It feels like an age since we went to Prague. Since we touched down in the UK, it seems that we have endured a typical British summer with rain dominating the forecast. It dawned on me upon turning the page of the calendar and staring down September, that we were in desperate need of a break.
So, with summer fading fast, we thought we'd make the most of the week of sunshine September ushered in and hit the "Book It" button just three days in advance of last week's Monday to Friday getaway in Pembrokeshire.
As it turned out, the UK's unseasonably hot temperatures, culminated, for us, with a cheeky Thursday night Indian takeaway, enjoyed al fresco in our garden with our old friends Ade, Louisa and son Billy and a magical woodland rainbow wedding booking for me in the Cotswolds.
By Monday, the day of our departure, the weather forecast was promising business as usual for September. We packed with rain in mind.
Our destination? Wood Cottage, a Victorian cottage remotely nestled in woodland on the National Trust's Stackpole Estate. Explore Wood Cottage, Stackpole (woodcottage-stackpole.co.uk)
The cottage was built by the 2nd Earl of Cawdor from limestone quarried from one of Britain's smallest harbours, Stackpole Quay in 1862.
Stackpole Quay was top of our list of places to discover after unpacking and eating a hurried tea of ham and eggs (purchased from the top of the lane via an honesty box).
The weather was still holding up as we ventured out and temperatures hadn't dipped as much as we'd anticipated. From the cottage, we headed on foot through the woodland beyond the stream behind Wood Cottage and followed the footpath until we reached a lane. We took a left turn and headed up a steep hill until we had our first, long awaited glimpse of the sea.
The hedgerows were still alive with summer honeysuckle and the promise of a bountiful blackberry harvest this Autumn...
...and Linaria vulgaris (Yellow Toadflax or Butter-and-Eggs) illuminated the grass verges.
As an island dweller, I'm certain that I experience withdrawal symptoms if I haven't visited the sea for a while. My excitement mounted as we inched closer to the big blue accompanied by the unmistakable sound of gulls and the smell of ozone.
....and suddenly, land gave way to the sea. We had arrived at Stackpole Quay.
The interplay between the sinking sun, fluffy clouds and limestone rock created a pretty pink orange light. If solitude's your thing, this boat had found it.
Historically, Stackpole quay was used to bring in luxury goods for Stackpole Court, a home of the Campbells of Cawdor from Inverness, Scotland (and Macbeth fame) since 1698.
The Scottish flag is still periodically flown from the late 12th century tower of Stackpole St. Elidyr's Church, just a few steps from our holiday home's garden gate (more on that later).
We followed the craggy, sometimes distinctly angular rocky coastline...
...encountering evidence of humans, but very few of them.
Minus a car park, there are only two ways to reach Stackpole Quay; on foot or by boat.
Eventually, we spotted a sign for Barafundle Beach. With little indication of how far away we were from the beach and in spite of the looming sunset, we decided to press on, take the steps and go on a voyage of discovery.
After a five minute walk across the headland, we were rewarded with our first views of the bay.
The beach must have had numerous visitors that day (of the feathered variety judging by the footprints), but it was immaculate - no trace of litter anywhere.
After pausing a while to drink in the view and allow the sound of lapping waves to wash away any stresses and strains, we headed back to the cottage.
So first impressions? Woodland, seascapes and an old church on our doorstep.
Just our kind of UK getaway! You may recall last year's Welsh getaway in Rowen (read it here: Winter Peach Photography: Fiery Red Dragon ). Having a church within spitting distance is becoming the norm for us. As for woodland, our garden gate at home leads directly into woodland, so we feel quite at home living in the shadow of tall trees.
Except...somehow this was different. There was an empty house at the top of the lonely lane...
...and we were alone in the shadows and opposite an ancient church at the bottom, with bats for company and no mobile signal. Did I imagine that knocking sound...and why did I feel a little disconcerted when entering the downstairs bedroom? Stay tuned for more.