Pembrokeshire: Wales’s Wild West

    Stormy skies hang over the dramatic cliffs and turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon. Credit: Wales/Alamy

    Sally Coffey visits a favourite spot in Pembrokeshire for welly walks, coastal views, open fires, and a cosy-cottage stay

    Pembrokeshire is one of those places that evoke a sense of nostalgia in people. Many British people have holidayed here at some point in their lives – whether they have memories of rain-soaked family outings, munching on fish and chips by the harbour, or thrilling wildlife encounters.

    When I tell people I’m going to Pembrokeshire I’m often met with beaming smiles as the spark of a memory lights up their face and they delight in telling me “Oh I love Pembrokeshire, we had a lovely holiday in Tenby”.

    For all its picture-postcard charm, Tenby is popular, and I understand why, but I prefer the quieter, less obvious allure of northern Pembrokeshire, a place that appears largely untouched by time, where we can always find somewhere to stay, and we don’t have to book a pub-dinner weeks in advance. 

    For this visit, we returned to a familiar stretch of coastline along the northern coast of the St Davids peninsula, way out west, where we barely venture more than five miles in either direction.

    We’re staying at The Nant, a cosy stone cottage that seems perfectly designed for our family of four.

    The Nant is perfect for a family holiday. Credit: tinmanphotography

    There is a snug living room with sofas and armchairs, a woodburner, lots and lots of board games (rainy days are a reality in this part of Wales), a sweet cottage-style kitchen, shower room, and three lovely bedrooms upstairs.

    The stairs are steep because this was once a one-storey house, except for some sleeping bunks above the kitchen, and so the first floor is a relatively recent addition.

    Our favourite part of the cottage though – aside from its coastal location and the fact we can see the sea and fields of green from the window – is that the cottage is literally built into local rock, so that in the utility room/drying room you can see fresh mountain water pour over the rocky wall of the house. It feels very authentically rural.

    The Coast Path offers many accessible routes. Credit: Aled Llywelyn

    Another big bonus is the path that leads from the cottage down to a beach – the word ‘Nant’ is from old Welsh and loosely translates as ‘stream’ or ‘brook’, and we soon realise why, as our muddy walk down the path takes us alongside a stream before depositing us on a country lane, just a short stroll from the sandy Blue Flag Abereiddy Beach, which has lots of rock pools full of crabs and anemones to explore. 

    A pathway on the far side of the beach takes you to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which you can follow over the headland with the wind in your face, feeling as exposed as the pretty wildflowers that cling to the clifftops, to view the remarkable Blue Lagoon.

    So called for its vivid blue waters, the Blue Lagoon is the region’s former main slate quarry, which has since been flooded by the sea, and it is the slate that gives the water its almost turquoise appearance.

    Porthgain harbour. Credit: Aled Llywelyn

    Pembrokeshire played an important part in the slate industry in the 18th century. Slate taken from Abereiddy was transported to nearby Porthgain Harbour by tramway before being shipped out, and relics of this time can be seen in the old quarry buildings along the coast.

    Today, many people come to the Blue Lagoon to see seals bobbing in the water – hence it is closed off to visitors during the main pupping season in autumn. Those feeling energetic might want to continue along the coast path to Traeth Llyfn beach, one of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful, and then on to Porthgain itself.

    Porthgain, a pretty harbour village, is also accessible by car and it’s a lovely spot for a wander, whether you wish to look at the ruined quarry buildings, peruse the artworks of the Harbour Lights Gallery,
    or have something to eat. There are two restaurants to choose from: The Shed Bistro, which does excellent fish and chips, or the welcoming Sloop Inn pub, which has friendly staff, a pool table, and pub classics. Just make sure you don’t sit round the table reserved for locals.

    Pembrokeshire is a popular spot for coasteering. Credit: Visit Wales

    Spring and summer also brings puffins to the Pembrokeshire coast and though they can sometimes be spotted along the mainland coastline, the best way to see them is by taking a trip to Skomer Island, where they can be seen in huge numbers (especially in June and July). 

    It’s an unforgettable experience seeing these cute seabirds up close, and trips also give you a chance to see the rugged Pembrokeshire coast from the sea.

    Be sure to take a trip to Skomer Island to see puffins close up. Credit: Drew Buckley

    This is an extract, read the full feature in our February/March 2024 issue of Discover Britain, available to buy from 5 January here.

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