Beautiful and Unusual Things to do in Pembrokeshire
Twinkling on the west of Wales, Pembrokeshire combines wild rugged nature, lurching puffins and druid-y outposts with gourmet food and some luxe accommodation. Perhaps the best known part of Wales, here is our inside guide to things to do in Pembrokeshire.
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Travel Back to the Iron Age
Travel back thousands of years to the Iron Age Village of Castell Henllys, one of the most unusual things to do in Pembrokeshire.
Surrounded by beautiful countryside, this open-air museum recreates life in the Iron Age in an atmospheric, educational way.
Expect painted shields, antlers, smoking cauldrons, animal hides and hay filled mattresses. Along with a more traditional visitor centre, of course.
Hike Through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
As national parks go, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is pretty special. It's the only one in the United Kingdom that earned its position through coastal rather than inland beauty and it's one of only three in Wales (the other two are the Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia.)
Scooping up over 243 square miles, four main landscapes make up the park: the south Pembrokeshire coast including Caldey Island, the Preseli Hills, the Daugleddau Estuary and the St Bride's Bay coast and coastal islands. It's a bright spot of beauty in the already beautiful area of west Wales.
Recommended reading: The Hiking Gear List: What to Pack for A Walking Holiday
WALK WITH PUFFINS ON SKOMER ISLAND
Skomer Island isn’t just home to 2000 or more pairs of breeding Puffins; it’s a place that makes you feel at home with them as well. Hike around the island as they swoop past or crouch down for a close up snap at eye level. If you’re lucky, you’ll also glimpse a manx shearwater or a school of dolphins off the coast.
Less than a mile from the Pembrokeshire Coast, the exceptional wildlife here ranks as one of the best things to do in Pembrokeshire, if not Wales, or, let's go all out, the whole of the UK.
Boat trips depart at different times depending on the weather but you can find up to date information on visiting Skomer and Skokholm Island here.
Recommended reading: Felin Geri Luxury Glamping in Wales – What to See, Do and Pack
Mix Magic at the Druidstone, St Bride's Bay
St Bride's Bay, part of the Pembrokeshire park, shows off with spectacular sunsets over a sandy bay.
And with a sensational viewpoint, it almost wouldn’t matter what staff at the Druidstone served as their guests could simply stare out over the horizon into that expanse of glittering blue.
Fortunately, however, they do care, rustling up everything from a curious seafood and laverbread risotto to afternoon favourites of fresh scones with jam and cream tea. Take your time here, as both the service and the décor are on the quirky side. But it's that sense of character that makes it one of the best things to do in Pembrokeshire.
The Blue Lagoon
The name blue lagoon conjures up sparkling water and crystal sea. And that's kind of right. The place is beautiful. What's unusual is the matter of its past. No, not castles and battling the English but the other Welsh historic pastime: the smoky industrial revolution.
The Blue Lagoon was a slate quarry right up until 1910 when it was abandoned. Now it's a stunning spot, run by the National Trust, and great for bathing, coasteering and, of course, walking and hiking.
Recommended reading: The Perfect Itinerary for Three Days in North Wales
Sleep in a Nunnery
Though the inside now wears crushed velvet, silver and chocolate brown covers, the shape of the outside gives a clue as to its past. The Penrhiw Hotel lives at the top of a steep climb from the St David’s monastery, behind a gated driveway and within heavy, stone-clad walls. As the former nunnery, a sense of history lingers on amidst the wide wooden stairs and the solemn, watchful doorways that lead to each room.
WALK AROUND A COUNTRY
Hiking has long been a key activity among the sweeping cliffs, rocky bays and smooth sandy beaches of Pembrokeshire. But not until 2012 were you able to walk the whole way around the country. The Welsh Coastal Path (or Wales Coast Path, all 870 miles of it) is the only one in the world that allows hikers to walk, uninterrupted, around the sea walls of a nation. Drink a stiff cup of tea, lace up those boots and get going!
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs from Amroth in the south to St Dogmaels, where it links up with the Ceredigion Coastal Path to continue around the country.
SIP A CWTCH SPARKLE
Cwtch is a Welsh term for a hug, a cuddle or a snuggle of some kind. It’s a homely, friendly, easygoing expression. It’s also one of the best restaurants around, tucked into a quiet street in St David’s City. Indulge in potted Solva crab or ham hock with an apricot and pistachio terrine. Make sure you leave time for a Cwtch Sparkle: lunetta prosecco with cassis.
