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  • Writer's pictureGreen Traveller

Local Attractions in Pembrokeshire

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Pembrokeshire National Park, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of castles, parks, islands, and eco centres in this wonderful protected area in southwest Wales.

Ancient castles and cathedrals, rugged islands, conservation-led wildlife parks and wonderful outdoor activity centres - Pembrokeshire has plenty of attractions for all the family. Visit one of the outdoor activity centres and take part in any number of environmentally-minded courses and sessions, or spend a day exploring one of the many castles and cathedrals, ranging from Carew Castle to the magnificent St Davids Cathedral.

You'll also be able to make the most of the region's islands, whether that be hunting Manx Shearwater birds in Skomer and Skokholm, or exploring Ramsey Island RSPB Nature Reserve.

Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Traveller's Guide to Pembrokeshire National Park:

Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities

Places of interest in Pembrokeshire

Carew Castle and Tidal Mill

As one of the National Park's most impressive and recognisable buildings, the ruins of Carew Castle date from around 1100, and has undergone an extensive renovation since being managed by the National Park Authority during the 1980s. Once you actually step inside the keep there's plenty of rooms, stairs and passages to explore, while the massive north wing overlooks the mill pond. Talk a walk around the millpond to fully appreciate the castle, as well as the mill, 11th-century Celtic cross, medieval bridge and causeway. The nearby tidal mill is the only of its kind in Wales and one of only five left in Britain.

Manorbier Castle

Originally built as a wooden hall back in the 11th century, Manorbier Castle is in a truly stunning location, looking out over the beach and ocean below. Wander around the great hall, chapel and and turrets and you'll soon spot a number of lifesize figures, including children of the Tudor period and prisoners in the dungeon. It's also well worth taking a leisurely stroll through the walled gardens, which were designed by celebrated plantswoman Daphne Shackleton.

St Davids Cathedral

Built in 1181 on what is believed to be the same site as St David's very own 6th century monastic settlement, St Davids Cathedral is packed full of history, from the tomb of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, to the 'Abraham Stone', a fine example of 11th century Celtic art. Guests are welcome to explore the Cathedral Treasury, which tells the story of Christian worship in the area, as well as the Gatehouse exhibition (which is where you'll find the Abraham Stone). Then there's the Cloisters Gallery, which exhibits works of art ranging from photography to ceramics, as well as a refectory where you can take a deserved rest and tuck into some fine local produce.

Picton Castle and Woodland Gardens

Discover not only a hidden gem of castle with some 700 years of history, but also around 40 acres of uniquely beautiful gardens, walled garden and tranquil woodland walks. The castle itself is unique in that it was designed as half fortified manor house and half medieval castle, giving it a very unique structure complete with a gorgeous Georgian wing. Arguably most impressive are the stunning woodland gardens and grounds that surround the castle. Guests are free to explore at their leisure, beneath some of the oldest trees in Wales, and around several rare species of rhododendrons.

Upton Castle Gardens

The gardens at Upton stretch on for around 35 acres. There is ample chance to explore the formal rose garden, herbaceous borders, chapel garden and newly restored walled garden. There is also a bluebell and woodland walk that leads down to the Carew river, not to mention the 13th century chapel and impressive medieval effigies. These listed historic gardens are surrounded by the Arboretum, a collection of rare trees, most of which were planted during the 1920s and 1930s. New this year is the ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ which explores the previously neglected south side of the woodland. This has been created by Green Links with the help of local disadvantaged children and a Communities and Nature Grant, The Countryside Council for Wales and the Environmental Agency who have also funded the reinstatement of a large pond.

Pembroke Castle

With a long and fascinating history dating back to around 1093, Pembroke Castle is a great family destination, with much effort having been put into making history come alive. With 'living history days', 'Black Mountains falconry days' and hands-on 'circus days', there's plenty to keep the kids interested while parents gaze out over the surrounding hillsides. You'll also find fascinating exhibitions that recreate the most important aspects of the castle's past, plus guided tours that provide a unique insight into the most interesting history and stories.

Skomer Island

This rugged island of sheltered bays, exposed headlands and sheltered inlets is one of Pembrokeshire's top attractions, not least due to the vast number of bird species that call Skomer home. As well as puffins, guillemots, razorbills and short eared owls, the island is home to a large number of Manx Shearwaters. If you stay overnight, you'll witness one of the UK's most remarkable events as these birds return to their burrows under the cover of darkness. At the centre of the island you'll also find an education room and interpretation centre, as well as a cosy hostel if you do decide to spend the night.

Skokholm Island

Lying just south of Skomer, Skokholm has been owned by the Wildlife Trust since 2006 and is roughly a mile in length. Of international importance due to its many breeding seabirds, the island has been designated not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but is also part of the Skomer and Skokholm Special Protection Area and is a Special Area of Conservation. As well as a great number of Manx shearwaters, Skokholm is home to some 4,500 puffins and 2,000 razorbills and guillemots. You'll also find several rare examples of rabbit-maintained grassland, as well as bright red cliffs made of old sandstone. The Marine Nature Reserve that surrounds both Skomer and Skokholm is one of only three in the UK.

Ramsey Island RSPB Nature Reserve

A dramatic island, on mile off the coast of St Davids, alive with a wide range of plant species (including bluebells, pink thrift and purple heather) between May and September. There's also the chance to encounter the likes of guillemots, kittiwakes, choughs and peregrins that nest on the cliffs, as well as porpoises and even seals if you visit during the Autumn months. In order to get the most from your trip to the island, we recommend that you visit as part of a guided tour.

