Must see attractions in Pembrokeshire

  • Top ChoiceSights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    St David's Cathedral

    Hidden in a hollow and behind high walls, St David's Cathedral is intentionally unassuming. The valley site was chosen in the vain hope that the church would be overlooked by Saxon raiders, but it was ransacked at least seven times. Yet once you pass through the gatehouse separating it from the town and its stone walls come into view, it's as imposing as any of its contemporaries. Built on the site of a 6th-century chapel, the building dates mainly from the 12th to the 14th centuries. Extensive works were carried out in the 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott (architect of London's Albert Memorial and St Pancras) to stabilise the building. The distinctive west front, with its four pointed towers of purple stone, dates from this period. The atmosphere inside is one of great antiquity. As you enter the nave, the oldest surviving part of the cathedral, the first things you'll notice are the sloping floor and the outward lean of the massive, purplish-grey pillars linked by semicircular Norman Romanesque arches, a result of subsidence. Above is a richly carved 16th-century oak ceiling, adorned with pendants. At the far end of the nave is a delicately carved 14th-century Gothic pulpitum (screen), which bears a statue of St David dressed as a medieval bishop, and contains the tomb of Bishop Henry de Gower (died 1347), for whom the Bishop's Palace was built. Beyond the pulpitum is the magnificent choir. Check out the mischievous carved figures on the 16th-century misericords (under the seats), one of which depicts pilgrims being seasick over the side of a boat. Don't forget to look up at the colourfully painted lantern tower above (those steel tie rods around the walls were installed in the 19th century to hold the structure together). Between the choir and the high altar is the object of all those religious pilgrimages: a shrine containing the bones of St David and St Justinian. Destroyed during the Reformation, it was restored and rededicated in 2012, adorned with five new Byzantine-style icons by artist Sara Crisp. Accessed from the north wall of the nave, the Treasury displays vestments and religious paraphernalia crafted from precious metals and stones. Just as valuable are the treasures in the neighbouring library (entry £1), the oldest of which dates to 1505. Towards the rear of the cathedral is the low-lit Holy Trinity Chapel, distinguished by a superb fan-vaulted ceiling dating from the early 16th century, and the light-filled Lady Chapel. Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd, the greatest of the princes of South Wales, and his son Rhys Gryg are known to be buried in the cathedral, although their effigies in the south choir aisle date only from the 14th century. Gerald of Wales, an early rector of the cathedral, has a gravestone here, but scholars suggest he is actually buried at Lincoln Cathedral. In August there are hour-long guided tours at 11.30am Monday and 2.30pm Friday; at other times, tours can be arranged in advance.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Pembrokeshire

    Castell Henllys

    If you've ever wondered what a Celtic village looked, felt and smelt like, take a trip back in time to this Iron Age settlement, 4 miles east of Newport. From about 600 BC and right through the Roman occupation there was a thriving Celtic settlement here, and it's been reconstructed on its original foundations. Costumed staff bring the site to life, stoking the fires and performing traditional crafts, and wildlife such as bats and otters may appear to add verisimilitude. The name Castell Henllys means Castle of the Prince's Court. For 27 years students from around the world, supervised by the University of York archaeology department, spent their summers digging and sifting at the site and in the process learned enough to build this remarkable recreation of the settlement, complete with educated guesses about the clothing, tools, ceremonies and agricultural life of that time. The buildings include three thatched roundhouses, animal pens, a smithy and a grain store – all of which you can enter and touch. There are even Iron Age breeds of pigs and sheep and reconstructions of Celtic gardens. The idea is that you linger, experience and interact, not cruise through passively as in a traditional museum. Naturally, there's a cafe and a gift shop. Buses between Newport and Cardigan stop nearby on request.

  • Top ChoiceSights in South Pembrokeshire

    Pembroke Castle

    This spectacular and forbidding castle was the home of the earls of Pembroke for over 300 years and the birthplace of Henry VII, the first Tudor king. A fort was established here in 1093 by Arnulph de Montgomery, but most of the present buildings date from the 13th century. It's a great place for both kids and adults to explore – wall walks and passages run from tower to tower, and there are vivid exhibitions detailing the castle's history. The oldest part of the complex is the sinister, looming keep, dating to 1204. One hundred steps lead to the top, from where there are great views over the town. Next to the keep is the Dungeon Tower, where you can peer into a dank, dark prison cell. Nearby, with access through the Northern Hall, are steps to the creepy Wogan Cavern, a large natural cave that was partially walled in by the Normans and probably used as a store and boathouse. In the room in which he is believed to have been born, in 1457, a tableau commemorates Henry Tudor (Harri Tudur), who defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 to become Henry VII. Free guided tours are offered daily; check the website for times. Falconry displays and costumed re-enactments are held in summer.

