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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Pembrokeshire Coastline

Written by Bryan Dearsley

Wales boasts some of the most spectacular coastlines in all of Britain, especially around the rugged Pembrokeshire Peninsular. Jutting out into the Irish Sea, the south westerly tip of Wales is an area just begging to be explored, whether on foot, by bike, or by car. It's also a great place from which to discover the rest of West Wales, including lovely Carmarthenshire. Together, these two beautiful counties are home to numerous attractions, which include historic castles and fortresses, countless churches and cathedrals, as well as many quaint old fishing harbors and villages. For the truly adventurous traveler seeking a totally unique experience, check out the numerous little farm cottages, classic old lighthouses, gypsy caravans - even vintage railcars perched on cliff tops - that have been transformed into accommodations. Find out more about this beautiful region and the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions on the Pembrokeshire Coastline.

1. Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Pembrokeshire serves as an excellent base from which to explore the scenic southwest coast of Wales, widely considered to be one of the most attractive coastlines in Britain. Fortunately, much of this spectacular coastline is protected as Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, established in 1952 and covering an area of 629 square kilometers and notable as Britain's only coastal national park. One of the big draws for tourists is the park's numerous beaches - there are more than 50 all told - along with its many secluded, often remote bays and islands, part of a magical landscape that's home to an abundance of wildlife, including rare sea birds such as puffins or razor-billed auks. One of the most popular things to do here is hiking, thanks in large part to the magnificent Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

For those wanting to delve a little deeper into all the park has to offer, you may wish to consider partaking in an immersive two-day tour of Pembrokeshire National Park. Departing from Cardiff, first-day stops include the town of Tenby, a section of the Wales Coast Path around beautiful Barafundle Bay, and Freshwater West Beach. Other highlights include spending the night in the UK's smallest city, St. David's, before visiting the famous Blue Lagoon and the fishing village of Porthgain. Accommodations, meals, and transportation are included.

Address: Llanion Park, Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire

2. Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

A particularly delightful way to explore this region is via the superb Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Laid out in 1970, this spectacular trail covers a distance of 300 kilometers along the coast, all the way from Amroth in the south to its northernmost point in St. Dogmaels near Cardigan, most of it within the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park itself. While most sections of the path are easy to walk and located on clifftops, the presence of so many attractive beaches just waiting to be explored makes it necessary to have a degree of fitness if you're planning on making the descent in order to explore the beaches themselves. For those seeking to explore farther afield, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path connects to the Wales Coast Path, an epic 1,400-kilometer hike connecting Queensferry to Chepstow (basically, the entire Welsh coastline).

Official site: http://nt.pcnpa.org.uk

3. Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle - the most imposing Norman coastal fortress in Wales, and star of the romantic movie, Me Before You - towers on the crest of a hill near the town after which it's named. Built in 1090 by Arnulf, Earl of Pembroke, this spectacular privately-owned castle offers magnificent views of the surrounding area from atop its massive round keep. Adjoining the keep are the Prison Tower; the Norman Hall; and the North Hall, from which a staircase leads down into the huge natural cavern known as the Wogan. On-site exhibits include the story of the many Earls of Pembroke, a medieval banquet, displays focusing on the Civil War battle that took place here between Cromwell's troops and the Pembroke Royalists, as well as the history of the famous Pembroke Yeomanry. And for those wanting to have the ultimate wedding backdrop, the castle is licensed for civil weddings, too, with reception space available for up to 60 guests.

Address: Pembroke Castle, Pembroke, Pembrokeshire

4. Carmarthen: Merlin's Birthplace

Carmarthen: Merlin's Birthplace

Carmarthen: Merlin's Birthplace | Chris Hearn / photo modified

According to legend, Carmarthen - the oldest town in Wales - is the supposed birthplace of the Celtic magician Merlin of Arthurian legend. Located on the River Towy, just 14 kilometers inland from the bay of the same name, it's the county town of Dyfed (which consists of the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan), and is well known for once having been an important market town and seaport. Visitors interested in sightseeing can admire the 14th-century parish church of St. Peter, the 14th-century town wall and gatehouse, as well as the ruins of Carmarthen castle. The elegant Guildhall dating from 1766, along with the Carmarthenshire County Museum, are important attractions well worth visiting.

Address: Abergwili, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire

5. Dylan Thomas' Laugharne

Dylan Thomas' Laugharne

Dylan Thomas' Laugharne

The small market town of Laugharne on the Taf estuary is famous for its excellent cockles, as well as its many well-preserved 18th-century buildings, including the Town Hall, which was built in 1746. Dylan Thomas, Wales' most famous poet, called this sleepy nest of 400 souls "the strangest town in Wales" when he and his wife moved into the slate-roofed Boat House above the bay in 1938. Thomas remained here until his death in 1953, and his boathouse home has since been converted into a museum with a superb terraced tearoom. He was buried in the village cemetery, and his simple gravestone is easy to find. Another area attraction is Laugharne Castle, which dates back to medieval times and saw active service during the Civil War. (Although it has since fallen into ruin, its quaint garden gazebo remains.)

Address: Dylans Walk, Laugharne

6. The Town of Tenby

The Town of Tenby

The Town of Tenby

Tenby, still with its ancient town walls intact, lies on a rocky peninsula at the western end of Carmarthen Bay. At the turn of the century, artist Augustus John prized this seaside resort as being "so restful, so colorful, and so unspoiled" due to its picturesque harbor edged with attractive pastel-colored houses. It also boasts two beautiful sandy beaches, charming narrow alleys, the carefully restored 15th-century Tudor Merchant's House, and St. Mary's Church - the largest parish church in Wales. Also worth a visit is the interesting Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, home to a collection of interesting artifacts relating to the town's past.

