Exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

The beauty of Britain’s only coastal national park hasn’t gone unnoticed. National Geographic Traveler magazine in the US recently rated the Pembrokeshire Coast one of the top two coastal destinations in the world. No wonder its visitors keep returning, year after year.

View of Broad Haven beach and sea from behind grass covered sand dunes

Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire

The completion of the Wales Coast Path in 2012 prompted a wave of praise and appreciation. Rightly so, of course. No other country has created a public footpath tracing its entire coastline. From that point of view, it was quite an innovation. But in Wales, celebrating all things coastal is nothing new – especially in Pembrokeshire.

The Pembrokeshire coastline is an intricate ribbon of weather-worn cliffs, dazzling beaches and secret coves, jewelled with rock pools. Here, where land, sea and sky combine, walkers, surfers, kayakers and sailors are in their element.

About the National Park

In 1952, this wonderful place became a national park ­– the first park in the UK to consist entirely of wild, maritime landscapes. Plans for a Pembrokeshire Coast Path were underway within a year and the path, a National Trail, formally opened in 1970. It’s been a tremendous success, proving that conservationists, walkers and landowners can get along peacefully and paving the way for even bigger and better things.

The coast path has always been special, but now that it’s part of the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, it’s better than ever. Walks can be long or short, linear or circular, steep or flat, and may lead you across gleaming sands or over clifftops with views to make the heart skip.

The flora and fauna of Pembrokeshire

Atlantic Puffin, Skomer

Atlantic Puffin on Skomer, Pembrokeshire

In spring, you can explore woodlands carpeted with bluebells or meadows bursting with samphire, cowslips, harebells and campions. In summer, butterflies dance through arches of honeysuckle and over clouds of thrift and gorse.

And if, come autumn or winter, you feel like an outdoorsy break, the coast is the perfect place to blow the cobwebs away. You’ll find plenty of pubs and other cosy retreats within range when you’re ready to rest up and thaw out.

The national park is fantastic for wildlife-watching, too. From the first little bursts of warm weather in spring, the clifftops are alive with crickets and ladybirds. Overhead, seabirds wheel, screech and soar. Every year, puffins and Manx Shearwaters return to the islands of Caldey, Grassholm, Skokholm, Skomer and Ramsey to nest, while rabbits graze companionably and seals snooze in the sun. And occasionally, half-hidden by the waves, a pod of dolphins will come frolicking by.

Discover the outdoors

Pentre Ifan

Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire

There are heritage sites and attractions to discover, such as the moody Neolithic stones of Pentre Ifan, and Castell Henllys, an open-air museum where you can get a taste of the Iron Age by grinding flour, making bread and enjoying the whiff of wild garlic in a replica Celtic roundhouse.

As for beaches - you can’t go wrong with Broad Haven, which has loads of space for active families; Tenby, which has great character; or Barafundle Bay, a blissfully pretty cove you won’t want to leave. Watersports fans love Freshwater West for surf, Dale for sailing and Newgale for kitesurfing.

North Beach, Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Standards are excellent – the only other county in the UK with anywhere near as many Blue Flag, Seaside and Green Coast awards as Pembrokeshire is Devon. With so many wonderful beaches to choose from, you may end up with several favourites.

More attractions in Pembrokeshire