  • Top ChoiceSights in North Pembrokeshire

    Pentre Ifan

    The largest neolithic dolmen in Wales, Pentre Ifan is a 5500-year-old neolithic burial chamber set on a remote hillside with superb views across the Preseli Hills and out to sea. The huge, 5m-long capstone, weighing more than 16 tonnes, is delicately poised on three tall, pointed upright stones, made of the same bluestone that was used for the menhirs at Stonehenge. The site is about 3 miles southeast of Newport, signposted off a minor road south of the A487.

  • Top ChoiceSights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    St Davids Bishop's Palace

    This atmospheric ruined palace was begun at the same time as St David's Cathedral, adjacent, but its final, imposing Decorated Gothic form owes most to Henry de Gower, bishop from 1327 to 1347. The most distinctive feature is the arcaded parapet that runs around the courtyard, adorned with a chequerboard pattern of purple and yellow stone blocks. The corbels that support the arches are richly adorned with a menagerie of carved figures – animals, grotesque mythical creatures and human heads. Interesting displays within the basements and ruined rooms bring each part of the palace to life. The distinctive purple sandstone, also used in the cathedral, comes from Caerbwdy Bay, a mile southeast of St Davids. The palace courtyard provides a spectacular setting for open-air plays in summer.

  • Top ChoiceSights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    Oriel y Parc

    Occupying a bold, semicircular, environmentally friendly building on the edge of town, Oriel y Parc is a winning collaboration between the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the National Museum Wales. Not only does it function as a tourist office and national-park visitor centre (open slightly longer than the gallery), it houses changing exhibitions from the museum's art collection. The focus is on landscapes, particularly scenes from Pembrokeshire's rich cache of natural beauty.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    Barafundle Bay

    Regularly voted one of Britain's most beautiful beaches, Barafundle Bay is a scenic 10-minute walk south along the coast path from Stackpole Quay (turn right). It is a gorgeous spot but its reputation has put paid to seclusion, so on summer weekends it can get pretty crowded despite the lack of road access. Come out of high season and you may just have the whole place to yourself, though. If you're up for more walking, follow the coast path south of the beach out onto Stackpole Head with its impressive cliffs and rock arches.

  • Sights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    St Non's Bay

    Immediately south of St Davids, this ruggedly beautiful spot is named after St David's mother and traditionally accepted as his birthplace. A path leads to the 13th-century ruins of St Non's Chapel. Only the base of the walls remains, along with a stone marked with a cross within a circle that's believed to date from the 7th century. Standing stones in the surrounding field suggest that the chapel may have been built within an ancient pagan stone circle. On the approach to the ruins is a pretty little holy well. The sacred spring is said to have emerged at the moment of the saint's birth and the water is believed to have curative powers. Although pilgrimages were officially banned following the suppression of Catholicism in the 16th century, the faithful continued to make furtive visits. The site has now come full circle. In 1935 a local Catholic, Cecil Morgan-Griffiths, built the Chapel of Our Lady & St Non out of the stones of former religious buildings that had been incorporated into local cottages and farms. Its dimensions echo those of the original chapel. The Catholic Church repaired the stone vaulting over the well in 1951, and Morgan-Griffiths' house is now used by the Passionist Fathers as a retreat centre.

  • Sights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    Ramsey Island

    Ramsey Island (Ynys Dewi) lies off the headland to the west of St Davids, ringed by dramatic sea cliffs and an offshore armada of rocky islets and reefs. The island is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve famous for its large breeding population of choughs – members of the crow family with glossy black feathers and distinctive red bills and legs – and for its grey seals. You can reach the island by boat from the tiny harbour at St Justinian, 2 miles west of St Davids. Longer boat trips run up to 20 miles offshore, to the edge of the Celtic Deep, to spot whales, porpoises and dolphins. What you'll see depends on the weather and the time of year; July to September are the best months. Porpoises are seen on most trips, dolphins on four out of five, and there's a 40% chance of seeing whales. The most common species is the minke, but pilot whales, fin whales and orcas have also been spotted. Thousand Islands Expeditions is the only operator permitted to land day trippers on the island, where they can explore some of its 3½-mile walking circuit. Voyages of Discovery, Aquaphobia and Venture Jet head out to the island but don't land there.

