Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you – read more.
Although famous for being named after the patron saint of Wales, and for being Britain’s smallest city, St Davids offers so much more for those visiting the city.
Located on the peninsula of Pembrokeshire, St David’s is home to a Cathedral, the Bishops Palace, Ramsey Island, plus a really beautiful section of the all Wales coastal path including the Blue Lagoon.
I recently spent some time exploring the so-called city and in this guide, I’ll share the best things to do during your visit.
1. Explore the Historic St Davids Cathedral
St Davids Cathedral is the oldest ancient cathedral settlement in Britain1 (source: Visit Wales) and one of the best places to visit in West Wales. It is dedicated to St David, the patron saint of Wales, who established a monastic community on this site around 15 centuries ago. The current cathedral is around 900 years old and still contains his shrine today.
St David’s Cathedral is comprised of several parts, which include:
- Tower Gate House and Bell Tower:
- St Davids Cathedral Exhibition
- The Treasury
- The Library
Given that St David’s is a city of just 2,000 people, the cathedral is easily its biggest and most popular site. The cathedral can be accessed between 10 am and 3 pm and is free of charge, however voluntary donations are welcomed.
2. Visit the Ruins of the Medieval Bishops Palace
During the 12th Century, more and more people were making pilgrimages to the newly built cathedral in St Davids. To complement the newly built cathedral it was decided that the bishop’s home should be equally magnificent.
Today, if you choose to visit the palace the features that you’re able to see include, much of the town wall, especially the south side, the main gate into the cathedral, and the inside structure of the palace, which includes the arcaded parapets, great hall and wheel window. You can also walk along the walls with a great view of the palace on one side and the cathedral on the other.
The palace is open all year round and there is nearby parking, toilets, guidebook and gift shop available. Unlike the neighbouring cathedral, this is a paid attraction or free with a CADW membership.
3. Take a Boat Trip to Ramsey Island
Ramsey Island is located around 1km off the northern side St Davids Head in Pembrokeshire. The island is a nature reserve owned and managed by the RSPB, and it’s one of the best sites in Wales to see the rare choughs.
You can expect the trip to last one hour, and whilst aboard you will pass through narrow rock gorges whilst circumnavigating Ramsey Island. Whilst on the trip you can expect to see Atlantic Grey Seals, Harbour Porpoise and a variety of seabirds.
Boat trips depart from St Davids at regular daily intervals between April and October. I took a sightseeing tour around the island which lasted for just over 1 hour with Thousand Islands. However, you can also land on the island and spend 4-6 hours wandering the trails and seeing what wildlife you can spot.
I have put together a full guide to visiting Ramsey Island with the prices of all the different tour operates and how they are different.
4. Walk the St David’s Head Circular Trail
Pembrokeshire National Park is Britain’s only coastal national park. It was also voted one of the top destinations in the world by the National Geographic Traveler magazine who praised the ‘rocky cliff tops, sandy beaches, and ancient footpaths’3 (source: Wales Online).
With its location along the small peninsular in Pembrokeshire, St David’s provides easy access to some of the most beautiful parts of the path. One of the popular trails is known as the St David’s Head circular route.
This moderate route takes just over an hour to complete and includes rocky coastlines set against mountainous backdrops and several prehistoric monuments including the Coetan Arthur, a Neolithic burial chamber that was built as early as 4000BC.
5. Enjoy a Quiet Spot at Caerfai Bay
Caerfai Bay is located 1 mile south of St Davids. It’s a small rocky cove surrounded by a mixture of grey, green and vivid pink multicoloured rocks. At low tide, there’s a sandy beach and plenty of rockpools for the kids to explore and hopefully find sea creatures.
The beach itself can be accessed via a steep, winding path, and unfortunately, apart from free parking, there are no other facilities such as toilets located here, with the nearest ones being in St Davids.
One other important thing to note at Caerfai Bay is the strong sea currents, and as there is no lifeguard patrol present, swimming here is not advisable.
6. Catch Some Rays at Whitesands Beach
Although now popular for leisure activities such as sandcastle building, surfing, kayaking and windsurfing, there is also traces of a 6th-century chapel to St Patrick buried beneath the dunes behind the beach4 (source; Visit Wales).
Another feature of this beach is the abundance of wildlife, which includes sea birds, seals and porpoises often spotted close to the shoreline.
There’s parking for 60 cars available above the beach, however, this is often fully used due to the popularity of the beach. Another option to get there is to take the Celtic Coaster shuttle bus which operates throughout the summer from St Davids.
Between October and May, dogs are welcomed on all parts of this beach and can roam freely. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted to use the beach during other months of the year.
7. Dare To Dine at Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm
Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm is located 1 mile outside St Davids and is also a scientific research centre and working farm. At the farm, you’ll find attractions such as, a tropical bug zoo, bug museum, insect farm exhibition, and gift shop.
I also ventured into the onsite Grub Kitchen where I tried some spicy crickets. It’s a good job you can’t see my face in this picture as my tastebuds weren’t too happy about this!
8. Visit Oriel y Parc Landscape Gallery and Visitor Centre
Oriel y Parc is Pembrokeshire National Park’s main tourist centre, but thanks to a collaboration with the National Museum of Wales it also doubles up as a unique gallery featuring family-friendly art, exhibitions from local artists, and community-run classes.
