Stackpole Estate is located between the villages of Stackpole(Ystangbwll) and Bosherston near Pembroke, Pembrokeshire. It lies within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is owned and maintained by the National Trust. The property consists of 12 square kilometres (4.6 sq miles) of farmland, lakes, woodland, beaches, and cliffs. It lies in the community of Stackpole and Castlemartin.
The estate has no visible boundary and is accessible to visitors all year round. However the National Trust does charge for car parking at Lodge Park ( Stackpole Court site) (with 2pm onwards reduction), Stackpole Quay, Bosherston and Broad Haven South beach from spring through to October.
The 100 acres (0.40 km2) of lakes, which are today known as the Lily Ponds, were created by the damming of the three narrow limestone valleys in 1780 and 1860 by the earls of Cawdor, then owners of the Stackpole estate. The estate once centred on an elegant baronial mansion, Stackpole Court, built just outside Stackpole. However, during the English Civil War, the Lort family, who owned the estate from 1611 to 1698, took the side of the King, and the house was besieged by Parliamentarians, to whom they eventually surrendered.
When Sir Gilbert Lort died in 1698 the estate passed to his sister Elizabeth who had married Sir Alexander Campbell, Thane of Cawdor, in 1689. She outlived her husband, and on her death in 1714 the estate passed to her son John Campbell. A new mansion constructed of limestone was built in later years with extensive gardens, greenhouses and fine collections of plants.
Unfortunately much of the Stackpole Estate farmland was requisitioned at the start of World War II to create a training ground for British troops. Castlemartin range still occupies this land. This made the estate unviable and The Cawdors returned to their Scottish estate in Nairnshire in the early 1940s. Crippling taxes on the empty mansion meant it was demolished in 1963, leaving behind the estate's outbuildings, parkland and beaches which are looked after by the National Trust and enjoyed by the public today.
The Stackpole Estate contains the unspoilt beaches of Barafundle Bay and Broad Haven South, the 100 acres (0.40 km2) of lily ponds are home to otters, fish, swans, ducks and many other wildlife species. From the cliff tops and beaches, bottlenose dolphins and basking sharks can sometimes be seen along with many different varieties of sea birds such as kittiwakes. Also keep an eye out for Chough, crow like, they have a red beak and red legs and distinctive "fingered wing".
Stackpole itself is a village located 4.2 miles (6.8 km) south of Pembroke in the community of Stackpole and Castlemartin and has a population of around 200. It has its own voluntary controlled primary school for children aged 4 to 11. The school was constructed in the late nineteenth century.
Stackpole village was moved from its original medieval site in 1735 to accommodate the growing Stackpole Estate. However, present day Stackpole is considerably larger than it was then. Stackpole has a public house, The Stackpole Inn, which occupies the former village Post Office, a building of sixteenth-century origin. The village is surrounded on all sides by woodland and arable farmland.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the village expanded with modern homes built at the edge of Deer Park and around the school. Just outside the village there is the Stackpole Outdoor Learning Centre which is a multi-purpose venue run by the National Trust with a theatre, licensed bar and conference facilities. It is immediately adjacent to the Lily Ponds and the Eight-Arch Bridge and occupies a remarkably tranquil part of the estate near Home Farm and less than a mile (1.6 km) walk from Broad Haven South beach.
Stackpole Elidor Church in Stackpole Elidor, is dedicated to St. James and St Elidyr, and goes back to the thirteenth century. It lies at the bottom of a quiet wooded valley with just three small cottages and the rectory in the immediate vicinity. The layout of the church is in the traditional cruciform shape, aligned East to West, with a chancel and nave flanked by two transepts. The tall, slender tower is undoubtedly the oldest part of the present structure, dating back probably to the thirteenth or late twelfth century. It is of the typical South Pembrokeshire form.
