With staycationing still being the easiest option due to the ongoing pandemic, we decided that our next venture would take us to Pembrokeshire in South West Wales – a place with plenty of coastline to walk our socks off, small islands to explore and sandy beaches to laze the day away on.
We based ourselves in Tenby for the week, choosing this as a great location from which to explore the offerings of Pembrokeshire.
Tenby: Dinbych-y-Pysgod (meaning ‘Little Fort of the Fish’)
Tenby is right up there when it comes to the perfect UK seaside escape, for a number of reasons:
✔️ There’s golden beaches with powdered sand – and not just one, but four.
✔️ There’s a cute, cobbled and colourful town centre, brimming with boutique shops, restaurants, coffee shops and ice cream parlours.
✔️ There’s that delightful waft of fish and chips in the air.
Despite all this goodness, Tenby is most well known for its pretty-as-a-picture pastel coloured Georgian houses that line the promenade, overlooking the harbour. I think it’s fair to say that they definitely have the ‘wow factor’ when first you see them.
Choosing to stay in the centre of Tenby afforded us the opportunity to savour the delights of the local eateries each evening, which was a real treat for the senses and the waistline.
We were spoiled for choice, with everything from the best of British to Greek, Indian, Jamaican, Italian – and of course, the finest locally sourced seafood.
Now, back to those four beaches….
Firstly, you have the ever popular North Beach which boasts the best views of Tenby’s colourful houses – not a bad focal point when you’re soaking up the sun. This is also the starting point for a walk to Saundersfoot (but more of that later).
South Beach is full of families, kite-flyers and bodyboarders and has the longest stretch of sand, reaching out to Tenby golf club and the neighbouring Penally Village. During our stay, this seemed the most populated of the beaches, perhaps due to the beach bars offering welcoming shade from the midday sun.
Castle Beach and Harbour Beach may be slightly smaller, but both are equally as pretty as their North and South siblings, if not more so. Here you will find little coves and caves to shelter in, a working RNLI lifeboat station and St Catherine’s Island within arms reach. Heck, Wally The Walrus even ventured all the way from the Arctic to holiday in Harbour Beach for seven weeks – and if it’s good enough for him….
The beauty of Tenby’s beaches – apart from the obvious – is that they all interlink (at least, when the tide is out), allowing you to try them all out with minimal effort.
Thanks to the miles of sand, you’ll rarely have to fight for deckchair space or scrabble over the best sun trap – that is, unless you visit in the height of Summer when the population goes from 5,000 to 60,000! Yep, Tenby is popular alright!
An interesting fact: Tenby’s North Beach was actually rated number 1 ‘most photogenic’ in the UK in 2021 and number 7 in world. It has also been awarded a Blue Flag for water quality, environmental management and safety. Who needs Ibiza?
If you want to see more of Tenby, check out my Instagram IGTV video @sunseeandsuitcase.
No trip to Pembrokeshire is complete without a visit to Caldey Island – and it’s just a mere 20 minutes from Tenby harbour by boat.
Caldey Island is a working monastery, owned and run by a community of Cistercian monks, who have inhabited the island since the 6th Century.
Once arriving on the island and entering the village, you will see the large Italianate Church towering above. It was built in 1906 and is home to the monks, who you may have the experience of hearing during prayer.
You can go inside the smaller St David’s Church and look at the stained glass, all impressively designed by a monk who had previously lived on the island. The Old Priory is also open to visitors and is a place meant for quiet contemplation. Look out for the black swans on the lake too.
The island monks are a pretty talented bunch and also make their own perfume, shortbread, chocolate and fudge. Those with a sweet tooth (me) can also visit the Chocolate Factory to get a glimpse into the making of Caldey’s sweet delights – and purchase as much of it as you like!
Nature lovers can easily spend hours navigating the coastline, where there are fantastic panoramic views back across to Tenby (on a clear day), as well as the opportunity to spot some rare birds, insects and seals (if you’re really lucky).
There are three routes available on the island: The ‘Lighthouse Walk’ (approximately 1.5 miles), the ‘West Cliffs Walk’ (2 miles) and the ‘Woodland Walk’ where you might just spot a red squirrel or two (1 mile). It’s easy enough to do all three in a morning.
