Sandy coves, towering cliffs, and bursting headland mark this rural corner of Wales, a mystery to many of us, full of hidden secrets with so much to offer. Famous for its 600 million year old coastline and beaches, there are miles of peaceful estuaries, castles, stone aged forts and nestled villages …
… Its Wales’ western most limb with half the number of tourists visiting here compared to that of Cornwall, the ‘little England beyond Wales’, some of the oldest lands of Wales and a place hidden in time. It’s the only coast in the Country with a national park dedicated to it, home to the Rock Sea-spurrey herb. The gulf stream keeps everything warm; its flat, good soils, warm springs and makes good farming with warm winters, 2000 farms and more diary cows than people. Blue stone from the Preseli hills North of the peninsula were taken mysteriously 200 miles to Stonehenge.
Normans began to hold down the country in coastal castles like Manorbier and many others. The Normans were attracted by the number of navigable waterways, allowing for their forces to be relieved and provisions to be brought in. The area became a Norman colony, built with defensive landscapes around them, but also allowing them to be offensive. Buildings generally reflect the halcyon days from the rewards of farming and the architecture of the local churches mimic their defensive invading neighbours.
With so many places and features to see, the area has to be documented over two blogs. First we travel South.
We begin in Saundersfoot, a conservation area since 1995, with wide quays and sandy beach sheltered from Westerly winds, once the centre of 30,000 ton annual coal and iron ore export. The many leisure boats float contentedly in their own harbour built for larger boats in 1834 and separated from the pleasant sandy beach and clear waters ideal for the famous New Years Day swim. The beach is looked upon by colourful eclectic buildings on various levels in a clean vibrant town, alive with shops and well kept plants and gardens. Nearby Battlefield LIVE! is an entertaining laser combat centre and Saundersfoot pleasure boats run boat trips out of the harbour. Saundersfoot St Bride’s Spa Hotel with notable infinity spa, captures stunning views over the town and bay from a cliff top purchase. Saundersfoot is alive with food choice, with so many restaurants to choose from to eat in an appetite pleasing setting. A great example is the Coast restaurant, one of Saunderfoot’s newest purpose built restaurant right on the shoreline, just metres away from the lovely golden sands of Coppet Hall, giving splendid time changing bay views whilst you enjoy their culinary delights, all sourced from local produce whenever possible. Saundersfoot is most definitely our first choice for a relaxing and recharging destination, embracing the natural wonders around.
The coastal path takes you to the hamlet of Wiseman’s bridge or Tenby through tunnels cut into the rock. Wiseman’s bridge offers various sized rock pools for the exploration and education of children and adults alike, where gentle streams bubble satisfyingly onto the beach. National Trust run Colby Woodland Garden with woodland walks and tearooms is nearby and the remains of Stepaside Ironworks which ceased operation in 1877, once consisting of 2 blast furnaces, blowing engines, coke ovens, workshops and lime kilns. Here Amroth is the start of the 168 mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Petrified stumps of a 1000 year old forest can be seen on the beach at low tide. Accommodation is plentiful in the area, and we would certainly bring your attention to Forest Grove Holiday Home as a fine example with excellent views in a woodland setting.
Sister holiday resort and Wales’ jewel in the crown Tenby supports its colourful Georgian and Regency buildings with narrow passages on top of cliffs that descend steeply to four beaches. The ‘town of little fishes’ has well preserved remains of a 13th century castle and walled fortifications which decorate the town itself. The National Trust run the Tudors Merchants House, a three storey picture book house museum from 1500 and oldest furnished residence in Tenby, illustrating the lifestyle of a successful Tudor family. Local attractions include Tenby Dinosaur Park, Manor House Wildlife Park and Folly Farm about 5 miles away.
Offshore Caldey Island is owned and has been worked by monks of the Cistercian order since Celtic times, with attractions that include the peaceful 12th Century Priory with museum and perfume shop. Accessible by daytrip boats across three miles of Caldey sound, there are guesthouses and self catering accommodation are available on the island. With a 3:15 am start, Caldey shortcake and chocolate of Belgian origin is made daily. The 1828 white painted lighthouse built to aid navigation in the northen Bristol Channel, hosts panoramic sea and coastal views.
West of Tenby is the village of Manorbier where the Limestone built 13th century castle crowns Manorbier Bay. The castle has a well preserved chapel, round tower and gatehouse with numerous stairs, towers, rooms, battlements and a garden to explore. Bosherton is where King Arthur is said to have disposed of his sword Excalibur. Its Limestone cliffs are a centre for climbing enthusiasts and its interconnecting 80 acre lakes alive with Lilies, are a winter residence for waders and wildfowl. Coastal spectacular Elegug Limestone Stacks are part of an official bird sanctuary, famed for Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. Freshwater West is a sandy beach edged by rocks where Bronze age sites are covered by wind-blown dunes. A local delicacy Laver bread was once made here in a nearby hut, where sea weed was dried.
The small town of Pembroke is at the bottom of a small valley, flanked on all sides by woodland and arable farmland and reputed to be the birthplace of Henry VII in 1457. It Norman castle keep standing guard on the Pembroke river is 75 ft tall. The castle gives great views of the town, surrounding countryside and waterway. Below the castle, down a narrow spiral staircase is The Wogan, a large natural cavern. Nearby Carew castle is the imposing 12th century ruin built by Sir Nicholas de Carew. A 19th century tidal mill here is the only intact Welsh mill of its kind.
The Southerly Pembrokeshire offers so much in the way of exploration. It’s nature, wildlife, beauty and history is surpassed only with the welcome visitors receive. If you have never visited this part of the world, then do add it to your list of places to rest and relax in. No place is more than about 20 miles from the coast, so you will not be disappointed. We will explore the North of Pembrokeshire in another blog
In the next blog, we visit Bath.
See these places and more
These places and many others are listed as markers on the map on our home page. Places to visit in the UK and Ireland. www.touring-britain.heralded.co.uk