6th October 2017
My name is Mel & I’m a beachaholic. I admit it. The beach is my happy place. The ocean soothes my soul. The sea sets me free… You get the picture.
But not the feet-burning, umbrella-covered, itsy-bitsy-bikini beaches from glossy travel mags. Oh no. I mean REAL beaches. I mean the cliff-soaring, wind-swept, fossil-covered beaches you could spend months on and still find something new.
So imagine my rapture when this summer we embarked on our first ever motorhome road trip to the stunning Pembrokeshire coast.
With our Bailey Advance 615 packed to bursting point, we set off from Essex on the first morning of the summer holidays. Are you insane? I hear you cry. The first day? Possibly. But as a special needs teacher my holidays are set in late July/all of August stone.
And no matter how busy the M25 may turn out to be, I was off school and raring to go. Neoprene wetsuits, body boards, fishing nets, buckets, crabbing lines, windbreaks, tide timetables, hypothermia kit, we Philpotts were beach ready with not a bikini in sight.
Our first “we heart Pembrokeshire” moment occurred before we set foot on a beach. To our delight it turned out to be one of the most motorhome friendly counties we have visited. Council run car parks and most supermarkets provide larger bays for vans and Saundersfoot Harbour actively promotes motorhome parking. No more stressful, “Ryan you can’t possibly get in that space!” moments for us. We were off to a great start.
But where to start? With a total of 243 glorious beaches stretching along the only coastal National Park in the UK, it was a tad overwhelming to us Pembrokeshire virgins. We finally settled on Whitesands, or Porthmawr (Big Harbour in Welsh), for our first day. With an endless expanse of golden sand, Blue Flag status and a reputation as one of the finest surfing beaches in the country I was going to get my fix by the bucket-load.
And it did not disappoint. After an ‘eventful’ drive to the beach car-park, during which 30 cars/vans behind us had to back up due to a caravan and lorry having a ‘difference of opinion regarding right of way’ in front of us, Whitesands proved to be a jewel in north Pembrokeshire’s crown.
During our day we enjoyed body boarding, rock-pooling, building epic sandcastles, playing French cricket, swimming, beachcombing and for a brief 5 minutes sitting & relaxing!
And despite the glorious weather we couldn’t believe how much space there was for everyone. I was happy. My soul was definitely being soothed.
We returned to Whitesands for a few more glorious beach days. But even I had to admit Pembrokeshire is not just about the coast. Our campsite, Glan Y Mor, was under a mile away in the uniquely beautiful St David’s, the smallest city in Britain. Essentially a small village, St David’s was granted city status because of its cathedral. An evening walk around the medieval ruins of the Bishop’s Palace proved a hit with our hard to impress teenager.
The highlight for said teenager was an exhilarating boat trip to Ramsey Island. Not an experience for the faint hearted, the ribs leave St David’s RNLI station and take passengers on a tour around the treacherous waters of Ramsey. Passing rocky outcrops named it gives you an idea of how perilous these waters can be. Fortunately on our visit the sky was blue and the waters were kind to us. We were treated to glimpses of porpoises, a close encounter with a seal colony and wealth of interesting info from our crazy captain who seemed to delight in us getting as drenched as possible. A magnificent time had by all.
When planning our travels around Pembrokeshire we had intended to tour the county and cram in so much. But the area surrounding St David’s was just too beautiful to drag ourselves away. Solva is a must for the tastiest crab sandwich and stunning estuary walk. Newgale gave us a day of incredible body boarding when the blue skies finally disappeared and the temperature and weather felt more like the Wales I remembered.
We did venture south briefly on our journey home. Manorbier Beach was another hidden gem and we couldn't pass Pembroke Castle without popping by. But 10 days in ‘Pembs’ just wasn’t long enough. We’d only seen a tiny smidge, a drop in the azure Atlantic ocean. Coasteering, sea kayaking, horse-riding, mountain biking had all alluded us. This time.
Because those soaring cliffs and windswept sands had just kept calling us back…