireland convereged in the Irish Sea to form a highly sensitive Irish Sea Glacier which advanced and retreated across Cardigan Bay and into the Celtic Sea. Glaciers dammed the valleys of West Wales and large lakes formed in the Teifi and Gwaun valleys. Sea level was also highly changeable, with near glacial maxima levels dropping as much as 135 meters below that at present, while conversely, during interstadial conditions, sea-levels were up to 5m higher than today. Evidence of these changes can be seen all along the coast with excellent examples of Irish Sea Till can at Abermawr and Druidston, while the remains of 'raised beaches' can be seen at Poppit Sands and Broad Haven (South).

The Cambrian igneous rocks of Craig Llong (Photo by Nanuls)

Wildlife and Conservation

“The Teivi has another singular particularity, being the only river in Wales, or even in England, which has beavers... They make excavations and dry hiding places in the banks near their dwellings, and when they hear the stroke of the hunter, who with sharp poles endeavours to penetrate them, they fly as soon as possible to the defence of their castle... When the beaver finds he cannot save himself from the pursuit of the dogs who follow him, that he may ransom his body by the sacrifice of a part... and in the sight of the hunter castrates himself... and if by chance the dogs should chase an animal which had been previously castrated, he has the sagacity to run to an elevated spot, and there lifting up his leg, shews the hunter that the object of his pursuit is gone.”

Geraldus Cambrensis - Itinerarium Cambriae (1191)


The vast majority of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is given over to agriculture, which obviously has an enormous effect on the nature of the area’s biodiversity. The area’s mild climate is also a major influence, allowing vegetation to thrive throughout the year. In fact in places, palm trees are not an uncommon site, although they are of course, not a native species. These factors combined with the proximity of the sea, creates a set of habitats unique to this part of Wales, if not Britain.

The dunes of Freshwater West (Photo by Nanuls)

In early summer a blanket of flowers cover the coastal margins, forming a veritable patchwork of vibrant colours. Sea campion, kidney vetch, spring squill, thrift, oxeye daisy, bird’s-foot trefoil, bluebells, and red campion lavishly decorate the cliff tops, making a visit this time of year a highly rewarding experience. Rare plants can also be found on many cliffs, including species of rock lavender, Newport centaury, wild chives and spiked speedwell.

The cliffs are also home to home to an incredibly diversity of bird life, in particular seabirds, with internationally important colonies of gannet, manx shearwater, storm petrel, chough, puffin and peregrine falcon calling the area home. Pembroke’s islands, which are free from the pressures of terrestrial predators are particularly rich, for example Skomer, Skokholm and Middleholm (in the Bristol Channel) share between them around 150,000 pairs of manx shearwater, the world’s largest breeding population. For more information on island bird life, see the Islands section.

Elegug Stacks The guillemots of Elegug Stacks (Photo by Nanuls)

The area’s harshest environments can be found below the area’s cliff tops and along its beaches in the intertidal zone, which alternates between entirely submerged by the sea, to open to the all the elements the terrestrial environs can throw at it. The various fish, shellfish, seaweeds, molluscs and crustaceans that live here must be hardy species indeed to survive here.

Sand dunes, such as those at Whitesand Bay, Freshwater West and Broad Haven are also harsh environments, but a few specialised species call them home. Sea rocket, prickly saltwort and sea beet, live off the detritus from rotting seaweed on the foreshore, while species such as Sea couch grass and marram grass dominate the larger sand dunes towards the centre. Further back, where the dunes are more mature, sand sedge, spurges, bee orcid, pyramidal orchid and lichens can be found.

In the far north a completely different environment exists in the form of the uplands of Mynydd Preseli, Mynydd Carningli and Mynydd Dinas. Here heather and acid grassland persist, while on their lower slopes, coniferous forests have been planted. In the valleys, deciduous woodlands line the river banks, and are home to innumerable species of mammals and birds. European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), European gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) are common throughout, while in the wetter, more vegetated areas, can be found such species as water vole (Arvicola terrestris), bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), common shrew (Sorex araneus), pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) and Eurasian water shrew (Neomys fodiens).

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus - Grey Seal (Photo by Nanuls)

The areas woodlands are also home to that seldom seen family, the weasels. The best known of these is the Eurasian badger (Meles meles), which is either loved or hated depending on who you talk to. Although there is no strong evidence to support such a theory, the badger is believed by some to be a carrier of tuberculosis, and is thought to spread it among cattle. Every so often the government proposes a cull of the population, which is fervently opposed by conservationists and naturalists and strongly supported by farmers. Unfortunately, the county of Pembrokeshire has been chosen as a pilot area for a cull.

