Pembrokeshire is a county in southwest Wales, and more than a third of it is a designated national park. With travel restrictions easing, the latest in our series of UK travel guides will focus on the fantastic things you can experience in the county along with some of the epic adventures on offer and, of course, its incredible nature.
Travel is back on the agenda in the UK, and staycations are right at the top of many people’s summer lists. Recently, we’ve begun publishing guides to what we consider are great places for a day out or longer and the latest of these focuses on Pembrokeshire.
It is said that Pembrokeshire has something for everyone. Although the name Pembrokeshire conjures up images of a remote wind-swept, faraway coastline, it is easier to get to than most people realise.
By car, you can get there from Manchester and London in just over four hours, and it’s even easier if you live in areas such as Bristol or the Cotswolds. If you don’t fancy driving, you can also get there by train from London Paddington; you’ll need to head to Haverfordwest, changing in Newport.
Pembrokeshire is packed with rich culture and heritage, offers adrenalin-fuelled experiences, first-class wellness retreats which we are sure will spark many readers interest after the year most of us have had. In addition to some incredible places to stay, it has a vibrant food and drinks scene and boasts outstanding natural landscapes and wildlife, which is the first area we’ll be focusing on for this guide.
The Pembrokeshire coastline
The first that springs to mind when you think of Pembrokeshire is its abundance of natural beauty. One of the area biggest attractions is its coastline is it’s home to more Blue Flag beaches than anywhere else in the UK. In addition to this, it boasts the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast path stretching from Amroth in the South up to St Dogmaels. The coastal path is one of only three National Trails in Wales.
Fortunately, this huge walking area has been thoughtfully divided into shorter, more manageable sections which should come as great news for hikers who want to challenge their legs and overall fitness following a longer than expected period of inactivity.
There’s so much for visitors to experience along the Pembrokeshire coast; more than fifty sandy beaches, towering cliffs, jutting headlands, hidden valleys, castles, and some amazing ancient woodland. It’s an ideal place to help erase all those memories of feeling cooped up.
As an area dominated by a national park, it the home to some incredible wildlife. It is a bird spotter’s paradise with many rare species making their homes across the wild and natural landscape. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see rare birds such as stonechats, skylarks, choughs and even cuckoos can sometimes be seen and heard.
Pembrokeshire is also a fantastic place to see some incredible marine-based species, and there’s a good chance, particularly if you live in a built-up area away from a coast, you might not have seen any of these in the wild previously. On your visit, make sure you bring a set of binoculars, and you might be fortunate to see some dolphins and porpoises playing in the waves, visiting orcas, sunfish, blue sharks and basking sharks, among many others.
The coastline is also home to Atlantic Grey Seals. The best time to see the seals is from August onwards on the more remote parts of the coast in the North and beaches of Marloes Penisula, Ramsey and Skomer Island (above). It is advised you do not get close to the seals and their pups; keep still and quiet, try not to be seen and avoid casting your shadow onto the beach.
A visit to St Davids
St Davids is a city that many will probably be unaware of. It was designated a city in 1995, and its biggest claim to fame is it’s the smallest city in Britain. It takes its name from the patron saint of Wales and can trace its roots back more than 1500 years.
It has a population of around 1600 and makes a great day out thanks to its art galleries, its cathedral, holy well and the Bishop’s Palace and its high-quality local gin production.
For those planning to extend their stay in St Davids, look no further than Twr y Felin, which is one of the finest hotels in the area. It is Wales’ first contemporary art hotel and is located in a former windmill and decorated with over 100 pieces of specially commissioned art throughout its 21 suites and if you’re in the mood for some fine food, try its top-notch restaurant, Blas.
There are lots of brilliant things to see and do in 2021, here are a few of the highlights to make on your lists for when you make your visit:
A Welsh Water Adventure
Following a multi-million-pound refurbishment, the country park and reservoir will open in late spring with a new Outdoor Activity centre and Waterside Cabin for walkers, cyclists and watersports enthusiasts. On the lake itself, visitors can go swimming, sailing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and pedal boarding. On land, bicycles and Crazi-Bugz (six-wheeled off-road buggies) can be hired, and there is also axe throwing and archery. A campsite will open in 2022.
Popular Saundersfoot Harbour is being redeveloped and is now home to a new Marine Centre of Excellence, with an RYA sailing school on-site, as well as the Harbour Bites Café, marine supply stores and workshop, and the Outer Reef Water Sports Centre, which will deliver a wide range of activities including paddle-boarding, kayaking, surfing, coasteering, powerboating and sailing. The centre is also home to Ocean Cabins – pod-style accommodation – plus a covered Events Plaza and retail shops, all of which plan to open by summer 2021.
Exciting outdoor activities
Pembrokeshire is home to many adrenalin-fuelled outdoor activities, from cliff camping and coasteering to rock climbing and surfing.
Why not try your hand at some sea kayaking with pods of porpoises in the safe hands of the guided adventure company Preseli Venture on a multi-day tour. Or, stay in 5-star accommodation with wholesome home-cooked food while taking in some stunning coastal views on a SUP adventure in Saundersfoot bay with Good Trails Paddleboarding.
If that’s enough to get the adrenaline pumping through your veins, there’s the opportunity to climb and camp on the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire which is said to be the finest rock climbing playground in Britain and this comes courtesy of The Climbing Company.
