Looking for things to do in Fishguard? Step beyond the coastal paths and discover the Hollywood cove in West Wales. Also, don’t miss our complete Wales road trip itinerary.
The Best Things to do in and Around Fishguard
Fishguard is a small spot in the eyes of the world. Its compact harbour loops into a tight horseshoe, a quiet cove amid the rocky scenery of Pembrokeshire in West Wales.
Ah, but the stories it can tell. From the last invasion of mainland Britain to a runaway plastic whale, you’ll find plenty of things to do near Fishguard.
Under Milk Wood Film Location
Under Milk Wood, the landmark play penned by local bad boy Dylan Thomas, may have been set in the fictional village of Llarregub (bugger all, spelled backwards.) But it first came to the silver screen right here in Fishguard.
A-listers Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole splashed on the make-up and sauntered around the town, marvelling about the sloe black, slow, black, crow black, fishing boat-bobbing sea.
Not that they were the first Hollywood stars to set food in this small community. Gregory Peck came to film Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s novel that involved whalers form the small island of Nantucket in Massachusetts.
Peck almost died. Tied to a 60 foot rubber whale, an accident swept both to sea. Coastguards rescued Peck; the whale was never recovered.
But what can you see of this today?
A small photograph lives in the quirky gloom of the Ship Inn, a place which emphatically welcomes dogs but not children and serves drinks but not food.
And if you rent Quay House, you can sit in the same front room as Burton did, watching the waves and the shadows flow in and out from the shore. Sloe black, crow black, slow black indeed.
The Royal Oak and the Last Invasion
To the uninitiated, the Royal Oak looks like any other pub in Britain. Spacious, gloomy in a comfortable kind of way, with bartenders who spill no secrets and carpets that camouflage all spills.
But in fact, the Royal Oak in Fishguard played a key role in an intriguing invasion. The last successful landing of foreign soldiers on British soil. Not in 1066 in Hastings. But in 1797 in Fishguard.
How One Woman with a Pitchfork Defeated the French Army
So, here’s how the story goes. The Battle of Fishguard, the last invasion of mainland Britain by a foreign army, took place in 1797.
A coalition of 1200 French, Irish and American forces planned to attack in three places. Poor weather halted the first two attacks, but the third landed in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, with the plan to march from west Wales on to Bristol.
However, the soldiers mistook the advancing fisherwomen in their traditional black-topped hats for soldiers. One woman, Jemima Nicholas, pitchfork in hand, rounded up twelve French soldiers and locked them in St Mary’s Church.
The peace treaty was signed in the Royal Oak pub and you can now drink golden ale Jemima’s Pitchfork as a souvenir.
The Last Invasion Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry may have depicted the last successful invasion of the British Isles in 1066…but Fishguard has its own version.
Produced by volunteers to mark the 200 year anniversary, the 100 foot long Last Invasion Tapestry remains in Fishguard if you fancy paying it a visit.
- Open hours are limited for the Last Invasion Tapestry, so always check ahead.
Fishguard Fort & Pirate Raids
The late 18th century saw privateers raid the Pembrokeshire coastline, in particular a certain ship called the Black Prince, with captain Stephen Manhunt.
Although sailing under a French flag, the Boston-born Manhunt was under instruction by the US government to attack British ships to support the calls for independence.
And he was very successful, destroying 30 ships in three months before reaching Fishguard.
Stone sculpture on Fishguard harbour – this guy has seen a lot
Manhunt demanded a ransom of 1000 pounds; locals refused to pay.
The Black Prince fired, Fishguard ships fired. St Mary’s Church and several houses fell before Manhunt decided it wasn’t worth the effort and moved on.
As a results, locals commissioned the Fishguard Fort: armed with eight 9-pounder cannons manned by Woolwich invalids.
The local militia became known as the Fishguard Fencibles, firing canons during the Last Invasion, diverting soldiers to Carregwastad Point near Strumble Head instead.
Over the years, the defence needs waned. Today, you’ll see stone remnants of an ammunition store and four restored canons resting on the gun battery.
But the real draw is the sense of peace and the stunning views into Lower Fishguard Harbour and Goodwick.
- You won’t need a whole day to visit the fort on Castle Point: a sunset or balmy afternoon should do.
Day Trips and Things to do Near Fishguard
It’s easy to head out for day trips from Fishguard’s convenient location on the A487 on the northern coast of Pembrokeshire.
Expect plenty of natural beauty, of course, from rocky cliffs to the wide sands at Newport and Whitesands Bay. And whatever you do, don’t miss the roar of the past through the blue-faced Iron Age warriors at Castell Henllys.
Ever thought about visiting an Iron Age fort? No, neither had I but this turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.
Snuggled into a cauldron of gently rolling hills, this reconstructed Iron Age Fort brings our history to life through day to day activities.
A small visitor’s centre talks you through the basics: blue warpaint for faces, sack cloths, nettles and other indignities.
But a beautiful walk through a forest glade and a climb up a moderate hillock reveals an entrance of twisted wood and antlers.
Inside, thatched round houses with burning fires recreate how villagers used to live together.
- Make sure to leave at least half a day to explore Castell Henllys. Longer if you have children.
