The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
It's the jewel of the Welsh coast, an area of incredible natural beauty and huge ecological importance, that spans the coastline of Pembrokeshire. Find out more about our National Park, and how you can enjoy it during your stay.
Wild and Wonderful
Breath-taking, beautiful, unique, and of incredible ecological importance – there are so many different ways to describe the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Established in 1952 and covering an area of 629km2, it is just one of three National Parks in Wales and is the only official coastal National Park and the only one to consist entirely of wild and maritime landscape in the UK.
While it’s one of the smallest National Parks in the UK, it’s also one of the most diverse in terms of landscape and unique characteristics. Split into four distinct sections, each with its own unique qualities and features that set it apart from the others, it covers almost all the Pembrokeshire Coast, every offshore island, the Daugleddau estuary, and large areas of the Preseli Hills and the Gwaun Valley.
Nowhere in the National Park is more than ten miles from the sea, and while that might make you think there’s not much to see, you’d be wrong. Within these, you’ll find a diverse range of landscapes including rugged hills, award-winning beaches, geological marvels, uninhabited islands, wooded estuaries and valleys, and wild moorland and hills.
Picture Perfect BeachesOne of the most wonderful things about the National Park is its abundance of incredible beaches. From rocky coves to dramatic sandy shores, there's something for everyone to enjoy. They're also some of the cleanest in the country, with a record 11 Blue Flag Awards.
Wildlife and Ecology
The National Park’s wide range of high-quality habitats and rare species makes it of huge ecological importance not just in Wales, but also in the world. 80% of the National Park coastline is within Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, while Special Areas of Conservation cover around 75% of the Park coastline and 60% of the inshore area.
Not just that, it includes:
- 13 Special Areas of Conservation
- 5 Special Protection Areas
- 1 Marine Conservation Zone, Skomer – one of only three in the UK
- 7 National Nature Reserves
- 60 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- 30% of Britain’s nesting pairs of choughs
- One of the world’s largest gannet colony (Grassholm Island)
But what makes Pembrokeshire so special? As well as the diverse range of habitat, the Park area has largely remained unspoiled having been protected from urbanisation and farming. This has created the ideal conditions for species that have been forced out of other areas of the UK to thrive in its untouched coastline and inner areas.
The inner land areas boast rare birds and bats, while on the coast you’ll find the likes of choughs, skylarks, and the stonechat. It’s not just feathered friends, Pembrokeshire has a rich and diverse maritime wildlife too with seals, porpoises, dolphins, and even sharks regularly spotted off the coast. In autumn you’ll also find Atlantic Grey seals flocking to our shores to give birth to their pups, a spectacular sight to find along the coast.
Get Closer to NatureOne of the best ways to explore the coast is to take a boat trip! Visit one of Pembrokeshire's islands, spot seals and dolphins, and take a unique look at this magnificent coastline.
Culture and Heritage
Almost as impressive as its ecological factors are the Park’s cultural heritage that the authority works hard to protect and maintain for the enjoyment of future generations. Within the park's boundaries includes many manmade wonders and sites of historical and archaeological importance, with every era from Neolithic to World War II represented within the park’s boundaries.
In total there are 286 scheduled ancient monuments and 1234 listed buildings, as well as 14 Conservation Areas, 15 historic parks and gardens, and nine important archaeological landscapes. This includes Carew Castle and Tidal Mill, one of only four restored tidal mills in Britain, and the reconstructed Iron Age hill fort, Castell Henllys, which dates back 2,500 years, which are both owned by the National Park Authority.
Uncover Pembrokeshire's PastFind out more about Pembrokeshire's heritage, and how you can visit castles, ancient monuments, and hidden gems of the coastline you don't want to miss out on!
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Arguably the best way to enjoy the National Park, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is an unbroken 186-mile adventure that snakes around the coast traversing craggy outcrops, towering cliffs, sweeping beaches, and hidden coves, all while offering spectacular views of the rugged, beautiful landscape.
Established in 1970, the Coast Path starts at Amroth in the south, and continues, to St Dogmaels on the northern coast, taking in 58 beaches and 14 harbours along the way. One of just 15 National Trails in England and Wales, in 2012 it was joined up on either side with Coast Paths in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire to form part of the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile walking route around the entire coast.
How long does it take to walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path?
As a rough estimate, it will take you between 10 and 15 days to walk the entire coast path and with 186-miles to pack in that’s an average of 12.4 miles daily at the least. This is just a guide though and you can complete it much slower, or faster, depending on your pace.
The varied terrain means it’s not an easy challenge either and many who try to tackle it are surprised by just how arduous it is. In fact, the total rise and fall of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is over 35,000 feet, which is greater than the height of Mount Everest, so don’t be defeated if you don’t find it a walk in the park. If you can't do it all, don't worry, there's a coastal path bus service that covers the entire length of the path so you can move around locations easily.
The Marathon des Cotes
If ten days sounds difficult, what about three? One of Pembrokeshire’s toughest challenges, the Marathon des Cotes requires competitors to complete the entire walk in 68 hours. Only two people have ever completed the race, the last in 2019 by a local man Owen Evans, who got to the finish line in 67 hours and 50 minutes – ten minutes before the cut-off.
Experienced in endurance events, he said at the finish line that it was the “ultimate test of strength and spirit”.
Walking GuideThe Coast Path can be broken down into shorter walks, with 15 sections for experienced hikers – though there are many more, with around 200 circular walks identified by the Park Authority. Explore our recommended walks, which break the coast path down into several sections.
We took on the coastal path in 2018 to raise money for the Bluestone Foundation, with a team of around 12 from Bluestone completing it in 14 days. Find out more about our adventure.
What does the National Park Authority do?
We talk a lot about the National Park Authority in Pembrokeshire, but what exactly do they do and what does that mean for the public. In short, more than you think! Next time you're enjoying the coast path, walking through woodland, or even finding a parking space at the beach, perhaps spare a thought for the team working hard behind the scenes to make it all possible. Many of the facilities created and maintained to ensure the public can enjoy the park are a result of their work.
While the Park Authority owns less than 2% of the National Park, they are tasked with upholding the purpose and requirements of it, which according to The Environment Act 1995 is:
- 1. To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage of the Park area
- 2. To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public.
One project carried out by the Authority has been to make the Coast Path more accessible, the number of stiles that need to be crossed has been drastically reduced. Over the last 15 years, 400 have been removed or replaced with gates, making it easier for everyone to enjoy the path.
As well as that it manages and maintenances the park itself including upkeep of the Coast Path, 478 miles of public rights of way, and 116 miles of bridleway. It also manages 200m of the foreshore, which is leased from the crown, 300ha of woodland, and around 50 car parks, viewpoints, and picnic sites. It also runs an information and visitor centre at Oriel y Parc, St Davids, which welcomes over 140,000 visitors a year.
There are so many ways to enjoy the National Park, here are just two you could try on a break to Bluestone.
All information has been sourced directly from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, for further clarification or details, please contact them directly.