The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and never leaves its visitors short of things to do. The adventurous will relish the many possibilities for outdoor activities: following the famous coast path (there’s 186 miles [299 km] of it to choose from), surfing, kayaking, climbing, and many more.
The area also offers much to those looking for something more relaxed. As the coast path is so accessible from many points, you don’t have to undertake a major expedition to sample the beauty of the coastline; a wide selection of excellent beaches await your bare feet.
A wide variety of sea birds and other wildlife also make good use of the area, and you don’t have to try hard to see some of them. And on at least one day, tear yourself away from the coast to explore St David’s; many other quaint towns and villages are also close by.
The area within walking distance of Porthiddy Farm offers tranquility combined with stunning scenery, and there is plenty more to experience within easy reach. This page offers just a handful of our favourite local sights. Of course, we’re more than happy to advise you on what to do while you’re here – maybe even passing on some of the area’s best kept secrets – or you can drop us a line.
By road from Porthiddy: about half a mile [less than 1 km]
Abereiddy is the closest beach to Porthiddy Farm; it lies where our valley runs into the sea. It is one of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful remote beaches, but is easily accessible and there is ample parking.
As you look out west from the beach, the coastline continues out to your left where a number of small waterfalls cascade down the cliffs. To your right is the Blue Lagoon, cut into the headland, atop which is a small round stone tower looking out to sea.
The beach is also famous amongst those with an interest in geology, as it’s one of the best places to observe the fossils of small aquatic creatures called graptolites. A range of rocks can be seen in the cliffs and beach pebbles; these are similar to those in the walls of the holiday cottages.
The Blue Lagoon
Two centuries ago, a slate quarry at Abereiddy was connected by a tramway to the harbour and stone-works at nearby Porthgain. It lies just beyond the right-hand end of the beach, and as you approach it from Abereiddy, you will pass some of the derelict stone cottages used by the quarry workers; these buildings are now preserved as part of the National Park.
More recently, fishermen blasted a narrow channel connecting the disused quarry with the sea to form the Blue Lagoon. As its name would suggest, the calm water in the flooded quarry has a striking light blue-green hue against the darker ocean waters outside. The walls of the old quarry and deep water are popular with cliff-jumpers, though there is always the more peaceful persuit of skimming stones. The flat slate pebbles are ideal for this, though some practice may be required.
The coast path that leads north from Abereiddy over the headland is quite steep, but there is another more gentle path leading through the old cottages and around to the Blue Lagoon with no steps.
The north side of the headland is good but little-known spot for observing some of the local wildlife. Northern Fulmars, related to the albatross and once a highly endangered species, now nest on tiny ledges in the cliffs, and you may see them swooping back and forth trying to get a foothold. If you’re fortunate, you may also catch sight of a grey seal or two looking for a meal or a good place to raise pups.
By road from Porthiddy: 4.9 miles [7.9km]
Just south of St David’s Head, Whitesands is among Pembrokeshire’s most popular beaches. It certainly lives up to its name, as the lowering tide reveals a vast expanse of pristine beach a mile wide. This is Pembrokshire’s best surfing beach – one of the best in the UK – and is popular with tourists and locals in all seasons.
Whitesands has a large car park, a cafe and shop, and a lifeguard station. But despite its popularity and ease of access, it remains gloriously unspoilt.
As you look out to sea, you’ll see the north end of Ramsey Island to the far left and, in the far distance, a group of small islands known as the Bishops and Clerks. The lighthouse on the South Bishop is easy to spot on a clear day, and into the evening.
St David’s Head
The Head is steeped in ancient history, as it was a point of druidic pilgrimage. There are a number of ancient monuments here, including an alignment of standing stones pointing towards a cairn on Ramsey Island, a dolmen, a burial chamber, and a hillfort.
Apparently, if you place a cake atop the dolmen and walk around it ten times, your one true love will appear. We’ve tried it with a Mars bar, but views on the outcome were mixed – so we reckon it’s best to try this only in the company of people of whom you are already fond.
It’s a short and undulating cliff-path walk from the car-park at Whitesands to St David’s Head, and there are a number of circular routes you can follow to lead you back again.
The City of St David’s
By road from Porthiddy: 6.3 miles [10.1 km]
St David’s is the United Kingdom’s smallest city, with just over 1,500 residents, and is the only city in the United Kingdom to lie entirely within in a national park.
It was founded by Saint David, the Patron Saint of Wales, in around 550 AD. Its cathedral has qualified it as a city in the hearts of the locals for centuries, and it officially received city status from The Queen on 1 June, 1995.
The city is a relaxed and friendly place. It surrounds a small square and an old celtic cross, and has a pleasant selection of shops, tea-rooms and galleries.
St David’s Cathedral
The most famous landmark in St David’s is the cathedral, which stands on the site of the monastery established by Saint David himself. Parts of the building date back to 1181, and has attracted many visitors seeking peace and prayer through to the present day.
It is unusual to find a cathedral in a valley – indeed, you probably won’t spot it when you first enter the city. As you make your way down from the square, you’ll pass through the 13th century tower gate, and it’s from here you get the best view of the cathedral close. The location has also led to some architectural oddities: as you stand inside at the west end of the nave and look towards the choir, you may notice that the pillars lean outwards and the floor slopes up.
The choir is also of particular interest, as from here you can look up at the elegantly-decorated ceiling under the tower. The seats of the misericord seats display some fine examples of 16th-century carving. The cathedral’s organ has recently been overhauled, and looks and sounds magnificent.
Next to the cathedral is the imposing ruin of the 14th-century Bishop’s Palace. What remains is an impressive example of medieval architecture and craftmanship, and is open to the public.
By road from Porthiddy: 8.1 miles [13 km]
Nestled into the cliffs in Ramsey Sound, the St David’s lifeboat has been stationed at this site since 1869, providing round-the-clock rescue support for these famously hazardous waters. Renovated in preparation for the arrival in 1998 of its current occupant (RNLB Garside: the larger of the city’s two lifeboats), the bright red and cream elevated boathouse is an impressive sight perched above the shoreline. From dry land, however, the boathouse itself is more difficult to spot, as the surrounding cliffs are high and steep. A winding set of steps leads down from the road, beside an unusual funicular narrow-gauge railway for carrying equipment to or casualties from the station that drops sharply down the cliff-face.
This dramatic scene makes a popular starting or finishing point for cliff-path walks, and is also used as one of the launch points for boat trips to and around Ramsey Island. The boathouse is usually open to the public – donations to the RNLI are welcomed.