Carew Castle Pembrokeshire

Pembrokshire is definitely changing - thankfully not yet full of Londoners like Cornwall and the Cotswolds but decent restaurants, art galleries improved pubs and home decoration shops are appearing - a change for the better.

Places to eat

The Stackpole Inn in Stackpole Village was awarded best pub in Wales a few years ago - it is still good - I had excellent whitebait last year - drink Fellinfoel Double Dragon bitter - the best pint of this brew I have sampled.

The Quayside at Lawrenny is a perennial favourite - drive past the pub and the yacht club - arrive early as always busy - try the crab - puddings outstanding and are now available to pre-order to take away. Order elderflower by the jug. There are some interesting log cabins on the grass which I presume can be rented and enjoy a spectacular location.

I had lunch at the National Trust tea room at Colby Gardens in the Summer of 2009 - very good home cooked Welsh food - Picton Castle has a similar arrangement although not NT. The NT tea room at Stackpole is up to the usual standards with the largest slices of fresh cream Victoria Sponge I have encountered.

Slebech - pronounced 'Slebechh' not 'sleebeck' is a country house still inhabited by the family, 'the Park' is a retaurant that opened a couple of years ago. I had lunch for one adult and two children in August 2010 for £33. I prefer the Quayside in Lawrenny. However , the fascinating ruined church that was associated with the knights of St John is worth a visit - this is also accessible on foot via Blackpool Mill.

View of Newgale beach from southern coast road

Dale Sea Safari

This is a 2 hour expedition in a speed boat around the islands of Skomer and Skolkholm with a very good guide. My children loved seeing the seals - the varities of birds were less intriguing unless that way inclined. Puffins inhabit these islands at certain times and dolphins are occasionally glimpsed. Waterproofs are supplied. Check sailing times as they can leave from Dale or Marloes and specify the speed boat not the fishing boat. The shop has an excellent supply of puffin related items. Loos available.

Sea Fishing from Dale

Summer 2010 - cost 32 for an adult and two children - great fun - rods are provided and you get to take home your catch - usually mackerel. The short trip is about two hours and pre-booking with Andy is necessary - tel 07768935681.

Military History and museums

The Napoleonic gun tower in Pembroke dock is worth seeing and contains a good local collection of militaria devoted to the dockyard. In 2009, the flying boat museum opened within the old dockyard - you will need to drive through the security gates but dont be put off. The museum is staffed by enthusiastic locals who are hoping to raise a Sunderland from the Haven. An excellent publication on disused airfields within Pembrokshire can act as a guide to the RAF and Fleet Air Arm heritage. I would strongly advise a visit to the restored control tower at Carew - weekends only, but an excellent RAF museum. Lastly when walking the Angle peninsula, look out for the restored gun emplacement facing the Haven which I believe is now a private home.

If you have an interest in local history, pick up a copy of Pembrokshire Life.

North Pembrokshire

Head north from Narbeth on the A478. Take a picnic and eat in the Preseli Hills - a bleak but beautiful and windswept place, rockier than the Brecon Beacons. The burial chamber at Pentre Ifan near Newport is worth a visit as is Cilgerran Castle south of Cardigan - Cardigan itself is not worth the detourbut I would stop at St Dogmaels abbey. I walked from Goodwick to Strumble Head on the North Coast of the County some years ago - very wild coastline and tricky to access but worthwhile. A stone marks the site of the last invasion of the UK in the 1700s by the French.

A long circular walk around Llys-y-Fan? is a good way to spend a few hours - thereafter visit Scolton Manor on the B4329 - a restored country house with parkland and an excellent hands-on science museum. I always try and stop at Melin Tregwynt north of the A487 betwen St Davids and Fishguard - north of Granston - this working mill produces top-end blankets , throws etc and supply numerous smart hotels. En route visit the gallery of Linda Norris in Maenclochnog SA66 7LB for serious art enthusiasts - prints start at about 135 - originals 950 upwards.

Spend a couple of hours exploring St Davids - parking can be difficult - time your visit for early in the morning if possible.

For riders, a couple of hours based from Nolton Stables is a worthwhile excursion. Between Broadhaven on the Western coast and the A487- a very efficient set-up for exhilerating galloping on Druidstone Haven beach- £40 per rider. The hack out takes a while but a great experience. A cameraman will print digital photographs which are also emailed for £10. Glebe House opposite the stables - 01437 710360 offers luxury en suite b and b.

Even at the height of the tourist season , some of the County's beaches are quiet. Barafundle is as unspoilt as all the guidebooks suggest; possibly my favourite walk in West Wales is from the NT car park at Bosherton , across the lilly ponds to Broad Haven beach. Reserach Stackpole Court which was demolished in the 1960s but was one of the great houses in Wales.
The coastline to the left of the ponds walking towards the sea is wild and the coast path often empty.
Newgale beach south of Solva is my preferred spot for watersports - hire at Newsurf where wet suits are available . If you want a sea kayak book in advance - the 2 man kayaks are considerably more stable but if like me a beginner, beware the lack of control on the approach to the beach as there is a real danger to swimmers and surfers.

Go late in the day to avoid the crowds - my recollection is that the shop is open until around 7pm - the helpful staff who hand out wetsuits may even help you move the kayak - think about the tides and the distance you need carry the thing to the sea !
Sands Cafe north of NewSurf serves well cooked local food - it looks like a concrete bunker from the outside but really is an excellent beach cafe - the home made icecream cannot be bettered and is available to takeaway.
Dale - Book ahead if you want to hire canoes etc as limited stock - I thoroughly recommend the coastal walk up to the isolated and deserted old airfield - the runways are still present and it is desolate and atmospheric.
Dale has more of a 'Boden factor' than other Pembrokshire seaside villages which is pleasing ! Do visit the art gallery opposite the post office - it closes at midday.

The routedoctor's annual holiday has led to some more recommendations.

The Carew Inn adjacent to the castle has had a makeover . The Evans Evans bitter is an excellent pint. Supper for three was £35. The portions are enormous: crab with a salad portionand chips that would keep 3 people busy £12-95, the food average - good pub food. I would go back.

The lobster at the Quayside in Lawrenny on a sunny day was delicious. Lunch for 3 £28-50 - Why would you want to holiday abroad ?


Visit Linda Norris gallery in Maenchlogog - her originals sell for over £800 but good framed prints of the wild Pembrokshire countryside can be bought for about £130.
The author would also suggest spending some time in the galleries in St Davids. Drive through the city and take the Fishguard road.
Before exiting the outskirts stop and visit the Albion Gallery Nun St 01437 720120 SA62 6NU. atmospheric greeting cards available if the original art too much.
Push on towards Fishguard and stop in Croesgoch to view the work of John-Knapp Fisher RA. SA62 5JP Tel 01348 831374.

The Shed in Porthgain is a 'fish and chip bistro' - not a derogatory term at all. Its open April - October and booking advised. 01348831518.
Porthgain is a highly atmospheric former quarrying port that retains the imposing former quarry/factory buildings - Victorian skyscrapers - next to the quay. Parking is easy, the ice cream in the Shed excellent and again, plenty of expensive art.

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