If I never have another day as good as today, it will all have been worth it. Today was definitely a diamond day. The view was spectacular, the weather was perfect, the public transport was punctual and the food I eventually had was excellent. My only concern is the nagging misery in my left knee, which kicked in this afternoon. Hopefully, a slug of ibuprofen tonight and in the morning will keep it under control.
I left the car at Porth Clais, which appears to be a busy little working port. The Strumble Shuttle took me from the end point into St David’s, and then the Celtic Coaster took me down to my starting point at a Porth Clais. Unfortunately, it had not crossed my mind to apply the time I had in St David’s yesterday to the useful purpose of buying provisions, hence, once again, I had no breakfast other than the handful of cashew nuts that remained. I was too early for the kiosk at Porth Clais, but had checked that there was a restaurant at Whitesands.
The west side of the steep valley at Porth Clais has ruins from what appeared to be industrial buildings of the 19th century possibly for exporting some sort of minerals or slate. I noticed in the rocks a fair bit of green suggesting copper, or perhaps green slate. There are also two whitewashed stone erections on either side of the harbour mouth, the one on the south-west side being like an obelisk whilst that on the north east is like an old fashioned sugar loaf. Presumably they are to guide shipping in. The path climbed immediately up to the cliff, and wound in and out of the various coves and inlets. I could see what I thought was st David’s head and then the path turned east, as expected, but the inlet seemed far too deep for St Justinians which was the first bay I was expecting. Eventually, it became clear that the whole long arm that I had taken to be a peninsula, was in fact Ramsey island. On the map, it is not shown in its proper place, but in a separate box and I had no idea that it was so close.
St Justinians has the lifeboat, and also a brisk trade in island tours to Ramsey, Skomer and others. There was a boat load preparing as I arrived. I had a faint moment when I thought the thirty odd people were queuing for the coffee kiosk which was a site for sore eyes, but fortunately not. I listened to the guide. Apparently, there are some 40,000 breeding pairs of puffins on Puffin island. Ramsey used also to be full of them, but shipping run aground in the dangerous waters of the Sound, had brought rats to the island which had eaten all the eggs, and presumably the pufflings (my new favourite word) as well. The rats have been eradicated now, but the puffins have not yet returned, although the guide said that the conservation body has planted decoys and played what she ever referred to as ‘puffin music’, but so far, although the birds have been seen in the water, they have not returned.
I went on to Whitesands which is a lovely beach, very popular with surfers. It is not exactly Manly, but I imagine in rough weather that the waves would be impressive. There was a café there, but it had a long queue, and looked uninspiring so I decided not to bother – the double layer Victoria sponge at St Justinians had staved off the worst pangs. From Whitsands the path goes to St David’s Head, and then turns north-eastish, beginning the coast’s long stretch south of Cardigan bay. Not far past the headland, I coaught site of the flashing light of Strumble Head lighthouse – tomorrow’s destination. The path was very busy, and I chatted to quite a few people. Beyond Whitesands, the scenery changed noticeably. Although the coast is still punctured by inlets, the rocks have changed, no more of the dark red stone visible near St Bride’s, or the sandstone along the stretch to Newgale; here it becomes slate and granite. Inland, too, the slopes are rolling moorland, with lumps of uneroded granite making peaks. I didn’t spot what made it feel so different until I heard someone on the path saying that the difference between north and south Pembrokeshire, is that in the former, there are very few trees, and thinking back over the day, that is true. I met a nice couple from Ross-on-Wye, not far from my new home and had a bit of a chat.
The wildflowers were amazing. Although the daffodil is the national flower, I think a case could be made for foxgloves. They are everywhere, along with thrift, vetches of various sorts, ox eye daisies, lots of red campion and purple scabious. Even a few late patches of bluebells were clinging to the cliffs. I was lucky enough to see some seals, 5 or 6 of them playing in the waves. It is 7.6 miles from Whitesands to Abereiddy, another little surfing beach. I was tiring by now, especially as there was a long steep down and up just before. But from Abereiddy, once you have climbed up, the cliff top is very flat, until Porth Gain. The remnants of industry were easier to see here, I assume slate mining. Then there was a wicked slate staircase, more like a ladder down to the quay, just to aggravate my knees.
I had an excellent meal in the Sloop Inn. I believe the Ship is more famous but the Sloop was excellent.