Pembrokeshire's coast with the most
Magnificent castles, jaw-dropping coastlines and wonderful wildlife make Pembrokeshire an unmissable destination for a touring holiday
By: Elizabeth Fowler | 27 Jul 2018
The glorious coastline around Pembrokeshire is a favourite desination for Elizabeth Fowler. Along with daughter Alison they visit an island teeming with wildlife, enjoy clifftop walks and ride on a historic steam train while staying at a series of charming Club sites and Certificated Locations. Highlights taken from the August 2018 Club magazine.
St David's Cathedral (Pictures by Alison Fowler)
I just love Pembrokeshire; a land of castles and clifftops where the coastline is one glorious National Park. What better place to spend a summer break with my daughter Alison? The only problem was agreeing on an itinerary as there is so much to see and do meaning that in the end we decided to randomly stick a pin in the map and start there!
Happily, the nearest site to our pin was the delightful little Cleddau Estate CL. Surrounded by trees full of birds singing their hearts out, and boasting numerous woodland flowers, it provided the perfect contrast after a drive on busy roads.
The site is a great base to visit the tiny city of St David’s. It may only have a population of 1,800 but it has big attractions in the form of the wonderful cathedral and dramatic ruins of the Bishop’s Palace. St David’s is also where you can book boat trips to Ramsey Island. Choose between bird and seal watching trips, fast adrenaline rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) rides or a chance to land and explore.
Scenic Solva harbour was used in the film of Under Milk Wood
We opted for a trip to the isle of Skomer from Martin’s Haven, further down the coast, in the hope of seeing the resident puffins. After a short trip we were soon surrounded by puffins, flying over us, staring at us from every ledge and popping in and out of their burrows – it was magical. You also have a good chance of seeing seals, dolphins and even whales from this beautiful part of the country.
If walking and nature watching is your thing, St David’s Lleithyr Meadow Club site is ideal or if you prefer a CL then you could consider Simpson Hill Farm which offers extensive country views. From here we ventured to Solva, where the scenic harbour was used in the film of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood.
This gorgeously pretty inlet is a photographer’s dream. At low tide a wonderful area of sand and rock pools is uncovered, so make sure you check the tide times first if you are taking the family to swim or play. Additional attractions include local fresh crab for sale in the village (reason enough to visit!), while a mile inland is Solva Woollen Mill which produces a beautiful, distinctive cloth.
Carew Castle and Tidal Mill
We ventured south to Freshwater East, where the beach is a short walk from the Club site of the same name. From here it is about three miles into Pembroke – but there is so much to see in this area it’s difficult to know where to start.
Lampey Bishop’s Palace, Carew Castle, Upton Castle Gardens? Or Manorbier Castle then Tenby and the Tudor Merchant’s House? We actually managed to sample them all before deciding that a slow day walking the cliffs was needed. We set off from Stackpole Quay and headed for the lovely Barafundle Bay where much of the Benedict Cumberbatch film, Third Star, was shot. Farther along the coast you reach Bosherston Lily Ponds, long thin stretches of water surrounded by flowers and woodland and home to dragonflies and plentiful birdlife.
On the next stage of our trip we headed east, stopping to see medieval Picton Castle, which is surrounded by 40 acres of gardens. We were lucky enough to meet and hold some of the beautiful owls that live in the Secret Owl Garden.
The Gwili Steam Railway travels through picturesque countryside
It was then on to the lovely Garnffrwd Trout Fishery CL in neighbouring Carmarthenshire. A bonus on this site is the little café which has a wide deck overlooking the water - a perfect spot to enjoy a coffee, watching anglers waiting for a catch.
From here we visited a steam railway – we just cannot resist the pull of polished engines pulling wonderful old-fashioned carriages. Gwili Railway offers an extensive timetable with all departures leaving from Bronwydd Arms. Special events are laid on throughout the year, including on-board Sunday lunches and strawberry cream teas, a Murder Mystery experience and a Ghost Express trip.
Kidwelly Castle overlooking the River Gwendraeth
If you are holidaying with family in the area, Pembrey Country Park Club site would be an excellent choice. Pitch up among the trees, put away all tablets and phones and head off into the park itself, where riding, golfing, orienteering, tobogganing, skiing, cycle hire and an adventure playground are on offer. When you are all exhausted, find somewhere to collapse on the eight miles of glorious sandy beach that edge the park or unwind in the Café Cwtch with a welcome cream tea.
Make time to explore Kidwelly Castle, about five miles to the north of the Club site. Started in 1106, it features numerous mighty towers as well as narrow, steep curling stone staircases, dim passageways and rooms above rooms.
Preparing to enter the Dalaucothi Gold Mines (©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey)
Finally, our journey took us into the hills and the lovely wooded Affiliated Site of Dolaucothi Estate Caravan Park. Meandering slowly up the valley beyond Carmarthen, we stopped for a walk in the Brechfa Forest. It was wonderfully relaxing as we wandered through the trees, shafts of sunlight illuminating patches of wild flowers. We sat at a picnic bench as hardy types set out on extreme mountain bike challenges. The hills here are home to some incredible bike trails – but I found it nerve-wracking just watching!
Across the road from the site are the Dolaucothi Roman Gold Mines. Despite their ancient origins the precious metal was actually extracted here right up until the 1930s. Visitors are kitted out with mining gear and can experience the claustrophobic conditions endured by men working the long shafts. Once back in the open air you can try your hand at gold panning.
We experienced magnificent castles, top-class attractions, jaw-dropping coastlines and a top-notch selection of wildlife in this beautiful corner of the country. I would urge you to follow in our footsteps.
About the author
Elizabeth and Alison Fowler
Camping in the rain on Dartmoor turned this comfort loving body into a camping nut, add in an insatiable wanderlust and the die was cast. A passion for maps and finding the quirky/odd/fascinating corners has made exploring the UK fabulous. Now travelling with a great photographer, Alison, makes everything even more fun as we share the same love of seeing what might be hidden around the next corner. Must admit to never having had a caravan as that always felt too enclosed, so it was a campervan with a big opening side door or a tent.
We meet so many people with intriguing stories to tell - Alison is forever going missing as she finds someone to chatter to. She nearly came unstuck on one occasion, we passed a beautiful pebble ridge art installation so stopped, she grabbed her camera and rushed back. Carefully clearing the bits of plastic around it she just had it in the viewfinder when a very large man appeared carrying a stone. He was the artist and she had removed his kneeling pads! Fortunately he turned out to be the 'Gentle Giant', a coastline artist.