Cilgerran Wildlife Centre
The Wildlife Trust of West and South Wales operates a number of viewing stations across Pembrokeshire. A jaunt to the Cilgerran site is one of the best things you can do near Fishguard.
Hiking trails, a giant wicker badger and a bright and airy indoor cafe that overlooks the Teifi marshes complement the main draw: the birds.
And it may sound shallow to say this, but I loved the gift shop too.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path threads its way into every rugged, rocky nook and across every grass-tufted clifftop with bluff and bracing breeze. It’s one of three National Parks in Wales (the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia being the other two) and the only one in the United Kingdom to focus on the coastline.
But with more than 243 square miles of it, it helps to focus. Here are some of the best things to do near Fishguard when it comes to the coastal park.
A lighthouse sings the siren at Strumble Head on the northwest tip of Pembrokeshire in the Pencaer Peninsula that isn’t really a peninsula…
It’s a great place to catch sight of migrating birds as the land strides a lone, rocky foot into the Irish Sea.
Time it right and you’ll see dainty storm and Leach’s petrels, great and Arctic skuas and several species of tern fly by. Think also great and sooty shearwaters, Sabine’s gulls, little shearwaters and Wilson’s petrel. Of course, your time in the lookout will be short if you have a toddler with you … but the views remain magnificent.
One popular route is the circular path from the historic hamlet of Llanwnda, site of a tiny church and Neolithic burial chamber.)
With young children, skip walking this area and stop in at the nearby cafe instead. Explore locally woven fabrics and gifts at Melin Tregwynt.
Cilgerran Castle (National Trust)
Perched high above the Teifi Gorge, the views from Cilgerran Castle give a sweeping understanding of Pembrokeshire inland.
As one of the less flamboyant castles in Wales, Cilgerran notches up nearly 800 years of history as fortunes switched from fortress to household to National Trust historical site.
You won’t need long here but a visit fits in well with a trip to the nearby Cilgerran Wildlife Trust.
St Dogmael’s Abbey
St Dogmael’s Abbey packs a huge load of history into a cosy-cute village. St Dogmael himself set up shop around the 6th century yet the oldest ruins are a mere 900 or so years old.
It’s a fun spot to visit, with open space for children to run, interactive exhibits, a characterful cafe and old mill nearby.
Once a powerful industrial cove, today’s Porthgain offers a quiet harbour and curious remnants of its past. Take gentle strolls past the remains of brick hoppers and pop into The Sloop for locally caught fish.
St Davids Cathedral Pembrokeshire
Things to do A Little Further From Fishguard
St David’s – The Smallest Cathedral in Britain
As possibly the most famous site in Pembrokeshire, St David’s remains a curiously beautiful place to visit.
A cathedral earned it “city” status in the past yet as the sun sets in stillness, it’s the most peaceful city you’ll find.
It’s also a hotspot for tourists so you’ll find plenty of places to stay, restaurants and small crafts shops. Look out for Cwtch restaurant and have a cwtch sparkle for me, would you?
Pastel-pretty Tenby is probably south Pembrokeshire’s most famous draw. Sheltered sandy beaches and boat trips to Caldey Island prove the most popular attractions but a Tudor Merchant’s House adds in some history too.
Food and Drink Near Fishguard
- The Golden Lion in Newport – the top roast dinners in the neighbourhood, with cosy roaring fires and modern open seating.
- The Royal Oak – traditional pub fare in an historic setting.
- Cilgerran Wildlife Trust Glasshouse Cafe – glassy, spacious cafe in the heart of nature.
- Gwaun Valley Microbrewery – have heard great reviews about this local microbrewery.
Quay House in Fishguard: Where Richard Burton Was
Where to stay in fishguard
We stayed at the utterly gorgeous Quay House, arranged through Quality Cottages on a complimentary basis to produce this review.
It was perfect for us, a family of two adults and one preschooler with room for grandparents or older siblings too. A combination of wide open living areas with cosy rooms and bedrooms made the best of both worlds.
The view across Fishguard’s harbour was the scene stealer. That and knowing we’d shared the same lounge as Richard Burton.
Quality Cottages have over 440 cottages in Wales in their portfolio and are officially accredited by Visit Wales. The website is informative and easy to use, with remarkable levels of detail.
This visit may have been for work but we loved the set-up so much, we immediately booked another cottage in Pembrokeshire for a real holiday once we got back.
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Things to do Near Fishguard in the Summer
Even more options open up during the summertime, as the odds with the weather improve and seasonal attractions and sites throw open their doors.
Penlan Uchaf Gardens and Tea Room
The gardens promise views across the Preseli Hills and a tea room for refreshment. But Penlan Uchaf Gardens also sell Welsh lamb and Longhorn Beef, a great local addition to any self-catering plans.
Dyffryn Fernant Gardens
An explosion of colour around a cute little cottage sets the scene for the Dyffryn Fernant Gardens. Opening in April each year, you can pick up plants for your own home as well.
Read more about travel in Wales
- 21 Unusual things to do in North Wales
- The Best Things to do in Pembrokeshire – from adrenaline to puffins
- 21 Fun Things to do in Cardiff – enjoy Europe’s youngest capital, found in South Wales!
- The best Wales road trip itinerary: how to see Wales in two weeks.
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