Looking for a long run with beauty, drama and a cliff top view? Try Pembrokeshire.
Written by Amy Curtis
I’ve never seen a puffin. A lot of people haven’t. But I always wanted to, so when I was invited on a weekend away in Pembrokeshire with some friends, Skomer Island, where puffins were nesting, was quite appealing. The trouble is though, I love running more than I love bird watching, so in the end I ditched the boat trip to see the puffins in favour of a coastal run. It was a good decision.
If you’re going to run along the coast anywhere, unless you have a kind friend who will drop you off and pick you up at the other end, you’re looking at a there-and-back route. We were hoping to get about 14 miles under our belts so I spent a little while examining the map, where the best views might be, where a notable place to turn back might be – the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is 186 miles long, so I ended up devising about eight different routes. In the end, to be sure the trip would go smoothly, I decided the most important element would be that we could park the car easily beforehand. Which takes us back to Skomer. As a National Trust attraction, there is a small car park and visitor centre – Lockley Lodge – for those who wish to take a boat across to the island, but they’re quite happy for anyone to use it to visit the area. You’ll need strong nerves to navigate the crazy-narrow roads that lead up to the carpark, plus £5 in cash as a parking fee – they don’t take cards (but we found a cashpoint in the village shop). Not only was this convenient for us, but we were able to tap the staff for information on the best place to start the run, and how to get straight to it.
From here we headed south towards the smaller Skokholm Island and beyond. It was a misty morning but this didn’t matter one bit – I can’t recommend this coastline enough for beauty, diversity and a good challenge. There were times we got a good pace up on a lovely soft grassy terrain, times we were faced with near-vertical climbs and even times when we decided to slow to a walk because we were concerned about toppling over the cliff. And all the while, the local wildlife was there to enjoy. The area is mostly birdlife (although we did come across some horses at one point), so we were treated to ravens and crows, gulls and other coastal birds, and one wheatear, which accompanied us along our way for a short while. We ran as far as St Anne’s Head, which took us to about 7 miles, and then we turned to start our way back – we had already earmarked a
small beach to eat our lunch on.
By now the misty morning had burnt away and we were running in full sun – unbelievable in May. Despite having put sun cream on that morning, we still got burnt, so I would advise taking extra on any coastal run you do. When we reached our lunch beach, I wasted no
time in pulling off my shoes and socks and sinking my feet into the crisp, cool water. This is one of the many rewards when you run along the coast, and it was well worth the steep climb down the cliff to reap it. And it’s for this reason I would recommend you also
pop a small towel into your pack – sandwich clingfilm did the job of
getting rid of the sand on my feet but it wasn’t ideal.
We were well over halfway by now, so took the last few miles slowly in order to really enjoy the scenery and the sight of Skomer Island sweeping back into view. By now, many more walkers and runners were on the trail, so we were glad we had started early, although still enjoyed the cheery hellos of fellow coast explorers.
Soon enough, we were back at the car park, with roughly 14 miles completed and a licence to enjoy a big lunch. And despite the beating sun, Skomer was still ensconced in mist so, even though I’d packed binoculars,
I’ve still never seen a puffin.