The Secret Waterway: Cleddau
Pembrokeshire might be famous for its coastline, but a hidden gem often overlooked is the Cleddau River.
A collection of ancient waterways stretching from the foothills of the Preseli hills down to the sea at Milford Haven, the Cleddau has its own unique beauty and charm and is a haven for wildlife with banks steeped in history and tradition.
The Four Rivers
The Cleddau is a sprawling network of waterways, made up of countless streams and rivers, that flow through many communities on its journey to the sea. There are four main branches to explore and, even without trying, you'll probably see or cross one of them during your stay.
The Eastern Cleddau
The branch closest to Bluestone is the Eastern Cleddau, which flows pass the resort through the Canaston Woods. The stream in the Nature Trail is part of this water network, and you can enjoy views of the river from the nearby Minwear Wood.
From Canaston the Cleddau flows down to the former mining community of Landshipping where it meets the Western Cleddau at Picton Point to form the Daugleddau, literally meaning "two Cleddau" in English. Now a great width it snakes passed Llangwm, down to Lawrenny - a sailing mecca, where it meets another two branches – the Carew and Cresswell rivers. From here it carries on toward Pembroke and Neyland and finally to Milford Haven where it meets the sea.
The Best Kept Secret?
The Cleddau is often referred to as the "secret waterway". Unlike the open cliffsides of the coast, the Cleddau is pinned in by high, steeped wooded banks with only a few access ways to the water, making it relatively hard to get to whether you're on foot or in a vehicle.
The only bridge connecting the two sides of the county is close to the mouth of the river at Milford Have, between Pembroke Dock and Neyland, which leaves the rest of the river largely undisturbed.
Not that anyone's complaining, it's helped create a tranquil oasis where wildlife and nature have thrived in a rich and diverse landscape.
Most of the riverbank is part of the Pembrokeshire National Park and with Special Areas of Conservation that are home to a large variety of wildlife, from otters to herons and migratory birds. You can also spot seals bobbing up out of the water and a bevy of swans that live at Garron Pill near Lawrenny.
Things To Do
Out On The Water
Tucked away from the rest of the world, the best way to enjoy the Cleddau estuary and its many creeks and backwaters are by getting out on the river itself. Whether sailing, on a boat tour or under your own steam in a kayak or paddleboard, it's the only way to really appreciate the beauty of the river and to explore its many twists and turns along the way.
You can enter the river at a range of locations with pontoons and slips at Pembroke, Burton, Neyland, Lawrenny, and Llangwm. While the river is much calmer than the coastline, it's tidal, with strong currents that may take you by surprise.
If you want to keep your feet firmly on the ground, then try a walk along its banks and shores. There are several to choose from including Lawrenny, where you can enjoy views of Benton Castle as you stroll through its woodland.
If you fancy combining your walk with some history, head to Carew where the river flows into a millpond overlooked by its beautiful castle. There are several different walks around this stretch of the river, including down to West Williamston where, in July and August, you may get a glimpse of the rare brown hairstreak butterfly.
The Cleddau hasn't always been a peaceful place and is littered with reminders from the past. The medieval strongholds, Carew and Pembroke Castles, sit on water linked to the river and there's evidence that Vikings settled along the banks at Llangwm. The castles are open to visitors all year and offer incredible views out over the estuary.
Down The Quay
If you want picture perfect moments to enjoy along the river, you're spoilt for choice. Take a picnic and your camera, or just enjoy the moment together. Burton, Llangwm, and Hook offer beautiful views out over the estuary on the eastern side or, for something a little closer to Bluestone's head to Cresswell Quay.
A quaint quayside where you'll find a traditional pub, the romantic ruin of Cresswell Castle, and at low tide, stepping stones across the river to walks along the marshland.
Cross to the otherside of the bridge and life gets a little becomes more fast-paced. One of the deepest natural harbours in the world, Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven have been important shipping docks for centuries, and are still busy today with vessells of all sizes arriving in the harbour.
It's not all for business though, Neyland, Milford Haven, and Dale are all centres for sailing and are at the perfect spot to access both the calm waters of the Cleddau and the coast.