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Cruising Guide to Milford Haven

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04 December 2015

Best known for its giant oil refineries, Milford Haven is in fact a deep and peaceful estuary, writes Alan Pritchard.

It is both a commercial port (mainly oil and gas, but also fishing) and a centre for sailing. As a refuge it is superb, being all-weather and all-tide accessible. The nearest similar boltholes are Holyhead, Cork and Newlyn.

Landfall is simple, as its refinery towers can usually be seen from 20 miles, and more at night. Excellent, simple buoyage leads into the main fairway using two big ship entrance channels (East and West) with safe side margins for leisure craft.

The Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) and Liquid Natural Gas ships (LNGs) require special care: there is an exclusion zone between an escorting pilot boat at front and a tug aft, plus a controlled zone o
ne mile beyond at either end. Contact the pilot if you want to cross that zone.

The Haven begins at the ‘Heads’ as a wide northeast-heading passage with cliff walls and several historical fortifications, turning roughly east and leading to the farmland bays of Dale and Angle, followed by the industrial section of oil and gas terminals, with the town and port of Milford Haven in the centre. After the terminals a short mixed residential and wooded section leads to the towns of Neyland and Pembroke Dock opposite each other. Beyond these, passing under the Cleddau Bridge the Haven takes on a quieter river nature with heavily wooded banks. It turns to the north and branches for the first time at Lawrenny, a favourite upriver destination. Further on the river branches again and is navigable at high water for several more miles.

Just two miles inside the Heads on the north side is Dale Roads – a beautiful inlet with the small village of Dale at the head.

A little further in on the south side is Angle Bay, and moving east up the Haven, there are yachting locations at Gelliswick, Milford Haven, Hazelbeach, Neyland and Pembroke Dock.

Two islands are situated close west of the Heads: Skokholm requires special permission, but Skomer makes a wonderful wild-camp destination where it is possible to land during the day, and where you can see puffins.

Oil terminals

At its peak in the early 1980s, Milford Haven had five refineries and processed more than 25 per cent of the UK’s oil. But since the closure of the Murco plant on the north shore in 2014, there is only one refinery left.

Meanwhile, Valero’s Pembroke refinery on the south shore is one of Europe’s most complex.


This article was written and published for Sailing Today in December 2015. Original article can be found online here. Article credit to Alan Pritchard and Sailing Today