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.
Talking of which, let’s start in The Ship Inn at Llangrannog, a friendly heart-of-the-community kind of pub with good food, regular music nights, and beer from the nearby Mantle Brewery.
The Plwmp Tart, Penbryn Beach, is worth visiting for the name alone. It’s a superb place for a light lunch and cakey treats, a few minutes’ walk from the National Trust beach at Penbryn. They also do occasional themed nights, such as pizza-and-pud.
Food comes from the wood-fired oven, and their In the Welsh Wind Distillery makes rather fabulous gin in a small copper still."
On the hills above Tresaith – a beach notable for the waterfall that tumbles down onto it – Plas y Wern is a collection of cottages and caravans set in wildflower meadows. Food comes from the wood-fired oven, and their In the Welsh Wind Distillery makes rather fabulous gin in a small copper still. The best bit is that visitors can make their own gin, to their personal tastes, using locally foraged botanicals.
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. In Cardigan itself, their Pizzatipi offers wood-fired pizza, bar and music right on the riverside.
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 and fish shop, lovely deli, and several excellent eateries: Blas at Fronlas does great home-cooked food with weekly tapas-and-tunes and occasional guest chef nights, while Llys Meddyg is a classy restaurant-and-rooms which does courses in foraging, smokery skills and butchery. 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.
There’s a map on the wall of the St Davids Kitchen, showing where its ingredients come from: almost everything was grown or raised within a few miles of this little cathedral city. The family have farmed here for over 200 years, and they operate an admirable farm-to-fork policy: the Welsh Black beef is their own, and lamb and venison come from the RPSB reserve over on Ramsey Island. Just round the corner, Cwtch is a longstanding favourite with an equal commitment to local, seasonal fare.