Abereiddi to Trefin
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Stage 21 ABEREIDDI to TREFIN (30th June 2016)

At first sight this short section is little different from the previous stage to the South, a cliff-top walk with stunning views over cliffs and bays and sea, topped off with a brilliant display of wild meadow flowers. But be aware, just poking through this surface appearance, almost at every turn, the underlying impression is of an industrial landscape now returning slowly and sedately to nature.

From St. David’s you can reach the start of this section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path by catching the Strumble Shuttle bus (#404), running just three times daily at present. Leave the bus at the Abereiddi car park, above a grey and coarse sandy beach, sporting several tall conical cairns made from flat slate pebbles carefully piled high. The short squat Abereiddi tower (a remnant of the slate works, though no-one seems to know what it was for) sits on a small headland above the bay, site of an Iron Age promontory fort. There are public toilets just east of the car park.

Here are some examples of mortared roofs on the few cottages which remain close to the beach. This is a traditional Pembroke way of repairing slate roofs, by coating with a layer of lime mortar, giving the characteristic white or pale grey colour. This was done repeatedly and an impermeable layer gradually built up. Sometimes barbed wire was stretched over the roof and fixed at the eaves to give adhesion to the lime mortar. The wire addition is the source of the regular pattern of ribs stretching from pitch to eaves.

To follow the Coast Path going East head towards the public toilet block, turning left on the path just before it. Notice the wide grassy track leading in the opposite direction. This is all that remains of the horse drawn tramway, running the 3km from Abereiddi slate quarries to Porthgain harbour, just relatively short lived, as the slate from here was not of the highest quality. The tramway track remains as a wide grassy swathe (which makes a good return path if you plan to walk back from Porthgain).

Going left along the Coast Path towards the headland you pass The Street, a row of ruined stone-built cottages running parallel to the tramway. Here the quarry workers and their families lived before work ended and the village went into decline in the 1930’s. Above the path is a squat circular stone-built building with a flowery green roof which served as the quarry’s explosives store.

A wheelchair-friendly concrete path leads to the Blue Lagoon, a near circular crater, the remains of a very deep quarry which, when abandoned, was blasted through to the sea to allow water in, now some 20 m deep. The pool does look a sort of petrol blue colour (but not Mediterranean blue) even on a dull day.

Retrace your steps from the pool to take a narrow path uphill to the left. You reach the top of a flat plateau with a wide flat mown grass path following the coast some way back from the cliffs. Coming level with a large sheltered bay with a sand coloured sandy beach (accessible by steps) and an island (Ynys Barry) offshore, the path cuts off the next three headlands.

Looking up the coast the 4 flashes then rest sequence of the Strumble Head lighthouse is visible and, nearer, two white cones come into view. These are the navigation marker posts for entry to Porthgain harbour, from here just an invisible gash in the coast line.

At the third bypassed headland, Penclegyr, the evidence of this area’s industrial past can’t be ignored. Remains of extensive brick-built industrial premises dominate the skyline, with another tram way and what appear to be spoil heaps alongside. These are all relics of Porthgain’s varied industrial past as it developed from slate mining to brick building (using waste slate as a raw material) to stone crushing for roads. From the quarries the slate and rock were transported by incline and narrow gauge railway to the clifftop above Porthgain harbour, there to be loaded and shipped away by sea.

As the narrow harbour comes into view the Coast Path heads down the cliff on concrete steps, passing the white painted Pilot’s House just before reaching the quayside. The harbour is protected by massive seaward walls. Along the West cliff are the remains of high red-brick crushers and storage bins for the stone which was the final product of this once thriving port. These listed buildings now serve only as net stores for the few remaining local fishermen.

In the harbour leisure craft outnumber the commercial fishing boats. The massive old mooring chains just emphasise the now diminished size of all the craft here. On the quay side a smart café, the Shed has been converted from former industrial premises and further into the small town is the historic Sloop Inn. On the East side of the harbour the Coast Path has a short steep climb to one of the white stone-built marker cones, then turning back to follow the cliff edge past eroding headlands and collapsed natural arches for a mile or so.

One or two steep descents and climbs follow then a cluster of white painted houses on the hill inland announces the approach to Trefin. Just before the next inlet the path heads down over pasture land, through a gate into a field with a circle of standing stones (a modern creation). Pass farm buildings then follow a fence to the right to emerge onto a minor road. Head downhill where, at the very bottom of the slope, the Coast Path goes left towards more industrial history at Felin Mill.

Our route remains on the steeply climbing toad to Trefin itself, a pretty and well-kept village with a good café (The Mill) and a pub (The Ship Inn). The Strumble Shuttle goes through the village and can be hailed anywhere on its route but the official stop (with bus shelter) is further up the village street, just before a fork in the road. We caught the 12.14 bus back to St. Davids, just 35 minutes away.

Total distance walked 6.6km (4.2 miles) Ascent 272 m Time 2.0 hours.

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is one of the official UK National Trails, running from Amroth to St. Dogmaels, along clifftops, beaches and estuaries. The total length is 300 kilometres (185 miles).

You can download this route to your GPS or mobile phone by clicking on the 'View route..' link on the map below (provided you have registered (free) with ViewRanger

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photos by the Beer siblings

Abereiddi beach

The Blue Lagoon

Slate: so many colours!

Traeth Llyfn beach

Natural arch at Porth Egr

Porthgain harbour

Porthgain harbour markers

Fake stone circle near Trevine