I should have set out on this walk at dawn – it looks set to be a warm day and as I leave the Old Point House car park I am grateful for the shade of the trees on either side of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path .
I head for Angle Point and the low cliffs above the Milford Haven waterway, one of the deepest natural harbors in the world and described by Admiral Nelson as “the finest harbor in Christendom”. The waterway has been in use for thousands of years: Vikings sheltered here from Atlantic storms; armies fought into and over it; whaling ships, fishing boats and ferries sailed from the ports of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock; and in recent times, oil refineries and liquefied natural gas terminals have appeared on the coastline.
Yet the natural beauty of this remarkable estuary – calm, deep blue waters lapping against rust-red cliffs and the occasional golden sandy cove, over which a patchwork of green and gold fields stretches into the distance – manages to overshadow industrialization and development. I stop to watch a gas tanker pass at the peninsula’s westernmost point by the ruins of the East Blockhouse, just one of many defenses erected along the waterway over the centuries because of its strategic importance.
I’ve already passed two others – the Victorian Chapel Bay Fort, which has guided tours and a cafe, and Thorne Island, the site of a 19th-century coastal artillery fort. At least 12 vessels have sunk off Thorne’s rocky shores over the years, the most infamous being the Loch Shiel in 1894, which carried in its cargo a number of bottles of whisky, leading to a Welsh version of Whiskey Galore.
I choose to enjoy my lunch in the glorious isolation and amidst the stunning coastal views
This is also the coastline that the oil tanker Sea Empress crashed into in February 1996, spilling 72,000 tonnes of crude oil, with devastating effects on the local environment, wildlife and economy – pretty much everyone who lives locally has a story about how it affected them.
I continue south to West Angle Bay. The Wavecrest Cafe across the beach offers a last chance for refreshments on this 10 mile hike. But I resist since I’ve brought my lunch and choose to enjoy it in glorious isolation amid the magnificent coastal views that the next three and a half miles of walking to Freshwater West will bring – yes, on this stretch of the walk I will seeing only four other hikers and a dog.
Although the sea cliffs along the southern shore of the Angle Peninsula rarely rise above 50 metres, the descents to the various small coves take me down almost to sea level and are surprisingly steep, reminding me of the fact that walkers completing the entire 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coast The Path – of which I only walk part of – also tackles more than 10,000 meters of ascent along the way, which is quite a feat.
I have been visiting Freshwater West for over 40 years to surf the waves which are among the best in Wales
I eventually stop over West Pickard Bay for my lunch, with the tall, metallic horns of a pair of choughs ringing out over the cliff tops, and I’m treated to a spectacular display from a gannet diving for fish just offshore.
The views to the south improve with every step of the way, as the golden swell of Freshwater West and Frainslake Sands draws closer, fringed on one side by the light blue Atlantic Ocean and on the other by dark green sand dunes.
I have been visiting Freshwater West for more than 40 years to surf the waves, which are among the best and most consistent in Wales (Frainslake is off limits, and is part of an MoD firing range). It has always had a wild and untamed feel, especially when I first used to come here, when signs across the beach warned of dangerous rips and currents, informed us that surfing was “dangerous and irresponsible” and even warned of (literally ) snakes in the grass – the vipers that live in the dunes.
In the 1970s and 80s surfing was seen as a rebellious activity and surfers at Freshwater West were accused by a local councilor of setting a bad example that could “lure young children to their deaths”. Today the sport is as mainstream as it gets, with a couple of surf schools operating at Freshwater West and the beach now patrolled by RNLI lifeguards.
This magnificent beach emerges in its full glory as I walk across the northern end of the beach, from where I can enjoy a three-mile coastal panorama stretching south as far as Linney Head. But then I have to turn my back on it all for a short road walk before finally turning down a minor road, where an avenue of trees provides some shade, and heading down to the south shore of East Angle Bay.
I can now see the end of my walk in the form of the Old Point House pub on the other side of the bay and luckily the tide is out so I can take a shortcut over to it. When the tide is higher you have to walk another half mile or so towards the village of Angle and then back on the gravel road that leads to the pub.
It is a pure pleasure to take off your rucksack, enter the cool interior of the pub and order a cold pint. It does not touch the sides…
Google map of the route
Start/end Old Point House
Distance 10 miles
Time 5 hours
Total rise 530 meters
The Old Point House has been a licensed alehouse since 1802, although it is widely believed to have served as a public house from some time in the 16th century, when it was the haunt of pirates, including John Callis, who was hanged. for piracy at Newport in 1576.
The pub has been the locale for Angle lifeboat crews ever since the lifeboat station opened in 1868 and is now a perfect stop for walkers on the coastal path. It is also dog friendly.
It was recently taken over by the owners of Cafe Môr, an old kelp boat converted into a beach cafe that used to operate from a site over the beach at Freshwater West. Cafe Môr followed suit and now serves burgers, crab and lobster rolls and fish cakes in the pub garden from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pub’s restaurant serves tasty plates that naturally focus heavily on seafood (and seaweed), and is open from 5pm to 8pm, Wednesday to Sunday. Space is limited, so reservations are recommended.
There is plenty of outdoor seating when the weather is good, with stunning views over East Angle Bay, and when a storm blows in from the Atlantic nothing could be cozier than settling down in the Old Point House’s cozy bar and restaurant.
Where you will live
Next year, Old Point House plans to open two master bedrooms and a two-bedroom family suite – all en-suite or en-suite, with coastal or country views. There will also be an independent cabin with room for six on the property. Meanwhile, nearby options include Castle Farm Camping , a small family-run farm with tent sites and caravans on the edge of Angle, or The Globe (doubles from £130 B&B)a B&B in a renovated mansion in the village.