Not all Shires are alike, but girl would a hobbit feel at home in this part of Wales!
From lush green hills to tiny colourful houses, Pembrokeshire is one of those destinations that make you pinch yourself in disbelief. How is this place even real and – more importantly – why am I only hearing about it now?
The sad truth is that Wales rarely gets the attention it deserves. Most people visiting Britain stay in London and a trip to Edinburgh is pretty much as adventurous as it gets. I know, look who’s talking. It took me three years of living in the country to venture further north than Bath, a small town in South West England!
But I’m making up for time lost and really focusing on exploring more of my adoptive land. My recent travels have made me fall even deeper in love with the UK which is lucky, because it’s exactly what I needed with the whole Brexit thing hanging over my head like a dark but undeniably racist cloud.
Not to mention the fact that the nation that managed to colonise a quarter of the planet in the 16th century still hasn’t discovered mixer taps five hundred years later, which means I get third degree burns on my right hand with a matching frostbite-gangrene combo on the left every time I go to wash my hands.
Whoa. I feel like I’ve been bottling up that anger for quite some time, which is probably a sign I’m finally becoming British. Yay… I think.
But I digress, as per usual. In today’s post I’m sharing some of the best things to do in Pembrokeshire and I encourage you to read through it even if you have no imminent plans to visit. Or have never heard of it before. There’s just something about this region that’s all too easy to fall in love with and this article might just inspire you to add Wales to your bucket list.
1. Hike The Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path stretches over 186 miles and is one of only fifteen National Trails in Britain. Lonely Planet describes it as one of the best long distance trails in the world and while I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of it, I think they’re on to something.
The trail covers almost every kind of maritime landscape from rugged limestone cliffs and red sandstone bays to stunning beaches. It would take you about two weeks to complete the full walk, with ascents and descents said to be the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. Phew.
If that doesn’t sound like the relaxing holiday you had in mind (I don’t blame you!), you can easily just spend half a day exploring the area on foot. If, on the other hand, climbing Mount Everest isn’t enough for you there’s more. In 2012 the Pembrokeshire Coast Path became part of the Wales Coast Path which covers 870 miles.
2. Hone Your Photography In Tenby
No guide to Pembrokeshire would be complete without a mention of Tenby. The colourful seaside resort attracts thousands of visitors every year, both from Britain and abroad. The city boasts 2.5 miles (4 km) of sandy beaches and is one of the sunniest destinations in Wales due to its southwest position, which makes it the perfect summer getaway.
But there’s a lot more to do here than just lay on the beach. How about admiring Tenby’s well-preserved 13th century medieval walls with a cone hot chips in your hand? St. Mary’s Church built in the 15th century, Tudor Merchant’s House and Tenby Museum and Art Gallery are other popular attractions.
If you’re into photography, don’t miss a chance to snap a few pictures of Tenby harbour at sunrise or sunset. It looks like a candy-coloured dream with soft orange rays bouncing off the sea surface.
3. Hang Out With Puffins At Skomer Island
Who doesn’t love puffins? These slightly awkward clown-faced seabirds are among the most lovable members of the animal kingdom. Did you know that a baby puffin is called a puffing and that a group of puffins is a circus? I seriously can’t even.
Skomer Island boasts the largest puffin colony in southern Britain, as well as half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters. To preserve the island’s natural beauty and protect the seabirds who call it home the number of people allowed to visit the island is capped at 250 per day.
Boats leave for Skomer Island from Martin’s Haven, but advance booking is not allowed. So make sure you call the folks at Lockley Lodge to ask when the boats to the island leave that morning. Tickets are sold on a first come first served basis so get there early to make sure you get one.
If you own a pair of binoculars bring them along for bird and seal spotting. If you don’t you can rent them directly on Skomer Island. Don’t forget to bring food! I didn’t and spent four hours hungrily staring at puffins. Ok, not this vegetarian. But I was absolutely ravenous and all I could buy there was water and cereal bars.
4. Go Sea Kayaking With Seals
You don’t need to be particularly sporty to enjoy sea kayaking. I tried it for the first time on a recent trip to Menorca and my flabby arms didn’t even hurt the next day. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to do this in Pembrokeshire but my friend Paul did, and loved his experience with Preseli Venture. They’re a family-owned business that has been running for nearly thirty years, employing local guides and running their own eco-friendly lodge.
I took the photo above while exploring the Green Bridge of Wales. I’ll tell you more about it shortly, but it might be worth looking up kayak rentals in the area as the water was crystal clear and full of seals! Whatever you do please abide by Pembrokeshire Marine Code developed specifically for kayakers and don’t force your new friends to pose for a sealfie (get it? get it?).
5. Greet The Wildlife On Ramsey Island
Skomer Island is just one of many incredible islands off the coast of Pembrokeshire. Another visitor favourite is Ramsey Island, the perfect place for wildlife spotting. I make no promises but while there you might come across dozens of different bird species, as well as groups of deer or inquisitive seals. Ramsey actually has the most important grey seal breeding colony in southern Britain, with over four hundred seal pups born each autumn.