Found across Wales, this controversial form of seaweed crops up time and again around the coast of Pembrokeshire. Dark and slightly tangy, the seaweed behind the delicacy is called purple laver and once it’s been boiled (and then usually fried with crispy oats) it becomes the dish laverbread. Tuck in to this seaweed oat-cake at breakfast, where it fits in perfectly with bacon and eggs. And, if you want it the Swansea way, with cockles. Find out more about traditional Welsh food here.
Recommended reading: 9 Unusual Things to do in North Wales
ST DAVID'S CATHEDRAL & CITY
The hallowed stone edifice of St Davids cathedral defines the skyline of Britain’s smallest city, so it can hardly be described as unusual. What is more unexpected, perhaps, is the line-up of orchestras, choirs and organ recitals that fill both the calendar and the rows of pews inside. Soak up 1500 years of history beneath the glow of stained glass and listen to fantastic global music roam around your ears. Outside, breathe deep into the landscape of rolling hills and nature and ponder the strange significance of it all: it is because of this medieval masterpiece that Pembrokeshire is home to Britain's smallest city.
The Annual Fishguard Music Festival
The stained glass windows of St David's Cathedral swell with music and summer crowds each year as part of a 10 day music festival. Find out more about the International Fishguard Music Festival here.
WHITESANDS BEACH LAZING & HIKING
Walk or drive to Whitesands beach to splash around in rockpools if you have children or laze on the sand if you do not.
It's a popular surf spot with a great curve of powdery white sand, which, ahem, given the name, shouldn't come as a surprise.
VISIT PEMBROKE CASTLE
Well, it wouldn't be Wales without a castle or two. Described as the "castliest of castles," Pembroke Castle rounds up over 1000 years of history in its charmingly rugged stone. Falconry draws on traditional practices while sunset cinema showings stride into the present.
Tuck Into Gourmet Fish n Chips in Porthgain
Check out the best fish and chips in Wales at The Shed in the curious small town of Porthgain. Formerly a hefty industrial port, it somehow pulls off the magic trick of greeting you with charm while keeping the key elements of its history alive.
If you still think that fish ‘n’ chips is just some warm, filling tat that comes wrapped in yesterday’s paper it’s time to think again. The Shed in Pembrokeshire’s Porthgain prides itself on its gourmet offerings, with produce locally caught and served within the hour.
Sit outside when the sun shines or inside, amid bright blue bottles and red checked cloths, should the Welsh wind and water stroll into town.
You can take a short, historic walk around the former lime kiln, pilot’s cottage and vast hoppers before relaxing and taking in the view of the (now picturesque) harbour.
Next up in the castle department, is Carew Castle, a Norman stronghold with strong Tudor influences. Not to be outdone, Carew notches up over 2000 years of military history here at the limestone bluff that overlooks the Milford Haven Waterway.
Today, ghost tours and knight school keep the blood pumping through the stone. But in a far kinder way than in the bad old days...
You'll also find a Tidal Mill and an accessible, looped walking route that's great for families, young and old.
Recommended reading: Treehouse Glamping in Redwood Valley in Wales
GO BIRDWATCHING ON RAMSEY ISLAND
Walk along the heathland atop cliffs that rise to 120 metres above the sea on Ramsey Island. Home to peregrine falcons and seal pups, find out the timings of boat trips to the island here.
Visit the Stonehenge of Wales: Pentre Ifan
The stones of Pentre Ifan form impressive silhouettes against the sky but it's low key approach, via an unassuming grassy path, disguises its significance.
Built around 3500 years ago, archaeologists believe Pentre Ifan to have been designed as a communal burial chamber, part earth, part dolmen stone.
It's one of the most striking megalithic monuments in Wales and one of the tallest.
Unlike Stonehenge, there's no grand visitor's centre. Simply drive and park up and walk to see the site.
Climb Mt Carningli
Although the peak measures only 347 metres, in Pembrokeshire, that counts as a mountain. And it's a strikingly beautiful one at that.
You can see its quirky outline from the family friendly Newport Sands and can climb to the summit and back in a few hours. Initial paths are wide and grassy, perfect for little feet, and you'll find some great spots for picnics along the way if you can't make it all the way to the top.
SEE THE PASTEL PRETTY TOWN OF SOLVA
Visit pastel pretty town of Solva and head to the hills on the Welsh Coastal Path.
