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Despite common belief, Pembroke is not the county town of Pembrokeshire. In fact, with a population of around 8,000 people, it’s one of the county’s smaller towns. However, it’s a place with historical significance, as it was the birthplace of Henry Tudor, better known as Henry VII who was the first Tudor king of England.

The town is a great place to base yourself as you explore Pembrokeshire National Park with beautiful beaches and coastlines just a stones throw away, plus notable landmarks on your doorstep such as Pembroke Castle and Lamphey Bishops Palace.

I recently visited the town and have put together this list of the top things to do in Pembroke town and the surrounding area.

1. Visit Pembroke Castle

I’ve visited a lot of castles in Wales but I can honestly say this is one of my favourites to date as far as a tourist attraction because there really is something for everyone. I recently featured the castle as one of my favourite places to visit in West Wales.

Let’s start with the history. Henry Tudor was born in Pembroke castle in 1457 who, after defeating Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field, went on to become the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII1 (source: Visit Pembrokeshire).

The castle has an impressive exhibition that spans multiple floors where you’ll find model replicas of the castle through time, learn about important figures in the castle’s history, find out about the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry, and learn about the siege by Oliver Cromwell.

Elsewhere in the castle, you can join one of the free guided tours which take place at four different times throughout the day, climb the towers, go down to the dungeons, and enjoy a play from the Merrymakers Knight School.

This is the best castle in West Wales, but it’s not the only one worth visiting near Pembroke. You can also check out:

  • Carew Castle and Tidal Mill
  • Manobier Castle

2. Learn the Town’s History at Pembroke Museum

Housed inside an old magistrates court in the town hall, at Pembroke museum, you’ll find a fascinating collection of artefacts collected and donated by locals which detail the history of the town from 1093 when the Normans took over right up until the modern day.

This includes information on the birthplace of Henry VII and William Marshal who is an important figure in the town’s history. You can also see silent movies by William Haggar filmed in the area in the early 1900s. he was a pioneer of British cinema.

The museum is totally free to visit and is manned by enthusiastic volunteers. For children, there is an activity area with quizzes, colouring in, and an old typewriter. Expect to spend around half an hour here.


3. Take the Pembroke Town Trail

One of the ways to explore the town is with the town trail. This is a 3 mile route the encompasses about 30 different landmarks around the town centre marked by bronze plaques. Landmarks include churches in the town, statues, the castle, town hall, and more.

You can pick up the town trail guide book for £1 in the town hall (cash only) or £1.50 at the castle (cash or card). In the guidebook, you’ll find a map and information about each point along the route.

This route is also available digitally by scanning the various QR codes on the route or you can see it on the town trail website.


4. Explore Historic Ruins at Lamphey Bishops Palace

Lamphey Bishops Palace was constructed under Henry de Gower, Bishop of St David’s and was once used by high-ranking clergy. Originally it was an impressive Palace featuring over 20 rooms, fishponds, orchards, fruit and herb gardens and areas of parkland with grazing deer2 (source: CADW).

Today, the extensive ruins remain, and it is possible to visit these at any time of the year. They’ve also recently been renovated ensuring the maximum amount of care was taken throughout the renovation.

This is now an unmanned visitor attraction so it’s free to visit. i would recommend taking a picnic here on a sunny day and enjoying it on the large expanse of grass inside the ruins. However, keep in mind that there are no facilities on site anymore such as toilets or visitor information.


5. Walk Along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Green Bridge of Wales

Pembrokeshire National Park is Britain’s only coastal national park which was voted one of the top two coastal destinations in the world by the National Geographic Traveller magazine3 (source: Western Telegraph).

My favourite part of the path to explore is near St Govan’s head which can be visited from Pembroke is less than 15 minutes. Around this area there are several really interesting landmarks including the Green Bridge of Wales, Stack Rocks, The Devils Cauldron, and the Hunstman’s Leap.

This is also where you’ll find St Govan’s Chapel, a tiny chapel built into the side of the limestone cliffs. The majority of it was built in the 13th century, although parts of it may date back to the 6th century4 (source: Trip Advisor). According to legend if you count the steps down and up again you will never get the same number!

You can park in the Stack Rock car park and walk to each of these.


6. Visit Dobby’s Grave at Freshwater West Beach

Freshwater West beach is located just over 8 miles outside Pembroke and takes around 15 minutes to get there by car, which makes it the perfect location for a day out if you’re already staying in Pembroke.