7. Carew Castle and Tidal Mill

Carew Castle and Tidal Mill

Carew Castle and Tidal Mill | Chris Hearn / photo modified

The impressive ruins of 13th-century Carew Castle lie on one of the many hills surrounding Milford Haven and its adjacent 23-acre millpond. Its beautifully carved high cross dates from the 11th century, and standing at the castle's entrance is a fine example of 11th-century Welsh art, the patterns in its 4.2-meter-high structure revealing a fascinating connection between Viking and Celtic influences in its design. In addition to the many bats that live here, it's said to be one of the most haunted castles in Wales, most notably by the spirit of a 12th-century princess.

The Carew Tidal Mill, the only one of its kind left in Wales (and one of only four in the UK), has been fully restored and offers an interesting look into the technology of the time (it was built in 1801 on the site of an earlier mill dating back to the 1500s). The nearby church at Carew Cheriton boasts a lovely perpendicular tower and is a fine example of 14th-century sacral architecture (informative guided tours are available). Afterwards, be sure to spend a little time exploring Milford Haven, which has one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Britain.

Location: Carew, Tenby

8. Manorbier Village and Castle

Manorbier Village and Castle

Manorbier Village and Castle | net_efekt / photo modified

Surrounded by stunning red sandstone cliffs, the village of Manorbier is well worth a visit due to the medieval Manorbier Castle (1275-1325). Standing alone on a hill, this spectacular fortress offers tremendous views and paints quite a romantic picture as you walk its many excellent trails. For a unique accommodation experience, book the old stone house built within the castle walls (it also serves as a popular wedding backdrop, too).

The town itself was the birthplace in 1146 of Giraldus Cambrensis, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the Middle Ages. As Archdeacon of Brecon, he was the main protagonist of an independent Welsh Church, adviser on Irish affairs, and an excellent orator who famously accompanied Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury on his tour of Wales to gain support for the Third Crusade, a journey that resulted in his best known work, The Itinerary of Wales, in which he describes Manorbier as the most charming place in all of Wales.

9. St. Davids Cathedral

St Davids Cathedral

St. Davids Cathedral

The cathedral in tiny St. Davids - Britain's smallest city - was built in a hollow to escape the attentions of marauders. Consequently, from the immediately surrounding area only the tower can be seen. A wall enclosed the precincts of the cathedral in the 13th century, and the cathedral itself was largely redecorated in the 14th century. Highlights include its 13th-century tower, the Lady Chapel, and the spectacular west front (given its present form between 1862 and 1878).

While the exterior of the cathedral appears rather somber and austere, the rich variety of forms within its triple-aisle Norman interior creates an overwhelming effect, particularly the beautiful 15th-century Irish oak ceiling. Of the four arches supporting the tower, the one on the west side dates from before the collapse of the original tower; the three others from after 1220. The choir-stalls, with filigree misericords, along with the bishop's throne, date from the second half of the 15th century. The relics contained in a small chest in the Trinity Chapel are probably those of St. David, although his shrine in front of the high altar is empty. An unusual quirk is the building's slightly sloping floor, which you'll notice almost immediately upon entry. Guided tours are available (although free, donations are always appreciated).

Address: The Pebbles, St. Davids, Pembrokeshire

10. Goodwick and Fishguard

Goodwick and Fishguard

Goodwick and Fishguard | Nick / photo modified

Located in Fishguard Bay are the twin towns of Goodwick and Fishguard. In the old part of Fishguard, you'll find a huddle of small houses surrounding the beautiful harbor, Abergwaur, made famous after Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood was filmed here in 1971. It is from here that ferries depart to Rosslare in Ireland. It's also a popular spot for tourists to shop for Welsh handicrafts and other goods in the boutiques and shops of Lower Town. The ruins of a medieval castle dominate the tip of the promontory. Walkers are attracted to the location for its many pleasant coastal paths with their fine views, especially around the Pen Caer peninsula with its many prehistoric remains, Iron Age forts, and chambered tombs.

11. Cardigan and the National Wool Museum

Cardigan and the National Wool Museum

Cardigan and the National Wool Museum | Glen Bowman / photo modified

Cardigan is a busy little market town located on the banks of the Teifi (pronounced Tivi) river, about 3.2 kilometers above its mouth. It's a quaint place to stop and explore, with tourist attractions including the six-arched, 18th-century bridge that spans the river (the river itself is renowned for its salmon and trout). Nearby are two round towers dating from the 13th-century Cilgerran Castle, each of which offers great views over the river.

The Teifi Valley is also the traditional base of the Welsh wool trades and is home to the Museum of the Welsh Woolen Industry with its interesting displays of the combing and spinning of wool, along with traditional weaving techniques and patterns. There are also displays focusing on contemporary products available from Welsh mills.

Address: Dre-Fach Felindre, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire

12. Caldey Island

Caldey Lighthouse

Caldey Lighthouse

If your idea of fun includes doing a little island hopping, be sure to consider taking an excursion to lovely Caldey Island. Located just over a half mile from the mainland near Tenby, the island can trace its history back some 1,500 years, during which time it served as one of the most important of holy islands in Wales. The island is to this day home to a group of 40 or so Trappist monks, who produce a variety of purchasable goods including cheese, chocolates, and products like perfume. It's also a popular boat trip for its diverse wildlife, which includes a large colony of cormorants. There's also a small museum in the post office worth visiting, as the island has its own stamps, which make great souvenirs. Other notable landmarks include the 13th-century Church of St. Illtyd, and Caldey Lighthouse, built in 1828, which can easily be accessed from the many pleasant trails and paths that circle the island.

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