Staying in Pembrokeshire with Under The Thatch
The first thing you see when you get off the train at Fishguard in Wales is a vast white ferry. This is the end of the line for trains to this part of the Pembrokeshire coast and the start for people wanting to sail to Ireland. Either way, it felt like a long way from London, which we had left nearly five hours earlier. The ferry is Stenaline's service to Rosslare in Ireland, but we walked past the cars and trucks lining up to board, and went in search of a taxi to head up into the hills.
We checked with the information desk at the now deserted station (our only other train companions were some Goretexed geologists who were whisked off in a minibus bogged down in backpacks and books) where we could get a taxi. We also needed food, what with two hungry children to feed and a cottage in the middle of nowhere for the weekend, so they advised us to walk to the supermarket about twenty minutes away, stock up on supplies and call the cab from there.
Fishguard harbour and train station is actually in the village of Goodwick, separated from the town of Fishguard by a stretch of coast called The Parrog. Just at the start of the Parrog were the two things we needed: a supermarket and a café with the best all day breakfast I have had in ages. So, weekend shopping done (there were few options for shopping local at this stage of the proceedings) we stuffed ourselves at the local café, knowing that we still had half a day to walk it off when we got to our cottage. When our cab came, and we told him we were headed up to Strumble Head, about four miles away, he said, “Ooooh, nothing much up there, is there?.” “Not even a pub?”, I asked, “Oh, no, nothing up there at all.” The children gave me that totally unimpressed with my holiday plans look as I tried to respond with feeble comments like, “Fantastic, a real adventure”. Their sulks soon subsided however, as we drove into the driveway of our homestead for a couple of days. Trehilyn Farm has, as its centrepiece, the main stone farmhouse which, literally, glowed in February’s late afternoon sunshine, with its mixture of white lime plaster and red ochre pigment . Pure eye candy for city dwellers who crave a house in the country.
Similarly, the interior is one big picture book of Farrow and Ball rural elegance, with well lived in armchairs, dark red walls, fine oak desks and tables, elegant beds draped in woollen blankets and copious cushions, flagstone floors and a bathroom that was bigger than our London flat. The children had run off to discover the gardens, climb over recently restored dry stone walls, and splash in the (safely shallow) stream which flows through the farm. Forgetting their despair of only half an hour ago, they ran in shouting, “We’ve spotted a mountain we can climb. Can we go right now?” Yesss, I thought with a secret punch of the air. Goodbye London, hello space.
The ‘mountain’ was, in fact, Garn Fawr (meaning ‘big rock’), an iron age stone fort apparently and, thankfully, just a few fields away. We climbed to the top of this wild rocky terrain, surrounded by barren heathland, and were able to see the surrounding fields with grazing cattle and sheep, and ponies, which have been provided to farmers by the National Park to keep bracken and gorse low along the Coast Path, allowing the indigenous flora and fauna to thrive. We also had a clear view of StrumbleHead lighthouse, which illuminates the dramatic 140 metre cliffs which stretch out infinitely along the Pembrokeshire coast all around us. The wind and, indeed, the wilderness, took our breaths away.