This small harbour makes a good spot for young children to swim, with a stretch of sand, rockpools and caves.
Enjoy a Foodie Spot in Narbeth
The steep streets of Narbeth sweep away any ideas of traditional Welsh food with their lines of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers delicatessens.
Fill up after all that Pembrokeshire hiking with freshly made ice cream, roast lamb sandwiches and the specialist shop bringing all the best of Spain to this small spot on the Welsh headland.
Stride Among the Ruins of Llawhaden Castle
Another day, another castle, right?
Well, this one is perfect for post-pandemic visiting as it's all outside and you don't need an appointment to enter.
Llawhaden Castle commands spectacular views across the surrounding countryside of rolling hills and makes a great place for a picnic spot.
You won't find many other facilities nearby, but then again, that's part of its charm.
See the Welsh Version of the Bayeux Tapestry
The lively little spot of Fishguard carries some intriguing history with it. It was the site of the last foreign invasion of Britain, seen off by some Welsh women wearing tall black hats.
It's a fun place to visit in its own right (the tiny harbour was used to film Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood) but you can also visit the pub and see the tapestry that tells the tale of that peculiar last invasion.
Some great coastal walks peel along the cliffs near Fishguard. Just look for the canons and turn right.
LEARN TO SURF, KAYAK AND COASTEER
Wales has built up quite a reputation for adventure sports over the last few decades. And what's great about it is that you'll find opportunities for everyone, from beginners to advanced.
You can head to family friendly resort towns, like Saundersfoot and Tenby, or head further west to the more remote Preseli Ventures in the Preseli Hills.
SPOTLIGHT: Surf Lessons in Pembrokeshire
A dog scampers along the sand and the waves wash against the shore. Insistent but unhurried, casting off behind them a salty spray that lingers in the air. The wind seems half-hearted too, whisking the chatter away from the ice cream stall, along the grassy banks and off over the edge of the Pembrokeshire coast, losing heart as it hits the Irish sea.
Men form a semi-circle on the sand, arching their backs and turning their faces towards the sun. But this isn’t a wellness retreat or a yoga lesson.
It’s surfing. And this is a surf lesson.
While it’s not the first time I’ve tried surfing, it is the first time I’ve had the good sense to sign up for a surf lesson.
It came as part of an adrenaline cocktail adventure with local company Preseli Venture, along with an intriguing taste of coasteering and a dependable sea kayak along the more rugged parts of the coast.
Bookmark this collection of unusal things to do in Pembrokeshire on Pinterest for the future...
Where to Stay in St Davids Pembrokeshire
This place goes straight into my special secret file of wonderful places to stay.
The Penrhiw wears crushed silver and chocolate within the grounds a former nunnery. From a design point of view, it's beautiful. Comfort and service? Personal, professional and very, very friendly. Parking? Free and easy (this may not sound much of a plus point but St David's is both tiny and popular and Pembrokeshire is best explored by car so it becomes a real gift.)
You can walk into St David's along a leafy (if steep) road and on your return relax in the lounge or library reading one of several sumptuous books about Wales. There's free wifi throughout, with no code to mess around with. And with only seven rooms in total, the Penrhiw never gets crowded.
Tuck into laverbread for breakfast or else stick with the traditional Full Welsh instead. The best part about the Penrhiw? You have free access to the kitchen, fridges and freezers thus combining the best of the hotel world with the best of the (very well stocked) self-catering world.
Perfect for late arrivals - and for preparing picnics for Skomer Island.
The Best Places to Visit in Pembrokeshire
Want to know the best places to go in Pembrokeshire?
If you're short on time, don't miss:
- Tenby for its Victorian, pastel-pretty sea resort charm
- The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. There are so many places of interest in Pembrokeshire but I would recommend the lighthouse at Strumble Head.
- Narbeth for the food.
- Pembroke and Pentre Ifan for the history.
- Skomer Island to get up close and personal with puffins.
The Best Places to Visit in West Wales
Want to know the best places to go in West Wales?
In addition to the highlights of Pembrokeshire, above, the surrounding counties also have:
- The Boathouse in Laugharne for Dylan Thomas fans
- Penbryn Beach for its mystical forest pathway and wide open sand
- Aberystwyth for its promenade and sea front and home as the language centre of Wales.
Read more about travel in Wales
Disclosure: I've visited Pembrokeshire many times, sometimes in association with Visit Wales or Visit Pembrokeshire. As ever, as always, I keep the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what's the point?!