Badgers usually inhabit lowland deciduous woodlands where the earth is deep enough to permit their extensive burrowing; on occasion however, they can be found to occupy burrows higher up on hillsides, although never beyond the bracken line. Although a member of the weasel family, in Wales the badger has been traditionally thought of as a type of wild pig, their name in Welsh being ’mochyn ddaear’ which literally means ‘earth pig’. During the early Middle Ages, the Welsh hunted them for their meat, their hind quarters being made into hams and served up on ceremonial occasions.

European otters (Lutra lutra) are also now rather scarce, and although they have quite extensive territories, they are mostly confined to the deeper lowland rivers, estuaries and coast; for it is here that fish are most readily available. They are more often heard than seen, but if you’re lucky you might spot them swimming amongst the rocks and reeds of the Afon Gwaun and its tributaries.

Pembroke’s most elusive and distinguished mammal is probably the pine-martin (Martes martes). Pine-martins were once pretty common throughout the area, however decades of persecution by local gamekeepers has meant that they are now much rarer. This scarcity combined with the fact that the pine-martin is a largely nocturnal animal which tends to have no fixed territory (it prefers to wonder far and wide in search of food), means that it’s rarely seen, and estimating its true population very difficult. If you’re lucky, Stoat (Mustela erminea), weasel (Mustela nivalis), European polecat (Mustela putorius) and that alien species, American Mink (Mustela vison), can also be seen in the area.

Pembroke is home to another order of nocturnal and occasionally elusive mammal – the bat (Chiroptera), with many species found throughout the area. Its various woods and caves make for ideal bat habitat and hibernation sites. and recorded sightings include common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus sensu lato), soprano pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Daubenton's bat (Myotis daubentonii), greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros), barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), brown long-eared bat (Plecotus noctula), Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri), Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus) and Brandt's Bat (Myotis brandtii).

Natrix natrix - Grass Snake (Photo by Nanuls)
Anguis fragilis - Slow Worm (Photo by Nanuls)

As you would expect from a coastal area such as this, marine mammals are often seen swimming off its cliffs and beaches. Cardigan Bay is one of only two areas in the UK hosting a semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) (the other is found in the Morray Firth in Scotland) and overall some 200 individuals are estimated to be using the area. They can often be seen passing the area’s various headlands, and if you want to see them while climbing, St. David’s Head and Ynys Lochtyn are your best bets. Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), Atlantic white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) are also known to frequent Cardigan Bay but are much less common. Atlantic grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) are in abundance throughout the area, favouring the rockier, more secluded bays, as well as the area’s islands, for raising their pups, and as resting places when the seas are rough. Other marine mammals sighted in the area including common/harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and a number of whale species of which minke whale ( Balaenoptera acutorostrata) is the most common. Other whales rarely visit the bay and are seldom seen if they do, however sightings of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus), Sowerby's beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens), True's beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus), Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) and killer whale (Orcinus orca) have all been made.

Like everywhere in Wales, reptiles are quite rare in Pembroke, the climate generally being unfavourable towards cold-blooded animals. Adder (Vipera berus), grass snake (Natrix natrix), common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) are the only recorded species, although in the future sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) may be reintroduced to the area. Unfortunately, perhaps because of their venomous bite, adders have been persecuted almost everywhere in Britain, and their numbers are now much smaller. Today adders are generally confined to the drier valley floors and coastal plain, and if you are up early enough, can sometimes be seen warming themselves on the cliff top rocks. Grass-snakes do better, their preference for damp, even watery habitats make them naturally suited to a life in Wales. Among the more unusual visitors to the area are leathery turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) which have all been recorded just off the area’s coastline.

Vanessa cardui - Painted Lady (Photo by Nanuls)
Pararge aegeria - Speckled Wood (Photo by Nanuls)

Amphibians are relatively few with common frog (Rana temporaria), common toad (Bufo bufo) and palmate newt (Triturus helveticus) being the most common. Palmate newt is the only species of newt found throughout the area, although great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) can be found locally.

As you would expect from an area such as this, bird life is in abundance, and every spring thousands of visitors come armed with telescopes and binoculars to watch them breed and nest. Species of songbird adorn Pembroke’s trees and heaths, contributing to a particularly rich dawn chorus. However, it is the sea birds, of course, that dominate the area, and at breeding time, the area’s cliffs are teeming with all manner of species. Species such as Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus), Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus), Herring gull (Larus argentatus) and Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) are common throughout Pembroke, and are as at home on the cliffs and beaches as they are around the area’s parks and fish and chip shops. The more captivating birds however, prefer to avoid the allure of the towns.

