The shores of Ramsey Sound

Along the shores of Ramsey Sound with great views and excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities.

NEAREST LOCATION

Ramsey Sound

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

3.5 miles (5.7kms)

ASCENT
197ft (60m)
TIME
2hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
SM724252

About the walk

This is one of the easiest walks, but it's also one of the most rewarding, with drop-dead gorgeous coastal scenery and plenty of chances to spot some of Pembrokeshire's varied wildlife. On a calm summer's day, the bobbing boats in Ramsey Sound display the kind of tranquillity you'd usually associate with a Greek island. See it on a rough day, with a spring tide running, and the frothing, seething currents that whip through the narrow channel are frightening to say the least. If the views aren't enough, a keen eye and a handy pair of binoculars may well produce sightings of seals, porpoises, dolphins, choughs and even peregrine falcons.

St Justinian

St Justinian was a hermit from Brittany who became the abbot of St David's Cathedral and acted as St David's confessor. Disillusioned with the lethargic attitude of the monks, he absconded to Ramsey Island to establish a more spiritual community. Some of his more loyal monks travelled with him, but eventually even they became fed up with his strict regimes and beheaded him. His remains were buried in the small chapel on the hillside overlooking the sound, which bears his name. Later St David took them to his own church. St Justinian is revered as a martyr, his assassins are thought to have been under demonic influence, and his life is celebrated on 5 December each year.

Ramsey Island

Less than 2 miles (3.2km) long and 446ft (136m) high at its tallest point, Ramsey Island is a lumbering humpback ridge separated from the St David's coast by a narrow sound. Known in Welsh as Ynys Ddewi - St David's Isle - this is the place where, legend suggests, St David met St Patrick. It's a haven for wildlife and has belonged to the RSPB as a nature reserve since 1992. The eastern coast looks pretty tame, but the western seaboard boasts some of Pembrokeshire's tallest and most impressive cliffs, punctuated with sea caves and rock arches that are the breeding grounds of the area's largest seal colony. At its narrowest point, a string of jagged rocks protrude into the sound. These are known as The Bitches and they make a terrifying spectacle indeed. Tides gush through the rocks at speeds of up to 8 knots, creating a scene that resembles a mountain river in spate. The resultant waves and eddies make an extreme salt-water playground for white-water kayakers. Looking slightly out of place against the salty ocean backdrop, the island is populated by a herd of red deer.

Harbour porpoises

Ramsey Sound is one the best places to catch a glimpse of Pembrokeshire's shyest marine mammals, harbour porpoises. Resembling dolphins, though never more than 7ft (2.1m) in length, small schools of these tiny cetaceans crop up all around the coast, but are frequently seen feeding in the currents at either end of the sound. Unlike dolphins, they seldom leap from the water, but their arched backs and small dorsal fins are easy to spot as they surface for air. Choose a day when the water is fairly flat, then scan the ocean from a promontory like Pen Dal-Aderyn with a pair of binoculars. Once you spot one, you should find it easy to see others.

Walk directions

Walk down to the lifeboat station and turn left on to the coast path, above the steps. Follow this, passing above a number of lofty, grassy promontories that make great picnic spots. After 0.5 miles (800m), look out for the traces of Iron Age earthworks on the left.

Pass a gate and a track on your left – this is your return route – and swing around to the west above Ogof Felen. This is a good seal pup beach in autumn. The trail climbs slightly and then drops steeply to a ruined copper mine, directly opposite The Bitches.

Continue easily to Pen Dal-Aderyn and then swing eastwards to enter St Brides Bay. The path climbs above some magnificent cliffs and passes between a few rocky outcrops before veering north above the broad bay of Porth Henllys. Drop down into a shallow valley until you come to a fingerpost at a junction of paths.

Turn left up four very short flights of steps and past a pink cottage to walk away from the coast and then cross a stile on the right, into a field. Turn left to follow the track along the wall to a gate and stile, where you enter a courtyard. Turn left here at a fingerpost pointing to Porthstinian. About 20yds (18m) before you reach a metal farm gate with a walkers’ gate beside it swing right and walk to a clear track.

Follow this track down between dry-stone walls to reach another gate, which leads back out on to the coast path. Turn right and retrace your outward route along the grassy clifftop path back to St Justinian's.

Additional information

Coast path and easy farmland tracks

Undulating coast, dramatic views to Ramsey Island

One dog-proof stile and farmyard

OS Explorer OL35 North Pembrokeshire

Car park above lifeboat station at St Justinian's

Nearest at Porth Clais or Whitesands

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Walking in safety

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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.