  • Sights in North Pembrokeshire

    Welsh Wildlife Centre

    Bordering the River Teifi just south of Cardigan, the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve is a haven for kingfishers, owls, otters, badgers and butterflies. You can find out more about the critters that live in the surrounding river, marsh and woodland habitats at this striking glass-walled information centre, which also houses a shop and cafe. There are several short waymarked trails nearby, most of them wheelchair accessible.

  • Sights in North Pembrokeshire

    St Brynach's Church

    With its overgrown castle and atmospheric church, the little village of Nevern, 2 miles east of Newport, makes a good objective for an easy walk or ride. St Brynach's beautifully melancholic churchyard dates from around the 6th century, predating the 13th-century church itself. Its supremely gloomy alley of yew trees is estimated to be upwards of six centuries old. The second yew on the right is the so-called bleeding yew, named after the curious reddish-brown sap that oozes from it. Immediately outside the church grounds you'll see an 18th-century stone mounting block, installed to save the gentry any undignified scrambling on or off their mounts as they attended church. Within the picturesque graveyard is a tall Celtic cross, one of the finest in Wales, decorated with interlace patterns and dating from the 10th or 11th century. According to tradition, the first cuckoo that sings each year in Pembrokeshire does so from atop this cross on St Brynach's Day (7 April). Inside the church, the Maglocunus Stone, thought to date from the 5th century, forms a window sill in the south transept. It is one of the few carved stones that bears an inscription in both Latin and Ogham. Stones like these were important tools for deciphering the meaning of the ancient Celtic script. Up on the wooded hill behind the church you'll find a pilgrims' cross and the scant remains of Nevern Castle, originally a Welsh stronghold, then rebuilt by the Normans and eventually destroyed by the Welsh in 1195.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    Carew Castle

    Looming romantically over the River Carew, its gaping windows reflected in the glassy water, this craggy castle is an impressive sight. The rambling limestone ruins range from functional 12th-century fortifications to Elizabethan country house, and there are plenty of towers, wall walks and dank basements to explore. A summer program of events includes archery, falconry, battle re-enactments and open-air theatre. Also in summer, a combined ticket can be purchased, which allows admission to the castle's Tidal Mill. The castle was built by Gerald de Windsor (Henry I's constable of Pembroke) and his wife, the wonderfully named Princess Nest (daughter of the Welsh king of Deheubarth), on the site of an ancient Celtic fort. Abandoned in 1690, it's now inhabited by a large number of bats, including the protected greater horseshoe variety. The mill at the castle is the only intact mill of this kind in Wales. The incoming tide would be trapped in a pond, which was then released through sluice gates to turn the waterwheels. For 400 years until 1937, the mill ground corn for the castle community, although the present building only dates from the early 19th century. Near the castle entrance is the 11th-century Carew Cross. Covered in intricate Celtic carvings and standing 4m tall, it's one of the grandest of its kind.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    Caldey Island

    Connected to Tenby by a seasonal boat service, Caldey Island is home to grey seals, sea birds and a red-topped, whitewashed monastery that houses a community of around a dozen Cistercian monks. Make sure you visit sandy Priory Bay, the lighthouse, the village museum, the old priory and St Illtyd's Church, with its oddly shaped steeple. Inside is a stone with inscriptions in Ogham (an ancient Celtic script). The monks live an austere life but make various luxurious products for sale, including essential oils, soaps and perfumes derived from the island's wildflowers and herbs. You can buy these products on the island or in the Caldey Abbey Shop in Tenby. Little St Margaret's Island at the western tip of Caldey is a nature reserve (landings are prohibited); it's home to grey seals and Wales' biggest colony of cormorants. From Tenby, boats to Caldey Island depart half-hourly from about 10.30am during opening days (depending on demand). They leave from the harbour at high tide and from Castle Beach at low tide. Tickets are sold from a kiosk at the harbour slipway.

