Around St David's Head

An easy stroll around the dramatic cliffs of one of mainland Britain's most westerly points


St David's Head


3.5 miles (5.7kms)

425ft (130m)

About the walk

It would be difficult to imagine a more atmospheric place than St Davids Head. For full effect, visit at sunset and watch the sky turn red over the scattered islets of the Bishops and Clerks.

Carn Llidi, a towering monolith of ancient rock that has all the attributes of a full-blown mountain, yet stands only 594ft (181m) above sea level, dominates the headland. Its heather- and gorse-covered flanks are alive with small heathland birds, which chatter from the swaying ferns and dart for cover in the hidden crannies of dry-stone walls. The coast, when you meet it, is at its intricate finest; a succession of deep and narrow inlets (known as zawns), broken up by stubborn headlands that thrust defiantly into the ever-present swells. The Head itself is magnificent and a few minutes spent exploring will quickly uncover a series of rocky terraces that offer shelter from the wind and stunning views over the ocean to Ramsey Island.

Despite its hostile demeanour, St Davids Head was once home to a thriving Iron Age community who lived in huts and kept their stock in a field system, the remains of which are still visible. The headland, naturally guarded by the ocean on three sides, was also defended by the Clawydd-y-Milwry (the Warrior’s Dyke) at its eastern edge. The dyke is actually formed by three ditches and two ramparts that cut across the neck of the headland. The main bastion, a dry-stone wall that would have once stood around 15ft (4.6m) tall, is still easily visible as a linear pile of stones and rocks. Within the fort there are a number of standing stones, stone circles and the remains of basic huts. The defences are thought to have been built around ad 100.

At least 3,000 years older, and well worth seeking out, is Coetan Arthur, a neolithic quoit, or burial chamber, which stands directly above a narrow inlet, bounded on its eastern walls by the red-coloured crags of Craig Coetan, a popular climbing venue. Coetan Arthur consists of a 12ft (3.7m) capstone, propped up on a smaller rock. The quoit would have originally been covered with earth to form a mound, but this has long since been eroded away. There is evidence of several more burial chambers near the summit of Carn Llidi.

Both the headland and Carn Llidi are in the care of the National Trust, and you are free to wander at will to investigate these fascinating sites, although you should bear in mind that they are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and protected by law.

Walk directions

From Whitesands Beach head back up the road, pass the caravan site and immediately turn left along a road. Bear right where it splits and continue around a left-hand bend to walk up to the buildings. Keep left to walk between the buildings, then carry on to a gate.

Turn right shortly afterwards on to the open heathland and follow the footpath along the wall beneath Carn Llidi. Pass the track that drops to the youth hostel on the right and continue, keeping right wherever the track forks. Go over a crest and downhill to a corner of a wall where a clear track runs diagonally left towards the coast.

Follow this to the coast path, where there’s a small fingerpost, and turn left to walk along the cliff tops. At Porth Llong, the path bears right to climb to a cairn. The headland is a labyrinth of paths and tracks, but for maximum enjoyment try to stick as close to the cliff tops as possible as you round a number of narrow zawns. The official coast path doesn’t go as far as the tip of the peninsula, but plenty of other tracks do, so follow one as far as you wish.

From the tip, turn left and make your way through the rocky outcrops on the southern side of the headland. As you approach Porthmelgan, you’ll pick up an obvious path near the cliff tops which you should work your way down to using one of the many small paths.

This leads to a small footbridge over a stream, which you cross to climb up the steps on the other side. Continue to a kissing gate where the National Trust land ends and maintain your direction. Pass above Porth Lleuog and the distinctive rocky promontory of Trwynhwrddyn, which is worth a visit in its own right.

The path then drops steeply down to the road at the entrance to Whitesands Beach.

Additional information

Coast path, clear paths across heathland

Dramatic cliffs, heather- and gorse-covered hillsides

Care needed on cliff tops and near livestock

OS Explorer OL35 North Pembrokeshire

Whitesands Beach

At start of walk

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About the area

Discover Pembrokeshire

Wales meets the Atlantic Ocean in spectacular fashion at Pembrokeshire. Unlike the West Country, Pembrokeshire can offer the coast without the crowds, and quaint fishing villages without those huge coach parks. Volcanic eruptions and earth movements have left a tortured rocky coastline of some 160 miles, whose beauty and drama have been recognised by National Park status. 

Sometimes known as ‘Little England Beyond Wales’, the county has held a fascination for English visitors ever since the first Norman warlords forced their way in 800 years ago, leaving a string of 50 fine castles in their wake. The anonymous author of The Mabinogion, an 11th-century collection of Welsh folk legends, started it all. His description of the old Celtic kingdom of Dyfed (which encompasses Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire) as ‘the land of magic and enchantment’ was perhaps the earliest written attempt to sum up the outstanding natural beauty of this wonderful westernmost outpost of Wales. This is a county where you can take it easy on the sandy beaches, make sport out of those Atlantic waves, or discover the mysteries of St David’s or the ancient Preseli Hills.

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