Slow Travel Guide To Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales

Pembrokeshire National Park and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path are the perfect locations to escape to the wild while still being within reach of civilisation. With bird covered sea cliffs to hidden rivers and small towns, Pembrokeshire National Park is the perfect place for a slow journey.

Consisting of 615km², this national park is one of the smallest in UK, but is unique in the way it hugs the coastline. At its widest it is only 16km and the narrowest area is just 100m. It is split into 4 distinct areas and includes all of the coast and islands as well as the Daugleddau estuary and large areas of the Preseli Hills and the Gwaun Valley.

The coast has its own 186 mile path that follows the 420 mile coastline coastline from the pebble backed beach of Amroth in the south to the small riverside village of St Dogmaels in the north close to the market town of Cardigan. It is possible to complete the entire path in just 15 days and companies like Mickledore can help you plan.

Pembrokeshire Coast was designated as a national park in 1952 and is known for its stunning beaches, seaside villages and rugged coastline. Pembrokeshire is a really special place and was rated as the second best coastline in the world by National Geographic Magazine.

Why visit Pembrokeshire Coast?

Pembrokeshire is a hidden corner of Wales and this makes it an excellent place worth visiting. With stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife and ancient buildings and history it is the perfect way to spend a weekend.

Stunning Landscapes

The north is dominated by the rugged and wild coast, Preseli mountains and remote villages. Whilst the south has a much calmer and tranquil feel with sandy beaches.

Abundant wildlife

Pembrokeshire is home to unique wildlife habitats including the Skomer Marine Conservation Zone and Grassholm Island with one of the world’s largest gannet colonies. Even without stepping onto a boat Pembrokeshire has amazing wildlife including choughs, dolphins and a myriad of seabirds.

Ancient buildings

Steeped in history the city of St David’s is the smallest in the UK and the whole area has numerous large castles, hidden burial chambers and small ornate churches.

Walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast

With the stunning landscapes and coastal wildlife, walking is one of the best ways to explore this corner of wales. Here are a just a few of our favourites.

Bosherton Lily Ponds

The lily ponds are part of the Stackpole Court and these man-made lakes as their name suggests are filled with waterlilies as well as otters. Either take a gentle stroll around the lakes or adventure further and walk to the wild and remote Broad Haven South Beach with its distinctive sea stack.

Marloes Peninsula

This beautiful peninsula is dominated by the rugged heathland and high cliffs. The entire route is home to seals, seabirds and dolphins. Small rocky bays and deep inlets with turquoise water can be seen all along the coast as well as stunning views out towards Skomer Island.

Strumble Head

Heading west from Fishguard will bring you to Strumble Head. This craggy promontory has an offshore lighthouse. The lighthouse cannot be visited but is clearly seen from the mainland.

find out more about strumble head

This is one of the best places in the UK for wildlife watching and a wildlife hide on the cliff top allows you to sit and watch for whales, dolphins and porpoise as well as sea birds.

WALK THE Gwaun Valley

This deep wooded valley runs from the Preseli Mountains to the outskirts of Fishguard. There are two different gardens Dyffryn Fernant and  Penlan Uchaf gardens which provide colour in the summer months. If you visit in the autumn then Pengelli woods are worth spending time walking through the ancient oak trees that change colour during the autumn.

Explore Nature

Nature is everywhere in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, but some places make wildlife encounters much more likely than others.

Skomer Island

Skomer has to be the best known location for wildlife spotting in Pembrokeshire. Home to huge numbers of sea birds it is the place to see puffins and hear Manx Shearwaters when they come ashore to nest in the summer months. it is possible to stay overnight on Skomer and experience the island at night.

explore skomer island

Rock pooling at Dinas Head or Caerfai

Rock pooling will show you a little of what is in the seas surrounding the Pembrokeshire coast and believe me it is stunning. The whole coast is a protected marine environment meaning it has a little more protection than other areas. Find out when low tide is and head out to rocky beaches to explore the pools left behind by the tide.


Ramsey Island is another small island off the Pembrokeshire coast. You can go onto Ramsey Island in the summer months and explore the wildlife that makes this islands its home. It is also perfect for a cruise around the island to see the spectacular scenery.

