Newest Review: ... loads of pub and a few Italians. However, struck immediately by the medieval and romantic ambience, we chose to splash out on this occasi... more
I left my heart in sunny Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire Coast (Wales)
Member Name: flickpugh
Pembrokeshire Coast (Wales)
Date: 11/06/06, updated on 11/06/06 (1829 review reads)
Advantages: Great beaches, loads to do and see, relaxing, good seafood
Disadvantages: Tenby is quite expensive to eat out, stag and hen parties galore if you go in summer
I have lots of happy childhood memories of Pembrokeshire: family camping trips, activity holidays with school, youth hostelling with friends and the odd day trip to Tenby in the summer. I always loved the area but somehow after the age of 16 didnít go back for 14 years. I moved out of my parentsí home in South Wales at 18 and so it became a much less convenient holiday destination. Iím now going to tell you about my most recent experiences of Pembrokeshire, I can only tell you what I know, but there is a lot more to the area so if youíre interested, check out one of the excellent tourist websites for the area including the Visit Pembrokeshire site.
*** 1st adulthood trip Easter 2005 - Tenby and beyond
Then during the Easter weekend of 2005 my boyfriend and I were staying with my parents and decided to do an overnight trip to Tenby which is only an hour and a halfís drive from where they live. It was a bit of a last minute decision so our choice of accommodation was limited, but I did find somewhere, a small B&B just a street away from the road that overlooks Tenbyís South Beach for £40 a night for the room, it was basic but clean accommodation, but couldnít complain for that price, especially on such a peak weekend. The place we stayed has now been sold however so thereís not much point me discussing that one further.
We had a lovely time that weekend, we arrived just before lunchtime and after checking in to our B&B took a look around Tenby town. It was a lovely, sunny day (despite all the jibes about Welsh weather, mostly true for the South and North, Pembrokeshire is actually one of the sunniest areas of Britain) so we just walked along the two main beaches, the imaginatively named North and South beaches.
Cast aside all your preconceptions now of a British seaside resort town. I think if youíre thinking Weston super Mare or Blackpool youíd be very pleasantly surprised. The beaches are fabulous, especially South beach, long, golden and not too overdeveloped. Apart from one stupidly allowed tall tower block of holiday flats on the hill in front of North beach (which is the also the Tenby harbour area) there are no building eyesores from the 1960s and 1970s of the kind which blight so many British and European resorts either.
The harbour is very pretty indeed, no tacky shops or food stalls have been allowed to set up there, so all youíll find is a fish and seafood stall (reasonably priced considering the location and offering a good selection) and 2 small huts offering boat trips to Caldey island. Iíve not yet made it to Caldey island has been inhabited since the Stone Age and has been home to many orders of monks since Celtic times. A characteristic feature of Tenby harbour and indeed other parts of the town are the pastel coloured painted houses. They add a nice bit of colour to the scene and look particularly striking at sunset. There is also some castle ruins and a lifeboat house and information centre nearby which merits a quick visit, especially I imagine if you have young boys with you.
That evening we wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. Tenby has a fairly decent range of restaurants, thereís a curry house by the river, a few fish and chip shops (not totally escaping the typical British resort then!), seafood places, loads of pub and a few Italians. However, struck immediately by the medieval and romantic ambience, we chose to splash out on this occasion and eat at the Plantagenet House restaurant. This is the most expensive restaurant in the town (if not one of the most expensive in Wales) Ė main courses go from about £13 for some vegetarian dishes to an average of £18 for steaks, lamb shank, £22 for lobster and £30 £7for an incredible seafood platter (could easily be shared).
I had a delicious seafood salad for starters (£7) and steak for my main course which was easily one of the best steaks Iíve ever had in my life. My partner had a delicious French onion soup for starter (about £5) and the lamb shanks, which were huge and tender. We both somehow found the room for dessert Ė delicious home made icecream for me and profitaroles for him. Desserts were also around a fiver from what I recall so along with the bottle of London wine bar priced red, a diet coke and a bottle of South American beer the bill came to around £80 including tips I think. There was a slight error with the bill, canít remember what, but I was most impressed when the owner (a cheery Cockney) came over to apologise and offered us both a drink on the house from the bar downstairs. He also showed us the medieval chimney, which he was very proud of!
I wouldnít normally divert into a restaurant review inside a travel review but I was so impressed by that place, I had to tell you all about it. If you can afford to splash out on one night of your trip (check the opening times though as they can be erratic off season and book ahead as itís renowned and therefore very popular), or you want to treat someone, then Iíd really recommend a visit here. Iíve never been at lunchtime but you can get a different cheaper menu if you go in the day, although I think itís in a different part and I canít see the wonderful candle atmosphere being quite the same during the day.
Anyway, back to the travel review! After a tipsy walk back to the B&B we slept very well and woke early the next day to more bright sunshine. Having seen most of Tenby at by then we decided to drive up the coast, stopping off at various beautiful beach side pubs on the way and ending up in the pretty Ďvillageí of St Davids which is actually Britainís smallest city. Thereís a cathedral there and some more fab beaches in the area so we spent a few hours there before driving back to my parents.
** 2nd adulthood trip - September 2005 - Tenby and beyond
So enthused were we by this very successful trip we raved about it to my whole family and got straight into planning a longer trip later in the year. On an Ďinternet lunchtimeí at work the following week I stumbled upon the FBM holidays site (email me if youíd like more details) and booked a bungalow called Hafod for September, 3 bedrooms, for us, my parents and my fabulous Gran.
