37 Hours in Pembrokeshire, Wales

The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire Wales

In a recent post, I argued that a visitor to Wales should abandon the city for the shire. If there’s one shire in the country that a traveler must see, it’s Pembrokeshire. With dramatic precipices that hang over royal blue seas, quaint towns that reside along a coastal trail, and sports that are as extreme as the Welsh tides, Pembrokeshire is a gem in this dazzling country.


Many times, these you-have-three-days-in-a-place posts attempt to cram in too many activities on an itinerary. The best things to do in Pembrokeshire, Wales, however, require an investment of time. While the New York Times might only give you 36 hours in this region, we here at Somewhere Or Bust believe in longer stays. Without further ado here are just a few activities for your 37 hours in Wales’s Pembrokeshire.


Coasteering Wales


The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire Wales


Friday 9:00 am: Coasteering the County

While it’s always a nice luxury to slowly acquaint yourself with place, sometimes it is best to plunge right in. Coasteering, an extreme sport that began in Wales, is the perfect and literal way to do so. The sport involves open-ocean swimming, rock climbing, and cliff jumping. Not only is it an introduction to landscape through a sport still in its adolescence—keeping the cliffs virtually empty and free from the hazards of traffic—but it’s an up-close encounter with the beauties of nature.


My guide from Preseli Venture—besides placing me in front of swells that triumphed over defending rock walls, sending me into caves that magnified waves, and encouraging me up jagged rock faces that appeared much more frightening from the top—gave me a primer in marine biology. Confined to tidal pools, colorful sea anemones captured sand crabs in their soft tentacles, coiffures of algae grew atop limpets that swayed like head-banging punk rockers, and dog whelks rested after spending three days drilling through a barnacle and turning its insides into soup. (You can read a more detailed account of coasteering Wales in my article for BBC Travel.)


Coasteering Wales


Friday 2:00 pm: An Odd Pub in the Gwaun Valley

After a day on the cliffs, head into one of the strangest towns in the country. Ensconced among oak forest and a tradition all of its own—The people of the Gwaun Valley follow the Julian calendar, celebrating holidays like Christmas and New Year’s thirteen days after the rest of the world—sits the village of Pontfaen. The highlight of the village is a small farmhouse pub that seems to operate in a different century.


Inside the Drffyn Arms you’ll find a church pew, a bar window that resembles a bus terminal’s ticket booth more so than a counter for the distribution of beer, and an elderly landlady named Bessie. Her cutting wit, frank observations, and endearing stories are just as wonderful as the warm Bass ale served in the Welsh tradition.


Gwaun Valley Drffyn Arms


Friday 5:00 pm: Sleeping in a Pub

It’s never a proud moment to fall asleep in a pub, but in Wales many double as inns. Newport’s Golden Lion Inn has simple rooms, but the pub atmosphere, which serves up good food, great beer, and wonderful fraternity is a splendid way to follow up a day at Bessie’s Drffyn Arms and to warm up for tomorrow’s hike for beer.


The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire Wales


Saturday 9:00 am: Hiking the Coastal Trail

Depending on how many miles you’d like to tackle in a day, begin somewhere near the city of St. David, which is the smallest city in the United Kingdom. But more interesting than St. David’s city status is the holy prospect of enjoying a beer at the end of one of the world’s most stunning hikes.


I began at White Sands Bay for the nine-mile trek to Porthgain, where the Sloop Inn sits docked along the path, serving up that trinity of barley, malt, and hops.


However, the beauty of this section of the coastal trail—Wales, with its 870-mile coastline, is the only country in the world that has a footpath along the entirety of its coast—slowed me down. The stunning cliffs were cuffed with bleached lichen, while the tar black version of this pioneer organism grew above like a pair of pants on the rock face. Atlantic Gray Seals rested atop boulders in the coves, which repeated as the headlands flowed in and out like a wave. The hills wore ferns, and stood festooned with heather and Queen Anne’s Lace, puffs of white sheep, garlands of butterflies, plumes of resting gulls and cunning songbirds hunting the chirps of crickets.


Hiking the Coastal Trail in Wales


As I hiked onward, the beauty continued—rocky igneous tors rose from fern hills, empty seas kissed the cliffs that ascended toward an empty trail—while dangers presented themselves oddly: horses roamed across the trail with hunger and suspicion and the yellow signposts, which sent a cartoon hiker dramatically to his death, served as a reminder.


But of course, knowing that a beer awaited at the end of the hike, I trekked on.


Saturday 2:00 pm: The Sloop Inn

When you arrive at the Sloop Inn, the fish and chips will taste wonderful and the beer will have the flavor of manna. You’ll hardly notice that the place looks as if it had been designed by a rogue wave with its collection of ocean artifacts hurled into the rafters.


Saturday 4:00 pm: A Night in St. David’s

You’ll probably be too exhausted and buzzed for much more, but it’s worthwhile glancing at the chapel in St. David’s, which was the requirement necessary to earn city status, before heading for the best pub in town: the Farmers Arms.


Driving in Wales


Sunday 9:00 am: The Drive through Pembrokeshire

The key is to avoid the highway. Driving through Wales is an attraction all on its own. It’s the best way to visit the quaint seaside towns, like Solva, where attractive pubs and quaint cafes are housed in the purple and blue facade of the town. It also affords you the opportunity to see how congeniality is the closest the Welsh come to rage on the road.


Driving in Wales


Sunday 1:00 pm: An Afternoon in Tenby

With a quaint North Beach that is more picturesque when the extreme Welsh tides go low, leaving all the boats listing on damp sand, and a South Beach that is backdropped by Caldey Island, a home to chocolatier and baker monks, the city of Tenby is as interesting as its views.


The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire


Tenby combines both a 13th Century fortress and a collection of Georgian townhouses that look out upon the sea. The best place to enter the Medieval castellated walls is at the semicircular barbican, where five archways were designed to prevent attacks from a battling ram. Take the briquette streets and narrow lanes past the colorful shops.


Flemish Chimney in Tenby


Try lunching on High Street, where cafes set up tables after 11:00 am on the road when Tenby shuts down to most car traffic. Or do dinner down the quaint alleyway Quay Hill at Plantagenate Restaurant. You can dine beneath a 12th Century Flemish chimney, which is likely the oldest and largest Flemish chimney inside a building. Though there are only two tables set in the dank and dark hearth.


The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire


Sunday 6:00 pm: In the Hills Above Saundersfoot

If staying at pubs is not your speed, end your trip through Pembrokeshire in the hills above Saundersfoot Beach at the St. Brides Spa Hotel. (If you plan on booking a room, consider going through this affiliate link. You’ll get a nice discount and I’ll get a small cut. Support your local blogger.) The views from the restaurant and rooms are ever-changing with the tides of Saundersfoot Harbor, presenting similar picturesque results as Tenby’s North Beach.


But most lovely about St. Brides is its spa. The massages are wonderful and a day in its scented steam rooms, saunas, and infinity pool, which offers another spectacular view of Saundersfoot, is a perfect way to end a weekend of adventure through Pembrokeshire.


Extreme Tides in Wales


Extreme Tides in Wales


Posted on by Noah Lederman in Europe, Somewhere

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