Escaping the city - a few days in Pembrokeshire
We've been going to Pembrokeshire now once or twice a year for the last ten years, and it never fails to soothe, inspire and refresh us. It is the perfect place to regroup and rest, to slow our pace and allow our minds to wander, away from the normal routine and pressures of our London life. In early spring it is particularly quiet and peaceful there, without the summer holidaymakers and that is how we like it best; empty windswept beaches, muddy coastal paths, stark, clear sunshine and sweeping storms.
We have our favourite places and we always return to them, enjoying their familiarity, taking pleasure in watching them change from season to season, and introducing them to our little one for the first time. I thought it would be nice to share them here, in case they are of interest to anyone else! We stay near St Davids, so our places are around that area.
Pembrokeshire beaches are wild and beautiful; we love wrapping up warm and trudging along them, collecting stones and shells and fragments of driftwood, or huddling close with cups of cocoa and welsh cakes. These are our favourites:
- Abermawr - my all time favourite beach and the place where we got engaged! The light here in the evenings is magical, and it's a good place to see seals bobbing about beyond the shore as the sun goes down. A perfect beach for picnics and swimming in the summer, it's also popular with surfers. There is a pretty little walk to the beach through the nearby Pen-yr-allt bluebell wood (details here). One of our favourite Pembrokeshire things to do is buy a disposable BBQ and some beers and head here in the early evening for a beach barbecue, just perfect!
- Traeth llyfn - this beach is on the stretch of coast between Aberreidi and Porthgain, and is only accessible by foot (down a steep metal staircase cut into the cliffs) so is often empty out of season. It is a wonderfully dramatic beach, enclosed by steep cliffs, with crashing waves and tall spiky black rocks emerging from the sand. In the summer, this is nevertheless a good swimming beach, and it is a good spot for rockpooling and dog walking too.
- Barafundle Bay - Often voted one of the best beaches in the UK, this is a truly lovely beach, accessed either by foot from Bosherton or by foot from Stackpole Quay. On a sunny day, this is an idyllic spot, with golden sand and twinkling (cold) sea, backed by sand dunes and woodland, perfect for swimming or visiting as part of a walk of the Stackpole estate. Lots more info here.
- Broadhaven South - another gorgeous beach on the Stackpole estate, this is a huge, expansive beach backed by dunes and rockpools and scattered with tiny shells, and intricate water rivulets. This is also a good swimming beach, with plenty of space for everyone.
- Druidstone Beach - This is a long, dramatic beach, especially in winter. Backed by huge, imposing cliffs, this is an atmospheric place to wander or swim, and it is popular with birdlife. Waterfalls run down the cliff sides, and it is a good spot for pebble collecting. The nearby Druidstone Hotel has a good pub for a drink, with a wonderful view.
We do lots of walking down in Pembrokeshire, taking advantage of the beautiful coastal path and the spectacular views of rugged cliffs, wild seas and even families of grey seals basking in remote coves below (if you're lucky). The light down there is so magical, it never fails to take my breath away, clinging as it does to messy tufts of soft grass that line the paths, illuminating the woolly remnants of roaming Welsh sheep caught in brambles and hawthorn. Our favourite walks:
- Dinas Head - this is a gorgeous circular walk lasting about 2 hours. You start from Pwllgwaelod, a tiny little hamlet with a pleasant beach and a decent pub (The Old Sailors) where you can have a pint of prawns (I love a pint of prawns!)and walk around Dinas Head to the very pretty village of Cwm Yr Eglwys. This walk has wonderful views and has a good bit of variation. In early summer you can also see breeding seabirds flocking around Needle Rock on the stretch of coast leading towards Cwm-Yr-Eglwys. More info here.
- St Justinians - This walk takes in the lifeboat station at St Justinians and views across the sea to atmospheric Ramsey Island. It's a gorgeous walk especially on a clear day and there are lots of good spots for picnics. It takes about 3 hours, more info here.
- Aberreidy to Porthgain (or beyond) - We do this walk every time we go to West Wales without fail! It begins at Aberreidy bay which is worth a visit in itself, before you head up the cliff onto the coastal path past the incredible Blue Lagoon. You end up at the beautiful little harbour of Porthgain which is a good spot for lunch. You can either then walk back to Aberreidy along the coast or take a circular route inland. A short walk, about 1.5 hours. More info here.
- Stackpole - this is a lovely all day walk that takes in the beautiful lily ponds at Bosherton and two wonderful beaches. You can do it in two ways, either starting at Bosherton or at Stackpole Quay. More info here.
When the weather is a bit rubbish (we are talking about Wales after all) there are a few places we like to go for a mooch around. These are some of our favourite places to visit:
- St David's - an obvious one but I couldn't not mention it. A tiny little city with its own impressive cathedral which deserves a visit and a handful of shops, galleries, pubs and restaurants. We especially love the Goat Street Gallery (sneak a peek at the view out back) and The Bishops pub. In the summer the TYF courtyard opens up for stonebaked pizzas and craft ale too.
- Llandeilo - a pretty town about an hour from Haverfordwest. It's got an excellent antiques shop - The Works (one of those huge ones with lots of separate booths), a couple of good restaurants and some nice shops including Toast's original store which has a brilliant archive/outlet section.
- Narberth - another pleasant town with some interesting shops and an excellent tapas bar/deli. About 20 mins from Haverfordwest.
- Dyffryn Fernant garden - ok so this isn't a wet weather one but I'm listing it here anyway! It's a beautiful garden near Fishguard full of fragrant flowers, shady hidden corners and, when we visited, dozens of butterflies. Probably best visited in spring and summer, but definitely worth a visit! More info here.
And finally, eating is a bit part of all of our trips to Pembrokeshire. Seriously, we eat so much when we're down there, it's become a family joke! We tend to cook at home lots but we always have a couple of meals out and there are lots of good places for all budgets. These places are our favourites:
- The Shed, Porthgain - maybe my all time favourite restaurant, we always make time for a meal here when we go to West Wales. Cosy, always friendly and completely reliable (I have honestly never had anything I didn't love here), this place specialises in fresh, simply cooked seafood and it is delicious. They always have a selection of amazing fish and chips as well as a few more interesting specials. Go!
- St David's Kitchen, St David's - this is a relatively new addition to St David's and it's really good. It specialises in simple fish and meat, all locally sourced. Everything we've eaten here has been delicious.
- Ginhaus, Llandeilo - this is a deli with a super popular restaurant next door serving interesting tapas style food. It's always busy and it's easy to see why - everything is well cooked and fresh. Eating outside in the summer is particularly nice.
- Ultracomida, Narberth - another lovely tapas style place and deli. Always busy so book if you can and don't over order - the tapas portions are huge!
I would 100% recommend a visit to Pembrokeshire - it really is one of the most special places I have ever been. Even in the depths of winter it is atmospheric and beautiful, with plenty to keep you occupied. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations as I'm always on the look out for new special places to discover. And if you go, let me know!