Watch seals from a safe distance

There are around 5000 Atlantic Grey seals in the waters around Pembrokeshire where they come ashore in the autumn to have their pups and to moult in the winter months but they can be seen any time of the year. the best places to see seals are Ramsey Isalnd, Strumble Head or around Skomer Island but they can be seen popping their heads up almost anywhere along the coast.

Find Quiet Places

Escape from the bustle of life and take time to sit and watch time pass you by.

Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber

Bluestone is a stone that is found in the Preseli mountains in Pembrokeshire and is best known as the rocks used to build Stonehenge. Pentre Ifan is a Bronze Age megalithic site dating from at least 4000BC. Originally a chambered tomb the earth has disappeared over the years leaving the stunning stones standing in the rolling hills. Three large stones support a 15 tonne capstone, somehow balanced on the points of the tapering stones.

St Govan’s Chapel

Perched on a cliff-lined cove close to Eulegug Stacks and Green Bridge is St Govan’s Chapel. This small chapel was built in the 13th Century on the site of a holy well. There are 52 steps down t the chapel but legend has it that there are never the same number on your return.

St David’s Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace

At the heart of St David’s, the smallest city in the UK is St David’s Cathedral, built on the site of a sixth-century monastery started by St David, the patron saint of Wales, the cathedral has been a haven of calm and pilgrimage for over 800 years. From the outside the cathedral is nestled in a grassy hollow on a terrace by the river and has beautiful architecture on the inside.

Caldey Island

A short boat ride from the busy seaside town of Tenby is Caldey Island. Still and active monastery it is possible to visit the island in the summer months. With a golden sand beach and heathland covered in butterflies leading out to the lighthouse it is a place to find calm as well as beautiful chocolate made by the monks.

learn more about Caldey Island

Historical Highlights of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Beyond the quiet places, Pembrokeshire Coast has a number of beautiful castles and historical locations to explore.

Manorbier Castle

Nestled in the sand dunes behind Manorbier beach is the magnificent cliff-top Manorbier Castle and historic Norman Church. The castle is still fairly intact and the whole village is worth visiting. Manorbier beach is absolutely stunning and dog friendly year round. There is a unique wave-cut platform that is exposed at low tide and is good for rock pooling. South of the bay on the coast path is a Neolithic burial chamber.

Carew Castle

This is probably the most photogenic castle in Pembrokeshire. It is mainly a ruin now, but still has high walls and huge mullioned windows that overlook the waters of the surrounding mill pond. At the far end of the mill pond is the old tidal mill, one of only five remaining in the UK with a small museum. The castle has a split personality with a Norman fortress when viewed from the west and the appearance of an Elizabethan mansion when seen from the north.

Castell Henllys Iron Age Village

Castle Henylls is the location of an Iron Age Village that has been recreated on the exact spot where the roundhouses would have stood over 2000 years ago. Now a visitors centre there is lots to learn about this part of the world at the time as well as being able to find out more about the other local Neolithic sites including Carreg Samson and Pentre Ifan.

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle was originally built in the 11th Century with additions and renovations through time. It is one of the finest Normal castles in Britain and was the birthplace of Henry VII. It sits on the banks of the River Pembroke in the heart of the town and can be seen easily from the river bank.

Stunning Beaches to Explore in Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire is all about its beaches and they are all unique in their own way. There are far too many to have a ‘best of Pembrokeshire beaches’ list, but these are some of favourites.

Barafundle Beach

This has to be one of the best in Britain. It is a crescent shaped bay backed by grassy dunes and pine trees. It is quite isolated meaning that you may have this fantastic spot all to yourself even in the main visitor season. It is also quite hard to get to needing a half-mile walk along the cliff top from Stackpole Quay car parking area.

Newgale Beach

This beach is awesome. Two and a half miles of flat sand is backed by a pebble bank that was formed during a storm in 1859. The best view of the beach is as you come down the hill into the village where it is laid out ahead of you. This beach has a bit of everything from rock pools to colourful pebbles and sand formations. Its huge size also means it never feels busy.

