The coastline around Cardigan is gorgeous to look at, but traditional farming and fishing are still what makes this area tick. So it’s no surprise that some of the best food and drink are to be found here.
The southern stretch of Cardigan Bay is one of the most beautiful and least touristy bits of our coastline. Lots of people do holiday here, of course: it’s popular with Welsh-speaking south and west Walians, discreetly discerning Home Counties types, and those drawn by the hippyish appeal of ley lines, megaliths and ancient druidical rites.
It’s also got some of the most interesting food and drink producers in Britain, tucked away in densely wooded valleys or picturesque bays.
Let’s start in Cardigan itself. This handsome market town clearly didn’t get the memo marked ‘rural decline’, because it’s positively fizzing with energy and ideas. There’s the Crwst bakery, run by a young local couple who have rapidly expanded it into the best local brunch venue and opened a second outlet on Poppit Sands. There’s the Yr Hen Printworks based in a stone chapel in the centre of town which is all about small plates of delicious local produce.Elsewhere in the town you have sourdough kings Bara Menyn.
The fforest family are the source of many good things in Cardigan. Fforest Farm is a magical 200 acres of loveliness between the Teifi Marshes and Teifi Gorge, where seasonal ‘gatherings’ offer a unique kind of family holiday. Alongside the old farm yard and crog lofts the fforest garden, tended by resident gardener Tamsin provides produce for fforest suppers and the fforest cafe.
...it’s worth popping to In the Welsh Wind distillery, which makes award-winning gin in a pair of copper stills called Meredith and Afanc. Visitors can stop by for a gin tasting, or even make their own gin to their personal taste.
If you nip up the coast to Tan-y-Groes, it’s worth popping to In the Welsh Wind distillery, which makes award-winning gin in a pair of copper stills called Meredith and Afanc. Visitors can stop by for a gin tasting, or even make their own gin to their personal taste. They’re also using locally-grown barley to produce ‘Welsh origin whisky’; at time of writing, it’s mid-way through its compulsory three-years-and-a-day in barrels before it’s officially allowed to be called whisky, and we can all get stuck into it.
Heading south from Cardigan, it’s worth swinging inland to explore the astonishingly pretty Gwaun Valley. The Gwaun Valley still celebrates New Year on January 13 - it refused to join the new-fangled Gregorian calendar in 1752 - with a pint at the Dyffryn Arms, known locally as Bessie’s, after its estimable landlady Bessie, who’s been serving jugs of beer from the barrel for 60-plus years. There’s more local brew at the nearby Bluestone Brewing, where they sling the bunting and festoons across the farmyard for regular evening events, while the Gwaun Valley Brewery welcomes visitors at any time: Len brews the beer, while Sarah paints the beer labels with local scenes.
The highest pub in Pembrokeshire, Tafarn Sinc in Rosebush, has been a Preseli mountain institution since it was knocked together from galvanised iron sheets in 1876. It almost closed in 2017, but the locals ran a crowdfunding campaign to save it, quickly raising £400,000 from around the world. As for the interior, “[We have] refused to bow to the ‘whims of modernisation’,” they proclaim proudly. And that’s no bad thing.
As you drive off the mountain, you’ll spot the word CAWS (Welsh for ‘cheese’) written in giant letters on the hillside via the medium of cunningly-planted trees. That’ll be Pant Mawr Farmhouse Cheeses, who make a marvellous array of cow and goat milk products, ranging from the pungent mead-washed Drewi Sant to the oak-smoked Heb Enw.
The unassuming coastal town of Newport (never likely to be confused with the city of the same name) is a highly desirable holiday spot, but without any of the visible trappings: there’s no chippie, for example. Instead, there’s a splendid butcher, lovely deli, and several excellent eateries. Tides Kitchen & Wine Bar multi-tasks as a bakery and brunch venue (with bonus fish counter) before morphing into a high-end fish restaurant at night. Next door, Blas at Fronlas excels in home cooking, while The Golden Lion is both a rollicking local and a purveyor of superior pub food. And if you want to drink with the locals in a properly friendly Welsh-speaking pub, the Llwyngwair is terrific.
The philosophical term ‘hyperuranion’ says that perfect things can’t exist in real life, only in world of ideas. Plato never had fish and chips at The Shed in Porthgain, clearly. This is how all fish and chips should be: local fish, spuds from Pembrokeshire, and a lovely setting in a tiny port. If you can look beyond the fish and chips (which are so good, it’s hard) they do proper a la carte, too. If you fancy something posher, then head inland to the Crug Glâs country house for elegant modern British cooking. Don't just take our word for it - they've won the AA Best Restaurant With Rooms (Wales) Award 2022.