Pembrokeshire Coast wins:
BBC Country File’s 2018 Award for Holiday Destination of the Year…
So, the secret is definitely out. No surprise that when visiting the area for the first time, our guests are often overwhelmed by how beautiful Pembrokeshire is. No wonder, so many return year after year. The fact is that Pembrokeshire is still very unspoilt. Considering how much the area has to offer, you won’t find yourself stuck in a Pembrokeshire traffic jam.
Pembrokeshire is the most popular coastal holiday destination in Wales. With some of the best-preserved coastline in Britain, regularly winning awards and accolades for the quality of its beaches, many of which have the blue-flag, as well as landscapes, local products and tourism facilities. In 2010, a panel of 340 National Geographic experts rated Pembrokeshire as the second-best coastline in the world, quoting “the magnificent protected coastline from both ecological and geological perspectives”, as the reason why.
North and South Pembrokeshire, the 2 regions are subtly different mainly down to geology; the North being more rugged, it’s spectacular, serrated coastline is made up of some of the toughest, most ancient rocks in the British Isles and to the South, the very beautiful limestone cliffs make for some quite different but nevertheless dramatic scenery.
The Manor Town House
If you haven’t visited us before, in brief The Manor Town House is sea view accommodation with a boutique feel situated in the centre of Fishguard, on the way down to picturesque Lower Town. A sea view hotel style luxury bed and breakfast Pembrokeshire with sea views on the back of the house. The stunning views of Fishguard Bay / Cardigan Bay, towards Cardigan and on a good day even the Llyn Penninsula, obscure the view of Fishguard harbour, the Fishguard ferry port and Fishguard Bay Hotel.
Fishguard, currently undergoing a flourish of activity, is at the heart of North Pembrokeshire and therefore serves as an excellent base for visitors to enjoy some of the quieter and more scenic spots. It is situated at the end of the A40, so has easy access into the South of the county too. It’s Welsh name Abergwaun, means ’Mouth of the River Gwaun’, which explains where it can be located on the map of Wales. The town is small with a population of about 5300 people and is basically divided into two parts, the main town of Fishguard and Lower Fishguard / Lower Town.
More on Fishguard
Widely known as a port for the Stenaline ferry to Rosslaire in Ireland, Fishguard has great public transport links with now 5 direct, daily Arriva Train services to and from London, via Swansea and Cardiff. It’s a great base for walking in Pembroksehire and specifically walking the Pembrokeshire coast due to the great local bus services, which you can read more about further down this page.
In terms of Fishguard shops, you will find all the local conveniences, with supermarkets, bakeries, chemists, including a Boots, antique shops and art gallery, Seaways, a super independent bookshop, The West Wales Art Centre and a library situated in the Town Hall. There is an independent cinema and theatre, Theatr Gwaun, run by locals it has live screenings via National Live Theatre, and The Royal Opera House. In terms of food, there are some excellent, friendly local restaurants, cafés and deli’s, such as Pepper’s and The Gourmet Pig, as well as pubs with bar menus, such as The Royal Oak, (Tuesday’s Folk at The Oak is a very friendly, lively affair), and not forgetting Welsh-French bakery, café and music hub Ffwrn, Welsh for oven, (see photo below), who supply our delicious sourdough bread.
See our Eating Out Guide
In addition, Fishguard enjoys many festivals throughout the year. The jazz festival and folk festivals 2018 already have programmes available with venues in Fishgaurd itself; the Fishguard International Music Festival has concerts in town and further afield to Rhosygilwen.
See our Festival Links: Fishguard Music
The Last Invasion
Fishguard is a town steeped in history, known as the site for the battle of The Last Invasion. Wikipedia’s explanation of the Last Invasion, is quoted ‘The Battle of Fishguard was a military invasion of Great Britain by Revolutionary France during the War of the First Coalition. The brief campaign, on 22–24 February 1797, is the most recent landing on British soil by a hostile foreign force, and thus is often referred to as the “last invasion of Britain”.’ The signing of the treaty took place on the square in The Royal Oak and firing cannons can be easily spotted around town and on Marine Walk.
The Last Invasion Tapestry was designed and sewn by around 80 local women, it is similar to the Bayeux tapestry and is also 100 feet long. Commissioned to commemorate the Invasion Bicentenary in 1997, it is on permanent display in the Town Hall and free of charge to visit.
Fishguard Meets Hollywood
More recently, drawing upon Fishguard’s historic background, the pretty setting of Lower Town, the town boasts to having being the location for Dylan Thomas’s classic film version of Under Milk Wood, starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck. Many of the locals became involved in the filming in 1972, and the pub The Ship, still displays some nostalgic star-struck photos on the walls. Earlier in 1956, the town was also used for the set of Moby Dick, starring Gregory Peck. We have yet to obtain details of who might possibly have stayed here at The Manor Town House during either filming, but if anyone knows anything please tell!
