Pembrokeshire in West Wales is one of the most popular tourist regions in Wales and with its stunning coastal scenery, spectacular cliff top walks, wealth of wildlife and magnificent cathedral of St David’s it’s easy to understand why.
Much of the coast has been designated a national park, The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, covering 230 square miles and including most of the coastline around West Wales as well as its off shore islands, and stretches of land up in the hills of Preseli.
The off shore islands of Skomer, Skokholm, Grassholm and Ramsey are a nature lovers’ paradise with rare birds, flowers and breeding grey seals with their pups while en route to these islands or from headlands you might even see dolphins, porpoises and Minke whales!
The city of St David’s has to be the highlight of any trip to Pembrokeshire as the smallest city in Britain is home to St David’s Cathedral, Wales’ holiest site founded by the Welsh patron saint in 550 AD and draw to pilgrims and visitors ever since. St David was adopted as the patron saint of Wales many centuries later and March 1st, believed to be the date of his death, was chosen to be Wales’ national holiday. In 1120 the Pope declared that two pilgrimages to St David’s were the spiritual equivalent to one to Rome and St David has become an iconic figure for Welsh people everywhere. The remoteness and atmosphere of the spot which inspired St David still affects visitors today.
Its close proximity to the sea is an added attraction with the beautiful bays of Caerfai, St Non’s and Whitesands nearby. St Non’s Bay is the reputed birthplace of St David named after his mother “Non” while the unusual purple sandstone cliff rock around Caerfai Bay was used in the construction of the cathedral.
Whitesands Bay with its long beach and crashing rolling waves is extremely popular especially with surfers while Ramsey island, off St David’s Head, is an experience not to be missed. Boat trips take you around Ramsay and its sea caves (some even land on its shores) to see the spectacular sight of tens of thousands of sea birds on its cliffs and colonies of seals basking on its beaches and in its coves. There are also circling birds of prey above Ramsey and the entire island is an R.S.P.B. reserve.
Pembrokeshire is a great place for walking and the famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path which runs 186 miles along mostly cliff top routes is one of Wales’ national trails. The coast path overlooks the most dramatic and scenic of the area’s coastline and often takes you through beautiful cliff top flora. Some of the rocks you might encounter along the way are said to be among the oldest in the world and are an additional attraction.
The seaside town of Tenby on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path has long been a favourite holiday resort and is a charming place to visit. The Welsh name for Tenby translates as “Little Town of Fishes” and its history goes back to Norman times when the colonising Normans tried to create a “Little England beyond Wales”, a term which is still sometimes used to describe the area today. It was also a thriving Elizabethan port before becoming a fashionable Georgian and Victorian health and holiday resort. The harbour area is delightfully pretty with three storey Georgian houses painted in pastel blue, yellow or pink clustered around and above the bay. In the Quay Hill area with its old steps and cobbles is the fascinating Tudor Merchant’s House, one of the highlights of Tenby.
Originally built in the late 15th century for a wealthy merchant in the times when Tenby was a port the beautifully restored building contains frescoes, period furniture and other features that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The historic old town walls include the Five Arches gate, a fabulous barbican with hidden look-outs while the modern part of town has enough shops, pubs, restaurants and nightlife to keep every visitor happy. Its sandy beaches are well known while the island of St Catherine’s is linked to the town at low tide.
Just out of Tenby is the picturesque village of Manorbier with its wonderful 12th century castle “Manorbier Castle” perched on a hill above the village. This was the birthplace of the famous Gerald of Wales and the former baronial residence commands a magnificent view over the sea. Recently it has formed the backdrop to films shot on location here.
Away from the beaches and coast you’ll find the dramatic Neolithic burial chamber of Pentre Ifan. For 4500 years the boulders of Pentre Ifan have stood on a remote hillside overlooking the Preseli Hills and sea and it is believed to be the best-preserved and finest Neolithic burial chamber in Wales.
The countryside of Pembrokeshire holds as much appeal as it rugged coast and is full of quiet country lanes, bridleways and open moorland which make it ideal for pony trekking and cycling. Much of the holiday accommodation is provided by either working or converted farmsteads and this contrasting pastoral setting is one of Pembrokeshire’s great assets.
There’s something for everyone in Pembrokeshire; a stunning coastline with massive cliffs and sweeping bays, fantastic walking opportunities as well as cycling, pony trekking, surfing, pubbing and for the very brave or reckless “coasteering” ( high adrenaline rock climbing over the sea.) For bird watchers you should be able to see puffins, razorbills, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, kittiwakes, storm petrels, gannets, gulls and even choughs on the off shore islands. The colonies of seals are a delight to watch while in the fields and hedgerows you might catch sight of badgers, foxes or voles if you’re lucky. The gorgeous beaches in St Bride’s Bay are ideal for beach lovers and Dale just south of St Bride’s is reputedly the sunniest place in Wales.
Whether you’re looking for a “Little England beyond Wales” or a Celtic country Pembrokeshire should not disappoint.
Ricki Crookes has worked as an actress in the film and television business throughout most of her life. She has appeared in numerous commercials which have been shown on television and cinemas world-wide. She has also worked as a model and been in many prestigious photo- shoots which have featured in magazines and bill-boards. In addition she has written articles for both newspapers and magazines and is an award winning poet.