Puffin (Fratercula arctica), are probably the areas most loved birds, which come to the area to nest and breed from late spring to early summer. Living in burrows, they are almost exclusive to Pembroke’s offshore islands, where they are free from the predations of terrestrial mammals. Skomer Island has a particularly high population, numbering around 6,500 breeding pairs.

Alca torda - Razorbill (Photo by Nanuls)
Fratercula arctica - Puffin (Photo by Nanuls)

The Razorbill (Alca torda) is another distinctive species, slightly larger than the puffin, but with a similar flight pattern, they are attractive birds, and have the unique honour of being on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s logo. They are particularly common along the Castlemartin coast, and can often be seen weaving their way through the caves, stacks and arches of Range East. Common guillemot (Uria aalge) share the razorbill’s nesting sites, one of particular note being the Elegug Stacks, which are in fact named after the guillemots (,i> Elegug being guillemot in Welsh). The noise (and stench) from these birds reaches as far in land as the Stack Rocks Car Park.

One of the area’s most distinctive birds is the Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), a member of the crow family, which is distinguishable from its bright red legs and curved red beak. The Castlemartin Range is a particularly important breeding site, with around 4% of the UK population choosing to nest there each year. In the spring and early summer it’s not uncommon to see pairs of chough searching for food among the range’s undergrowth or perched on one of the area’s cliffs or sea stacks.

Among the birds of pray present are the Buzzard (Bueto bueto), Common Kestrel (Bueto bueto), Little owl (Athene noctua), and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). The Buzzard and Kestral are common throughout the area, the former is a common site inland, while the latter is often seen in an aerial perch along the cliff tops of the southern peninsula, but it is the Peregrine that holds most interest. The area is lucky to retain an indigenous population of peregrines as in the first half of the twentieth century their numbers were severely reduced, caused by the use of poisonous seed dressings in agricultural practice. The tainted seeds were picked up by grain-eating birds, which were in turn, preyed on and consumed by the peregrines. Eventually the peregrines accumulated enough poison in their bodies to kill or render them infertile. Fortunately the practice of using poisons on the land was banned in the 1950s and the peregrines have been allowed a revival, although their numbers are nothing compared to what they used to be. Kestrels and buzzards did not suffer in the same way as the peregrines, as their feeding habits differ to those of the falcons, mostly consisting of small rodents and carrion.

Dunnock Prunella modularis - Dunnock (Photo by Nanuls)
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus - Blue tit (Photo by Nanuls)
Black Bird Turdus merula - Female blackbird (Photo by Nanuls)

Conservation and Protected Sites

The UK has a responsibility to ensure the conservation and enhancement of habitats and species in both a national and international context. One approach to achieving this is the establishment of a system of protected sites. The national suite of sites providing statutory protection for flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) (Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland) and Marine Nature Reserves (MNRs). As well as underpinning other national designations (such as National Nature Reserves), this system also provides statutory protection for terrestrial and coastal sites which are important within Europe (Natura 2000 network) and globally (such as Wetlands of International Importance). Further designations exist for sites outside of the national suite (such as Local Nature Reserves), varying in the level of protection afforded. Apart from designations for sites with particular natural features, there are also landscape designations which aim to protect areas of either national (e.g. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) or international (e.g. natural World Heritage Sites) significance in terms of their outstanding scenic importance.

Saddle Head The Limestone Cliffs of southern Pembroke are protected as both an SAC and SPA (Photo by Nanuls)
Skomer Island Skomer Island is one of Pembroke’s most visited SPA’s (Photo by Nanuls)
Carn Llidi St. David’s Head is protected as both an SAC and SPA (Photo by Nanuls)

Because the area has such a rich natural heritage and wide variety of habitats much of its landscape is protected by both national and international legislation. There are over 75 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within, and in close proximity to, the Parks boundary. An SSSI is a conservation designation denoting a protected area within the UK, and may be designated for a wide number of reasons based on their merits as areas of scientific interest. Sites may be notified due to their biological or geological interest and a minority of sites are notified for both. SSSIs are the basic 'building block' of nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations are based upon them, including National Nature Reserves, Ramsar Sites, Special Protection Areas, and Special Areas of Conservation.

Pembroke also has around 6 National Nature Reserves (NNR) and 1 Marine Nature Reserve (MNR), which are in effect the next line of protection for nationally important environmental areas. NNRs are usually designated for their broader ecological value rather than for the presence of any rare species. There are however a number of sites which hold important numbers of scarce or rare species. A number of factors may contribute to the designation of a NNR. These may include; how fragile a site is, the size of the site, how 'natural' the site is and the presence of species rich communities. The NNR network represents almost every kind of vegetation type found in the UK.

