Who are you?
Sam Johnson, freelance contributor to Practical Motorhome and Practical Caravan magazines.
Why are you a local authority on Pembrokeshire?
I grew up there during my teenage years and, while I no longer live in the area, I return frequently to visit family and friends.
What do you love about it?
Its relative lack of large commercial development. There are some busy towns, particularly in the summer. However, none of these are far from the beautiful, unspoilt coast or countryside, where you can feel you’ve escaped the rat race for a bit (weather permitting!).
What’s your favourite place to visit in the area?
Skomer Island in springtime. This marine reserve is especially famous for its puffins, but Manx shearwaters, razorbills, seals and even dolphins and porpoise can also be spotted here.
And if you are fortunate enough to visit Skomer at the right time of year (April-May) the swathes of bluebells are so vast that, from a distance, parts of the island appear blue!
Be aware, though, that you’ll need to arrive early – visitor numbers are controlled by a limited number of scheduled boat crossings, which can’t be booked in advance.
Alternatively, pick any section of the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path for beautiful views of unspoilt coastline. Mum and I set ourselves the challenge of walking its whole length in stages just over a year ago, but have only managed about 40 miles so far!
Which campsites would you recommend, and why?
It’s run by a friend of our family, so I might be slightly biased, but the sea views from Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park are just sensational.
Pitches include electric hook-up and the site is within easy walking distance of the cathedral city of St David’s, the smallest city in Britain.
A lovely sandy and rocky beach is also accessible via a short – but steep – flight of steps to be found close the the site entrance.
What food and drink is the area known for?
Seafood, mainly. Locally caught fish, scallops and crab are widely served and there’s an excellent choice of restaurants and cafés to enjoy.
Cawl (a Welsh dish made using whatever meat and vegetables are available, and typically served with bread and cheese) is also popular.
Tell us somewhere great to eat or drink!
The Shed Bistro in Porthgain is rightly renowned for the aforementioned seafood and specialises in serving local produce. However, it’s not cheap and pre-booking is essential.
If your budget is more modest, the [email protected] fish and chip shop in Fishguard was a top 10 finalist in the 2020 National Fish and Chip Awards.
For drinks, there are plenty of village pubs that serve a good pint, and we particularly like the Harbour Inn at Solva, The Sloop Inn at Porthgain and The Ship Inn at Trefin.
Pembrokeshire also boasts its very own brewery, which is hidden away in the depths of the Gwaun Valley!
Where can you get spare kit?
Surprisingly few places. Tenby Tourers in Llanteg (on the A477 east of Tenby) claims to be the largest and also undertakes servicing and repairs.
Where can you find the cheapest petrol/diesel in the area?
At the time of writing, the cheapest we knew of was Letterston Filling Station (on the main A40 between Haverfordwest and Fishguard). Otherwise, the large supermarkets (Tesco or Morrisons in Haverfordwest, Tesco or Asda in Pembroke Dock) are a pretty safe bet.
Share a secret highlight that only a local would know…
Hidden away behind Aberfforest Bay, two miles west of Newport and about 100 yards off the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, are the beautiful Aberfforest Waterfalls. Or, if you prefer your secrets to be food-related, Pointz Castle ice-cream in Solva is to die for!
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Things To Do
Visit Pembroke Town Hall to view the Pembroke Town Murals. In 2006, a local husband and wife team embarked on an ambitious project to depict Pembroke’s history through a series of 28 wall panels. These painted panels, which show the history from the town’s development during the Stone Age to the early part of the 20th Century, can be viewed in the foyer of the town hall.
Have a go at sea angling in the sheltered waters between picturesque Tenby and Caldey Island. Once on board, the boat leaves Tenby Harbour for the 20-minute boat trip and, on reaching the fishing ground, the engine is stopped and the boat drifts quietly. For complete novices, the skipper will provide instructions on how to use the rod and reel supplied. There are daily sailings, weather permitting, for your chance to catch some mackeral. Alternatively, you can have a go at catching a shark!
You could discover Pembrokeshire’s stunning coastline while on a stand-up paddleboard. Good Trails Paddleboarding will take you, with an experienced instructor, along the coast from Saundersfoot or deep into the estuary on calm waters. You’ll be able to discover places that are only accessible by water and you might be lucky enugh to spot a seal.
Visit the extensive remains of a grand medieval palace of the bishop’s of St David’s at Lamphey, near the city of St David’s. The bishops used Lamphey as a country retreat and the 144-acre gardens, park and ruined remains of the palace are a treat, with some lovely walks in the countryside and regular programme of events throughout the summer.
Take a wildlife adventure boat trip to one of Pembrokeshire’s islands. Ramsey Island is an RSPB reserve, and Thousand Islands Expeditions has sole landing rights. Or take a two-hour trip to Skomer to see the puffins, or venture into the Celtic Deep for some whale and dolphin watching.
When To Visit
If you arrive in spring, you’ll find plenty of bluebells to admire along the coastal path. It’s the beaches that, naturally, take the focus in summer. Autumn – and September in particular – is the best time to go seal watching as these lovable creatures haul themselves up the beaches to look after their pups. But, don’t rule out a visit in winter, when a crisp walk along the coast path will offer impressive sights of large Atlantic waves crashing into the cliffs.
One event that dominates June for seafood lovers is Pembrokeshire Fish Week. The annual festival celebrates the county’s fabulous seafood and you’ll find all sorts of events dotted across the county from traditional fish suppers to imaginative seafood creations, live music, sea cruises and communal get-togethers.
Located in the southwest reaches of Wales, Pembrokeshire is a very rural county and it’s a while before you get there having left the M4 motorway at Pontarddulais if you’re approaching from the south/southeast of England. The A477 will get you to the southern most reaches of the county and Pembroke Dock (one of the locations from which to sail to (or return from) Ireland, so why not extend your trip for a few days to explore Pembrokeshire?
The A40 is the best route to approach the middle or northern parts of the county from the east, including Haverfordwest and St David’s. Though, if you’re entering from north Wales, the A487 links Snowdonia National Park with Pembrokeshire National Park via Aberytswyth.