Pristine beaches, amazing walks, stunning sunsets and fantastic food…it’s a wonder that Pembrokeshire isn’t top of everyone’s holiday list. But rather surprisingly this beautiful corner of Wales is still somewhat of a hidden gem. And once the summer’s done and dusted it’s even more jaw-droppingly gorgeous and tranquil.
If you need any further persuading, here are Celtic Haven‘s suggestions of what to do this autumn and winter.
So what are you waiting for boyo? Croeso y Cymru!
1. Walk the coastal path – this time of year is perfect for walking this spectacular coast, whether you fancy a short ramble or are up for a full day (or two) hiking. The days are fresher, the sunsets are glorious and you can look forward to deserted beaches and warm,welcoming pubs.
The Pembrokeshire National Park is the only coastal national park in the UK, offering more than 185 miles to challenge even the most ambitious of amblers, from rugged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches and winding estuaries. The path stretches from Poppit Sands in the north to Amroth in the south.
In addition to the striking scenery another major draw is the birdlife. The autumn migration lasts longer than in the spring so it’s a great time to catch wildfowl, waders and other water birds like Slavion Greebs, Great Northern Divers and Little Egrets.
2. Imagine you’re Robin Hood – that’s right, you don’t have to trek to Nottingham Forest to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Mr Russell Crowe and crew. Ridley Scott’s take on our national hero was part-filmed on location at Freshwater West beach and Castlemartin army range right here in Pembrokeshire.
Usually a haven for gnarly waves and surf dudes, Freshwater West is one of the wildest beaches in Wales, home to the Welsh National Surfing Championships which take place each May.
Russell Crowe wasn’t the only celeb to be spotted at Freshwater West, which also played host to the Harry Potter cast. Those in the know were on hand to see ‘the Shell Cottage scene’ for the final film (Chapter 25 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).
Castlemartin is the largest single part of the Defence Training Estate in Pembrokeshire, covering around 5,900 acres of freehold land on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. During non-firing periods the public have access to a section of the coast path from Trevallen, via Stack Rocks, to the lower Warren Road.
Ironically, the use of Castlemartin as a training area has led to the preservation of a spectacular coastal landscape, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Enjoy flora and fauna already lost in other parts of the UK as well as numerous rare and uncommon species of birds and insects.
3. Gorge on fabulous fare – from the freshest of fish to local lamb and lava bread, Pembrokeshire dishes up lashings of delicious food. You could easily dedicate a Pembrokeshire break to JUST eating (and drinking)
There are regular Farmers Markets at Haverfordwest, Pembroke and Fishguard where you can stock up on award winning home reared lamb, wild boar and rare breed pork, dressed crab, apple blossom honey, ‘apple-y-ever-after cake’ and sheepskin rugs.
Real ale fans should head to the Gwaun Valley micro-brewery at Kilkiffeth Farm near Fishguard.
4. Join in the Festivities – there’s always something worth joining in with, from the Tenby Blues Festival to firework fiestas.
- Seasonal highlights include haunted Halloween house tours at Picton Castle and marvelling in musical majesty with the Tenby Male Voice Choir.
- Blues enthusiasts can get up close and personal with the likes of Burnt Curtains (a three piece from Cardiff) and the Mean Mistreaters (featuring Big Mo ‘and his blues chops’) at the fifth Tenby Blues Festival, 12-14 November.
- The Welsh community spirit really comes to the fore over bonfire night. Picturesque seaside villages like Solva come alive with a party atmosphere as fireworks light up the harbour in a spectacular display put on by the village firework committee. http://st.davidsinfo.org.uk/solva_harbour_fireworks_display.htm
- Hardy locals can be found taking the plunge on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day as part of the traditional swim in the chilly waters off the Pembrokeshire coast.
5. Surf the waves and tree canopies
– breezier days stir up the surf and you’ll be spoilt for choice of world-class surf beaches including Freshwater West, Marloes and Newgale.
For surf adventures of another kind, head to Heatherton World of Activities near Tenby. The activities in question range from coarse fishing to go karting but the main event is the new Treetops Adventure Trail. Swing from the trees 40 feet above the ground and then zip your way back down to earth.
