Pembrokeshire Coast: Top things to see and do on holiday

Wales boasts some of the most dramatically beautiful landscape in the UK, so if you’re planning a staycation this year, then why not think about visiting Pembrokeshire? Located on the South Western tip of Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the only national park in the country to be focused along such a stunning coastline – and whatever type of break you’re looking for, this unique region has so much to offer.

From pristine white sand beaches to historic castles, and bustling towns to remote islands, there’s never a dull moment in Pembrokeshire. If you’re thinking about heading here on holiday, here are some of the best things to see and do.

1. Hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

If you enjoy hiking during your holidays, then you can’t miss the spectacular Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Laid out in 1970, the trail stretches nearly 190 miles along the Pembrokeshire Coast, from the lovely village of Amroth in the South to the riverside village of St Dogmaels in the North, right next to Cardigan. The trail winds its way past many different types of scenery, from rugged limestone cliffs to quiet sandy beaches, and at many points along the way the views are truly jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Described by Lonely Planet as one of the best long distance trails in the world, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path takes up to two weeks to complete in full. But of course, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to hike that far, you can always break the trek up – whether that’s by hiking for a few days or simply for a single afternoon. If you get hot during your trek, then there are countless beaches just waiting to be discovered along the trail where you can enjoy a refreshing dip – or just kick back on the sand and catch some rays.

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2. Visit St Davids

With a population of just over 1,600, St Davids is known for being Britain’s smallest city – but it’s most famous for its ancient cathedral. Since the 6th century there has been a church on this site, and St Davids has been considered a place of pilgrimage since William the Conqueror visited almost 1,000 years ago.  The Cathedral as it stands today began construction in 1181, and it was built in a hollow to escape the attention of looters; for this reason, only the tower can be seen from the surrounding area.

If you’re interested in history, you can spend hours exploring St Davids Cathedral and not get bored. The triple-aisle Norman interior is seriously impressive, as is the gorgeous 15th-century Irish oak ceiling. The choir-stalls and bishop’s throne also date from the 15th century, and the tower is from the 13th century. There are four arches supporting the tower, three of which were built after the tower collapsed in 1220, but one of which is from the original Norman build.

When you’re done exploring the cathedral, the tiny city of St Davids is a lovely place for a wander, and it has several other artistic and culinary attractions that draw visitors from all over. These include the Oriel y Parc Gallery, the Gothic ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, and the popular Pebbles Yard Gallery and Espresso Bar. If all that exploring has got you hungry, there are many excellent places to eat here, as well as lovely places to stay, making St David a great base for which to explore the area.

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3. Explore Skomer Island

If you love spotting wildlife, then why not think about visiting Skomer Island? Known for boasting the largest puffin colony in the Southern UK, Skomer Island is just off the coast of the Pembrokeshire mainland, yet this little island can transport you to a whole other world. Packed with sheltered bays, exposed headlands and rocky inlands, and coloured with bright flowers and varying shades of lichen, Skomer Island is a remarkable place to explore the natural world.

Aside from its puffin population, Skomer is also famous for being home to half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters – so if you’re interested in bird-watching, a day trip to this lovely island is surely a must. To protect the island and the birds who live here, the number of people allowed to visit Skomer each day is limited to 250. Boats leave from Martin’s Haven, and you can book day trip tickets with Pembrokeshire Islands.

Buzzards, peregrine falcons and owls are also often spotted here – but you don’t need to have an interest in birds to appreciate the wonder of Skomer. Anyone with an interest in nature and the outdoors will probably fall in love with this island: wildlife enthusiasts can spot seals swimming, walkers can hike along the dramatic cliff paths, and photographers will be utterly spoiled for choice. Plus, if you’re looking to enjoy a sense of solitude on your break, you’ll certainly find that here.

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4. Visit Pembroke Castle

Wales is home to many of the oldest and most impressive castles in the UK, and Pembroke Castle is one of the very best preserved. Famous for being the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, this huge oval castle was first established as a timber structure in 1093, before the first stone structure was erected in 1183. The castle was strengthened and enlarged many times over the years, before it was eventually extensively restored in the Victorian times.

History buffs will love exploring this enormous coastal fortress: some of its highlights include the huge circular keep, the Prison Tower, the Norman Hall, and the North Hall. Plus, there are plenty of exhibitions where you can learn more about the castle’s fascinating history. From the top of the keep, you can also enjoy gorgeous views of the surrounding area.

The town of Pembroke itself is also a lovely place to explore. As one of the oldest towns in Wales, Pembroke is packed with ancient Norman buildings, and the picturesque Main Street, which runs through the old town, has many interesting Tudor and Georgian houses as well as historic churches. If you’re in need of some refreshment, there are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants here too, and if you’re looking to be based in a town during your holiday, it’s a lovely place to stay.

