Beautiful Barafundle Bay was once one of Pembrokeshire’s best kept secrets.
The locals knew this crescent-shaped golden beach of deep, soft sand, and told no-one.
It was their jealously guarded piece of recreational paradise, facing east like the eye of Stackpole Warren whose long nose is Stackpole Head and its prominent chin Saddle Point.
Thankfully lacking direct road access only a half mile walk from Stackpole Quay to the north and just over a mile from Broad Haven South, it is well worth the picturesque cliff-path ramble to reach it.
Part of the Stackpole Estate, now managed by The National Trust, it was historically the private beach of the Cawdor family, descendants of the Thane of Cawdor who is celebrated in Macbeth. The noble family’s imposing country residence, Stackpole Court, nearby was demolished in 1967, since when Barafundle has been increasingly ‘discovered’ by visitors and also by film companies as a breathtaking location for films. In 2009 it became the setting for Hattie Dalton’s award-winning British drama “Third Star” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, J.J.Feild, Tom Burke, Adam Robertson and Hugh Bonneville.
Barafundle is interesting geologically, marking the boundary the Carboniferous limestone cliffs of the Castlemartin peninsula to the south-west and the vivid red sandstone rocks of the Devonian period to the north-east at Stackpole Quay. In close proximity are several caves and no fewer than four ‘blow-holes’ - the collapsed roofs of caves through which in stormy weather air, water and even stones burst up spectacularly. The estate was acquired under the National Trust’s ‘Enterprise Neptune’ scheme in 1976.
A Blue Flag beach, in 2004 it was listed as one of the Top 12 beaches in the world, in 2006 The Good Holiday Guide described it as “the best beach in Britain.” In the same year Country Life magazine dubbed it “the best place in the UK for a picnic,” and in 2012 it again won the accolade “The UK’s Top Picnic Spot.”
Gentle waves sweep in to its sandy embrace, making it an ideal bathing place for small children, although one drawback is that the lack of road access and the uneven terrain of its approaches make it unsuitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Fulmars glide the cliffs, kept aloft by the thermals which provide an effortless source of lift, waders and seagulls range the tideline and there is always the chance of a glimpse of a pererine falcon or a gannet diving offshore, one of the 30,000 residents of distant Grassholm rock. And those interested in flora will find the cliff and shore decorated with spring squill, sea pink, cross-leaved and bell heather and sea campion.
Barafundle is a magical place. Approaching it along the cliffs from either direction on a fine summer day, or even during a crisp winter walk, is almost like opening a present as it suddenly appears in all its pristine beauty - a gem of golden sand and blue-green sea framed by green dunes and a wooded backcloth.