Living in South Wales means that a holiday in Pembrokeshire is a fairly regular occurrence for us. It’s easy to get to: just drive west on the M4 and stop before you hit the ocean! We’ve been going to Pembrokeshire since before we had kids and the attraction hasn’t worn off yet. Here are the top 10 reasons we love it so much.
Tenby is the perfect family holiday destination. The pretty harbour is lined with pastel coloured houses, there are three beautifully clean beaches, and lots of independent cafes, pubs, and restaurants so you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to. We always make at least one visit to Tenby Deli to get ingredients for a first rate meal. The kids love Lollies traditional sweet shop, and a day simply isn’t complete without at least one ice-cream, if not more!
I can’t remember the number of times we’ve been to Folly Farm. It’s a brilliant day out – especially for those with younger kids. There are animals to feed, fantastic indoor and outdoor play and picnic areas, a café and restaurant and vintage funfair complete with helter skelter. No longer merely a “farm”, Folly Farm is rated the fourth best zoo in the UK, with rhinos, lions and penguins.
St Davids is one of my favourite cities in the world. Tiny, but perfectly formed, it sits in the heart of the national park and has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. The cathedral and ruins of the bishop’s palace next to it are certainly worth exploring and there are lots of picnic areas as well as cafes for lunch.
As lovely as they are, or perhaps because they are so lovely – popular beaches like Tenby, Broad Haven (with Little Haven next door) and Whitesands Bay (Porthmawr) do get very busy in the summer months.
The good news is that most of Pembrokeshire’s coastline is within the national park and lined with clean golden sandy beaches just begging to be enjoyed. Particular favourites of ours include Porthmelgan, Porthmynawyd near Newgale, Barafundle Bay and St Brides Haven in south Pembrokeshire; and Portsychan and Abermawr in the north. For those who enjoy surfing, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better holiday location with top surf spots at Freshwater West, Newgale, Whitesands and Marloes if you want to escape the crowds. There are also a great choice of beaches that allow dogs all year round.
I am a foodie. I love to eat and I appreciate great quality food that has been produced locally. When something has been grown within a few miles of where you bought it instead of a few thousand, you know it’s going to taste better! The rich Pembrokeshire pastureland is responsible for delicious lamb and cheese, while the seafood from the coast is hard to beat. Buy it fresh from a local fisherman, farm shop or a farmer’s market, like the award winning one in Haverfordwest, or time your visit to coincide with the Narbeth Food Festival in late September.
Maybe it’s because they live in such a glorious part of the world, but I’ve never met a Pembrokeshire local who wasn’t friendly, polite, and willing to help me get the most out of my holiday, whether it was recommending a place for ice-cream or sharing their umbrella. You will find that many locals around Narbeth and Tenby have moved there from somewhere else, having come on holiday and liked it so much they stayed.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail stretches from Amroth to St Dogmaels, covering 186 miles of cliffs, beaches, rocky coves and estuaries.
Some stretches are gentle, others are challenging, yet every yard gives an unbeatable view of the Welsh coastline. While much of it is natural terrain, some stretches have been resurfaced to make them wheelchair and buggy friendly. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park website has more information. Cyclists can take the Celtic Cycling Trail (National Cycle Route 4).
Wet weather attractions
It’s Wales, so it rains. As I tell my kids while togging them up in wellies and wet weather gear, rain is what makes Wales so lush and green, but it’s not necessarily what you want on your Pembrokeshire holiday. Folly Farm has enough indoors and undercover attractions to still make it worthwhile visiting in the wet, or you could try my favourite wet-weather pastime of searching out the best cream tea in an area.
Other wet weather activities include a visit to Haverfordwest or Pembroke, the two largest towns in the area; seeing the snakes at the Reptile Experience in Saundersfoot; admiring the Last Invasion Tapestry in Fishguard; or simply packing a car-picnic and watching the rain over the ocean. If you’re going to get wet anyway, you could always try surfing, sea kayaking and coasteering.
Britain’s largest colony of puffins resides on Skomer Island off the coast of southwest Pembrokeshire. The best time to see them is in June and July, when you can also spot seals, porpoises and countless types of sea birds. Skomer Island is as simple as it gets: no shops, compost toilets, and only a basic hostel for those wishing to stay overnight. Queues for the boat, which leave from Martin’s Haven, can be very long in peak season. The island is open to visitors from April to September.
These are just my family’s top ten favourite things about Pembrokeshire. There are dozens more reasons to visit regardless of whether your idea of a perfect holiday involves wearing yourself out from dawn to dusk, or doing nothing more energetic than sleeping late, eating your way around the county, or setting up your beach umbrella on a different patch of sand every day. Put Pembrokeshire on your “must visit” list and plan your next holiday there today.