Ynys Lochtyn in Cardigan Bay juts out into Cardigan Bay Marine SAC. The SAC is home to the largest resident population of Bottlenose Dolphins in Britain (Photo by Nanuls)

There are also a large number of sites protected under international law. Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas are part of the Natura 2000 Networks of sites and are therefore strictly protected under European law. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive. Article 3 of the Habitats Directive requires the establishment of a European network of important high-quality conservation sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving the 189 habitat types and 788 species identified in Annexes I and II of the Directive (as amended). The listed habitat types and species are those considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level (excluding birds). Of the Annex I habitat types, 78 are believed to occur in the UK. Of the Annex II species, 43 are native to, and normally resident in, the UK.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC), also known as the Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979. They are classified for rare and vulnerable birds, listed in Annex I to the Birds Directive, and for regularly occurring migratory species. In the UK, the first SPAs were identified and classified in the early to mid 1980s. Classification has since progressed and a regularly updated UK SPA Summary Table provides an overview of both the number of classified SPAs and those approved by Government that are currently in the process of being classified (these are known as potential SPAs, or pSPAs).

Special Areas of Conservation

There are some 13 SACs in Pembroke and the surrounding area. Combined they cover an area of 307,589.1ha (just over 3,075 square km) and encompass a variety of environments including the sea beds just off its coast to the cliffs and woodlands that characterise its terrestrial landscape.

The Castle The Castle (Photo by Nanuls)
Cerrig Lladron Preseli Mountains (Photo by Nanuls)
Craig Lochtyn Cardigan Bay (Photo by Nanuls)

Site Name Area (ha) Long Lat Grid Reference
Afon Teifi 715.58 52 08 09 N 04 10 15 W SN515508
Afonydd Cleddau 750.73 51 53 04 N 04 59 49 W SM938249
Cardigan Bay 95860.36 52 14 47 N 04 37 02 W SN214641
Carmarthen Bay and Estuaries 66101.16 51 40 00 N 04 22 35 W SS357991
Gweunydd Blaencleddau 150.11 51 57 12 N 04 41 07 W SN155317
Limestone Coast of South West Wales 1594.53 51 37 50 N 05 03 21 W SR885969
North Pembrokeshire Woodlands 315.68 51 58 29 N 04 50 47 W SN046345
North West Pembrokeshire Commons 248.89 51 54 02 N 05 14 02 W SM776273
Pembrokeshire Bat Sites and Bosherston Lakes/ 122.44 51 37 16 N 04 56 18 W SR966954
Pembrokeshire Marine 138069.45 51 43 35 N 05 36 57 W SM503093
Preseli 2705.9 51 57 18 N 04 45 04 W SN110320
St David`s 935.47 51 54 30 N 05 18 11 W SM728285
Yerbeston Tops 18.81 51 45 17 N 04 49 00 W SN057099

Special Protection Areas

The region is home to 5 SPAs, which combined amount to a total area of 35,817.66ha (over 358 square km).

Stennis Ford Stennis Ford (Photo by Nanuls)
Skomer Island Skomer Island (Photo by Nanuls)
St. David s Head St. David’s Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Site Name Area (ha) Long Lat Grid Reference
Carmarthen Bay 33411.27 51 38 48 N 04 29 11 W SN313056
Castlemartin Coast 1122.32 51 39 29 N 05 03 30 W SR926946
Grassholm 10.73 51 43 50 N 05 28 43 W SM598093
Ramsey and St David`s Peninsula Coast 845.63 51 54 30 N 05 18 12 W SM702237
Skokholm and Skomer 427.71 51 44 10 N 05 17 27 W SM725094

The Welsh Language

"It [Welsh] has many features and words in common with the Sanscrit, and many which seem peculiar to itself, or rather to the family of languages, generally called the Celtic, to which it belongs. Though not an original tongue, for indeed no original tongue, or anything approximating to one, at present exists, it is certainly of immense antiquity, indeed almost entitled in that respect to dispute the palm with the grand tongue of India, on which in some respects it flings nearly as much elucidation as it itself receives in others."

George Borrow - Wild Wales (1862)

There is an obvious linguistic divide between north and south Pembroke, with English predominating in the south and Welsh in the north. Generally the more rural and isolated the village or town is the stronger the language will be, so if you do visit the northern part of the area, you will almost certainly come across Welsh being spoken at some point.

