Newport, the quiet hero of Pembrokeshire

The little coastal village of Newport, Pembrokeshire is the most desirable holiday haunt in Wales, attracting a happy mix of hipsters, Home Counties families and royalty. So what’s all the fuss about? Writer Charles Williams and his family went for a family weekend to find out the best things to do in Newport – and now they know!

A desirable holiday haunt 

Some coastal resorts aren’t shy about announcing themselves. You can see their promenades and piers from miles away, and almost hear the screams that mark the skeletal presence of a rollercoaster. Then you’ve got the likes of Tenby and New Quay, classy harbour towns which know they’re gorgeous, and can’t help looking a bit pleased about it.

Then there’s Newport. Not the big city. The other one, the little Pembrokeshire one. It doesn’t look like much when you drive through. 

The main road between Fishguard and Cardigan narrows through a small crush of cottages, slung along one street.

There are pubs and restaurants, shops and galleries, the hint of a high street off to one side. You might easily drive on to find somewhere bigger.

But Newport is, almost unbelievably, among the most desirable holiday haunts in Wales. Home Counties families, who’ve been coming here for generations, bumble around discreetly - well, as discreetly as you can in alarming red trousers. There are media types, lawyers and hipsters. Senior members of the royal family (we won’t say who, because that’s not the Newport way). And us, of course: ordinary families like mine, who started coming out of curiosity a few years ago, just to see what the fuss is about, and have been coming faithfully ever since.  We’ve got the Newport bug, too.

So what is the fuss about? 

Newport North beach and Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire

Newport North beach and Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire

Well, it’s a slow-burning mix of lots of things, really. It’s a town set on a small estuary, and there’s something rather magical about that, maybe to do with the sound of curlews, and a landscape that vanishes twice a day. 

There’s an astonishing array of cottages to rent, from mountain hideaways to wave-washed harbour houses. 

The town has a small supermarket, but also a fantastic butcher, fishmonger and deli. Cnapan is a longstanding Welsh foodie favourite, while Llys Meddyg is a boho-chic restaurant-with-rooms which, in summer, opens a pop-up brasserie in the back garden. The Golden Lion is a rollicking locals’ pub that does classy gastropub food – but don’t worry all are welcome. Elsewhere, there’s no-nonsense pub nosh and Indian takeaway, if you fancy it.

Our favourite place for a pint is Newport Boat Club (note, not ‘yacht club’, because that would sound too flash), where children can take part in the regular crabbing competitions while grown-ups watch the sun go down over Traeth Mawr - ‘Big Beach’-  the mile-long sands that lie just across the River Nevern. It’s an easy wade/swim across the river to the beach, or you can drive a couple of miles round the nearest bridge, and park the car on the sands (where, by the way, there’s also an excellent links golf course).

Leave the car behind

We rarely bother to drive, though – there are plenty of little coves on the town side of the river, in the part known as Parrog, which is also the starting point for some of the loveliest walks in the entire 870-mile Wales Coast Path

We love the four-mile yomp to Cwm-yr-Eglwys, where the path drops down though delightful coves that you’d never find from the road. 

From here there’s another terrific walk round Dinas Head, the highest point on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which ends up (happily) in yet another pub at Pwllgwaelod.

But our favourite hike is up the small mountain that looms behind Newport: Carn Ingli, the mountain of angels, which has the remains of an Iron Age village and, if you go in mid-summer, bushes thick with whinberries. We’ll sit there, with a picnic assembled from last night’s leftovers, and unlimited whinberries for pudding, look down at the stunning views, and think, “Actually, yes. We can see what they mean about Newport...”