Pembrokeshire – a Welsh coastal gem
My last visit to Pembrokeshire was almost 27 years ago when we had a toddler in tow. It rained as I recall and the toddler ate a sandwich covered in sand and cried at the sea.
My recent visit was much less stressful. It did rain though, but even that didn’t dampen our spirits because now we had a dog in tow and he loved the rain, the sand, the rocks and the sea. No tears from him!
Pembrokeshire is in southwest Wales. Carmarthenshire lies to the east, Ceredigion to the northeast, and on all other sides it’s the sea.
Everywhere you turn there are fabulous beaches, dramatic coastlines approached by rolling countryside, ruined castles and quaint little villages.
But it’s the beaches that make Pembrokeshire a real jewel in Wales’ crown and, if you’ve a mind to, you can pretty much take them all in on one day if it’s just a glimpse you’re after.
Off we go……
Starting in the north there’s Poppit sands, a wide expanse of beach that’s backed by dunes- as many beaches in the county are. Head south and you’ll find Newport sands – a massive beach where at low tide you can wade across the river to Newport Parrog. Pop round the corner and you’re at Dinas Cross – turn down to Pwllgwaelod beach, right next to Dinas Island with the Old Sailor pub looking out to sea.
From Newport travel further south, about 15 minutes in the car and you’ll be in Fishguard. Steeply bendy down to the old harbour and then up the hill to the town. Great fish and chips here at Hooked or a coffee from a trendy new eatery, Mannings, open in what looks like one of the towns old banks.
Past Fishguard and you’ve got a choice – head inland to Haverfordwest, there’s a castle and some shopping if the day is a bit wet. Keep going round the coast and you’ll arrive at the tiny city of St Davids - built on the site of the monastery founded by St David (Dewi Sant) in the 6th Century – it’s the smallest city in the UK. Visit the cathedral, have a look around the shops and sample local ice cream in the cafes and parlours.
St Davids Monastery
Back on the road and head to Solva with it’s long harbour that at low tide is quite dry with just a trickle though the middle. Cliff walks and rock pooling or just sitting and looking. It’s very pretty here with a couple of nice places to eat overlooking the views.
The next stretch of the Pembrokeshire coast has got fantastic places to visit at every turn. This is the wide sweep that is St Brides Bay.
Stop off first at Newgale Sands. It’s an enormous expanse almost two miles long. Kitesurfing is really popular here. Veer off onto the coastal path for a walk – back to Solva if you go north, turn south and you’ll find yourself at Nolton Haven.
Past Nolton Haven and you’ll find Druidston Haven – a dramatic yet secluded beach surrounded by towering cliffs on three sides. Take the coast road a little bit further south and you’re at Broad Haven with Little Haven just round the corner. Another sweeping beach with lots of rock pooling opportunities and a popular beach for giving the horses a run out. There’s a café opposite and a surf shop too if you fancy hiring a wet suit or buying some trendy shades.
Back in the car, and keeping the sea on your right you’ll spot Skomer Island – it’s full of wildlife and known for its puffins in particular – you can grab a boat trip over or you can even stay if you fancy a night on a remote island.
Puffin on Skomer Island
Then park up and take the half hour walk down to Marloes Sands which has to be one of the most dramatic beaches in Pembrokeshire. A huge expanse of sand at low tide with incredible rocks and breathtaking cliff formations. There are enormous rockpools on the western edge which at high tide disappear altogether, along with the beach.
Back on the road and you’ll soon be at Milford Haven, the largest port in Wales. The skyline on a clear day is dominated by the Milford Haven refinery, which employs more than 1,200 workers and contractors. Drive a little way out and cross the estuary at Neyland and you’re in Pembroke Dock and just next door, Pembroke. Have a look at the castle which was the birthplace of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.
Double back on yourself and head to Angle – it’s out on a limb. And you may wonder if you’ll ever get there, but it’s worth the drive along country roads. It’s a big expanse of sand with heaps of places for scrambling over rocks into sheltered mini beaches. There’s a lovely café at the one end with views along the beach. Back down the road and you’ll turn up at Freshwater West. This is a dramatic beach that is backed by dunes just down from the coast road. It’s a surfers paradise. There’s a rocky reef at one end and some little bays at the other.
At the southern end of the beach you’ll find Café Mor. Not really a café but a snack van made out of a boat – don’t let that put you off - the food is fabulous! Renowned for the lobster rolls, they also serve in season seafood, amazing ginger cake and coffee and tea served in biodegradable cups!
From Freshwater West make your next stop Barafundle Bay, You’ll skirt the Castlemartin Range where you’ll sometimes hear tanks firing and gunshots – it’s an MOD training site.
Barafundle is reached from Stackpole Quay and a 15 minute walk along the coastline. It’s got Caribbean-like white sands and is sheltered on three sides. Grab a bite to eat at the National Trust tearooms at Stackpole. Back on the road and dip down into Manobier. Another beach below a castle. The sandy cove is a surfers favourite and great places for rock pooling. Favourite haunt of George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Wolf apparently.
You’re nearly at Tenby but why not call in at Lydstep? Another pretty little beach backed by woodland and behind which is a fairly sizable caravan site.
And then it’s Tenby – probably the most iconic seaside town in Wales. People get the bug for the town and return again and again. The harbour, the lifeboat station, the colourful houses and quaint streets – it’s a classic seaside town.
On the final stages now and you can slip into Saundersfoot, Tenby’s near neighbour and then a quick look at Amroth, a half mile of sandy loveliness with wooden groynes making it feel like a number of smaller beaches.
And there you have it – Pembrokeshire in a day.Tweet