Out on the Water
Starting in Lower Town, less than 5 minutes’ walk downhill from the front door, kyaking and increasingly paddle boarding are becoming increasingly popular. Your route will typically take you north around the headland, through rocky arches and hidden coves. Not your run of the mill way to enjoy a day out, but as great for families as lone travellers. Lasting approximately two to two and a half hours for a half a day, all equipment is provided and you will have an experienced, knowledgeable guide on hand to help spot seals and marine life. Stand Up Paddleboarding or SUPing is, apparently, the coolest of adventure sports. As well as being a very novel alternative to kyaking, you are sure to get quite a work out. It’s quite a sight to behold, watching a group set off, with what is almost a bird’s eye view from the Sea View rooms or terrace.
Wales Coast Path
Covering an area of 225 square miles, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Footpath was laid out in 1970. It covers a distance of 167 miles along the coast from Carmarthen Bay to Cardigan Bay, and crosses the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park, the only coastal path in Britain to do so. Walkers on the path get to pass remote beaches and romantic steep cliffs, as well as the chance to see rare sea birds such as puffins or razor-billed auks. It’s a very friendly activity too. Despite the fact that you may be able to count on one hand the number of other walkers you pass, if they have seen a seal in the direction you are heading, they will tell you where to look.
Great days out in Pembrokeshire
With the coastal path reachable from the bottom of our garden, though more typically from the front door, The Manor Town House is a popular base for walking the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. During high season especially, a number of local bus services, which stop just up from the house, can either drop or collect you at your chosen destination. The routes are barely restricted and take the narrowest of tracks and B roads to get passengers to some quite remote, craggy coves and picturesque harbours. Suitably named, The Strumble Shuttle takes you up through Goodwick / Strumble Head / St Nicholas / Porthgain / Abereiddy and on to St Davids; the Poppit Rocket takes you through to Pwllgwaelod / Cwm-yr-Eglwys / Dinas Head / Newport then on to Poppit Sands / St Dogmaels / Cardigan in Ceredigeon.
Local Things to Do:
Strumble Head Lighthouse
Already this year, guests have been delighted to see seals on walks around Strumble Head. One of the most popular walks close to home, and named ‘Walk of the Month’, in May 2016, by The Independent: “Few places can be more life-enhancing in spring than Strumble Head”. The lighthouse itself sits on a small island off a rocky headland called Pencaer. As one of Britain’s best places to spot migratory birds and marine mammals, it is home to one of Europe’s most important wildlife-watching observatories. Even better, it is only 5 miles away so easily walkable even if you prefer to catch the bus onwards or back to base.
Melin Tregwynt Woollen Mill
This is a gem of a place, hidden away on the edge of a pretty woodland in St Nicholas. Completely off the beaten track, it is primarily a working woollen mill, with a fabulous but small shop and recently expanded cafe. Melin Tregwynt don’t cut corners, in any way, shape or form. It’s all about quality and it’s brand is synonymous with traditional Welsh woven cloth, brought very much up to date with fresh, cleverly named designs, my own favourite is St Davids Cross. Their collections are sold around the world, but that didn’t stop one of our guests doing her Christmas shopping there, only to have it shipped home, (in Los Angeles!).
Less than 5 minutes’ drive from Llanrhian Porthgain is within the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park’s Conservation Area. Throughout the 19th Century, Porthgain had quite an interesting industrial history, being known first for its slate, then for brick making and finally for quarrying gravel. Best described as dramatic and intriguing, the small harbour is still used as a fishing port, though mainly for the restaurants, a few steps from the quay.
Seafood bistro The Shed is always top of our list for best places to eat, pretty much anywhere. If small is beautiful then this excellent restaurant ticks that box, just for starters. It is very popular and advance booking is nearly always essential; no doubt why the tablecloths are wipeable oilcloth rather than linen. The fish is always served perfectly, whether the traditional fish and chips for which this menu even includes monkfish, or the a la carte fish menu which also includes one meat and one vegan option, as well as lobster and crab seasonally. Fabulously accommodating and friendly, no matter how busy, service is unceasingly swift to boot.
Across from The Shed, The Sloop pub has a convivial atmosphere. Its menu is wide-ranging with daily specials. It is often popular with large family groups at weekends. There are lots of picnic tables outside too, which always get packed on a sunny day. Porthgain is a great location for a circular walk, with the perfect excuse to work up an appetite. You might even find time to pop into Harbour Lights, a small but compact gallery exhibiting work by Welsh artists, notably, John Piper and John Knapp Fisher to name a few.
Abereiddy Beach and The Blue Lagoon
Abereiddy Bay (pronounced ‘Abber-ay-thee’) and the Blue Lagoon are just outside Llanrhian. The beach itself is shingle and dark sand flanked by cliffs of slate and shales. Graptolite and other fossils can be found in the rocks. On the north side are the ruins of quarrymen’s cottages known as The Street, then a bit further round you will find the Blue Lagoon, a flooded slate quarry. – a popular spot for jumping from heights of about 4 and 8 metres into the water. The Blue Lagoon has played host to RedBull Cliff Diving events, which in 2016 attracted crowds, of reportedly over 2,000 in 2016. If you fancy trying a jump, under expert tuition, there are several adventure / water sport companies who offer coasteering, as well as rock climbing, surfing, kayaking and the like.
Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm and Café
There is lots to do on site here, so you can expect to spend on average around 2 – 3 hours. This is a unique and thoroughly entertaining experience as well as ticking the ‘educational’ box too, (that’s for adults and kids alike). A Farm with a Difference, the Main Event, is that you get to tour the old family farm in St David’s and explore the insect world with entomologist, insect farmer & TV presenter Dr Sarah Beynon and then sit in the café and eat bugs for lunch, including their most popular dish, the Bug Burger. Vegetarians be warned, though they do also serve amazing home-made cakes! It’s not open all year round, so might be worth checking out of season. Otherwise, a great place to visit, especially on wet weather days and it is without doubt, something to keep you talking for years to come.
Whitesands beach St David’s with Whitesands beach café is a really great beach. Newprt Sands beach in Newport Pembrokeshire, looks the closest on the map but both take around 30 mins drive to reach. This one is more popular for water sports and is especially on the list for surfing in Wales.
Less than 30mins drive away from Fishguard, St Davids or St David’s, lying on the River Alun, is the United Kingdom’s smallest city in terms of both size and population. With St David’s Cathedral as the main visitor attraction, even in terms of visitors to Pembrokeshire itself, the town has been a magnet for pilgrims and tourists for centuries. Despite the queues for ice-cream and parking in high season, it is certainly a not-to-miss destination.
The cathedral has the most beautiful setting. Almost as a metaphor for Pembrokeshire itself, it’s a bit of a hidden secret. Set at the bottom of quite a steep hill and home of the patron saint, Dewi Sant, whose shrine is at the heart of the cathedral, it was built of purple sandstone in the 12th Century. On March 1st St David’s Day, welsh traditional costume is worn by local school children as they parade through the town, a Welsh Dragon amongst them as they wind their celebrations down to the cathedral. Throughout the year, the cathedral hosts a wide programme of music events and concerts, the most popular being The St David’s Cathedral Festival, which this year runs for a week from May 25th. Beyond the castle gates its neighbour is The Bishops Palace, a brooding Gothic ruin, which provides a dramatic backdrop for open air theatre performances in the summer.
While you are in the area, St Non’s Chapel and Holy Well are also well worth a visit. Often described as one of the most idyllically situated monuments in Pembrokeshire, overlooking, as it does, the rocky coastline above St. Non’s Bay. A visit to the chapel ruins can be extended to a longer walk on to and along the coastal footpath west as far as the Merryvale road, which leads back to St. David’s.
Ramsay and Skomer Island Boat Trips
Sailing from St Justinian’s, you can choose boat trips from Ramsay Island, Grassholm, Skomer and Stockholm. Depending on the time of year, you may see anything from seals, dolphins, garnets, porpoises, puffins and even whales, if you are prepared to go out a little further. Some trips allow for an island hop off, for others it’s a round trip. Top company’s. Some of the early departures might warrant a lighter breakfast, but if you prefer to take things more leisurely, you can opt for the afternoon sailings instead.
Oriel Y Parc
At the top end of St David’s, on the way to Newgale Beach and Haverfordwest, Oriel Y Parc has a gallery, café, shop and National Park Information Centre. It has residencies by local artist and creatives, as well as exhibiting national collections. The collection includes works by abstract painter Graham Sutherland, depicting dramatic and imaginative landscapes of Pembrokeshire. This year visitors can see the gallery’s most recent new arrival, on loan from The Tate, Le Passeur (The Ferryman), by William Stott of Oldham, is one of three works from Tate’s collections to be shown at Oriel y Parc. Later in the summer will be a watercolour of St David’s Head by J.M.W. Turner, also on display to commemorate the Year of the Sea in Wales.
A Special Place to Stay…
So yes, Pembrokeshire really did deserve Country Files’ Award for ‘Holiday Destination of the Year, 2018’ and, there certainly is a diverse range of attractions even around our own stretch of this beautiful county. We too at The Manor Town House, were both surprised and delighted to have been presented with our most recent award, ‘Fishguard’s Favourite Accommodation Provider’.
We have been really lucky to have had some lovely reviews too, our most cherished has to be the mention in Bill Bryson’s ‘The Road to Little Dribbling”, (Reviews), but we put it all down to the house, we try to make everyone feel very welcome and relaxed; the super sea views, the garden terrace which becomes part of the house in the summer; and finally our position in Pembrokshire and on the west wales coast, it’s a pretty perfect combination, making it one of those special places to stay Wales.
Once you have reached us here at The Manor Town House, we are always happy to help make you make the most of your stay, as well as making suggestions to make it more personal for a special occasion, just for you. Speak to Chris or Helen.
Of course, if you are just needing to recharge your batteries and get away from that never-ending ‘to do’ list, just pack a pair of comfy walking boots, a good book and come and make yourself completely at home and watch the sun set, far from the madding crowd.
For our next blog story, we will be covering South Pembrokeshire and looking at ways to entertain yourselves and the children with some ideas for a great day out, to include towns such as Tenby and Narberth, the best beaches, Pembroke Castle and Carew Castle, activity parks and more Pembrokeshire beaches…
Until then, if you want to keep more up to date with The Manor Town House, described as boutique hotels wales / unique places to stay Wales, join our mailing list or join us on social media and please share our news…
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