Marloes Peninsula coastal walk
Explore this beautiful heathland peninsula, which has amazing views over the Pembrokeshire coast and is teeming with wildlife, such as seals, seabirds and porpoises.
Marloes Sands car park, grid ref: SM789082
From the south end of Marloes Sands car park turn right by the emergency phone, following signs to YHA and toilets. A short distance past the toilets, take a path to the left through a self-closing gate signposted to the beach. At the next self-closing gate the islands of Skokholm and Gateholm come into view.
This popular beach is covered at high tide. Gateholm Island, to your right, is a prehistoric settlement only reachable at low tide.
On reaching the coast path you'll see Marloes Sands to your left. Turn right, however, and continue towards Gateholm Island. As you come level with Gateholm, Skokholm is ahead of you with Skomer coming into view on the right. Just before the earth ramparts of the Iron Age coastal fort, a fingerpost points back towards Marloes Mere and the youth hostel. This makes an alternative short walk of 1.8 miles (2.9km). The earth ramparts you may come across on this walk protected the occupants from land attacks. The fort marked on the map has long since been lost to the sea. The deer park was also once defended by a large Iron Age fort.
The deer park
There were never deer in deer park but it's an important Iron Age fort, as well as an exciting coastal landscape. It's the best place to spot baby seals in late summer.
Continue along the coast path and through the Iron Age fort; enjoy the dramatic sedimentary rock formations along the coast. Skomer Island and Midland Isle gradually come into view. Grassholm, white with gannets in summer, can be seen on the horizon from the Iron Age fort.
Razorbill is just one example of the many seabirds you can spot on the peninsula. Guillemots, puffins and razorbills breed in huge colonies on Skomer and Grassholm is one of the largest gannetries in the world. Wooltack Point is a good vantage point for watching seabirds fishing during the spring and summer. This area is also a very popular breeding ground for the distinctive chough (with its red legs and beak), which can be seen all year round.
At a footbridge, shortly before a white cottage, take the left fork towards more Iron Age ramparts and follow the path round the coastline of the deer park. The treacherous waters of Jack Sound lie between the deer park and Midland Isle, while Wooltack Point offers spectacular views across St Bride's Bay. There are wonderful panoramic views from the former Coastguard Hut, which is now used by the National Coastwatch Institute. Take time to explore the deer park and, when you're ready, leave by the path down through the ramparts and through the gate.
About 50 Atlantic grey seal pups are born each year on the beaches around the peninsula, making the cliffs above the beaches on the deer park excellent for cliff-top seal watching. Seal pups can be spotted on the small beaches at the west end of the deer park in late summer and Jack Sound is a popular haunt for porpoises.
Turn left towards Martin's Haven and the Skomer embarkation point. Just before the beach follow the coast path right and up the steps. The path continues east, with St Bride's Bay to the left and West Hook Farm to the right. Enjoy the magnificent views across St Bride's Bay towards Newgale, the Solva Coast, St David's Peninsula and Ramsey Island.
Welsh mountain ponies
Look out for Welsh mountain ponies on the deer park. Their grazing is essential for keeping the coastal heathland vegetation in good order. Heathland plants, such as heather and gorse, need nutrient-poor acidic soils to grow, however, modern farming practices have increased soil fertility by applying lime, manure and fertiliser. Trehill Farm is part of an important experiment to provide more favourable soil for heathland by stripping topsoil and speeding up re-acidification by adding sulphur, a by-product of the oil refinery at Pembroke.
After just over a mile (1.6km), leave the coast path, turning right through a self-closing gate and a West Hook Farm National Trust omega sign then cross three fields to the road.
The geology of the peninsula presents strong contrasts: the south side is made up of sedimentary sandstones; the north side, deer park and Skomer are igneous rocks, which are the remains of old volcanoes.
Turn left and walk along road past Trehill Farm. Just over 430yd (400m) past the farm, turn right by two semi-detached cottages and down the track leading back to the car park. (Just over 100yd (100m) past the turning, a track to the right leads to another hide overlooking Marloes Mere.)
Marloes Sands car park, grid ref: SM789082
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