Caldey Island

Caldey is one of Britain's holy islands, home to Cistern monks that have resided here since the Celtic times. As rich in history as it may be, Caldey Island also boasts a unique landscape, particularly on the south side, where large numbers of birds nest (these are best viewed as part of a guided boat trip). Much of the island is out of bounds to visitors, but it is well worth visiting, if not just to visit Priory beach, doubtless one of Pembrokeshire's finest.

Orielton Field Study Centre

An impressive Georgian mansion surrounded by over 100 acres of mixed woodland, Orielton Centre is just three miles from Pembroke. The unique surroundings provide an array of habitats and landscapes, many of which are integral to the activities on offer. If you're interested in local natural history you'll be able to take part in groups such as 'woodland conservation and management' and 'Pembrokeshire spring wildlife', while family fun weeks run in both July and August.

Dale Fort Field Study Centre

Originally built in 1856 and overlooking the entrance to Milford Haven, there can be no better place to come and study marine biology and ecology. The Centre offers a range of leisure and professional training courses covering many aspects of the countryside, wildlife and the environment. These include everything from photography and arts courses to 'identifying coastal paths' and 'geology and scenery of the Pembrokeshire coast'. There's also the opportunity for families to take part in special family courses including a 'family fossil hunt' and a 'family snorkelling safari'.

Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre

This award-winning green building houses not only a first-class gallery exhibiting works of art from the National Museum of Wales, but also a visitor centre with all the relevant information that'll help visitors make the very best of a holiday to Pembrokeshire. You can find out about all the walks on offer (whether that's a gentle stroll or the 186-mile Coast Path National Trail), plus there's plenty of hands-on exhibitions to keep the whole family entertained. June will see a 'Walk in the Past' event, where the resident archeologist will provide introductions to some of Pembrokeshire's top ancient sites and explain about their history.

Newport Visitor Centre

This Tourist Information Centre lies at the heart of historic Newport, which itself can be found sandwiched between the Preseli Hills and the Nevern Estuary. One of the centre's highlights is the brand new interactive exhibition, which offers a fascinating insight into everything from the history to the wildlife of the local area. You'll also be able to get your hands on tonnes of local information, book accommodations, find out more about the National Park itself and pick up a range of maps, gifts and other goodies.

Tenby Visitor Centre

This information hub in Tenby is a great place to fill up on information on where to go and what to do during your holiday, book National Park activities and enjoy the centre's exhibition, which is an attraction in it's own right. Kids will be able to try their hand at the coast path 'buzzy' game and investigate the rock pool feely boxes, while adults look at pictures of Tenby throughout the ages and sit down to short information films about the area.

Folly Farm

It may have started life as a humble dairy farm, but that hasn't stopped Folly Farm from becoming one of Pembrokeshire's most visited attractions. It was even been voted the Wales Tourist Board's 'Best Day Out in Wales' award twice as well as winning Pembrokeshire Tourism's 'Best Family Day Out' award. With the core aim of combining entertainment with education, the owners offer up a whole range of activities and attractions, from meeting friendly farm animals at the Jolly Barn & Farm to exploring Carousel Woods, an enormous indoor playground and wandering the Vintage Funfair. Frankly, there's too much going on to mention it all!

Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort

This unique Iron Age hill fort has been recreated by the National Park Authority using fantastic replica roundhouses, standing in the exact same place tha the structures originally stood around 2,400 of years ago. The National Park may be home to several of these sites, but this is the only one where'll you'll get to explore the roundhouses, grind flour and make bread just like the Celts used to. Today Henllys is surrounded by thirty acres of woodland and river meadows, complete with visitor centre, sculpture trails and fascinating exhibitions.

Colby Woodland Garden

Peacefully perched within a wonderfully secluded valley, this woodland garden is bursting with colour and is a must-see for any wildlife and nature lovers. Spring brings with it bluebells, azaleas and rhododendrons, while summer is the ideal time to enjoy woodland walks, as well as relaxed strolls in the wildflower meadow and walled garden. Kids will love pond dipping and duck racing on the stream, while the new waterfall walk in the West Wood is also well worth a visit. If the unthinkable happens and you grow tired of the garden, yet another trail leads down toward a sandy beach.

Blue Lagoon Water Park

This fun-filled, sub-tropical water park offers a whole host of water-based adventures - from the wave pool with six different wave patterns and outdoor bubble pool to the exhilarating water slides. Of these slides, 'The Cannon' and 'The Cave' are both enclosed and will send you twisting and turning to the bottom, while 'The Torpedo' cuts a much shorter route back into the pool and isn't for the feint-hearted! For those with a bit more relaxing in mind, there's an outdoor spa complete with ten powerful hydro jets to soothe your muscles. If you're wondering where exactly the green element comes into all this, the whole thing is heated by a biomass boiler system courtesy of a nearby energy centre.

Family Adventure Centre, Bluestone

The Family Adventure Centre at Bluestone is, as you'd expect, a fantastic place for children. Even if you take away the giant countryside-themed adventure playground, the climbing wall and the high ropes course you'd still have you hands full with the Wild Wood Cafe, Lego Room and the discovery NRG zone. Even real youngsters are catered for with a baby sensory section, and anyone with an interest in science will enjoy exploring Techniquest. As is the case with Bluestone's Blue Lagoon water park, the Activity Centre is heated by an innovative biomass boiler system, located in the nearby energy centre.

For information on characterful places to stay, local food and drink, and nearby outdoor activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Pembrokeshire

Artwork for Green Traveller's Guide to Pembrokeshire


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