Although every welsh speaker also speaks English, if you use a bit of Welsh in conversation it will go a long way. Below are a number of Welsh words and phrases that may come in handy:

Helo: Hello
Hwyl fawr: Good bye
Os gwelwch yn dda: Please
Diolch: Thank you
Bore da: Good morning
Prynhawn da: Good afternoon
Noswaith dda: Good Evening
Nos da: Good Night
Sut Mae?: How are you?
Da iawn diolch: Very well thank you
Mae'n ddrwg gen i: I'm sorry
Ble mae'r Ty bach?: Where is the toilet?
Hoffwn i ymddiheuro am tywallti dy peint, beth allai gael i chi?: I would like to apologise for spilling your pint, what can I get you?
Deoddwn i ddim yn edrich ar eich wraig/merch!: I wasn't looking at your wife/girlfriend!
Welsh LanguageWelsh Speakers

Okay, you’re probably not going to need the last few.

Place Names and Etymology

Summitpost already has a page of definitions for the names of Welsh Mountains, however, as you might have guessed, this page is a little mountaincentric. This isn't to say that many of the terms aren't exactly the same as those used on the coast, It's just that there are a few missing that's all. So, rather than have a gap in this site's resources, below is a sort of 'add on' table that covers those missing words, as well as recapping those words already translated that are of a more nautical nature. For everything else see A Guide to Pronouncing the Names of Welsh Mountains.

Name Translation Example Translation
Aber Estuary/Confluence Aber Mawr Big Estuary
Afon River Afon Teifi River Teifi
Bae Bay Bae Caerfyrddyn Carmarthen Bay
Carreg Rock Carreg Wastad Flat Rock
Craig Rock Craig Hebog Hawk Rock
Dwr Water Llyn Dwr-Oer Cold Water Lake
Ffynnon Spring Porth-y-Ffynnon Port of the Stream
Llech Slab Llechdafad Sheep Slab
Llong Ship Craig Llong Ship Rock
Môr Sea Môr Iwerddon Irish Sea
Morfa Wetland/Marsh Morfa Dyffryn Valley Marsh
Mur Wall Mur Cenhinen Leek Wall
Nant Stream Nany-y-Moch Stream of the Pigs
Ogof Cave Ogof-y-Cae Cave of the Field
Pen Head/Headland Penmaen Dewi St. David's Head
Porth Port/Harbour Porth Cadno Fox Port
Pwll Pool Pwll Llong Ship's Pool
Traeth Beach Traeth Penbryn Hill Top Beach
Trwyn Promontory Trwyn Llong Ship Promontory
Ynys Island Ynys Melyn Yellow Island

On the route Maelstorm Chimney (S), Stennis Head (Photo by Nigel Lewis)
Crystal Slabs Crystal Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)
Garn Fawr Mynydd Dinas (Photo by Nanuls)

Practical Information

Weather Conditions

“This mountain is so high and far mounted into the air that when the country about it is fair and clear the top thereof will be hidden in cloud, which of the inhabitants is taken a sure sign of rain to follow shortly, whereof grew this proverb: 'When Presely wears a hat, all Pembrokeshire shall weet of that.”

George Owen - The Description of Pembrokeshire (1603)


This section displays the weather forecast for Haverford West, which is pretty much equidistant between north and south Pembroke. As the town is located pretty close to sea level this forecast should give a pretty good indication about what the weather is foing to be like on most of the area's crags. Take not however, that aspect can also have a significant impact on local conditions, and on a windy day it's usually possible to find a sheltered crag to climb on.

This weather forecast is generated by the Met Office Weather Widget

Mosaic and Thunder Walls Mosaic and Thunder Walls (Photo by Nanuls)
Penbwchdy Head The Coastal Path, Penbwchdy Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Maiden Castle Maiden Castle Treffgarne Mountain (Photo by Nanuls)
Saddle Head No Hands (VS 4b), Saddle Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Web Cameras

Webcams are a graet way of getting up-to-date weather information. Currently there are only a few cameras located in the Pembroke area and even fewer that are actually reliable. The section below provides links to the very best. These feeds are hosted by external sites, so obviously we can’t be held responsible if a camera happens to be malfunctioning.

Bay Sports - a live feed from Poppet Sands on the Pembrokeshire/Ceredigion border.
Celtic Diving - a webcam for Fishguard Bay provided by the local diving club.
Broad Haven - a webcam supplied by a holiday park at Broad Haven Beach (the one on St. Bride’s Bay)
Skomer Island - watch the puffins frolic on Skomer Island. - a rather dower scene from Pembroke Dock.
Virtual Tenby - a view of one of Pembroke’s most popular destinations – Tenby.