Marloes Sands

Marloes Sands is a mile long stretch of golden sands which is stunning year round. All along the beach are rocky outcrops that are covered in barnacles and seaweed and are often surrounded by deep rock pools. The beach is backed by tall sandstone cliffs with dramatic rock formations.

Freshwater West – Where is Dobby Buried?

Freshwater West beach is another long sandy beach that is backed by sand dunes covered in wild flowers. To the southern end of the beach is a turf roofed seaweed drying hut while all along the tide line you will find the remains of shipwrecks and numerous pools of sea water and sand patterns. It is also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Pembrokeshire.
And finally, for the Harry Potter fans out there, Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire is the location of Shell Cottage where Dobby the house elf died. He was murdered by Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and was buried on the beach!

And finally, for the Harry Potter fans out there, Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire is the location of Shell Cottage where Dobby the house elf died. He was murdered by Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and was buried on the beach!

How to Get to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

This small area of the UK is tucked away in the far south west corner of Wales.

The journey to Pembrokeshire follows the M4 to the end of the road in Swansea and then follows the A48 to Carmarthen before picking up the A40 to Haverfordwest.

From Haverfordwest it is possible to explore each of the four areas of the national park. Heading north to Fishguard on the A40 and then following the smaller coast roads back to Narbeth allows you to explore all the small villages and beaches.


Driving times to Haverfordwest

Haverfordwest is located in the centre of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and is probably the easiest base for exploring the area.

  • From Birmingham | 5 hours
  • From Manchester | 6 hours
  • From Cardiff | 3 hours
  • From London | 6+ hours
  • From Bristol | 4 hours

Trains to Haverfordwest

While it is always better to explore using public transport, it is possible to explore the area by train. There are no direct trains to Haverfordwest. The first part of the journey is on a GWR train from London Paddington to Cardiff and then a local train in to Haverfordwest. It is then small and irregular buses to explore the area. You will need to check timetables as they are not regular and the timetables are quite limited.

Driving in Pembrokeshire

The roads around the national park, especially down to some of the smaller villages and beaches are narrow with passing places. These can become busy in the summer months so visiting outside of the peak season is best for solitude and quiet roads. After the wide fast motorway and A-roads to get to Haverfordwest it can be quite a change in style of driving.

Make sure you approach corners slowly as you never know what is going to be around the bend. Walkers, cyclists, tractors are all hazards on top of other cars! If something is coming towards you you may need to reverse to a passing place where the road is wider. Local unwritten rules mean that the person nearest to the passing place reverses.

These roads are however beautiful in the summer months with wild flowers all along the verges. This changes from bluebells in the spring, white cow parsley in early summer followed by the vibrant pink of fox gloves and pink campion.

Car Parking in Pembrokeshire

Car parking in this area is readily available although some of the smaller villages and walking areas have limited spaces. If you are going somewhere that you suspect will be popular, get there early. Spaces are limited and it is not possible to park outside of the designated spaces as access is always required.

Parking is usually Pay and Display with machines located in the car park. Make sure you pay and leave your ticket on the dashboard of your car clearly for any inspectors to see.

Parking charges vary but are about £1 and hour and £6 for the whole day. Make sure you have a range of coins to pay with.

You can also pay using PaybyPhone. This app is easy to use and every car park will display the code you need to identify the car park. Some areas have limited mobile signal so set the app up before you arrive and make sure you have coins incase you can’t connect.

Why I Love Slow Travel in Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire has been a draw throughout my life. From family trips as a child to scuba diving before children, it has been a place to escape and enjoy life.

Each trip has allowed more discoveries and made me realise that it has something for every age seeking beautiful landscapes and wild adventures. I now return for the stunning walks and wildlife encounters that the rugged coastline provides and the chance to find peace alone.

This Slow Travel Guide to Pembrokeshire includes some of my favourite wild adventures and encounters that I hope will help you plan your own slow journey.

More about Pembrokeshire Coast

  • Visit Skomer Island and see the puffins
  • Escape to Caldey Island
  • Hike Strumble Head and look for whales and dolphins

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