A closer look at some of Pembrokeshire’s beaches
Pembrokeshire boasts some of the least crowded and cleanest beaches in the country. This will be a huge attraction for those craving a lungful of fresh air and the opportunity to thoroughly stretch their legs.
Some of the beaches we’d advise you to visit are:
- Marloes Sands: With interesting cliff formations, rock pools at the western end and a huge expanse of sand, Marloes Sands’ rock strata (above) create numerous mini bays; at low tide, the remains of a shipwreck can be seen emerging from the sea as the tide goes out. The beach was chosen as the location for ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, a Hollywood blockbuster featuring Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and the girl that always seems a bit too moody from the Twilight movies. The nearest parking is half a mile away – this is a huge bonus as it means that the beach rarely gets crowded, even during the high season.
- West Angle Bay: Located at the mouth of the Milford Haven Estuary, in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park, this is a great spot for swimming, kayaking, fishing, boating and rock pooling. The beach is right on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and there is a superb café, Wavecrest, serving fresh coffee, afternoon tea and light bites.
- Pwllgwaelod beach is perfect when combined with a long, seafood-inspired al fresco pub lunch at The Old Sailors, which overlooks the tiny cove. The beach is close to the National Trust site Dinas island, and there is a walking route and spectacular coastal views from the peak.
Artisanal makers and food producers
Over many years, Pembrokeshire’s farmers, fishermen and local producers – including a new wave of independents – have earned a great reputation for their high-quality produce.
Food producers include Bug Farm Foods – delicious insect-based foods such as cricket chocolate chip cookies. For something a little sweeter and through some eyes, more conventional, another great place to visit is Lochmeyler Farm Ice Cream, which produces flavours such as Blackberry, Pistachio and Pembrokeshire Salted Caramel from the farm’s 350-strong dairy herd in Llandeloy (there is also a shop in Haverfordwest).
For even more home-made goodness, there’s the Loaf of the Land which makes handmade, wood-fired sourdough bread that’s been stone-milled from wheat and ground on-site. Another nice feature of Loaf of the Land is it is run and owned by its members, the local community.
For a delightful tipple, there are two vineyards – the family-run Velfrey Vineyard, producing Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc, and the Cwm Deri Vineyard, producing Welsh sparkling wine in a woodland setting with a restaurant and accommodation.
If you’re not a wine fan, there are several breweries to ‘whet your palate’. These include the eco-friendly family-run Bluestone Brewery, which is set in the foothills of the Bluestone Mountains, and the HARBWR Tenby Harbour Brewery, a craft brewery and taproom based in a converted 18th-century warehouse above the harbour.
If you’re planning to visit the HARBWR Tenby Harbour Brewery, a point to note is it has just launched a new beer named Tamar’s Tusk to celebrate Wally the Walrus’ recent appearance there and in support of the RNLI. If you needed an excuse, there you go!
Everything from bushcraft to basket making
Holidaymakers can take advantage of a wide range of authentic experiences, from bushcraft to basket making: try coastal foraging courses with Craig Evans, or learn bushcraft skills such as woodland crafts, shelter construction and fire-making in the ancient woodland of Cresswell Quay with Buzzard Chris Bushcraft.
There’s also beautifully produced artisan wares that include woven rugs and textiles from Solva Mill, vibrant paintings and mixed media work by artist Alice Tennant, and gorgeous mohair scarves, hats and gloves at Preseli Mohair Centre.
Look out for the Pembrokeshire Produce Mark when buying food, drink and other locally-made items in Pembrokeshire.
Places to stay
There is a huge variety of accommodation from camping and eco-pods to luxurious cottages and high-end hotels from which to choose. The cosy bell tents at Warren Farm Bell Tents Bunk House, located right on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, are ideal for families or groups of friends, while Trellyn Woodland Camping offers a range of domes, teepees, yurts and camping pitches, along with a sauna, wood-fired bread oven plus personal campfires with great sea views.
Fishguard Bay Resort, in North Pembrokeshire, offers gorgeous self-catering cottages and luxury lodges – some with hot tubs – as well as glamping, static caravan, motorhome and tent pitches at a beautiful coastal setting near the Preseli Hills. Excellent self-catering options include Quality Cottages, which boasts a huge variety of pet-friendly accommodation throughout the region – and, for a multi-generational large group break further ahead, Hafod Grove, an impressive Georgian mansion house with roaring fires, an Aga and idyllic gardens, sleeping up to 26 guests across two properties, may well tick the box.
Hotel options include the five-star Grove of Narberth. It’s a 25-bedroom boutique bolthole set in a secluded glade with views of the Preseli Hills, which is set to launch six new cottage rooms and suites in May. There’s also Penally Abbey, a Georgian-Gothic hotel and restaurant just outside Tenby, with views across Carmarthen Bay and St Brides Spa Hotel, a marine-based spa hotel in Saundersfoot.
The stylish boutique hotel Llys Meddyg – a Georgian townhouse near Newport – offers individually-designed suites, a camping yurt, an excellent restaurant serving the very best local produce, a cosy cellar bar, plus on-site smokery and foraging courses run by owner Ed.
You can see much more of what is available for visitors at www.visitpembrokeshire.com.