Four days in the South Wales county of Pembrokeshire is not enough to experience everything it has to offer. I realised that it was foolish to even try so I chose a select few which I felt gave me a sense of what Pembrokeshire is all about.
Pembrokeshire is the peninsula sticking out into the Irish Sea in the southern part of Wales. Surrounded on three sides by water – the Bristol Channel, Irish Sea and Cardigan Bay it has a long and varied coastline. You could spend a fortnight exploring the long sweeping beaches, the quaint little coves and the rugged cliffs populated by sea birds. The Pembrokeshire coastline is blessed with Britains longest coastal footpath from which you can explore these delights.
However, with only four days this kind of expedition was out of the question. Here then are my highlights.
I have visited Tenby twice before; once as a nine-year-old and again when my own children were just toddlers. It was nostalgia that drew me back but like most nostalgic returns there was the chance of being disappointed. This was not the case with Tenby. It seemed like nothing had changed. The quaint harbour was still just as quaint, the ramparts were still undeveloped, the ice-cream was just as good and the fish and chips overpriced.
The walled town of Tenby is flanked by two beaches uninspiringly called North Beach and South Beach. Both are vast sweeps of cliched ‘golden sand’. The North Beach is backed by sand dunes and the South beach by cliffs topped by a row of Georgian mansions now mostly hotels and apartments.
You can visit Tenby’s brand new lifeboat station and learn about the history of the RNLI and the exploits of the Tenby lifeboat men and women. The old lifeboat station is close by and featured on Grand Designs when it was converted to a residential property. Also on Castle Hill is the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery. Inside the extensive remains of the 13th-century walls are the Tudor Merchant’s House and St Mary’s Church.
Lower Fishguard and Dyffryn Fernant Garden
Both my wife and I love visiting gardens while on holiday. Dyffryn Fernant Garden on the north coast of the peninsula came highly recommended and was highly rated by, among others, Monty Don, presenter of BBC Gardener’s World. The sat nav app on the phone took us down ever narrower lanes deep into the coastal hills before telling us to take a left turn down a narrow gravel track barely wide enough for the car.
This really is a garden in an out of the way place, sheltered from the salt laden winds in a hollow among the hills. The 6 acres of garden started life as a wilderness in the 1990s. Now it is an eclectic mix of gardens including a bog garden, a cottage garden and fernery. I have to say that parts of the garden left us a little disappointed and looked like it could do with a little care and attention. However, the area around the crushed raspberry coloured cottage was lush and luxuriant and a delight to explore.
The route home took us through Lower Fishguard. This was a delightful inlet fed by the Afon Gwaum. Virtually unspoiled by development it is a haven for numerous sailing boats and small fishing vessels. There is an air of unspoilt old fishing harbour.
We strolled along the quay past fishermen’s cottages and discovered the ‘Cafe on the Quay’. We stopped for what I described as ‘a Pembrokeshire cream tea’ though I didn’t come across it anywhere else. Consisting of a warm chocolate fudge brownie, fresh strawberries and clotted cream it was impossible to resist.
Haverfordwest and Wickedly Welsh
When we arrived at 1 Neyland Marina where we were staying courtesy of Coastal Cottages there was a sample pack of Wickedly Welsh Chocolates. Chocolates made in Pembrokeshire had to be one of the highlights of this visit. We planned to visit as part of a shopping trip to Haverfordwest just up the road from where we were staying.
Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Factory is more a little wacky with a touch of Willy Wonka thrown in. Basically, it is a factory visit but with a lot of wicked fun included. Apart from the fairly standard flavours such as Anglesey sea salted caramel there are some seemingly crazy flavours. You can buy lavender flavoured chocolate, rhubarb crumble chocolate or lemon and poppy seed chocolate. In addition, there are chocolate lovespoons, maps of Wales and greeting cards.
Haverfordwest we discovered is full of small boutique shops, cafes and places to eat. I detest shopping when you walk down streets lined with all the chain store you can find anywhere but I enjoyed (no that’s too strong a word – it was pleasant would be better) wandering along some of the streets. It is only in this list because, being a man who dislikes shopping, I did not want to alienate readers who do enjoy it.
A visit to Skomer Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire for a spot of birdwatching, especially the puffins, was and has been on both our bucket list. Unfortunately, the weather was decidedly blustery and loaded with rain. Sitting on an island after a rough crossing in a small boat waiting to be rescued from the wind and driving rain did not seem like a holiday highlight we wanted to engage with.
1 Neyland Marina
We decided, therefore, to enjoy the delights of the apartment where we were staying (click on the link for a full review) and enjoy a cream tea in the marina cafe that had been recommended. Both our accommodation and the cafe across the road were highlights of our stay in Pembrokeshire so why not enjoy them for a day we asked ourselves. That’s how they make it onto the list.
If you want to stay anywhere in Pembrokeshire; overlooking the harbour at Tenby, besides the coastal path or close to one of the sandy beaches and coves then Coastal Cottages are your best bet. They only specialise in properties in Pembrokeshire and have a first class Concierge Service to help you plan your stay.