In Collaboration With Visit Wales
Here’s another monthly instalment of ‘Kristabel leaves her London bubble and attempts to see more of the UK.’ After visiting South West Wales recently, I can definitely see the appeal of planning a road trip and getting out of your usual environment. There’s beautiful views, charming villages and sandy beaches a few hours away plus you don’t even need a passport to visit. Guess who was Googling this whilst packing…
I’ve only crossed the border a couple of times, the first being the obligatory Butlin’s trip at age 7 and the second a more mesmerising experience at the Italian-inspired village of Portmeirion. This recent trip reminded me that Wales is full of surprises. You’ll see coastal houses that rival Notting Hill in terms of colour, then drive 30 minutes away and spot a 12th century castle.
If you’re making the journey from London, then it makes sense to stop off at a few places in Pembrokeshire and appreciate a different pace of life. Read on for the three vibrant towns that stole my heart, plus a few tips on what to see in the area.
Top – Pull & Bear, Trousers – c/o Gorman, Shoes – Swedish Hasbeens
My first experience of South West Wales was this calm and compact fishing village. My inner 7-year-old loved the old-school sweet shop and different sprinkles options from the ice cream vans, but the thing to make the most of is the wide sandy beach.
Even though the weather isn’t always suited to sunbathing (though 18 degrees felt pretty tropical for some reason), it actually means you’re more likely to explore the surroundings. Treat the coast like your local park. You can walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to Tenby, or discover smaller beaches towards Wisemans Bridge.
If you’re looking for houses in every hue, then head to Stammers Road, Milford Street and Church Terrace. Apparently the colourful washes were used to keep buildings watertight and disguise the inexpensive stone walls. Now there are local guidelines for colour schemes in some areas and it’s an important part of the county’s identity.
Our base was the St Bride’s Spa Hotel, which provided perfect views from the restaurant and heated infinity pool. If you’re going to have a spa experience, then this is the place to do it. It’s quite something being greeted by the sound of the tide after an 85-minute massage (!) plus the Voya products they use are consistent with the location, containing extracts of wild seaweed.
Further along the beach is the rather modern Coast restaurant, which boasts locally sourced ingredients and the best bread that I’ve ever tasted. Be prepared to ask for seconds.
Jumper – c/o Joanie, Trousers c/o Boden, Bag – Mansur Gavriel
Where else can you find a beach complete with a castle and Napoleonic fortress? I’ve been to a fair few seaside towns in my time but Tenby is definitely the most unique. It’s partly walled and has plenty of medieval touches mixed in with grand Georgian houses and winding alleys. You won’t be able to miss the pastel, postcard-ready houses, but start off on Crackwell Street or Esplanade for some of the best examples.
We only had time for a quick lunch, but a few commenters recommended Plantagenet House, The Salt Cellar and The Lighthouse Kitchen for fresh seafood and eclectic interiors. For a completely different view, head to St Catherine’s Island and explore the small museum that’s also a bit of a community centre. Just make sure you wear sensible shoes for the steep staircase (not wooden Swedish Hasbeens like me) and check the tide times, as you don’t want to be stuck there overnight.
Dress – ASOS, Bag – eBay, Earrings – Aldo
Ahh Narberth! This colourful town has a really creative feel and is a great place to get your fix of independent shops. Browse the rare antiques at Lily Matilda’s, stock up on local jams at Wisebuys and marvel at the cheerful streets (my faves were Spring Gardens and Old Keg Yard).
The Plum Vanilla cafe is also worth a visit. It’s an award-winning tearoom run by two sisters and does a mean lime cheesecake (there’s also plenty of vegan options too). Next time I’d like to visit the Grove Hotel. Soho House eat your heart out! It’s run by the founders of Coast and the decor is a mixture of local pottery and antiques from all over the world.
Dress – Zara, Trainers – Adidas, Bag – Spain
Have you been to this part of Wales before? I received a few Instagram comments from people who’d been visiting for years and it’s made me think back to my own childhood adventures in Brighton and Margate. I’m so envious of those of you who’ve been visiting these parts for a while. The landscape varies so much and it’s a joy to photograph.
If you’re based in London then most trains from Paddington will take 4-5 hours with a change at Swansea (Narberth, Saundersfoot and Tenby are all on the same trainline too). Driving may be your best bet as you can break up the journey and make a few spontaneous stops whenever you see something of interest.
Check out the Visit Wales channels if you’re planning a trip, as well as local hashtags and blogs like Hand Luggage Only. I’m thinking that Cardiff needs to be next for me, plus I’m curious about the puffins at Skomer Island!