West Angle Bay Beach
The map outline of the Angle Peninsula resembles an academic wearing a mortar board looking out to the west, with West Angle Bay as the eye, Rat Island as the tip of the nose and Sheep Island the bearded chin.
West Angle Bay is a small but pleasant beach, safe for bathing, its golden sands protected by rocky outcrops on each side of the entrance. It is a short, level walk from the village, andt here is a spacious car park close to the beach with a cafe and toilets. This part of the coast, in common with Dale on the other side of the Haven, has one of the best sunshine records in the UK, the rain clouds coming in from the Atlantic rising on landfall to drop their precipitation further inland. It is a perfect viewing point for a close-up of passing ships of all kinds, particularly the twice daily Irish ferry linking Pembroke with Rosslare and the LNG and crude oil tankers bringing their cargoes into Milford Haven’s major oil port.
Naturally, as the southern gatepost to Milford Haven this coast has been well defended down the centuries. Off the north-western end of the peninsula on Thorn Island, is a Victorian Fort, a ‘Palmerston’s Folly’ built in 1854 and improved in 1860 as part of a defensive ring of forts constructed against the perceived threat from Louis Napoleon. It had a casemated battery of nine guns designed to give fire all round and was the southern counterpart of Dale Fort on the other side of the Haven. Further east on the mainland at Chapel Bay is another slightly younger fort, completed in 1872 as an open battery spread along the cliffs, noted for the scale of its revetted ditch flanked by polygonal caponieres, looped for musketry. It was remodelled in the 1900s for heavy guns, with magazines below.
On the nose overlooking Rat Island are the remains of another even earlier fort, East Blockhouse, the only surviving remnant of Pembrokeshire’s post-Armada defences. A 19th century addition was demolished but one battery dating from 1900 survives.
On the chin of the map face overlooking Sheep island and Castle Bay, is the site of a single-banked Iron age Fort, into which around the time of Word War One a lookout was built.
West Angle Bay was the site of a shipwreck in January 1808, just three years after the battle of Trafalgar, when the 38-gun frigate HMS Leda ran aground on rocks there. The Cork-based Man ‘o War had been on patrol in the Irish Sea, protecting the trade routes from French privateers, when a howling gale blew up, causing mountainous seas. His ship damaged, Captain Robert Honyman headed for the shelter of Milford Haven. But the on-board pilot who, the previous week, had piloted in the gun brig HMS Virago, mistook Thorn Island for Stack Rock further up the Haven, and the vessel was wrecked although the crew survived.