  • Sights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    St Davids Head

    This atmospheric heather-wreathed promontory, formed from the oldest rock in Wales, was fortified by the Celts. The jumbled stones and ditch of an Iron Age rampart are still visible, as are rock circles, once the foundations of huts. The tip of the headland is a series of rock and turf ledges, a great place for a picnic or wildlife spotting – in summer you can see gannets diving and choughs soaring. Adding to the ancient ambience, wild ponies can often be seen. Further along the grassy path an even older structure stands. The simple burial chamber known as Coetan Arthur (Arthur's Quoit) consists of a capstone supported by a rock at one end and dates to about 3500 BC. The rocky summit of Carn Llidi (181m) rises behind, offering panoramic views that take in Whitesands Bay, Ramsey and Skomer Islands and, on a clear day, the coast of Ireland on the horizon. Look for the remains of two neolithic chambered tombs just below the start of the concrete path leading to the lower of the two rocky outcrops at the very top. Rather than backtrack on the coast path, another route leads down the landward side of Carn Llidi, past Upper Porthmawr Farm, joining the main road to Whitesands just past the caravan park.

  • Sights in St Davids (Tyddewi)

    Whitesands Bay

    This mile-long sandy beach is a popular surfing, swimming and strolling spot. At extremely low tide you can see the wreck of a paddle tugboat that ran aground here in 1882, and the fossil remains of a prehistoric forest. If Whitesands is really busy – and it often is – you can escape the worst of the crowds by walking north along the coastal path for 10 to 15 minutes to the smaller, more secluded beach at Porthmelgan. Whitesands, 2 miles northwest of St Davids, has lifeguards, toilets and a cafe between May and early September. If you drive, expect to pay an extortionate amount for parking (£5 even for a short stop in winter!). Otherwise, catch the Celtic Coaster bus from the Oriel y Parc centre (summer only) or walk, but you're well advised to ask at the tourist office for directions.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    St Govan's Chapel

    One of the most dramatic sights on this extraordinary stretch of coast is this 13th-century chapel, wedged into a slot in the cliffs, just out of reach of the sea. Steps hacked into the rock lead down through the empty shell of the structure and on to the rocks below, where there's a particularly picturesque rock arch, perpetually pounded by the waves. The chapel is named for a 6th-century Irish preacher who, according to legend, was being pursued by pirates when the cliff conveniently opened and enfolded him, protecting him from his attackers. In gratitude he built the original chapel and lived here until his death in 586. The waters from St Govan's Well (now dried out), just below the building, were reputed to cure skin and eye complaints. St Govan's is well signposted from Bosherston and there's a car park at the top of the cliffs.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    Narberth Museum

    Housed in a wonderfully atmospheric restored bonded-stores building, this volunteer-staffed and passionately well-maintained museum celebrates the rich history of Narberth and the surrounding area. You can learn about medieval siege warfare and Narberth Castle through models and interactive games; walk historic streets and visit the shops; or listen to Welsh folk stories in the story-telling chair. There are lots of hands-on activities and dress-ups for children, as well as a well-stocked museum shop with interesting local crafts. It also doubles as Narberth's tourist office, and can help curious expats trace their genealogy.

  • Sights in North Pembrokeshire

    Preseli Hills

    The only upland area in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, these hills rise to a height of 536m at Foel Cwmcerwyn. They encompass a fascinating prehistoric landscape, scattered with hill forts, standing stones and burial chambers, and are famous as the source of the mysterious bluestones of Stonehenge. The ancient Golden Road track, once part of a 5000-year-old trade route between Wessex and Ireland, runs along the crest of the hills, passing prehistoric cairns and the stone circle of Bedd Arthur.

  • Sights in North Pembrokeshire

    Blue Lagoon

    Slate was quarried at this site on the water's edge in Abereiddi right up until 1910 and then transported by tramway to the harbour at Porthgain. After the mining stopped, a channel was blasted through to the sea, flooding the pit and creating a brilliantly blue-green pool surrounded by a bowl of sheer stone walls. You can certainly swim here, but be aware that the water is very deep and commensurately cold. From Porthgain, the Blue Lagoon is best reached via a spectacular 30-minute walk west along the coast path, past the ruins of workers' cottages and quarry buildings.

  • Sights in South Pembrokeshire

    Freshwater West

    Wild and windblown, this 2-mile strand of golden sand and silver shingle backed by acres of dunes is Wales' best surf beach, sitting wide open to the Atlantic rollers. But beware – although it's great for surfing, big waves, powerful rips and quicksand make it dangerous for swimming. Lifeguards patrol the beach from mid-June to August; swim only between the flags. If it looks familiar, it may be because it was the setting for Dobby's sad demise in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Keys scenes from Ridley Scott's Robin Hood were also filmed here.