Ramsey Island is located near a small islet called The Bitches which is a fact I’m including purely for my juvenile amusement.
6. Get A Tan (Not Really) In Barafundle Bay
When took to Instagram and asked you to guess where the photo above was taken most of you seemed unsure. Portugal? The Caribbean? I would have been too – most of us associate white sands and aquamarine waters with tropical destinations. But there are many sandy shores dotted around Britain and Pembrokeshire has more Blue Flag beaches than any other county in the country.
The main difference? The temperature. I visited on a sunny day and the sea was so cold that it left my bare toes numb for a few minutes. The locals come equipped with wetsuits and jackets on a colder day although I did spot a few children playing around in swimsuits. If you do go for a dip watch out for jellyfish – I spotted a few floating around a little further out from the bay.
There is no road access directly to the beach, but you can park your car at Stackpole Quay for £5 per day – £2 if you visit after 2pm. The site is sadly not wheelchair accessible due to stairs, uneven terrain and sand.
7. Admire The Green Bridge of Wales
The Green Bridge of Wales is a natural limestone arch located within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It is about 24 m (80 ft) high with a span of more than 20 m (66 ft). Flocks of nesting sea birds like to gather on the top which will give you an opportunity to observe them through a pair of binoculars.
Be careful as you drive up to the Green Bridge as it lies in the Ministry of Defence’s Castlemartin military training area. Public access is normally available but the narrow roads are a little tricky and if you blindly trust your navigation system you might end up near the restricted areas. I know all this because le boyfriend and I nearly ended up inside one of them. We had to reverse out of there through thick bushes and undergrowth which really should have given it away in the first place. Duh! Apologies Wales, I’ll have more faith in your signs next time.
8. Explore Saint Govan’s Chapel
Saint Govan’s Chapel was built into the side of a limestone cliff, which makes it a very unique sight worth visiting. The majority of the building was constructed in the 13th century but parts may date as at back as the sixth century when Saint Govan moved into a cave located on the site.
Saint Govan was an Irish monk who travelled to Wales to find the friends and family of the abbot who had trained him. According to legend he was attacked by pirates and the cliff parted a little allowing him to hide inside. He decided to stay and is rumoured to be buried underneath the little chapel.
9. Stroll Around Saundersfoot
Located right in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, it is not hard to guess why Saundersfoot is one of the most visited Welsh holiday destinations. From old school arcades to quaint cafes the village – the largest in Pembrokeshire – has something for everyone.
Every New Year’s Day local businesses also sponsor a charity swim there. In 2016 it attracted 1,500 participants dressed in all kinds of crazy costumes and thousands of viewers. Over the past three decades the event has raised more than £500,000 so you won’t be freezing for nothing if you decide to go.
10. Learn About British History In Pembroke
Last but not least, how could you visit Pembrokeshire without going to Pembroke? The town is not particularly large but it holds the key to a big part of Britain’s history. Pembroke Castle was the birthplace of Henry VII of England who went on to become the first monarch of the House of Tudor. The picturesque medieval castle has appeared on silver screens around the world, from the film version of Shakespeare’s Richard II to box office hit Me Before You.
You’ll also get the unique opportunity to explore Pembroke Castle, a fortress in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, which towers over Pembroke River and is located near Pembroke Docks. #pembroken
Oh, and if you’re a dog lover like me you’re going to love this random fact of the day… Pembroke is where most Welsh Corgis originate from. You know the small herding dog that has achieved international fame as Queen Elizabeth’s favourite breed? Yeah, that one.
There are lots of other amazing things to do in Pembrokeshire. St Davids, Preseli Hills, Carew Castle, Fishguard, Milford Haven and St Brides Bay are a few of the places you should look into as well. But I think it’s best to stop here – the suggestions above should be more than enough to help you put together a fun, adventure-packed itinerary!
Where To Stay
I booked my hotel room using LateRooms because I’m not much of a planner and often have to rely on last minute deals. You can use it to find great hotel offers all over the UK, up to 50% off the normal price. So much for the early bird getting the worm!
I had the pleasure of staying at The Atlantic Hotel in Tenby, with cliff top gardens and panoramic views of South Beach. I’d recommend you also stay in Tenby because the town has so much to offer – from incredible seafood restaurants to great nightlife. Saundersfoot is another great choice, but if you’re craving something a little more low-key Pembroke might be a better fit.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear from you. What are your favourite things to do in Pembrokeshire? Have you ever heard of it or been to Wales before?
Disclaimer: My trip to Wales was sponsored by Laterooms. As always all opinions – and adorable corgi gifs – are my own. For more info about Pembrokeshire check out my 48 hour guide to this magical part of Wales.