“It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.”

John Keats - On the Sea (1817)

Approximate tidal ranges of the Pembroke coast

As has been emphasised previously, tides are a very important consideration when climbing in Pembroke. The following information is provided by Rockfax, whose guidebook to the area contains a wealth of logistical and practical information. Throughout one lunar month there are two spring or high range tides, and two neap or low range tides. Spring tides occur during the ‘Full’ and ‘New’ moons, when the sun and moon are in line and the combined gravitational pull causes the highest tides, which then ebb to the lowest level. During the first and third quarters of the moon, when the sun’s and moon’s attractional forces are at right angles, we experience the lower neap high tides and the higher low tides. The transition from high to low tide takes approximately 6 hours, which means that there are two high tides and two low tides in every 24 hour period. The average time for the tide to turn is actually slightly longer than 6 hour, which means that in Pembroke each day the high and low tide times are between 30 and 80 minutes later than the previous day.

Other considerations :

  • Spring tides come in much faster than neap tides – at such times areas of flat rock and boulder beach can disappear rapidly and escape routes can be cut off.
  • The smaller fall to low neap tides may give much less access than low spring tides to certain crags.
  • The lower level of high neap tides may allow access to certain routes, which are normally cut off in high spring tides.
  • Persistent and strong onshore winds can prolong or even slightly raise high tide levels, as can a high swell from some distant ocean storm.

As most of the climbing takes place on coastal cliffs, tide times can have a significant impact on where one climbs and at what time. It is therefore extremely important to check the timetables before embarking on trip in the area. UK tides information for all standard and secondary ports is provided by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and displayed on the BBC's website and are listed below from left to right/north to south:

Like many of Pembroke’s crags, Blockhouse Buttress (pictured) has a tide dependant start. It’s important therefore, to know the tide times before heading for the coast (Photo by Nanuls)

Coastguard and Sea Rescue

“ far is it
to this same blessed Milford; and, by the way,
Tell me how Wales was made so happy as
To inherit such a haven.”

Imogen in Cymbeline - William Shakespear (1611)

Should things go awry and you find yourself in need of rescue, the coastguard can be reached by phoning the standard Emergency Services number, which in the UK is: 999 or 112.

For more information on the role of the Coastguard, take a look on the link below:

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Sea rescues are often channelled by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency through the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a non-profit organisation run by volunteers. There are seven lifeboat stations operating in the Pembroke area, each of which is located at a strategically important point along the coast. For more information on the area’s stations and on ways in which you can help the RNLI, see the links below:

Craig Caerfai Craig Caerfai (Photo by Nanuls)
Battleship Buttress Battleship Buttress (Photo by Nanuls)
Stennis Head Newton Head (Photo by Nanuls)

Red Tape and Access

“ In my opinion mountains should not belong to private individuals. Great objects belong, or should belong, to the nation.”

A. L. Bagley - Climber's Club Journal (Vol. IV No.13 September 1901)

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

Unlike the national parks of North America and certain parts of Europe, there are no permits required for entry into the park, no visitor limits or any other kind of red tape designed to restrict access. Since the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000, the public have the right to access almost all the land within the area regardless of ownership. Open access land is denoted by the signs below.

Access symbol
Used to indicate the start of access land, be this CRoW access land or access land under other agreements.
Negative access symbol
Used where the boundary between access land and land with no access rights needs clarifying, or where there are persistent problems with trespass.
Dogs on lead symbol
On all CRoW Act access land, dogs must be kept on a short fixed lead (2m or less) between 1st March and 31st July (the main bird breeding and lambing season), and at all times near livestock.
Pembroke Marker Red markers denote areas restricted to climbers (Photo by Nanuls)
Castlemartin Range Warning Sign Good advice (Photo by Nanuls)
Frainslake Sands Don't touch the bombs! (Photo by Nanuls)

Climbing Restrictions

Certain locations of interest to climbers are subject to access restrictions, some of which are only seasonal, or just affect specific parts of a crag. Most are concerned with nesting birds, but others, such as those of the Castlemartin Range, are associated with the military. These locations include Abercastle, Caerbwdi Bay, Arch Zawn, Caldy Island, Chapel Cove, Flimston Bay, Huntsman's Leap, Linney Point, Stakpole Head, Stennis Head, St. Govan's Head and Trevallen. For further detailed information on the status of specific crags, see the British Mountaineering Council's:

Regional Access Database.

