My husband and I were students in Cardiff (for way too many years!). During this time we were lucky to be able to explore the length and breadth of Wales. One of our favourite places was/is Pembrokeshire – there is something about the remoteness of it that makes you totally switch off. It is real escapism. Not just that, Pembrokeshire has the charm and the beauty of Cornwall but is missing the crowds and the over inflated prices!
When we were offered the chance to stay in St Davids (my in-laws have a family friend with a wonderful little holiday home) we jumped at the opportunity. What better way of spending May half-term?
Pembrokeshire can basically be split into three distinct areas – the area around Tenby (quicker to reach from the M4) – busy but with lots of child/family-friendly entertainment options, the more remote area around St Davids and the under-discovered northern areas. Wherever you choose to stay, Pembrokeshire boasts accommodation for all budgets (from basic beachside campsites to luxurious cottages and everything in between). We were fortunate to have access to a wonderful little bungalow in the centre of St Davids (more about the smallest city in Britain below!) but the Telegraph had a great article about family friendly options as does the local tourist board. Of course there is always Airbnb – using this link for a discount of your first stay.
Our base for the holiday was St Davids, named after the patron saint of Wales. I love that it is the smallest city in Britain (with a population of just over 1,600) – it adds to the charm and quirkiness for me (ok, yes I’m a sucker for the sales pitch!). We’ve been blessed to spend plenty of time in St Davids over the years, my husband had many a family holiday there and I spent some time in the ‘city’ for work a few years back – it’s a hard life!. Over the years we’ve watched the little city change (it’s definitely become more high-end over the years) – but it has retained its charm and vibrancy and makes a wonderful spot for a family break whatever time of year (for what it’s worth I also think you’d have a fab mummy/daddy break – there are lots of lovely bars, restaurants and wonderful long walks…bliss!). Whiling away an afternoon, drifting around the cathedral (all very child-friendly and you can avoid the many steps by walking around the pram-friendly walkway), and then heading back up into the town to try out one of the many cafe’s is the stuff of family memories (a spot of culture for the grown-ups and a sugar boost for all!). Just in case you’re wondering – on our recent trip our firm favourite was the Bench ice cream parlour. The ice cream parlour serves a minimum of 18 homemade ice creams (apparently – we obviously didn’t try them all!), all made using traditional Italian recipes and techniques and using fresh organic milk from Caerfai farm, St David’s. They also do dog friendly ice cream (who knew such a thing existed!). Portions are huge so go easy when ordering for the children!
Whether you’re staying in St Davids or simply visiting, your first port of call should be the Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre. You’ll find a tourist information desk (where you can find out all about the local tourist attractions etc), a cafe and various art exhibits. From here, you can easily walk to the beach at Caerfai Bay, its a very quiet and remote beach with no facilities, but well worth a walk down to (and during the busy holiday periods being able to walk there is a real blessing!). The Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park is immediately next to the beach – great site with wonderful family friendly facilities (stayed a few years back when pregnant with my eldest!).
If you’re looking for a larger, sandy beach with a whole host of facilities then the nearest is Whitesands. You could have a surf lesson, hire a sun lounger (if you’re feeling optimistic!), or grab a quick coffee. It’s particularly suited to families – there’s an abundance of open space (plenty of sand castle building, kite flying and football/cricket playing!), rock pools and a stream (for trenching!).
Whilst in St Davids, don’t forget to check out the events being held in the Cathedral – there’s often free lunch time music, evensong etc. There’s usually a billboard outside the supermarket and the visitor centre is sure to have a list. If your little people need to stretch their legs then check out the fab play park opposite the supermarket – there is something for most ages and both of ours found plenty to keep them occupied for hours! Another firm favourite for us is a trip out to the Life boat at St Justinians.
If the weather is on your side then there’s no real need to explore other attractions (the beach is the perfect spot!) but we gather from friends (who weren’t quite so lucky with the weather!) that a trip to Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm is high on their list – we didn’t get around to it this time.
If you fancy a dinner out whilst in St Davids there are loads of options. For something slightly more special then our vote goes to the St Davids Kitchen (a farm to fork project that is very child-friendly with highchairs and a lovely locally sourced and seasonal menu) or Cwtch restaurant (not taken the children but the food is divine!). The Farmer’s Arms is a traditional pub in the middle of the city and we’ve always been made to feel very welcome.
On route to St Davids from Haverfordwest you’ll drive through the traditional fishing village of Solva (you’re bound to have a chance to look, traffic is often slow!). For too many years we drove past but it’s well worth stopping. Park in the carpark (you’ll need to pay at the wooden hut) and enjoy one of the many pubs, cafes and independent gift shops. There’s a wonderful play area to the left of the little bridge. On our most recent trip there was a boat race on the Sunday. Thanks to this we discovered the lovely boat house cafe (located in the Solva Boat Owners Association building) further around the Bay (take the pram friendly path around the side of the bay – its an easy 8-10 minute walk, if that). The ice cream was yummy and they serve a nice selection of beer and wine for mummy and daddy, the food also looked delicious. A lovely spot for an afternoon outing.
Another fab trip out is to Porthgain, a small coastal hamlet around 7 minutes drive from St Davids. Parking can be difficult (especially in school holidays) so arrive early to guarantee a space (or at least stand a good chance!). Porthgain has a couple of art galleries and two places to eat – the Sloop Inn (think traditional pub food) with a few outdoor seats and lots of real ale on tap. This is a great spot for a family meal (the food isn’t fancy) – many a winter’s evening has been spent snuggled up here over the years. Just over the village green is my favourite restuarant/cafe/bistro – The Shed (I really do love it, in fact we had our wedding anniversary lunch here!). The fish and chips are divine (and you can have a cheeky glass of wine if you fancy it!). They even offer takeaway should you prefer to sit on the village green or on the harbour walls. They also serve plenty of other options and cakes etc in the afternoon. All tried and tested and all equally yummy! There are some reasonably clean public toilets in the centre of Porthgain and a small shop selling vital supplies (like buckets and spades!). The more energetic members of the family can treck over to Traeth Llyfn, a small very remote beach (with no services) between Porthgain and Abereiddi.
We had a wonderful, relaxing break in Pembrokeshire. I’m confident it won’t be the last. If you’re looking for more inspiration for days out check out the following website.