It meanders 186 miles along spectacular beaches, hidden coves, cliff tops and through ancient monuments. And now the Pembrokeshire Coast Path has been named one of the greatest hiking trails in the world.
The West Wales gem, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, ranks in the top 10 list alongside Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail and the 19,336ft climb up Africa’s highest peak Mount Kilimanjaro.
Charles Mathieson, head of recreation and tourism at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, believes such recognition is not only testament to its natural beauty, which is why it was given National Park status in the first place, but also of the way in which it’s looked after.
“The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail is one of the key foundations of tourism in Pembrokeshire and makes a significant contribution to the county’s economy, generating over £14m each year,” he added.
“We know that the path attracts nearly a million user days each year, providing a fantastic resource for local residents, and attracting walkers from around the world.
“Last year the path celebrated its 40th anniversary and it’s wonderful that this fabulous resource continues to be recognised and is still valued more than 40 years on.”
In its published list, online travel adviser Cheapflights describes the Pembrokeshire Coast Path as a walk “weaving in and out of sandy beaches, lily ponds and fishing villages”.
“Along the path, travellers can witness incredible historical sites such as 2,000-year-old forts, burial grounds from 400AD and a medieval castle, or two.
“And the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is no stranger to wildlife; grey seals, puffins, foxes and hundreds of other species can all be spotted along the way.”
Fran Vickery regularly travels from her home in Bristol to work as a volunteer warden and Coast Path walk leader in Pembrokeshire.
She said: “I first came here in the 1970s and first completed the whole 186-mile walk in 2004, but whenever I have been here my reaction has been the same, ‘Wow’.
“I’ve completed the whole walk seven times – it takes two weeks starting from Amroth on the Pembrokeshire-Carmarthenshire border and winding its way up to Poppit Sands, near Cardigan.
“People ask me why I keep doing it and I tell them it’s because I haven’t seen it all yet. Every time is different, there is different wildlife to see, different flowers, depending what time of year it is, the landscape is totally different.”
“Funnily enough, one year we decided to walk north to south instead of the other way around, which is a bit more hilly, and one of the people with us who had recently been to Africa said it was much tougher than climbing Kilimanjaro.”
Pembrokeshire’s latest accolade follows a similar honour last year when the county’s beaches were named among the best coastal destinations on the planet.
The area came in joint second behind the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada, tying with New Zealand’s Tutukaka Coast in a list compiled by National Geographic.
Claire Carlile is marketing manager for Preseli Venture, an eco-lodge on the edge of the coastal path which offers hiking, kayaking and coasteering.
She said: “The scenery always blows people’s minds and we are just so fortunate to have this natural resource which we have turned into a small business which promotes the natural landscape in a sustainable way.
“The thing that strikes me is always the variety. In the seven- mile stretch of path that we use you’ve got sea caves and sandy beaches, you’ve got tiny fishing harbours and little bays with seal pups.”