It appears that by 1851 the state of the fabric of the church made a complete restoration essential, although the building had been carefully maintained until only a few years before. Richard Fenton, in his Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire published in 1810, quotes from a letter written by Stephen Davies, Canon of St. Davids Cathedral, to the antiquary Browne Willis: “ Here I cannot forbear mentioning the generous beneficence of that worthy gentleman, John Campbell Esquire, to the parishes of St. Petrook, Cheriton or Stackpool Elidur and Bosherston on his first coming to the possession of his estate, being about the age of twenty. He waiscotted the three chancels, and otherwise adorned them in a very decent and handsome manner, made new rails about the altar, bestowed new cushions and pulpit cloths and a new set of Communion plate to each. ”
In 1807 the church wardens stated that the Church was in good repair, but by 1828 they declared that the fabric, though in good repair, was very damp, and by 1848 it was recorded that "not one casement opens". In 1851 John Frederick Campbell, 1st Earl Cawdor, engaged Sir George Gilbert Scott, the most respected English church architect of the day, to direct the work of restoration. He employed a Cardiff builder, WP James, and the work cost a total of "£1,804 7s 2½d".
The result, it is generally agreed, is the typical sound, workmanlike building that Scott produced in his renovations, with a typical tall, narrow chancel arch, colourful Minton tiles on the chancel floor and sanctuary walls, and the typical Middle English or Decorated style of tracery in the main windows. The transepts retain their fourteenth century vaulting, and the Lort chapel its rib vaulting. There were originally matching hagioscopes on each side of the chancel arch, though the north squint was later blocked by the organ installed in 1874. In the south transept there is a small piscina, probably of the fourteenth century, which indicates there was probably a side altar there at the time.
If the Stackpole Estate was formed by man, the beaches and coastline surrounding it have most definitely been shaped by nature. Wild, rugged and windswept, Stackpole’s coast is the jewel of Pembrokeshire. Special places such as Barafundle Bay, Broadhaven South and Freshwater West have become famous for their picture-postcard beauty and their unbeatable locations. Whatever the weather’s doing the coastline and beaches are great to visit. It’s enormously atmospheric when surging waves crash against the cliffs or when the sea mist rolls in, engulfing the coastline. Not even the rain can dampen the spirits at Stackpole!
Outside of peak holiday times, you’ll often have these wonderful places all to yourself. Standing on the solitary promontory of Stackpole Head it’s easy to imagine you’re the only person in the world. This is the stuff of which romantic novels are made.
Barafundle Bay has its fair share of romantic charm with its secluded location. Only accessible on foot, it has the air of an undiscovered gem. Nearby Broadhaven South is a great family-friendly beach, close to its adjacent car park whilst Freshwater West has become synonymous with a surfers paradise. Its dramatic and rugged landscape makes it one of the best beaches to visit all year round. It’s a little further from Stackpole but well worth jumping in the car to get to.
Apart from Freshwater West, most of the famous beauty spots at Stackpole are easy to get to on foot. Barafundle, Broadhaven South, Stackpole Head and Mowingword are all within easy reach of the Boathouse Tea-room and the Bosherston Lakes.
From the Boathouse Tea-room, you could enjoy a leisurely walk along the coast path around Stackpole Quay and then move on to the secluded Barafundle Bay. Alternatively, you could ramble cross-country to Stackpole Warren and reach Broadhaven South beach. From there it’s an easy stroll across the grassy bridge to Bosherston Lakes.
Bosherston Lily Ponds - Freshwater magic walk
An easy walk around Bosherston's beautiful lily ponds, with options to explore the dunes and pools of the Mere Pool Valley behind Broadhaven beach. The walk is mostly along even gravel paths with two narrow causeways. This walk is rich in wildlife all year round. This walk is classified as easy, is about one mile and takes approximately 30 minutes. It is classified as dog friendly.
From the car park turn left and follow the path to the lake. Turn left. Cross the western arm of the lake by the Bosherston causeway. The waterlilies are at their best in June and July, but the lakes and lakeside woodlands are full of wildlife all year round. In early summer there are hundreds of waterlilies in flower on the lake.