Last but not least, Caldey Island has its own beach which is totally unspoilt and also looks back across to Tenby, so if you’ve got a picnic with you, this is the place to eat it.
Without question, Caldey Island is definitely one for your ‘to do list’ when in Pembrokeshire – especially if you get a sunny day!
If you’re looking for Tenby in miniature, Saundersfoot is it.
Saundersfoot is only a short drive from Tenby – but where’s the fun in that? Instead, there is a five mile walk from Tenby North Beach, taking in vast woodland, beaches and offering stunning cliff top views.
A little word of warning, however – there are many ascents and descents along the route (some fairly gruelling and some very muddy) so it’s best to leave the flip flops at the beach and wear trainers or walking boots instead!
Trust me, you’ll most definitely feel that you’ve earned your ice cream (or beer – or both) when you make it to the other end!
Once in Saundersfoot, you’ll find another lovely seaside town to explore, albeit more compact than Tenby.
In addition to the numerous holiday cottages, you’ll find an array of shops to peruse, a long stretch of beach to lounge on and a multitude of places to drink in and dine at whilst soaking up the sea air. In fact, Saundersfoot fancies itself as a bit of a gourmet resort, showcasing the catch of the day. Did someone say a pint of prawns? Oh go on then…
Like Tenby, Saundersfoot also has a working fishing harbour where you can go to ‘boat watch’, whilst daydreaming of a life on the ocean wave. The harbour was constructed way back in 1830, to transport coal, iron ore and fire bricks. Today, it’s given way to tourism and has a number of food huts and shops selling beachwear dotted around it.
Tip: There’s no shame in taking the bus back to Tenby, if you want to take a rain check on the walk back.
St David’s is Britain’s smallest city – earning the title due to the rather impressive 12th century cathedral that stands in the middle. It is both the birth and burial place of the patron saint of Wales, hence the name.
Whilst a ‘must see’ when in Pembrokeshire, it’s unlikely that you will need longer than a few hours here if you’re just on a day trip – it really is that small.
There’s the famous cathedral, yes, and a handful of shops and cafes – but after that, you’re probably done. Unlike other cities in the UK, there’s no high street shopping, nightlife or hop on hop off bus tours. Some might say that’s preferable.
One thing not to miss when you’re in the St David’s area, however, is the coastal walks and beaches at St Justinians and Whitesands.
Whitesands is a favourite with surfers and sun lovers alike, whereas St Justinians is the place to catch the boat out to Ramsey Island, for a bit of seal spotting, if that’s your thing.
That said, it’s not always necessary to take a paid tour if you know where to look – or, rather, if you fall lucky like we did. We stumbled upon a family of seals just minding their own business in a cove, only minutes from the lifeboat station.
I have to say, the pups were pretty cute!
Stackpole Quay, Barafundle and Bosherton
I’m assuming that for most holidaymakers choosing Pembrokeshire, a lot of the draw comes from the coastal walks that come in abundance. Not only good for the soul, but great for walking off holiday calories.
A friend had told us to try the walk at Stackpole Estate that takes around 2.5 hours and is relatively easy (unlike the Tenby to Saundersfoot trek I mentioned previously). Simply park up at one of the three National Trust car parks along the route – I recommend Stackpole Quay – and off you go.
The walk is a good combination of woodland, sand and cliff tops, with plenty to see – so packing the camera is a must. On a clear day, you can see for miles.
Starting at Stackpole Quay, you pass down into Barafundle Bay, voted one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches. This is a relatively secluded cove-like beach that seems to attract abseilers as well as sun worshipers and excitable dogs.
After a good walk around the cliffs (mind out for the sheer drops), you then descend onto the neighbouring Broadhaven Beach – this one much bigger and bolder than Barafundle, but appealing nonetheless.
As the walk reaches it’s end, you pass through the quiet village of Bosherton, where there are the famous lily ponds, complete with swans, ducks and other wildlife. It’s a favourite place for otter-spotters too.
So there you have it, a look at just some of Pembrokeshire’s finest. With less than 10% of the coastline walked, I’m in no doubt, we will return again….so watch this space for part two!
Click below for more blogs from my trips to Wales 🏴