Clambering over and jumping off cliffs might not be everyone’s idea of fun - but for those with a sense of adventure, coasteering is just one of the many ways to appreciate the Pembrokeshire coast
It’s not often that you find yourself right on the edge of a cliff, shaking with nerves while a bunch of enthusiastic people urge you to jump. My heart was thumping ten to the dozen as I looked at the sea below. I sensed that the crowd were getting impatient and knew that I couldn’t hesitate any longer. I took a deep breath and went against instinct, doing the very thing my mind and body screamed at me not to do; I leaped off the cliff and fell feet first into the sea.
I had come to the village of Mathry in Pembrokeshire for an adrenaline weekend with Preseli Venture, which included a morning’s coasteering, an afternoon sea kayaking and finished up with a Sunday morning walk along the cliffs. Coasteering, for the uninitiated, means trying to get round the rugged and rocky coastline by any means possible, climbing, clambering, swimming and hurling oneself into the sea.
Even though I was equipped with a wetsuit for warmth and buoyancy, a buoyancy jacket and a helmet, my heart and brain were still convinced that this was a dangerous activity. The instructors persuaded me otherwise and coaxed me onwards as the group scrambled over the near vertical cliffs, waves lapping at our feet, or swam for our lives between the rocks, at the mercy of the sea. I started tentatively, walking on small rocks, poking up just above the water. They were covered in barnacles which were good for wet trainers to grip onto. By the end of the morning, I was throwing myself off the cliffs with the best of them. My fingers might have been cut to ribbons and wrinkled like an old walnut by then, but the rush of adrenaline overshadowed everything else.
Slightly less scary and rewarding in a different way was the afternoon’s sea kayaking excursion. This activity enabled me to get a different view of one of the most interesting and spectacular coastlines in the UK. Kayaking is quite a gratifying water sport in that, with relatively little effort and just a brief amount of training, you can get quite far out to sea.
It’s quite fun pootling around, riding the waves, and, in a sheltered bay, it can be quite a relaxed activity. In the right season, inquisitive seals pop their heads out of the water to say hello as you glide past. For those who are up for more strenuous and exciting kayaking, the centre runs full weekends where you can learn to surf the waves. The surfing wasn’t so much the problem; it was the stopping without falling out of the kayak that proved harder to master.
There are a whole host of different outdoor activities to get stuck into in this part of Wales. With so much sea around, it seems a pity not to spend any time on it – which is why kayaking, surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing are popular activities along the coastline. For those who want to experience life underwater there are even some scuba diving centres. Meanwhile, on shore there are plenty of excellent mountain bike trails and one of the UK’s finest coastal paths.
The team at Preseli Venture, who run the activity weekends, are enthusiastic and dedicated – many of them having worked at the centre for years. It’s excellently located, just a short walk from the pebbly, secluded beach of Aber Mawr, and the home-cooked food, included in the package, is excellent after a hard day’s activity.
However, Pembrokeshire deserves so much more than a weekend. The coastal path is long and deserves a long visit – or several short visits – to be fully appreciated. The small sections I’ve walked have provided breathtaking cliff views of large pyramid stacks and huge arches, sculpted by the waves, dotted out to sea. Pretty wildflowers along the sides of the paths add a splash of colour during the right season. The landscape varies throughout the coastal path, with lots of steep cliffs (perfect for leaping off!) and many picturesque secluded beaches and bays along the way. There are also plenty of small villages perfect for a pub lunch before continuing on your way.
Having experienced sea kayaking three times, coasteering once, and walked small sections of the coast a number of times, I’m looking forward to going back to Pembrokeshire, going scuba diving and taking a bicycle along to enjoy the cliffs and hills. It’s certainly one of my favourite parts of Wales and I know I’ll return there again and again.
Where to stay
For an inclusive adventure holiday break, book and stay at Preseli Lodge. You can stay at the lodge during the week or book onto one of the many different activity weekends.
There are so many activities around this section of the coast, it’s also possible to book a quality hotel or bed and breakfast and arrange activities yourself, or just rent a bicycle to cycle around. Recommended places to stay are The Manor Town House in Fishguard (you can hire a bike direct from here) and East Hook Farmhouse in Haverfordwest.