If sunshine is the aim then Dale on the far west coast of Pembrokeshire is the place to be.
This charming little seaside village, sheltering inside the northern entrance to Milford Haven harbour has the enviable record of enjoying more sunshine hours than most other resorts in the UK.
The village is in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park whose 180-mile long Coastal Footpath passes through, and it is a busy centre for sailing with suitable conditions for windsurfing, which is taught in the bay. The beach is wide and shingly with areas of sand and a fine view up the Haven waterway towards Milford Haven, Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. It is safe and sheltered and ideal for picnics and sunbathing and presents a great grandstand for the regular spectacle of sailing races in the Haven.
One of Dale’s main claims to fame is that it was the chosen landing-place of Henry Tudor when he returned from exile to win victory over Richard 111 at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. He landed at Mill Bay and described the climb up the cliff as “brunt” - an old English word for “rough and challenging” - and the farm above the bay is still known as Brunt. At nearby Mullock Bridge, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh nobleman who had sworn that Henry would only take the throne “over his bellie”, changed his mind and, in order to keep his oath and support the would-be monarch, hid under the bridge while Henry rode over it. Villagers still mark the anniversary of Henry’s landing and in 1955 they had cause for a dual celebration as another Royal visitor bathed at Mill Bay - Prince Charles as a toddler during his parents’ first Royal visit to the county.
Dale has a 13th century castle and was once controlled by the Norman De Vale family but its name suggests earlier occupation by the Vikings. It also has two Victorian forts, built at a time when Napoleon 3rd appeared to be a threat. Dale Fort on the promontory overlooking the Haven, has been a Field Studies Centre since 1947 while West Blockhouse to the south now houses a navigation aid for shipping using the oil port. Near Dale fort is an early iron age fort.
Dale is a favourite of ‘twitchers’ with a variety of birds to tick their boxes with. Pickleridge, beside the road just outside the village, is a series of lagoons left by contractors excavating sand and shingle to build the several World War Two airfields scattered around the county. Now it is a haven for wildfowl of all kinds.
The village has good cause to remember the Sea Empress disaster of February 1996 when the supertanker grounded at the harbour entrance spilling 72,000 tons of crude oil. Thankfully, the area recovered quickly. The first woman to cross the Atlantic single-handed, 28-years-old Nicolette Milnes-Walker, set sail from Dale in June 1971, arriving at Newport, USA, on July 26th, a proud record for the village.