Located in the centre of St Davids and with free entry, it provides the perfect opportunity to visit the exhibition spaces, especially if the weather is poor. Also on site is a shop and the Pilgrims Café which serves a range of delicious food.
The visitor centre is open between 9.30am and 5pm daily and the gallery is open daily between 10am and 4pm. Opening hours for the cafe are slightly different so check ahead if you plan to eat or drink there too.
9. Challenge Yourself at the St David’s Escape Room
Themed around the St Davids area, the St Davids Escape Room offers excitement for those of all ages. The types of activities you can expect to find here include, an indoor ‘Crystal Maze’ style puzzle-solving activity, and an outdoor ‘Low Ropes Escape’.
You can expect it to take around one hour for you to ‘escape’ from this attraction, however, this is dependent on your problem-solving skills! Whilst undertaking the activity you can expect to be met by sea creatures, fishing rods and treasure chests!
The attraction is great for a rainy Welsh afternoon, and if you should know anything about Wales, it’s that you can expect these.
With this being a popular activity, booking is essential to avoid disappointment. Additional facilities include free parking, shop and toilets. It’s located 10 minutes outside of St David’s at East Farm Tretio.
10. Scramble Along the Cliffsides at the ‘Home of Coasteering’
TYF started the world freestyle kayaking championships which was an early form of coasteering. Almost 50 years later, the adrenaline sport is popular right across Wales, but where better to give it a go than St David’s where it originally began.
Coasteering is when you scramble, climbing, swim, and jump as you make your way around the cliffside. As well as being adrenaline pumping, you’ll also enjoy spectacular views and see wildlife along the way.
They offer a ‘discovery’ tour for beginners and those new to the sport or an ‘explorer’ package for anyone who feels a little more adventurous. TYF run coasteering sessions every single day during summer so you don’t need to worry about minimum group sizes, just head to their websites and book a date.
Located in St Davids, TYF also offer kayaking, paddle board tours, surfing and climbing. If you’re into extreme sports then this is definitely the place for you!
11. See Where a Saint Was Born at St Non’s Chapel and Well
St Non’s Chapel and Well is said to be the birthplace of St David, the patron saint of Wales and his named after his mother. There isn’t much left today, however, this site still remains an important place of pilgrimage.
It’s located in the stunning Pembrokeshire National Coast Park, and there is no charge to visit the ruins. There’s a very small car park for 8 cars which is only around 100m away so visiting is very easy. I recommend walking along the coastline whilst you’re here too and you can visit the RNLI lifeboat station nearby which has a small visitor centre and gift shop.
12. Climb Carn Llidi
Standing at 594m, dominating Whitesands Bay is Carn Llidi which is also part of the Pembrokeshire National Park. From the summit, on clear evenings, during mid-summer, it’s even possible to catch a glimpse of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland!
As you would expect from a mountain standing at 594m, the walk up there is going to be strenuous, so should only be attempted by those with a good level of fitness and is probably not suitable for younger children.
We are sure that any four-legged friends would welcome the walk though, but they may be a bit tired afterwards!
13. Go For a Swim at the Blue Lagoon
Today, the aqua-coloured waters sheltered by rocky cliffs provide the perfect opportunity for a spot of swimming. Those brave enough (I certainly wasn’t) can jump or dive from the dedicated area with two jumping-off points.
You can also walk around the top of the lagoon where you’ll also find some abandoned buildings from when the mine was active.
Although the Blue Lagoon is free to visit, parking is at Aberdeiddy beach where there is a £4 parking charge per car. See my guide to visiting the Blue Lagoon for more information.
14. Pick Up Some Works of Art at Goat Street Gallery
Located in the heart of St David’s, Goat Street Gallery showcases a range of artworks from local artists and craftspeople, including ceramic and textiles that are made in the gallery itself by owners Daniel and Amanda Wright.
This is only a small attraction, but I wanted to include it as their work deserves attention. Many of the pieces depict scenes from the local area including the city of St David’s. They make a great souvenir to remind you of your visit.
What is Special About St Davids?
St David’s is special because it’s named after St David, the patron saint of Wales. It’s also the resting place of St David.
The other fact that makes St Davids unique is that it’s Britain’s smallest city with a population of just of 1,600 as recorded in the 2011 Census. The city status was withdrawn in 1886, but restored in 1994 at the request of Queen Elizabeth II6 (source: Wikipedia).
Is St Davids Worth Visiting?
Yes, St Davids is worth visiting, because you can say that you’ve visited Britain’s smallest city and the resting place of St David, the patron saint of Wales. Also, you can visit one of the most beautiful parts of Wales and enjoy some of the things St Davids has to offer, already written about in this article.
Does St Davids Have a Beach?
Yes, there are plenty of beaches dotted around St Davids. The beaches you can find in the area are, Newgale, Solva, Caerfai, Whitesands Beach, Abereiddy, and Traethllyfyn.
Which beach you decide to visit is up to you, but please note that all have different characteristics so be sure to choose the one that best suits your planned activities before you go.
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.