Lydstep Haven Beach
Lydstep Haven on the south Pembrokeshire coast between Lydstep Point and Proud Giltar head, is a beautiful crescent-shaped bay with a fine stretch of golden sand facing east towards Caldey Island.
Just around the corner from Tenby, it is sheltered from the prevailing winds and, in the 19th-20th centuries, when the limestone quarries on Lydstep Point were in full production, sailing sloops used to lay at anchor in the lee of the headland, loading limestone for delivery to Bideford, Cardigan and other trading ports in the Bristol Channel and St George’s Channel area.
The wide and sandy beach is easily accessible from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park coastal footpath or from the village and there is limited parking, with a charge in the summer season.
The view from the beach at Lydstep is splendid but the view from the clifftop is even more spectacular, giving a wonderful prospect of the golden expanse of Sandtop Bay on Caldey Island and, between it and the mainland, the small island of St Margaret’s, which is connected to Caldey by a rocky natural causeway at low tide. It is possible to cross from one to the other but the weed-covered rocks can be dangerously slippery, so it is not recommended. St Margaret’s Island once had a flock of dark brown Soay sheep resident on its grassy top, and its 14 acres was just about enough to sustain them. However, many of them were killed by lightning in a violent storm some years ago and the remainder were transferred elsewhere. These hardy little sheep were of the breed introduced by the Vikings as stores for food during their voyaging. They had shelter in a little stone cottage which incorporated the ruins of a monastic cell, but was occupied by quarrymen in the 19th century when quarrying was carried on there. The island is not inhabited now but 150 years ago there were about 20 people living there, ekeing out an existence by fishing and farming. Now its only inhabitants are seabirds, particularly cormorants, in the largest colony in Wales of these diving birds numbering over 300 pairs.
Lydstep has a private caravan site in an attractive wooded setting behind the beach, and years ago it was renowned for its hill climb organised by Pembrokeshire Motor Club over a steep half-mile course up the cliffside. To the west is a flat-based bay near Whitesheet Rock, a legacy of the time when raised beaches were cut into the cliffs when the sea level was 20 feet higher than it is today.
There are fine caves in the limestone cliffs on the western side, which is owned by the National Trust, one of them called Smugglers’ Cave, and there is a Nature Trail leaflet available which was produced by the Naturalists’ Trust some years ago. On the western cliffs and on the eastern side near Proud Giltar Head there are several blow holes, or collapsed caves, which are worth a visit.