Follow the path up to the limestone bluff. Look down into the clear water to see the billowing green mats of rare stonewort, and if you're lucky a pike waiting in ambush. A path through the bushes to your left leads up to the Fishpond Camp, an old coastal fort built 3,000 years ago when the lakes were a tidal inlet. Continue down to the central causeway and cross it. From April to September look for dragonflies and damselflies, with swallows and house martins skimming overhead. In winter look out for goldeneye - diving ducks which spend the winter on the central arm of the lakes.
Turn right at the next junction and descend to the Grassy Bridge. When the lakes were first created in the 1780s this was the barrier between lake and sea - the final dam wasn't built until 1860. When there is a very high tide the sea water is higher than the lakes behind the dam. Continue towards the sea. In winter you may be lucky enough to see (and hear) a bittern. Listen out too for the pig-like squeals of water rails, secretive water birds that live in the reeds.
In summer the reedbed on your right is full of chattering reed warblers and sedge warblers. Cross over the lake outlet by a narrow stone bridge (take care in flip-flops) and continue right up the lakeside path towards Bosherton. You can also continue onto the beach, bearing right to explore the wildlife of the Mere Pool Valley. This is a great place to see dragon and damselflies. Return to the car park by the western arm path, stopping often to enjoy the wildlife. You may even see an otter.
This walk takes in some of the finest wildlife habitats in Pembrokeshire: limestone cliffs with breeding seabirds, beaches, dunes and freshwater lakes. It is classified as dog friendly and moderate. This is a long walk, lasting around 4 hours it is 6 miles long but you can look forward to refreshments at the end.
From Stackpole Quay car park, follow the coast path to Barafundle. Pause at the top of the steps to look down on Stackpole Quay, and at the change from limestone to old Red sandstone to your left. When you reach Barafundle, go down the steps to the sands. Cross the beach, and climb the steps through the woodland on the far side. Follow the coast path towards Stackpole Head, pausing on your way to admire Lattice Windows, the natural stone arches below you. On Stackpole Head in spring and summer look for breeding seabirds on the ledges.
Stackpole head. This headland and arch - which you reach in section 3 of the walk - mark the most spectacular point along the coastline. The ledges are packed with guillemots in early summer. One day the arch will collapse, leaving an offshore stack. Continue along the coast path, with the expanse of Stackpole Warrens grassland on your right. In spring and summer this is rich in wildflowers and butterflies.
Several possible routes take you down to the shore of the Bosherston Lakes. Aim for the lake outlet at the back of Broadhaven Beach. The narrow fringing reedbed is a great place for birdwatching breeding birds in summer, bitterns and water rails in winter. Cross the tiny stone bridge over the spillway and follow the Western Arm path towards Bosherston. You can pause in Bosherston for refreshments; otherwise, stay on the path.
Cross the Bosherston Causeway, climb over the limestone bluff and cross the Central Causeway. These are the famous lily ponds. Look for water lilies from June to September. Follow the path down to the Grassy Bridge.Bosherton Lily Ponds. These shallow lakes are famous for their water lilies in summer, but important for their beds of rare stonewort below the surface. Twenty four species of dragonfly have been recorded at Stackpole.These man-made lakes were created as part of Stackpole Court's designed landscape. Don't cross the Grassy Bridge, but turn left and follow the Eastern Arm footpath up to the Eight Arch Bridge.
The Eight Arch Bridge was built in 1797 to connect the Court to Stackpole Quay. You can see the terrace of the former Stackpole Court further up the lake; walk there if you've time. The bridge is the best place to look for otters. Cross the Eight Arch Bridge, and follow the Deer Park track back to Stackpole Quay. Finish your walk at the Boathouse Tea-room with some well-deserved refreshments.
A chance to explore the amazing landscape and parkland designed by the Cawdor family as a backdrop to their grand house, Stackpole Court, which was demolished in 1963. This walk is classified as Easy, lasts about 30 minutes and covers just over one mile. It is a dog friendly walk.