South Pembroke Restrictions

It should be noted that Pembroke nesting restrictions are complex and vary annually. Please check the notice boards in Stack Rocks, Broad Haven (South), Stackpole Quay or St. Govan’s car parks. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority also produce an excellent annual information leaflet illustrating the restricted areas on a clear map, which can either be picked up from these locations, or dowloaded from the National Park website.

It is also available from the BMC and Mrs Weston’s Ye Olde Worlde Café in Bosherston.

Restrictions on the Castlemartin Range

Range East

This area is an Army firing range, although they do not use exploding ammunition. Access is permitted whenever firing is not taking place, which is normally on Weekends, Bank Holidays, and in the evenings (after 4.30 pm). Night firing normally occurs on alternate Mon/Wed and Tues/Thurs nights. The Range is sometimes open during the week, but it is best to check before travelling. Phone the 24 hour help line on (01646) 662367.

Range West

This area is used for live-firing and has a different arrangement for access, involving attending a PCNPA/MoD briefing and obtaining a permit to climb. Climbers must attend an annual briefing to obtain a valid permit.

From Easter 2013 Access will be allowed for briefed climbers all year round on non-firing days only.

IMPORTANT - LIVE high explosive ammunition is fired on Range West and it is paramount that climbers (and all users) stay away from and DO NOT touch anything metal.

Range West 2014 briefing dates:

Saturday 18th May
Saturday 24th June
Saturday 26th July

(2015 dates will be available in the new year)

All briefings are held at the Castlemartin Camp - Merrion Camp, SA71 5ER and start at 09.00hr – park next the gatehouse and ask for details.

Getting There

“Pembrokeshire is seated in the furthest part of South Wales, and most westerly corner of the same... The city of St. David's (standing in the westerly and uttermost promontory thereof) and the city of London stand west and by north, and east and by south, each of other distant 188 miles; from the city of York it stands south-south-west distant from it 186 miles... and from the Land's End of England east and by north distant from it 100 wanting 5 miles.”

George Owen - The Description of Pembrokeshire (1603)

By Car

Despite its westerly position, Pembroke is relatively easy to reach by car. The area is huge so I'm not going to list every road route here; I would advise consulting Google Maps, or an equivalent for further information. Most will probably approach from the west, and if this is the case, will need to leave the M4 motorway at Pont Abraham and continue along the A48 to Carmarthen. At Carmarthen, take the A 40 towards St. Clears. At the roundabout at St. Clears you will be given a choice – if you wish to climb in the north you can continue along the A40 to Haverfordwest, while if you are heading south, you will need to take the A477 towards Pembroke Dock.

Porth Maenmelyn Porth Maenmelyn (Photo by Nanuls)
Saddle Head Saddle Head (Photo by Nanuls)
Cerrig Lladron Cerrig Lladron (Photo by Nanuls)
Crystal Slab Crysral Slabs (Photo by Nanuls)

By Bus

Bus travel is widely available throughout the area, both in the form of coach travel and service buses. Service bus information can be obtained from the UK Bus Timetable Website Directory, while the National Express website has information on coach timetables. The National Park Authority also funds a number of Coastal Bus Services, which stop at some of the more popular, but less accessible, locations within the Park.

Elegug Stacks Elegug Stacks (Photo by Nanuls)

By Rail

Much of Pembroke is inaccessible by rail, however there are two lines servicing the more populous, or logistically important, parts of the area. A northern line visits Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Fishguard, while a southern one services Tenby and Pembroke itself. Giltar is probably the most accessible crag for those confined to the train, as its crags are just a short walk from the Penally Railway Station. Further information on timetables and tickets can be obtained from National Rail Enquiries.

Craig Llong Craig Llong (Photo by Nanuls)

By Ferry

Pembroke is home to a number of major Welsh ports at Fishguard and Pembroke Dock. This probably isn't of interest to you unless you're travelling from the Republic of Ireland, but just in case you are, here's a couple of links:

Pembroke Ferry Port
Irish Ferries

By Air

There are no airports in the Pembroke area itself, however, if you are coming from abroad, the best options are probably Bristol or Cardiff Airports, which are within a two hour drive of Pembroke’s most accessible crags.

Mowing Word (Photo by Nanuls)

Camping, Accommodation and other Visitor Information

“ We found the people of this county more civiliz'd and more curteous, than in the more mountainous parts, where the disposition of the inhabitants seems to be rough, like the country: But here as they seem to converse with the rest of the world, by their commerce, so they are more conversible than their neighbours.”

