Pembrokeshire, Wales: The view of Tenby
Dramatic, mystical forests set on beds of moss and thick ferns.
Boisterous seas bordered by vast and deserted beaches dotted with boulders; countryside that stands like a patchwork of farms and white stone cottages; and, elsewhere, harbour towns with Georgian architecture painted in subtle gelato-toned hues.
Pembrokeshire is nothing if not diverse. Located on the southwestern point of Wales, it’s home to national parks, ancient sites and, of course, a good chunk of the Wales Coastal Path – 186 miles of which stretches through Pembrokeshire. There are delights to discover far and wide.
Here’s our pick of the best.
Penally Abbey Hotel (01834 843 033/penally-abbey.com) is one of those hidden gems I’m rather reluctant to reveal.
Set just outside Tenby in a leafy well-to-do suburb, this glorious Strawberry Hill Gothic property dates back to the 6th century and was once a stop on the Pilgrims’ Trail to St Davids Cathedral.
In the grounds is a 12th-century chapel and the holy well which is thought to be St Teilo’s Well, said to have healing properties.
The six acres of pretty, natural, stepped gardens overlook the undulating dunes to Caldey Island.
A blood-red creeper covers the house and with a wild garden still damp and glistening from the night’s mist, the ambience was intoxicating when I stayed.
Penrhiw Hotel, Wales
The Penally Abbey Hotel, Wales
There are 11 charming and sophisticated rooms, including four in the coach house. These rooms are slightly more contemporary with pale grey tongue-and-groove walls, huge beds, Nespresso machines and big marble bathrooms.
The comfy lounge – with wingback chairs in window nooks and a large fireplace – beckons on a rainy afternoon.
● Doubles from £140 (two sharing), B&B. In St Davids, the Penrhiw Hotel (01437 725 588/penrhiwhotel.com) is rather deceiving from the outside.
This grand stone mansion, set behind electric gates, has more of the feel of a private aristocrat’s residence than a hotel. Essentially, it’s a posh B&B.
Inside is surprisingly minimalist with suede-covered walls, large velvet sofas and enormous canvases of modern art. Rooms (six in the main house, two in the coach house) are far more welcoming, decorated in more calming tones of chocolate and cream. The atmospheric St David’s Cathedral is a mere five minutes away.
● Doubles from £140 (two sharing), B&B.
Street food outlet Café Môr is at Freshwater West beach
A TASTE OF WALES
After a chilly, bracing walk, the Blas at Fronlas (01239 820 065/ blasatfronlas.com) in the tiny town of Newport has large pews slung with Welsh blankets and stripped-back wooden tables.
Shelves groan under a raft of local produce: seaweed-infused sea salt and organic wines.
Warm up with traditional Welsh cawl – a watery stew, served with a chunk of cheddar and crusty bread (£8.50).
Most walkers, surfers and visitors inevitably wind up at Café Môr (beachfood.co.uk), a street food outlet at beautiful Freshwater West beach. They come for the legendary buttery lobster rolls (£10).
The “beach shack” adorned with buoys and fishing nets declares itself to be the world’s first “seaweed kitchen dedicated to the mysteries of the sea” (closed until Easter).
Narberth town is bursting with quirky stores selling bric-a-brac
The Blas (meaning “taste” in Welsh) Restaurant within the Twr y Felin Hotel (01437 725555/ twryfelinhotel.com) in St Davids – just named AA Hotel of the Year in Wales – is an unmissable treat.
The restaurant’s intimate space is hung with modern Andy Warholinspired portraits.
Its atmosphere is staunchly formal yet relaxed at the same time, with wooden floors and tables and exceptional, white-gloved waiters serving locally sourced produce with fabulous vegetarian choices.
Awarded two AA Rosettes, this restaurant surely warrants more. Star of the show, and light yet superb, was the roasted courgette, aubergine and pearl barley.
● Around £140 for two. In Narberth order tapas served on wooden platters at Ultracomida (01834 861491/ultracomida.co.uk).
Stock up on Welsh (Golden Cenarth, Pant Mawr and Preseli) cheeses, Spanish olive oils, nuts and wines.
And don’t miss quirky stores such as The Malthouse for stylish bric-a-brac and H by B (housebybetty. com) for beautiful wooden brushes, cotton throws and gardening paraphernalia displayed in old crates.
Visit St David’s Cathedral which was built in its own hollow to hide it from marauding Vikings
Once a hive of activity, exporting slate, the gorgeous hamlet of Porthgain (between Fishguard and St Davids) is largely quiet now, bar a handful of fishing boats.
This one-street (imaginatively named The Street) town is lined with cottages that are outlets for artists.
The bay is welcome respite for walkers on the blustery coastal path.
Watch seals coming into the harbour and feast on the best fish and chips in Wales at The Shed (013488 31518/theshedporthgain.co.uk).
Sip a pint of local ale at the Sloop Inn, an atmospheric, traditional Welsh pub full of maritime memorabilia and old photographs of the port.
It was also the local of Welsh songstress, Cerys Matthews who had her wedding breakfast there and who occasionally pops in to sing to the patrons.
Keep a watch out for seals coming right in to the harbour in the hamlet of Porthgain
Overlooking Carningli (Angle Mountain) and Newport Bay, it’s no wonder Pentre Ifan (Ivan’s village) was chosen as a burial site.
This megalithic site in the Preseli Hills is thought to be the crown of an ancient burial chamber which dates back to 3,500BC and the rocks at Stonehenge are said to have originated from here.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
With its brooding skies and vast landscapes, it’s no surprise that artists flock to Wales.
Warren S Heaton of Oriel Fach (01437 729268/pembrokeshireart. wales) in the quaint town of Solva captures the mood perfectly and his paintings of beaches, local birds and horses are affordable too.
In nearby Saundersfoot, among the shops selling tourist tat, is pretty gallery Blackbird Ceramics (blackbirdceramics. co.uk).
Potter Richard Prentice, inspired by the coastline, has created beautiful sea globes (from £45).
Broad Haven South beach near the village of Bosherston
The cathedral at St Davids (the UK’s smallest city) is unusual in the fact that it sits on sloping grounds dotted with ancient tombstones.
A gentle stream runs alongside the cathedral, built in its own hollow to hide it from marauding Vikings.
The ruin of the Bishop’s Palace is vast and the cathedral itself is devoid of any frills, yet there’s still something starkly beautiful about it.
LIFE’S A BEACH
Pembrokeshire has some of the best beaches in the world.
Freshwater East is certainly up there; a vast stretch of sand flanked by wild grasses and smooth green hills.
Broad Haven South is far more dramatic, with the jagged Church Rock and stream of water emanating from the Bosherston lily ponds.
The Point, Little Haven, takes in St Brides Bay and its rugged cliffs.
Pembrokeshire tourism: visitpembrokeshire.com
Published at Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:01:00 +0000