Pembrokeshire National Park
“I could murder a beer!”
Well, unfortunately, it was some bright sparks idea to walk through the Pembrokeshire National Park for five miles from our hotel to get to the nearest town, and we were still only half way there. The sun was starting to approach the surrounding hills, closing in with a warm embrace that only good friends share, beauty begets beauty and these two spectacles of nature were very well aware of the picture their combined assets created for onlookers deep in these Welsh valleys. Alas, a cold beer would have gone down so well with this awesome scene.
Thirsty, and aware of the fact we were another hours walk to the little village of Newport, we rounded the next country lane and lo and behold, in front of us like a parcel of manna from the heavens, stood a micro-brewery! A gorgeous little farmhouse with a converted barn dedicated to the production of beer! But it was 7 o’clock on a Saturday evening…
“I’m going in!”
I absolutely in no way definitely did not shout out comments about probabilities and farmers with guns but my efforts were fruitless because as I caught up to Mr MLLH we came around the back of the house and were greeted by the owner who invited us to join them in a promotional video for his new brewery on his decking! Why not!? There stood a dozen Welsh folk, all with a craft ale in their hand and a video camera rolling in the background. Bottles were thrust upon us and we quickly became the centre of attention, we were clearly the only strangers here and everyone wanted to know our story. Cut to a couple of hours later after some hearty chat with Wales’ finest country folk and several bottles of ale in our bellies, we were offered a lift by one of our recently acquired companions into Newport for our long-awaited lamb curry!
You see, South Wales is awash with this kind of scene – friendly folk just doing what they’ve done for a few hundred years, impressing the sightseers with their artisan vocations and embracing the foreigners with ruddy smiles. Everywhere we went a conversation was struck, in that beautiful sing-song accent, and local crafts were explained with a passion that only heritage can bestow. Surfers stop on the narrow lanes to pass on morsels of info about breaks and swells to their fellow T1 drivers. And little hardware stores and greengrocers service the quaint picturesque villages that dot the countryside.
But Pembrokeshire is also an area of contrasts, there is wealth to be seen in the rurals but some towns are littered with betting shops and boarded-up store fronts. You decipher from overheard conversations that a lot of youngsters flee to the city for better prospects, and those that remain struggle to eek out a living and are forced to live out their days in tracksuits and baseball caps. But, drive to a neighbouring village or town and you could be dealing with the complete opposite – thriving gift shops and cafe’s that ooze rustic sophistication and entrepreneurs with vision who are already on their way to transforming the face of Pembrokeshire and it’s people.
Pembrokeshire’s Best Bits
Apart from the fact our hotel room was pretty awesome (read *had bluetooth speakers in the ceiling*) we certainly had our fill of highlights from this little corner of South Wales.
Once a well-kept secret by locals this gorgeous sandy beach is well worth the 1/2 mile cliff-top walk from the National Trust car park. Nowadays, being several-time-winner of the accolade ‘Best picnic spot in Britain’, you may need to engage your Germanic stealth in order to secure yourself a gingham-ed square of sand! No, honestly, I jest – it’s not that bad, nowhere in South Wales is that busy and this little bay certainly has room for everyone. If you’re going to visit one beach on your trip to Pembrokeshire then this is my favourite! It’s caught the attention of many a film location-scout and also kinda got a mention in Macbeth, ok, well the Thane of Cawdor did, the guy who owned the estate when once it was a private beach. Fascinating stuff peeps.
My other top 3 beaches in Pembrokeshire would be Abercastle, Freshwater West and Castle Beach, Tenby.
What a sight to behold! If you were to imagine the perfect Medieval Castle then this would be it. I have channelled my inner-tortured-princess many a time, daydreaming on the walls of this place looking at the views. It’s a stone fortress of History, King Henry VII’s birthplace and many other British historical tit-bits. I just love the way it overshadows the little town of Pembroke with its gigantism and impresses any bystander with it’s Lego-like perfection.
As always, geographical location plays a massive part in the history of a place and Tenby is no exception. Since the 8th century at least, this colourful walled harbour town has had highs and lows. The scars are visible when you look closely but the victories are there too – this was once a busy international port, bringing spices and exotic fruits from far afield whilst the rest of the country remained in ignorant bliss as they tucked into their leek crudites and Welsh rarebit. Wales needed Tenby to be great, so great it became and it still remains this way today, in my mind. Spend a day exploring the narrow cobbled streets and open walled-harbour. Visit the Tudor Merchants House for a narrative of Tenby’s old shipping culture, and don’t miss the cutest little bookshop a few doors away – crammed to the rafters and spilling out of the door. Sample the seafood in some of Pembrokeshire’s best restaurants. And, check out the Georgian seafront homes painted from a colour pallet inspired by french macaroons.
I have a few more favourite little towns and villages worth a mention too – Narberth is a gorgeous little market town with a ton of gift and craft shops and sweet little coffee establishments.
Newport is a picture postcard, particularly the Parrog. The Nevern Estuary flows into the curve and deposits shallow waters, as if it knows that only small boats are more aesthetic to the discerning photographer.
Skomer Island – the highlight of my kids’ trip to Wales this year with their dad, my youngest now sleeps with a Puffin every night! An island of wildlife that attracts a lot of attention each year as the different phases of nature put on a varying performance from month to month. Whether it be the spring landing of Puffins, the summer swimming of Dolphins or the birthing of the fluffy grey seal pups in Autumn – there is a natural display of some sort to pull at your heart strings.
Six days a week, from April to September 30th, a 50 seater boat leaves from Martin’s Haven, 12 miles South-west of Haverford West and allows you several hours of joy, watching the wildlife that calls Skomer home. You musn’t miss this trip!
Where To Stay
I can whole heartedly recommend the Spindrift Cottage at Furzton, between Pembroke and Stackpole. It sleeps 4, plus a little one, and is in the best of locations with wonderful views. The owners are super friendly and their decor tastes are impeccable.
Or if you’d rather a woodland hotel retreat then the Hotel Gellifawr is a winner.
Pembrokeshire is a must for surfers and families alike; there are opportunities galore for ramblers (hikers to my Stateside readers), art lovers, thrill seekers and chillaxers aplenty. If you’ve never been then it’s about time you did! If you have been, what are your favourite spots?
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