Stackpole Quay, tucked under the South Pembroleshire cliffs between Stackpole Head and Greenala Point, was built in Georgian times by the wealthy, land-owning Cawdor family as part of a major landscaping project.
The ambitious scheme included not only a new mansion at Stackpole Court, but the damming of rivers to create 100-acres of lakes on the 15,000-acre estate and to landscape the beach at Broad Haven South. Ornate bridges, including an elegant eight-arched structure, were erected crossing the lakes and in the man-made estuary meandering down to the beach they created the spectacular Bosherston Lily ponds, a popular tourist attraction.
The Cawdors not only owned a large area of the South Pembrokeshire peninsula, but had extensive lands at Gold Grove, near llandeilo, and and even bigger estate In Nairnshire, Scotland, ruled over by The Thane of Cawdor, who features in Macbeth. The family retain the ancient title to this day, although they left Stackpole soon after World War Two, demolishing Stackpole Court in 1967 to lessen estate duties. Just before the war a large swathe of their highly productive corn land was requisitioned as an Army training area, which is still active today as The Castlemartin Tank Range where troops of all nationalities train for war. For nearly 40 years it was the regular training area of West German Panzer troops, who integrated well into the community of Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, many marrying local women. In 1976 all the coastlands and lakes were transferred into the ownership of the National Trust under their Enterprise Neptune initiative, and the multi-faceted Outdoor Learning Centre they have created there provides a variety of activities of all kinds, both cultural and tourist-orientated. It has a theatre, conference facilities and licensed bar.
Stackpole Quay was built to accommodate the Cawdor family’s love of sailing, as well as to serve the coastal trade in limestone and other commodities. There is a carpark there to serve visitors to the nearby beaches of Broad Haven South and Barafundle, and a charge is made during the tourist season.
The Cawdors berthed their favourite yacht Speedwitch there and there are many entries in the family diaries of their sailing exploits in the late 18th century. Lord Cawdor was a prolific diarist and his carriage drives in the park with his wife “Car” are frequently mentioned. For those interested in church architecture and history the quay is a good place to park to visit the local churches of Stackpole Elidor, dedicated to St James and St Elidyr and St Petrox, to both of which the Cawdors contributed generously in terms of restoration and repair in the mid 18th century. A later mamber of th family also acted with great generosity in 1851, engaging the top London architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in extensive renovations. Stackpole Quay is an ideal parking place for the exploration of the coast and the Cawdor lakes, where lucky visitors can spot kingfishers, herons, mute swans and even the elusive otter. Fulmar colonies proliferate on the coast while shags, razorbills and house martins breed on the cliffs and stacks.