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Freshwater West is one of the top beaches in West Wales, found near Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. At almost 1 mile long, it’s an enormous beach and is quite wide too. It’s backed by sand dunes
The beach is popular with surfers due to strong waves and it’s also home to Dobby’s grave, a shrine to the Harry Potter character whose death was filmed on the beach.
I recently visited myself and have put together this beach guide to answer any questions you might have.
How To Get There
By Car: Freshwater West is easily accessible by car, head to the village of Castlemartin and follow the signposts. Alternatively, you can come through the village of Newton. The closest postcode is SA71 5HW.
Where to Park? There are two car parks at Freshwater West, both of which are free. There is also plenty of additional space to park along the side of the road.
By Public Transport: There is a public bus to Freshwater West called the Pembrokeshire Coastal Cruiser (services number 387 and 388). This runs from Pembroke Dock to Freshwater East and stops outside the main car park at Freshwater West. Find the latest timetables here.
About the Beach
|Managed By||National Trust|
|Lifeguard||Yes, there are seasonal RNLI lifeguards at Freshwater West beach. They operate between 10am-6pm between June and September. Find out more and the exact dates here.|
|Blue Flag Award||No|
|Water Quality||According to Natural Resources Wales, this beach has the maximum 3-star quality rating which means the water is excellent. Find out more here.|
|Other Notes||– No camping or BBQs allowed on the beach. |
– Look out for strong RIP currents (mostly applies to surfers)
Are There Toilets at Freshwater West?
Yes, there are free public toilets at Freshwater West. Although a little run down, during my visit they appeared to be regularly cleaned with working locks on the toilet doors and good availability of toilet roll and hand soap. I’d rate them 3/5. However, I did not come across a disabled toilet.
Are Dogs Allowed on Freshwater West?
Yes, dogs are allowed on Freshwater West beach year-round.
Is Freshwater West Accessible?
No, accessibility at Freshwater West is poor because the car parks are quite uneven and there is a steep sandy slope down to the beach.
What Other Facilities Are There?
Facilities at Freshwater West include toilets and recycling bins. There is usually a food truck in the car park selling snacks and hot drinks as well as a truck offering surf and paddle board hire.
The food truck is put out to tender each year so it can change. During my visit, it was run by GTBAL, a social company that provides free mental health services to Pembrokeshire funded by coffee sales.
Things To Do at Freshwater West
Of course, you’re going to want to spend time relaxing on this golden sandy beach, but when you want to be a little more active, here are some of the best activities at Freshwater West:
1. Go Surfing
Freshwater West is a great place to surf because it picks up strong Atlantic swells which provide consistent and strong waves.
Surfers generally surfers occupy the South section of the beach (to your left when facing the sea). If you’re a beginner, you can learn to surf at Freshwater West with Outer Reef Pembrokeshire who run group lessons here most days costing £40 for a 2 hour session.
If you already know how to surf, you can hit the waves with your own board or hire one from the truck in the car park which is there most days during peak season. The costs were £20 for 2 hours or £40 for the full day.
2. Visit Dobby’s Grave
Freshwater West has been used as a filming location for many movies but most notably Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2.
In Harry Potter, the location was used to film shell cottage (which was erected for the film and doesn’t really exist) and it is where Dobby the house elf died and was buried.
Today, a large shrine to Dobby can be found in the dunes at the rear of the beach. See my guide to finding Dobby’s grave to get the exact location.
3. Check Out the Freshwater West Wildlife Walk
National Trust, who manage the beach, have put together a scenic circular wildlife walk that takes you around the dunes and farmland behind Freshwater West.
The 1.5-mile route is easy and family-friendly (although no dogs) and takes around 30 minutes to complete. Expect to see dunes, wildflowers, waterfowl, and stunning sea views.
Find out more and get the route here.
4. Hunt for Crabs in the Rockpools
At the southern end of the beach, there are lots of rockpools which are perfect for spotting fish, crabs, and other marine life.
Keep in mind that there is no shop at the beach, so you’ll want to be prepared and take buckets and spades with you if you want to catch some crabs (letting them go again after of course!).
5. Walk the Wales Coastal Path to Angle
If the short 30-minute wildlife walk didn’t quite hit the spot, try walking along the Wales Coastal Path which runs right alongside the beach.
Since much of the area to the east of Freshwater West is restricted for military use, a better option is to walk west to Angle. The total distance is about 9 miles (around 14.5km).
Highlights on this route:
- Chough – You can expect to spot rare wildlife along this walk including the chough.
- East Blockhouse – An abandoned Elizabethan Fort on the cliff where air defences and a Radar station would have been until the late 1990s (grid reference: SM84210274).
- Sheep Island Fort – This Iron Age settlement is one of more than 50 sites to be discovered in this area (grid reference: SM84580182)
Find out more information here.
6. Look Out For the Seaweed Hut
This is just a bonus activity at Freshwater West, you can look out for the seaweed hut. Local women from Angle used to pick seaweed and would leave it to dry on the floor in this small hut for a week before sending it off to other parts of South Wales such as Swansea where it would be turned into Laverbread, a Welsh delicacy.
Tide Times at Freshwater West
Freshwater West is a wide beach that can be enjoyed at high or low tide.
You can get the latest tide times here.
How Long is Freshwater West?
The beach at Freshwater West beach is about 0.75 miles (1.2km) long.
Is Freshwater West Safe for Swimming?
Yes, Freshwater West has a 3-star water quality rating according to Natural Resources Wales, so it’s safe for swimming and it has seasonal RNLI lifeguards. However, the currents here are strong so don’t venture outside of the marked areas.
What Has Been Filmed at Freshwater West?
Freshwater West has been used as a filming location for Robin Hood (2010) starring Russell Crowe, the final two Harry Potter films, The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and Their Finest (2015). It has also been used in the BBC Dr Who spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Is The Shell House Still at Freshwater West?
No, the shell house at Freshwater West seen in the two Harry Potter movies does not really exist. It was temporarily built during production and taken down again after.
Is Freshwater West Good for Kayaking or Paddleboarding?
No, Freshwater West is not the best beach in Pembrokeshire for paddleboarding or kayaking due to the strong waves and rip currents. A better option is nearby Broadhaven South which has smaller waves.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.