6. Become an Action Jackson – Climbing, diving, horse riding, kayaking, kite surfing, sailing, windsurfing, golfing, cycling, fishing – you name it, it’s on offer in Pembrokeshire. And enjoying the great outdoors isn’t something that stops when the summer ends.
The calm, sheltered waters of Milford Haven are perfect for kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. The Prince’s Trust Pembrokeshire Adventure Centre is the ideal activity base offering everything from canoeing to mountaineering.
Or take inspiration from the Ryder Cup (taking place at the Celtic Manor in October) and play a round at Tenby – the oldest course in Wales – or the challenging meadowland course at Milford Haven with panoramic views over the water.
7. Get crafty
There’s something about this little corner of the UK which attracts artists and craftspeople. You can’t get very far on your travels around the county without stumbling across some creative nook or cranny. From woodcarving to watercolours, weaving to totem pole making, there are plenty of opportunities for hands on fun.
Lindy Dennis at Caerwen Arts Studio lives and works in a remote rural cottage in the hamlet of Glandwr, producing everything from contemporary paintings to sculptures and totem poles. One to one tuition and group workshops are available for aspiring artists.
Or join sculptor Neil Machin at Begelly House, an 18th Century gentleman’s residence in Kilgetty, for woodcarving workshops.
Wood not your medium? How about spinning and weaving tuition at Blueberry Angoras, home to a flock of friendly Angora goats who provide the fine mohair for the dyed yarns on sale here.
8. Become king of the castle
Think of Wales and think of myths and legends, Merlin and King Arthur. Where better to indulge this lust for ancient lore and magic than at one of the many castles and historic sites which abound in Pembrokeshire. These attractions are open year round and will soon have you bouncing off the ramparts (hopefully not literally).
There are 51 forts and castles in Pembrokeshire. One of the most famous is Pembroke Castle, a largely intact fortress built by the victorious Norman invaders soon after the Battle of Hastings. Another Welsh national icon steeped in history is St David’s Cathedral, founded by the country’s patron saint in the sixth century.
Newly opened this autumn, Castell Henllys reconstructed Iron Age Fort and Carew Castle are well worth a visit. Castell Henllys (‘castell’ is Welsh for ‘castle’) dates to around 600BC. Archaeologists have been excavating here for the past 20 years, with the result that the prehistoric promontory fort buildings have been reconstructed on their original foundations.
Carew Castle incorporates an 11th century Celtic cross, the only restored Tidal Mill in Wales and a medieval bridge, the perfect embodiment of transformation from a Norman fortification to an Elizabethan country house.
9. Go coasteering – Coasteering, ‘a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surf boards or other craft’ (Wikipedia). In other words, sheer insanity. If losing your marbles is right up there with throwing yourself off cliffs, this is the sport for you. And where better to partake than in St Davids, where local company TYF Adventure claims to have pioneered the sport over 20 years ago.
Slip into a wetsuit and helmet and scramble and jump your way along the coast. This is a fantastic way to explore the coastline from an entirely different perspective. Check out Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert’s attempts.
10. Discover wildlife adventures – Far less crowded than parts of Devon and Cornwall, Pembrokeshire is a veritable wildlife haven – you’re just as likely to spot foxes as other walkers.
Take to the water for the most thrilling wildlife encounters. Whilst companies like Shearwater Safaris don’t operate a full programme off season, they still offer some boat rides and wildlife safaris between 1 November and 30 March.
Look out for Atlantic grey seals and porpoise around Skomer (a marine nature reserve), and gannets – one of the largest colonies in the world – and dolphins around Grassholm.
Pembrokeshire is unrivalled for seabirds and includes some of the world’s biggest colonies of Manx shearwaters and gannets. From the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail you can spot grey seals, which breed here in early autumn. Porpoises, dolphins and the occasional whale or basking shark also frequent these seas.
Whatever activity you prefer; whether it is walking, exploring, visiting historical attractions, eating in restaurants or getting active, Celtic Haven is an ideal base for exploring Pembrokeshire during autumn and winter.
Celtic Haven, a resort of 26 cottages, set within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is offering three-night weekend or four-night midweek breaks at just £149 per person until December 17. Find out more on the Celtic Haven website.