Cross the One Arch Bridge from the Stackpole road and park near the turning circle. Walk across the green area in front of you to the terrace to enjoy the spectacular view down to the lake. You can see the Eight Arch Bridge, and the Deer Park on the other side of the lake (though there have been no deer here since the First World War). From the terrace you'll have a wonderful view towards the Eight Arch Bridge lake.
Retrace your steps and enter Lodge Park. A network of footpaths means you can choose your own route, but look for the main landmarks as you wander round. First is the summer house, which would have been visible through the trees from the Court. The summer house was built as a landscape feature, an eye-catcher from the Court. Enter the walled flower garden by one of the gaps in the wall. This area was planted with flower beds until the First World War. Look out for the stone seat. Can you find the ginko trees nearby?
You'll find the ice house on the outer perimeter of the wood. This is a deep (14 feet/14.3 metres) stone-lined shaft which would have been stuffed with layers of straw and packed with ice for preserving food. Today it's used by bats. From the Court site a steep flight of steps descends to the Hidden Bridge. This spill-over weir and causeway was designed so that anyone watching from the One Arch Bridge would see people crossing this causeway apparently walking on water.
Hidden Bridge. The design of this bridge makes it look from a distance as if people crossing it are walking on water. You can leave Lodge Park at this point to visit the walled garden. These immense walled gardens were once used to grow fruit and vegetables for Stackpole Court (and for the Cawdor's homes in London and Scotland). Today it is run by Mencap who grow food for sale. They'll welcome your visit and you might go home with some fresh Stackpole produce. Return to the car park by whichever paths you haven't explored.
Toilets are at Stackpole Quay car park, Broadhaven South car park, Bosherston Lily Ponds car park, Freshwater West car park and Courtsite exhibition centre.
Parking - Bosherston Lily ponds OS: SR 967948, manned, pay & display, £5 per day, £2 after 2pm (NT members free); Stackpole Quay, OS: SR 992958, manned, £5 per day, £2 after 2pm (NT members free); Broadhaven South, OS: SR 976937, manned £5 per day, £2 after 2pm (NT members free); Lodge Park, OS: SR 977962, manned £5 per day, £2 after 2pm (NT members free). Please note the car parks are unsuitable for coaches due to narrow lanes - coach parking is available at Stackpole Centre by prior arrangement.
The Boathouse Tea-room at Stackpole Quay has traditional Pembrokeshire fare. Picnic areas - enjoy a picnic at Barafundle and Broadhaven South beaches or at the Courtsite. Group, family and schools accommodation is on offer at the Stackpole Centre. Dogs - due to livestock grazing, dogs should be kept on leads when walking around Stackpole Warren, the coastal grassland between Barafundle and Broadhaven South and around the Bosherston lakes. Exhibition centre, refreshments and toilets at the Courtsite.
Mobility parking - accessible parking bays at Stackpole Quay, Broadhaven South and at the Stackpole Centre. There are Mobility toilets at Stackpole Quay, Bosherston and Broadhaven South car parks.
Pathways - lakeside path of hard fine gravel links the Bosherston lakes near the Stackpole Centre to Broadhaven South beach. A tarmac trail with a 1:12 gradient links Eight Arch Bridge to the Stackpole Centre and a long 1:15 gradient path links the Stackpole Centre to Stackpole Court. The pathways are only suitable for off-road wheelchairs and all terrain pushchairs. Please note the paths are narrow in sections and unsuitable for twin pushchairs.
Boat House- there is an adapted bird hide near Eight Arch Bridge, accessible from the lakeside path. There is also an accessible woodland hide which can be reached from the boardwalk in Caroline Grove.
Location : Old Home Farm Yard, Pembroke SA71 5DQ
Transport : Pembroke (National Rail) then bus 6 miles. Bus Routes : Pembroke train station to Angle.
Opening Times : Daily, Dawn till Dusk
Tickets : Free.
Tel : 01646 661359