Whitesands Bay Beach
A jewel in the crown of North Pembrokeshire, Whitesands Bay, or Porthmawr (Big Harbour) in Welsh, is a large expanse of pale gold sand with Blue Flag status and a reputation as one of the finest surfing beaches in the country.
Looking west towards the rugged archipelago known as the Bishops and Clerks, it is in a beautiful location and, with parking for 60 cars, public toilets, a cafe and summer lifeguard patrols, is well-equipped for all manner of seaside experiences and activities.
It is the proud boast of the locals that the popular adventure sport of coasteering was pioneered here in Britain’s smallest city at St Davids in 1986. And TYF Adventure, based in the former windmill at Twr-y-Felin (Mill Tower), are still carrying on this exciting sport which is now being copied all over the country. TYF describe coasteering as the ultimate adventure combining a “scramble, swim, climb, traverse and leap along the coastline on a journey of discovery.” The action they provide won TYF the accolade “Best Water Sports Provider in the UK,” and they claim that there is no better location for such a magical experience.
Apart from the swimming, surfing, boarding, canoeing, kayaking and kite-surfing that go on around this coast, Whitesands offers a variety of other experiences, including delving into the area’s rich history, savouring the great range of fascinating flora and fauna and enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
The cliffs abound with the beautiful colours provided by vernal squill, bluebell, sea campion, thrift and golden gorse. The bird life is also absorbing, with many kinds of seabirds from the gull family to the graceful gannets from the 70,000 strong colony on Grassholm, the oyster catchers and other waders, the cormorants and shags and the cliff nesting choughs, fulmars and peregrine falcons. There is no better viewpoint from which to admire the scenery than the top of Carn Llidi, nearly 600-feet high at the triangulation station on its summit. From this eyrie there is a 360-degree panorama of much of the north of the county and the rock-strewn coastal waters to the south and west. A fascinating feature can be seen below where a Breugelesque birds-eye view is afforded of the unique irregular small field system, a legacy of the Iron Age settlers who built the innumerable promontory forts which decorate amost every headland around this coast. At the northern end of Whitesands are the remains of the 6th century sailors’ chapel dedicated to St Patrick, where prayers would be said before and after a hazardous voyage. This is one of several sites along the western coasts from which St Patrick is said to have embarked on his final voyage to Ireland. Nearby is evidence of a Bronze Age track which stretched from lowland Britain - Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain - via the Preseli Hills to Whitesands, from where the dangerous Irish Sea crossing would have been made to the Wicklow Hills for copper and later gold.