Hidden Gem – Pembrokeshire's Marloes Sands, Martin’s Haven and offshore islands

Boasting the popular Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, Pembrokeshire may not strike you as a ‘hidden’ area. There is plenty to explore across 186 miles of superb coastal walking, from sandy beaches and geologically rich heathland to bird sanctuaries on offshore islands. With so much on offer, here is a closer look at the Marloes Sands area of the Welsh coastline.

Situated at the far western end of the Pembrokeshire peninsular between St Anne’s Head in the southernmost point and St Brides to the north, Marloes Sands and Mere are part of my earliest memories of sand, sea and happiness. The peninsular forms the northern ‘gateway’ into Milford Haven, while to the south Angle reaches out as if trying to touch St Anne’s Head.

Marloes Sands are an immense stretch of glorious sand embraced by low cliffs, with wonderful views to the south west to Skokholm island. There are fantastic walking opportunities following the Coast Path, but don’t underestimate how long it might take to walk from one point to another, as the convoluted coastline can make an apparently short distance stretch to an all day outing.

The Mere, which has observation hides for birdwatching, is home to a number of wetlands birds including marsh harrier, stonechat, teal and snipe. The coast and offshore islands are a haven for seabirds, including puffins, peregrines, ravens, kestrel, gannets and the largest population of Manx shearwaters can be found on the offshore islands. The sea itself is alive with seals and porpoises.

The geology of this area of Pembrokeshire is rich and varied. The surrounding cliffs of Marloes Sands are layered with red sandstone and grey shale. There are also three vertical lines of hard silurian sandstone and mudstone that have resisted much of the erosion forces from the sea, known as the Three Chimneys. Add to this the delights of the coastal heathland with an abundance of wildflowers at every turn, and you have the makings of a very special place.

My most recent visit to Pembrokeshire embraced a boat trip to Skomer island, a marine nature reserve. If you do take a boat out from Martin’s Haven to the islands, be sure to go at the right time of year. The islands are accessible between April and September every day except Mondays, and the best way to see the birdlife is apparently to stay overnight when you can watch the birds returning at dusk. We took the boat during daylight in late June, only to find that there were barely any birds to observe.

There are wonderful walks described in Dennis and Jan Kelsall’s two books to Pembrokeshire, a guide to Walking in Pembrokeshire, and a guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail.

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