Daniel Defoe - Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1727)

Camping and Accommodation

Ye Olde Worlde Cafe Mrs Weston's (Photo by Nanuls)
St. David s St. David's (Photo by Nanuls)
Tenby Tenby (Photo by Nanuls)

Given the size of the area, attempting to list a fair selection of camp sites, hostels, B&Bs, hotels and holiday cottages seems a little difficult, and anyway, there’s an almost unlimited supply of accommodation within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and finding something shouldn’t be a problem. For a range of accommodation it’s worth checking out some of the following sites:

Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Pembrokeshire
Holiday Cottages in Pembrokeshire

If you're looking for something a bit special (to put it mildly) I highly recommend checking out what's on offer at Under the Thatch, a small local company that specialises in restoring traditional Welsh buildings to their former glory and renting them out as holiday cottages. They have cottages available throughout mid and west Wales.

For everything else and more see Visit Pembrokeshire’s website.


Everyone enjoys a drink and a chat after a good day on the crag right? There are many more pubs than listed below but these tend to be of most interest to climbers.

St.Govan’s Inn - Bosherston, Pembrokeshire. Tel: (01646) 661311
Swanlake Inn - Jameston, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire. Tel: (01834) 871262
The Armstrong Arms - Jason’s Corner, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire. Tel: (01646) 672324
The Salutation - On the road from Pembroke to Castlemartin.
Farner's Arms - Goat Street, St. Davids’.


There are a multitude of cafés in the area, but for climbers, there is only one real choice:

Mrs Weston’s Ye Olde Worlde Café - Situated between the public toilets and the pub in Bosherston. There café also has a small shop selling everything from ice cream to guidebooks.

Tourist Information Centres

Handy sources of visitor information.

Fishguard TIC
Goodwick TIC
Haverfordwest TIC
Milford Haven TIC
Pembroke TIC
Saundersfoot TIC
Tenby TIC



Open Space Web-Map builder Code


Pembrokeshire Coast: The Official National Park Guide
Rockfax Guide: Pembroke
Climbers’ Guides to Wales: Pembroke Vol 4 Pembroke Range East Saddle Head to St. Govans
Climbers’ Guides to Wales: Pembroke Vol 1 North Pembroke

Pembrokeshire Coast: The Official National Park Guide by Alf Alderson, John Cleare and Ian Mercer


The National Trails: Complete Guide to Britain’s National Trails (Cocerone Guide) by Paddy Dillon
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path (Cicerone Guide) by Dennis and Jan Kelsall
Walking in Pembrokeshire (Cicerone Guide) by Dennis and Jan Kelsall
Pembrokeshire Coast Path (National Trail Guides) by Brian John
Pembrokeshire Coast Path (Pembrokeshire Coast Path: Amroth to Cardigan) by Jim Manthorpe
Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire Walks (Pathfinder Guide) by Brian Conduit

Rock Climbing

Rockfax Guide: Pembroke by Alan James and Mike Robertson
Climbers’ Club Guide: Pembroke Vol. 1 Pembroke North by Steve Quinton
Climbers’ Club Guide: Pembroke Vol. 2 Range West by Nigel Barry
Climbers’ Club Guide: Pembroke Vol. 3 Range East - Stack Rocks to Hollow Caves Bay by Gary Gibson
Climbers’ Club Guide: Pembroke Vol. 4 Range East - Saddle Head to St Govan’s by Gary Gibson
Climbers’ Club Guide: Pembroke Vol. 5 Stackpole and Lydstep by Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne
Newgale Bouldering - free download (Oct 2008) by Terry Taylor
Rockfax Guide: Deep Water by Mike Robertson
Ynys Lochtyn: An Interm Guide by Doug Kerr

External Links

Blockhouse Buttress Blockhouse Buttress (Photo by Nanuls)

Government Bodies and Other Organisations

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority

Council for National Parks

Association of National Park Authorities

Natural Resources Wales


Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales

Dyfed Archaeological Trust

The National Trust

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Outdoor Organisations and Companies

British Mountaineering Council

Pembrokeshire Climbing Club

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group


Weather and Tides

The Met Office

BBC Weather

BBC Tide Tables

UK Hydrographic Office

Tourist Information

Visit Wales

Visit Pembrokeshire

Travel Information

Welsh Public Transport Information

UK Train Timetable


Youth Hostel Association in Wales

Independent Hostel Guide

Campsites in Pembrokeshire

Maps and Guidebooks

Ordnance Survey

The Climbers’ Club

Cicerone Guidebooks


Mid Wales Climbing

Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop

Wildlife and Conservation

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre

South West Wales Wildlife Trust



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