Freshwater West has made some notable appearances in major Hollywood films. These include the 2010 Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe, and it was also a filming location for the final two Harry Potter films as the place where shell cottage could be found and notably as the beach where dobby died.

Over a decade later, and shell cottage is long gone, but you can still visit a shrine to Dobby the House Elf on the beach where beloved fans have placed rocks and socks in his memory.

Freshwater West is also regarded as one of Wales’ top surfing locations due to its south-westerly facing position, and consistent swell and waves. You can take lessons here with Outer Reef surf school.


7. Go Trekking With Alpacas

One of the stranger activities that Pembrokeshire has to offer is walking with alpacas at Pembrokeshire Alpaca Trekking.

On arrival, you’ll be paired up with an alpaca, I was paired with Roco who was extremely well behaved. Children under 14 will need to share one with an adult.

It’s called trekking, but it’s really just a walk around a field so it’s ideal for families. We walked them for 20 minutes, then fed them, before a further 15 minutes walking. At the end, you’ll get the chance to stroke them and I can assure you they are the softest animal you’ve ever come across.

See my full review of Pembrokeshire Alpaca Trekking to find out more about what to expect or visit their website for booking information. You need to book in advance because there are limited spaces.


8. Row, Row, Row Your Boat on Pembroke Castle Lake

Paddlewest

Rowing on the lake around Pembroke Castle is regarded as one of the best activities to do in Pembroke, especially if you’re visiting the area with children, as least according to Trip Advisor.

If you’ve already been on a trip to the castle, hiring a boat and rowing around the outside will give you a completely different perspective.

The company that runs the boat hires is called Paddle West, and they operate between April and October. You can hire a boat for £15 for 30 minutes, and boats can hold up to four adults. 


9. Take a Stroll Around the Middle Millpond

The tidal waters used to flow up the Pembroke river which made it a prime location for a tidal mill. An enormous 5-storey mill and mill pond was built in 1830. This captured the tidal waters at high tide and then used the water to power the mill, much like the one at Carew Castle and Tidal Mill nearby.

Although the mill burned down in 1956, the mill pond remains. However, it no longer rises and falls with the tide due to a new dam so it has become a haven for wildlife, especially with recent projects to add new reed beds to the pond.

Today, it’s a designated nature reserve where you can see the resident population of swans, otters, herons, cormorants, bats, and many other species that have made the millpond their home. The walk around the millpond is short, easy, and flat so it’s suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs too.


10. Find Paradise at Barafundle Beach

Wikimedia

Situated just over 5 miles away from Pembroke is Barafundle beach. It’s easily accessible by car through a 15-minute drive. Parking is available at a cost of £4, or free for National Trust members, but there is a half-mile walk to the beach from the nearest car park.

Did you know that Barafundle has been voted many, many times as one of the best beaches in Britain and the world; it’s often likened to a Caribbean beach5 (source: Pembrokeshire County Council).

Due to its isolated location, there aren’t any facilities at Barafundle, so it’s not suitable for those with pushchairs or who use wheelchairs due to the large number of steps to get up and down from the cliff top. Dogs are also allowed on the beach all year round, so make sure to take them so they can enjoy that little bit of Welsh paradise too.


11. Search out the Secret Garden at Stackpole Walled Gardens

Located just 10 minutes outside Pembroke are the Stackpole Walled Gardens which have been in existence since the late 1700’s, and more recently leased from the National Trust, who use the site as a place that provides local special needs adults a chance to gain a qualification in horticulture through practical experience.

During the summer it’s a nice place to go for a walk around the gardens. Right at the end, you’ll find the ‘not-so’ Secret Garden which used to be an orchard although only one lonely apple tree remains.

There’s also a quaint little tearoom at the site which offers its customers the chance to buy some of Pembrokeshire’s finest local produce. You can also buy plants, vegetables and local crafts.


12. Discover Church Doors Cove

Church Doors Cove is a sheltered cove on the Pembrokeshire coast that is named after the huge natural stone arch that resembles the doorway of a church. As well as the obligatory climb through the ‘church door’, the small beach is a nice place to relax or swim.

At low tide, you can pass through a passageway in the cave to Shrinkle Haven beach, a forbidden beach that has been closed off to the public apart from this hidden entrance. However, make sure you get back before the tide comes in and make the passageway inaccessible. Keep in mind that there are a lot of steps to reach the cove.

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.