Browse accommodation in Pembroke

5. Relax in Tenby

If you love pottering around seaside towns, then a visit to the Victorian harbour town of Tenby should certainly be on your Pembrokeshire to-do list. This colourful seaside resort boasts 2.5 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches, and being in one of the sunniest places in Wales, it’s a wonderful place to visit if you want to enjoy a beachside break. Tenby’s Castle Beach was awarded ‘Britain’s Best Beach 2019’ by the Sunday Times, so if you’re looking for sun, sea and sun, you won’t find a better spot.

But Tenby has much more to offer visitors than just its beaches. You can spend days here wandering through the quaint narrow alleys, people-watching in the picturesque harbour, admiring colourful pastel houses, and learning about the town’s history at the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery. Plus, being such a popular tourist resort, Tenby also isn’t short of excellent restaurants, cosy cafes, and characterful pubs to relax and refuel in.

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6. Explore Caldey Island

If you do make it down to Tenby, then why not go a little further and take a boat trip to Caldey Island? Located just a 25 minute boat ride from Tenby Harbour or Castle Beach, this fascinating and unique island is like nowhere else in the country, and it’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in history, wildlife and – perhaps more surprisingly – chocolate.

Caldey Island has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and since the Celtic times it’s been regarded as one of the most important holy islands in Britain. The island is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order, and around 40 or so monks live at the grand monastery that overlooks the village green. The monks make a variety of handmade goods, from delicious chocolates to perfumes made from local lavender. So, if you’re looking to buy some souvenirs to take home, Caldey Island is a great place to pick them up. The island is also just a lovely place to explore and spot wildlife, like the large colony of cormorants who live here.

The small museum in the post office is worth a visit, as is the 13th-century Church of St. Illtyd, and Caldey Lighthouse, which was built in 1828. Over a thousand years of peaceful living have made this remote island a beautiful haven of tranquility – so if you’re looking to get away from it all, Caldey Island is for you.

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7. Visit Carew Castle & Tidal Mill

Another must-visit for lovers of history, nature, and myths and legends alike, is Carew Castle and Tidal Mill.  Located in a stunning setting overlooking a 23-acre millpond, Carew Castle’s fascinating history spans over 2,000 years, and covers knights of the realm, kings, Elizabethan intrigue and Civil War ruin. If you like ghost stories, you’ll probably be interested to learn that Carew is also supposed to be one of the most haunted castles in Wales, most notably by the ghost of a medieval princess.

The castle is one of the most architecturally diverse in the country, in parts a Norman fortress, and in other parts a grand Elizabethan mansion. At the castle’s entrance is an impressive example of 11th century Welsh art that’s been influenced by Viking and Celtic designs, and in the grounds there’s also a medieval bridge and an intricate carved Celtic cross. Keep an eye out for the hundreds of bats who make their home here, too!

The site also includes the Carew Tidal Mill, which is the only restored tidal mill in Wales. The original mill machinery is still intact, and offers a fascinating insight into the technology of the time – and if you’d like to learn more about how water has been used for energy through the ages, be sure to check out the exhibitions, audio commentary and interactive displays. If you’d like to stretch your legs, there’s a circular walk linking the mill, the castle and a picnic area which offers stunning views over the millpond.

Browse accommodation near Carew

Consider booking a Pembrokeshire Coast adventure with Explore

If you like the look and sound of several of the Pembrokeshire Coast and want to see as much of it as possible – then why not consider booking your next adventure with travel company, Explore?

Their Pembrokeshire Coast walking holiday starts in Mathry village, which is just a short distance from Pembrokeshire National Park. As you walk along the stunning coastline, which boasts craggy cliffs, unspoilt beaches, secluded coves, and traditional fishing harbours, you’ll be immersed in Welsh culture and history. Plus, for those who enjoy getting out on the water, there’ll be the opportunity to try your hand at sea kayaking too.

Final thoughts…

Boasting some of the most spectacular coastline in the UK, beautiful Pembrokeshire is the ideal destination if you want to get away from city living and experience true peace and solitude. Packed with historic towns and forbidding castles, remote islands and picturesque beaches, Pembrokeshire has something to offer everyone, no matter what kind of break you’re looking for.

So, whether you’re hoping to spend your holiday hiking, uncovering ancient history, or simply relaxing in lovely seaside resorts, you can do all that and more in Pembrokeshire.

Are you planning on visiting Pembrokeshire this year? Or have you been before and have your own recommendations to share with our readers? We’d love to hear about your plans and experiences! Leave us a comment below or join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum.

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