Swanlake Bay Beach

A South Pembrokeshire beach with a balletic name opens to the south west near Manorbier, its broad bight as graceful as a ballet.

Swanlake Bay can be accessed only off the Pembrokeshire National Park Coastal Footpath, with no car park nearer than Manorbier, so only the most determined will discover it. That means it is a hidden gem well worth seeking out as it is seldom if ever crowded.

As the TV soccer presenters like to say it is a beach of two halves - the eastern side covered in golden sand and sheltered under the cliffs, the western side craggy with plenty of rock pools for the children to explore. Access is relatively easy down the cliff at the western end, where sea anglers like to fish for seabass, and ‘twitchers” look out for birds. There are no swans, but Swanlake is a happy hunting ground for waders with sightings of curlew, whimbrel, redshank and sometimes bar-tailed godwit among the everyday piping oyster-catchers.

There are caves, one on the west and two on the east side of East Moor Cliff on the Manorbier side of the bay, where there is also every appearance of the embanked defences of a promontory fort. But this is deceiving for the rock formations are in fact geological irregularities and archaeologists have found no evidence of early habitation on this headland. Just a short walk round from East Moor is the beach at Manorbier, which is rather larger than Swanlake, and far more convenient as there is parking and safe access from the village where beachgoers can buy all the things they need to sustain them during a day on the sands.

The scenery is magnificent with the imposing bulk of Manoriber Castle on one side of the valley and the Norman church on the other.

Gerald the Welshman (Giraldus Cambrensis), the 12th century priest and scribe who was born here, and who wrote a series of topographical books about Wales, might be described as a medieval journalist or travel writer and his descriptions of places and people, social conditions and every day life at all levels gave a fascinating insight into medieval existence .

It is said that as a child Gerald would have built sand castles, and possibly cathedrals, on the sands on Manorbier and Swanlake, for, despite the fiercely military nature of his family, he followed his childhood ambition of entering the church. His are the earliest descriptions to be found of the village and the castle on its lofty knoll overlooking the wooded valley. He wrote of the orchards and vineyards of his childhood and painted a beautiful picture of what Manorbier was like in the 12th century. Giraldus’s writings emanated from his itinerary through Wales with Archbishop Baldwin. He became Archdeacon of Brecon but his great ambition was to be Bishop of St Davids, a position deliberately denied him by King John, who appointed a man of lower intellect, fearing potential strife from the more intelligent Giraldus.

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