Pembrokeshire: Welcome to the UK’s perfect coastal break
Kate Morfoot, leading travel writer and founder of LoveToEatToTravel.com, heads to Pembrokeshire for a dog-friendly holiday.
With wild and dramatic landscapes, sandy beaches, secret coves, tales of pirates, shipwrecks and legends, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and an abundance of wildlife, there’s so much to explore and discover.
We enjoyed six glorious days in a peaceful dog-friendly holiday cottage with Quality Cottages in the south-west of Wales located in Castlemorris. The two bedroomed cottage, one with a double bed with lovely wool bedding and luxury Melin Tregwynt throws and cushions, the other a ‘bunk’ bedroom, ideal if you are taking children (minus the arguing about who sleeps on top!).
The enclosed lawned garden was large and safe for the dogs and lovely to sit outside admiring the hillside views. Tastefully decorated with pictures of Pembrokeshire and various artefacts from local galleries, the cottage was comfortable and was an ideal retreat in what is a small farming village with a dog-friendly public house, Gwesty Bach. The locals were charming serving the drinks because the owners were on holiday.
The cottage was perfectly located near all the sights we planned to visit. Pembrokeshire is a county where you won’t be disappointed if you like the outdoors. Walking down the country lanes was dreamy, long narrow quiet roads with verges covered in buttercups and hollyhocks.
There are countless spectacular walks and scenery along the coastal paths. We enjoyed the Abermawr magical woodland and beach walk which takes you through bluebell woods when in season, through meadows then out to the cliff top down where you walk down on to the shingle beach.
With one of the longest coastlines in the UK, this county has over 50 stunning beaches. We were surprised just how fabulous they are when compared to the beaches in north Norfolk. Some of them are dog-friendly however in the summer months, to retain their Blue Flag status, some that included the fabulous Whitesands Beach at St Davids are not.
We found some lovely bays on our walks, these usually ended with a private cove where the dogs could have a dip in the sea. No matter where we were, there was always a fabulous hike, wildflowers and wildlife involved – oh and a pub! And of course, no trip to Pembrokeshire would be complete without a walk along its magnificent coastal path or one of their many inland trails.
Whether you journey by car, bike, food or bus, the west coast will offer you many beautiful sights. In particular we enjoyed our visit to Fishguard and drive to Strumblehead to capture the panoramic coastline and see Strumble Lighthouse. We agreed that we didn’t want to be responsible for its electricity bill. It was a very wet and windy day which resulted in a just a short walk with the dogs when I stumbled on the coast path too close to comfort near the cliff edge. I renamed it “Stumblehead!”
It’s important to watch the weather forecast and ensure you have the right clothing for your walks and not get caught out by the changeable weather patterns on the coast. For me I choose Helly Hansen every time for all weather clothing, sailing and surf wear as well as quality walking boots.
Near to our cottage was the delightful harbour village of Porthgain, which means ‘Chisel Port’ in English. Now a laidback tourist hub, it was once a busy commercial harbour for loading and exporting local stone but now it’s a tourist centre and a hub for art galleries.
It’s a lovely place to explore and from where many people launch their kayaks. It has a well-known pub ‘The Sloop Inn’ and it also has an award-winning seafood restaurant, ‘The Shed.’ It’s a great place to relax after the four-mile circular coastal walk from Abermawr to Porthgain.
We didn’t need to travel far for a day out. 2 Hen Felin Cottage was located around 15 minutes’ drive west from the tourist hub of St Davids, which is the smallest city in Britain. This wonderful city which is on the River Alun has one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the UK and adjacent Bishop’s Palace. It is well worth visiting St Davids, a charming city with good pubs including ‘The Bishops’ and ‘The Farmer’s Arms’, also restaurants, cafes and independent shops.
The small town of Solva is the place I will remember forever for trying my first Welsh cake! Many of the shops and houses are brightly coloured and you can find places to eat and drink alongside the harbour. At high tide, the beach is a narrow strip at the head of the inlet but at low tide the harbour is completely dry (with the exception of a stream that runs down the middle of the harbour) providing hours of entertainment catching fish, shrimp and crabs.
If getting out on the water is your thing, then Pembrokeshire has loads of opportunities for fishermen, scuba divers, wildlife enthusiasts, yachtsmen, kayakers and paddleboarders! Two things were on my hit-list, weather permitting! One, to visit the puffins, two, stand up paddle boarding (SUP).
From very wet weather came Mediterranean temperatures, the boat trip around Skomer Island was almost like cruising around the Greek Islands! The sea was calm, crystal clear and turquoise blue! The two-hour round trip from St Justinians which is where the RNLI St Davids lifeboat resides, was pure magic.
It was an amazing experience first crossing St Brides Bay and then to see the large colony of orange-beaked puffins swimming and flying like tornadoes busily catching sand eels to take back to their nests. In addition to the sunbathing seals and amongst the teeming sea bird population we saw shearwater and gannets, led by the Thousand Island Expeditions wildlife expert and a skipper who provided lots of information, history and detail about the island, its wildlife and the surrounding islands.
There are numerous trips available depending on your interest, you can visit Ramsey Island or dedicated trips to visit the dolphins.
Boardgames is a successful company that gets you out on the water. Ever fancied learning to surf or paddle board? Libby the owner is very enthusiastic she will teach everyone how to do it! The Irish sea temperature is at its warmest in October – one to keep in mind for my return trip!
With all the equipment provided and a very warm wetsuits, gloves and hats, I found myself out on the water with a small group of paddle boarders, heading out from Lower Fishguard paddling the choppy waters with a smile on my face!
Libby told us some interesting local history of Jemima Nicholas (1750-1832), a formidable local woman who in 1797, armed only with a pitchfork, reputedly single-handedly rounded up a dozen invading French soldiers. They surrendered shortly afterwards, and the peace treaty was signed in The Royal Oak pub in Fishguard. Incidentally this is a great place for lunch. Jemima became a Welsh heroine!
We loved Pembrokeshire, not only the story about their heroine but also the friendly people we met, their understated county of pure beauty, their love of dogs and for all the wonderful surprises that we found.
Holidaying in the UK is extraordinary when the location surpasses your expectations and delights you with its beauty and unforgettable experiences. Pembrokeshire – you are top of my list from now on.
Qualitycottages.co.uk offers seven night stays at 2 Yr Hen Felin from £429 per week, based on up to four sharing. Dogs welcome.
For more information on things to see and do, visit visitpembrokeshire.com.
To take a boat trip with Thousand Islands, visit thousandislands.co.uk/boat-trips.
Boardgames Surf and Paddle boarding costs £39 per person and can be booked at boardgamessurfing.com.
For outdoor clothing and footwear, head over to hellyhansen.com.