Day 11. Carmarthen to Pembroke. 64km. 1000m climbing.

Carmarthen did not have much to offer – another town blighted by concrete shopping streets and a museum closed for renovations. It did have a very good Indian restaurant (Cinnamon) – they were impressed that we almost literally licked our plates clean the evening before.  We were hungrier than we thought.

The morning dawned with clear skies and sunshine so we were off by 8.30am. One challenge, as a cyclist in Wales and in other places with awkward topography, is that sometimes there just aren’t many roads going in the direction you want. In order to skirt round to the Tenby peninsular the only option out of Carmarthen was the main A40. Luckily it started off with a good bike path alongside the road; so it was noisy but ok.  After a short stretch of side road away from the dual carriageway we had to loop back onto the A40 – this time no bike path. We had a pretty terrifying few km on the busy dual carriageway when luckily a bike path of sorts re-emerged.  A rather bumpy path but separated from the main carriageway by a grass verge! We arrived at St Clear’s unscathed and turned off the dual carriageway with relief.

We could now enjoy the sunshine and lovely scenery on very quiet roads. We had a long slow climb up a valley by a bubbling brook through beautiful woodland listening to lovely birdsong  (the road was good but empty) – such a change from the roar of traffic.

As if by magic, at around mid morning coffee time we stopped at the National Trust Colby Woodland Garden, but only after we had persuaded ourselves to go down an 18% hill. It was not so much going down the hill that causes us to hesitate but the inevitable climb back out of the valley. But we overcame our doubts and it was the right decision.

This tranquil, steep sided valley was the site of a coal mine in the 1790’s but was transformed in 1870 when a pharmacist Samuel Kay acquired the land and started to plant a garden. Over the last 150 years, the planting continued and so it has developed into a wonderful area of woodland, wildflower meadow and magnificent walled garden. It was warm and sunny and we could at last believe we were in May.  The colours were fabulous and the place felt very serene as we strolled around.

The walled garden was inspiring – perhaps we can create one at Hitterhill one day (first build walls).

Walled garden

All this was topped off by a superb National Trust tea room!  Becoming a connoisseur of coffee and cake, it was difficult to rank todays Bakewell tart with yesterday’s rhubarb and orange cake at the Welsh Rarebit bakery as both were equally delicious.

Suitably fortified and rested we continued on and battled our way our of the valley and were soon at pretty seaside villages Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot then on to Tenby.  Unfortunately each of these settlements were separated by steep headlands so we were back to “powering” up 15% hills. I don’t know what was in that Bakewell tart but it seemed to do the trick at getting me up the hills! However we drew the line at what seemed like 20% and got off to push. There is no shame in pushing and it avoids older folks like us suffering injuries!

We swooped down into Tenby and had a picnic overlooking the expanse of sand and harbour at North Beach (tide was out so no water in the harbour). 

Tenby Harbour at low tide

On the next door bench were another couple of cyclists so as usual we started chatting. It then transpired that one of them was in a wheelchair and had an amazing ‘hand cycle’ that he clipped onto the wheelchair and that he operated with his arms.  There was a power assist battery but getting up and down these steep hills was amazing.  People sometimes say we are inspiring but this guy was something else.

Our last section of the day was along a lovely ridge to Pembroke (14% hill out of Tenby first of course). Just as it started to cloud up a little we arrived and eventually found our AirBnB after cycling past it three times as it was strategically hidden by scaffolding! The flat is above a bakery (we have been promised wonderful smells from 6am) in a lovely old building that is in a state of renovation. It even had a bath – what bliss!  We will be very comfortable here for our day of for rest and recovery tomorrow.

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