The setting was amazing. On the top of the cliff, overlooking an expanse of ocean from the back garden (the large garden ends with a gate and a sheer drop but it is well fenced off) and to the side north beach and the harbour. Itís a ten-minute walk from the centre of the town, with a house on either side but feels far from the buzz of things. We were lucky on all 4 days of our September trip and had lots of warm sunshine again and I have very fond memories of the warm evenings we spend with the bbq and a few glasses of wine sitting on the bench looking at the moonlit sea.
The cottage was homely and well equipped. All the rooms overlook the sea and the garden has two barbeque patio areas. The owners had gone to every effort to make us feel at home, leaving us a bottle of wine, lots of tea and coffee, biscuits, magazines, brochures, golf clubs and board games! I could go on further about the place as I loved it and would thoroughly recommend it for a week or long weekend (again I can give you more information if you are interested, just email me), but should really move on!
During this trip, we took it very easily as my Gran isnít as mobile as she once was so ate in every night, but even if she hadnít been with us I think weíd have had very little inclination to leave our cosy Ďhomeí. We did however take a few short trips in the car with her and were all very impressed with yet more golden, clean and almost deserted beaches further up the coast. Basically the further north you go from Tenby (out of peak season at least) the quieter the beaches and countryside become so you really feel as if youíre getting away from it all, especially if youíre from London!
We also visited the small village of Dale which is near where my Grandfather was stationed in the second world war. It was interesting for us to see his old barracks which are still standing, but I wasnít that impressed with the town itself. Itís for a start the only place in Pembrokeshire where Iíve experienced bad service (although service is often slower than Iím used to in Ďserve them quick and get them outí London). That said if youíre into water sports Ė windsurfing, sailing, surfing, kayaking and powerboating there is lots of those going on there and the West Wales Wind, Surf and Sailing school is based in the centre of the tiny village. The only other interesting fact I remember from this visit is that Dale is the spot where Henry Tudor landed in 1485, returning from his exile in France, before he met his fate at the hands of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.
That's about it for that trip, apart from Saundersfoot, another seaside town, a similar side to Tenby but less pretty. We stopped there for a few hours and had a nice lunch in a very friendly pub, but I've forgotten its name. I'd been told that Saundersfoot was a little rough around the edges and that's about right, it's more an old person's place I'd say as well, but it still had a good, sandy beach and is much cheaper both for accomodation and for eating out than Tenby so might be worth considering if you're on a tight budget and don't mind there not being loads to do on your doorstep.
** 3rd adulthood trip - March 2006 - Tenby and beyond
I was back in Pembrokeshire once again in mid March of this year when my boyfriend and I hired another place with FBM holidays with 4 friends. Weíd wanted to go back to the Hafod bungalow but our friends, expecting a typical British seaside resort, voted for somewhere more rural. We decided on Lydsep, a pretty village about 4 miles from Tenby and got a cheaper, 4 bedroomed house called Windy Ridge, again through FBM holidays. It was not quite as homely as Hafod but was of a very high standard nevertheless. Lydstep beach was about a 5 minute walk away.
This time we decided to see a bit of the Pembrokeshire coastal path. Pembrokeshire is the only coastal national park in Britain and if you were to do the entire path it would take you along 186 miles/ 299 km of stunning clifftop scenery with beaches very similar to those in quieter parts of Cornwall. If you were to do the whole thing it would take you 12 or 13 days, but it is easy to break it into segments and do it over several visits. Some of the sights you might see, depending on the time of year, include wild flowers, dolphins, seals, Norman castles and ancient churches, including the remarkable St. Govanís chapel. This minature 13th century chapel is wedged into a tiny chapel on a steep cliff and is definitely worth a visit if you have an interest in ancient sites. There is some spectacular scenery in the area, although it is very close to a military camp.
Anyway, that was another slight digression, as we visited the chapel on another day. The walk we did was around 12 miles and took us from Bosherton Lily ponds (a large area of ponds, which are more like lakes which if you time it right will be full of Monet style lilies) back to Lydstep. The walk was stunning, taking in some fabulous beaches, including Barafundle bay, an award winning site, Broadhaven South, Little Haven and Manorbier. As well as beaches there are some amazing limestone areas, castles a few stop off points with tea houses or friendly pubs, wild ponies and blowholes. The walk was tiring, it was an unseasonably warm day and there were far too many ups and downs for my liking, unsurprisingly I suppose for a cliff top walk but Iíd definitely do it again.
I donít have children so canít tell you much about what to do with them if you if theyíre coming with you, but from brochures I came across I could see that there is a wide range of activities and places to take them in rain or shine. Thereís Folly Farm, Oakwood Theme park, a chocolate factory, boat trips to see seals and dolphins, nearly every type of land and water sport from kayaking to horse riding and of course all the fantastic beaches. Outside the summer season dogs are also allowed on the beaches but please take your poop scoop and keep those blue flags flying.
I have to remind you as well that, in recent times at least, Iíve only been in spring and autumn which I think are the best times to go if youíre as lucky as Iíve been on all 3 trips with the weather. I imagine itís great in summer too, just busier and Tenby is no doubt full of hen and stag parties at this time too. I havenít seen much evidence of them on any of my trips but itís meant to be one of the most popular destinations for hen parties in the UK, so they must all go in summer.
Getting there takes around 4 hours from London, 2 from Cardiff and 2 ĺ from Bristol. Like, Cornwall, itís not the easiest of places to get to from many areas of Britain, which I think helps it stay so relatively unspoilt. There is a train station in Tenby but from most places, including London, this will involve at least one change and possibly a long wait at Swansea.
I canít think of anything else right now that I need to mention, but I will add to this review if you leave me a comment about anything youíd like to know, or as Iíve said youíre welcome to email me at the address on my profile.
Summary: The perfect UK holiday for families, friends and couples
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