Solva Quay

There’s a rare photograph hanging in pride of place on the wall of Solva Yacht Club of the Queen stepping ashore onto the new Queen’s Steps.

It was taken by a photographer from the local newspaper The West Wales Guardian, now defunct, and was the only one showing her historic first step ashore on the stone stairs, specially built for her visit on Solva Quay.

Solva is a small coastal village set in a deep inlet on the north shore of St Brides Bay, well hidden from the sea end, where the cliffs curve round in a protective arc.

Reminiscent of similar secret harbours on the Devon and Cornwall coasts, the traffic between Newgale and St Davids descends steeply in either direction, virtually to sea level, taking the visitor quite suddenly into an earlier era. Stone cottages line the narrow main street and a carpark, with yachts sharing the space with the vehicles, allows visitors to take a walk down the quay to the Yacht Club on one side and the southern shore on the other.

At low tide the walk along the strip of sandy and rocky beach on the left side, takes the stroller past a row of well-preserved lime kilns and round the corner to the south where a little cove called The Gwadn is the perfect gentle spot to introduce toddlers to the sea. Shallow and calm, the sand is heated by the sun, warming the water to a temperature comfortable for tiny feet and legs.

The harbour is full of small boats, which ground at low tide, their masts sloping like soldiers’ rifles, their colourful hulls reflecting in the wet sand and mid-channel mud: a virtual artist’s palette of different hues. For the slightly more energetic, a rough path climbs along the left-hand cliff to the top of a peninsula called The Gribbin, where the golden gorse exudes its pleasant coconut aroma and stonechats click among the colourful squill and seapinks as a magnificent panoramic vista of St Bride’s Bay opens up at the  rocky summit. Here the clamour of gulls, the sharp piping of oyster catchers and the sight of gannets diving offshore add to the pleasure of the place, and a glimpse of a shy chough, like an orange-billed, red-legged jackdaw, may well be a reward for the climb. Solva harbour was once the main trading centre of the bay, with around 30 registered trading ships in the 18th century. Now it is a centre for yachting and generally messing about in boats, for walks along the 180-mile-long National Park Coastal Footpath between the Cardiganshire border at Poppit and the Carmarthenshire boundary at Amroth, There are all kinds of water sports and visitors are well-catered for with gift shops, an art gallery, pubs offering excellent food and restaurant facilities and, at nearby Middle Mill, the oldest continuously working woollen mill in the County with its own tea room and shop.

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