Newgale, Pembrokeshire

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Newgale

I first visited Newgale somewhere around 1973, with my mum and dad and two siblings, all crammed into a Ford Cortina, including all the paraphernalia for camping, for the six hour drive from Buckinghamshire to the awesome Pembrokeshire coast.  I can even remember the road from Haverfordwest towards the end of the journey.  Just as you went over the brow of the hill you got your first glimpse of the sea glittering in front of you (if the weather was nice) and Newgale campsite just across the road.  We all shouted “yay, let’s stay here”.  Dad pulled the car into the site and booked us in.  My memory is a little hazy but I think there was a wooden hut, a bit like a garden shed, you pulled up, paid your money and pitched where you liked.

Out came us three kids, one tent made of cotton canvas with a bag of metal poles,  loungers for mum and dad to sleep on and a calor gas stove.  I’m not sure if it was our first trip to Newgale that mum left all the pots and pans, plates and cutlery on the road outside our house, maybe it wasn’t, maybe that was the time we went camping in Dorset.

We had some great camping holidays at Newgale.  The sort that are kind of legendary, perfect weather, happy times, surfing, tanned skin.

The day we arrived we’d have fish and chips from the café just along the coast road and from then on it would be every meal cooked on the 2-ring stove.  Meat, vegetables and potatoes all out of a tin – really??  Boiled eggs for breakfast and cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch covered in a light dusting of sand.

There was nothing else at Newgale really.  There was a pub and a small shop selling papers, cigarettes and milk.  It didn’t need anything else, to me it was just perfect.  Rushing in and out of the sea with its foamy white breakers, making sandcastles, playing beach tennis, skimming stones.  The days stretched on, the sun kept shining.  We’d stay at Newgale for the whole two weeks if it was sunny.  If the weather broke we’d move on up the coast to explore Cader Idris and Snowdonia before beginning the long drive back home.

Newgale is THE place of my childhood holidays.  We went to other beaches, camped on different coasts but none of them hold that special place in my memory.  Newgale was awesome.

I’d never had a hankering to return but when we decided to spend some of our summer holiday in Wales, a visit to Newgale somehow seemed right – 35 years since my last visit.  We decided that whatever the weather we’d stay a week and now I’ve had my little bit of reminiscing, here’s how it went.

Newgale 2014

Newgale sits between Haverfordwest and St David’s on the wild Pembrokeshire coast.  We stopped in Haverfordwest for groceries and fully stocked, started on the last leg of the journey. I began to feel a little apprehensive.  What if my childhood love of Newgale was somehow a bit disappointing.  Has anyone else noticed that as you get older things you remember from childhood seem just a bit smaller, not so exciting.  I knew when we were approaching the brow of that hill, a minute more and it would be there, Newgale, sitting right on St Bride’s Bay.  The sun was out,  I was hoping it still glittered….  It did.

The booking office is a cute little caravan now, not a garden shed, but you still just pay your money and pitch wherever you like.  I was a bit surprised it was so quiet.  I remember the site being busy and full of tents.  Was that a bad omen?  We’d arrived on a Monday, by Wednesday it was busier and by Friday it was pretty full.

Newgale hasn’t changed much.  It certainly hasn’t been over-developed.  The pub is still there, The Duke of Edinburgh, which serves simple food in large portions, just right after a hard day on the beach.  The bar is modern and it has lots of outside seating.  They also have three bed and breakfast rooms.

Next door is the first of two surf schools, Newsurf which offers surf, stand-up paddle board and kyak lessons and hire.  It also has a good shop with beach clothes, games and boards and a small grocery section stocking all those things you always forget to bring.  Further along the road is the second surf school, Big Blue Experience which is located above a lawnmower shop, yes that’s right, so doesn’t have quite such a good location, and next door is the Sands Café.  The cafe always busy but it didn’t quite entice me in, maybe they should clean their windows then I might have been tempted.

If you head along the beach in the opposite direction you come to Pebbles café and Matthew Baker Caravans.  It’s worth the walk to the southern end of the beach for some great rockpooling at low tide.

On the steep and winding road out of Newgale towards St David’s there’s a path up to the left leading onto the coast path which heads off towards Solva about 5 miles away.  If 5 miles seems a bit strenuous then just go over the first hill where there’s a path leading down to a pebbly cove which is great for a picnic and a swim.

Newgale is great in the sunny weather.  I was in the sea twice each day swimming and jumping the waves.  I wasn’t disappointed on my return.  It is what it is, a fabulous 2 mile stretch of sandy beach on the edge of the road and it’s still my favourite place on a hot and sunny day.

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August 14, 2014 |

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