48 hours in… Pembrokeshire

2018 is Wales’ Year of the Sea, a year dedicated to celebrating the destination’s spectacular coastline and all that’s associated with it; a coastline that is, in fact, so great for exploring you can walk the entire way around it on the Wales Coast Path. On the west coast of Wales is the region of Pembrokeshire, Britain’s only coastal National Park, making it a memorable place to visit during this year’s celebrations. Discover beautiful, award-winning beaches that stretch for miles, majestic cliffs, pretty harbours and rugged islands, all easily reached in a couple of hours from the Welsh capital Cardiff or five hours from London. Fill a weekend here with beachside walks, adrenaline-pumping watersports, exploring the region’s art and heritage, and feasting on mouth-watering local produce.

 

Time to check in:

It’s easy to find somewhere to stay with a seaview in Pembrokeshire and the region is dotted with cosy self-catering cottages, charming B&Bs and guesthouses, and campsites galore overlooking the coast. And for something special? The Retreats Group has three unique, high-end properties in St David’s, Britain’s smallest city. The Twr y Felin Art Hotel features more than 100 pieces of specially commissioned art and the two Rosette Blas Restaurant, all just a ten-minute walk from the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. If you have a large-enough party you can book the entire 12th-century Roch Castle Hotel and enjoy its awesome views over St David’s Bay, while the elegant stone-built 19th-century Penrhiw Hotel is located just minutes away from the breathtaking St David’s Cathedral. On the other side of Pembrokeshire is the attractive town of Saundersfoot; check in to its luxurious St Brides Hotel, where you can enjoy indulgent spa treatments overlooking the gorgeous bay below.

 

Day One

09:00 DISCOVER PEMBROKESHIRE’S HERITAGE

Begin your 48 hours in the south of the county to discover a little more about Pembrokeshire’s history. Explore the pretty market town of Narberth and its colourful Georgian and Edwardian architecture and, as it was once the capital of Pembrokeshire, it’s home to the medieval fortress Narberth Castle. It’s also a great place to pick up a unique gift to take home; Narberth is packed with independent shops, boutiques and galleries.

 

11:00 DELVE INTO TENBY’S PAST

Half an hour’s drive from Narberth is the popular seaside retreat of Tenby. Grab a coffee from a coastal café and either head out to discover the town’s fantastic inventory of art galleries, which includes the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, investigate the town’s spooky past on the Tenby Ghost Tour, or imagine you are in Tenby of the Tudor era as you explore the National Trust-owned Tudor Merchants House.

 

13:00 LUNCH ON THE SEA’S HARVEST

You’re right by the sea so it’s makes perfect sense to dine on Tenby-caught seafood for lunch. Right next door to the Tudor Merchants House is Plantagenet House, a restaurant housed in the oldest building in town – some parts of it date back to the tenth century. Admiring its quirky interior décor, such as the medieval Flemish chimney, will keep you busy until your dishes of fresh seafood have arrived.

 

15:00 TAKE TO THE SKIES

There are many ways to explore Pembrokeshire, but if you want to see it all in just over an hour, book onto a scenic tour with Fly Wales. Take off from Haverfordwest Airport and swoop above the entirety of its coastline in 60 minutes.

 

17:00 WALK ALONG VAST BEACHES

Back down to earth and head 15 minutes from the airport to the seaside resort of Broadhaven in the heart of the coastal National Park. Come for a stroll along its huge expanse of sand and, at low tide, wander down to the village of Little Haven past a pretty bay called The Settlands. Stop off at The Swan Inn to relax with a beer or tipple of your choice while admiring the awesome coastal views.

 

19:30 ENJOY DINNER BY THE SEA

Head back up to Broadhaven for dinner as you watch the sun set over the horizon. Dine on local crab and mussels at the Ocean Café and Restaurant, a perfect spot to end your first day by the Pembrokeshire coast.

 

Day Two:

09:00 DISCOVER BRITAIN’S SMALLEST CITY

Small, yet perfectly formed, St Davids has the honour of being Britain’s smallest city. It’s also a conservation area in the Pembrokeshire Coastal National Park and can trace its roots back to the fourth century when St David – the patron saint of Wales – lived here. Despite its size there’s plenty to explore; St Davids Cathedral is a captivating sight, both its majestic exterior and painted ceilings within. Its neighbour is the medieval Bishop’s Palace; although roofless much of the structure remains intact. Or, if you’d rather be in the great outdoors, the city is fortunately located on the St Davids Peninsula so you’re just steps away from joining the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (part of the Wales Coast Path) to enjoy walks with those gorgeous views in every direction.

 

11:00 SPOT SEALIFE IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT

See whales and dolphins, seals and porpoises, puffins and razorbills on a trip out to Ramsey Island and other islands further afield. Boat tours will take you out from St Davids and around the islands, sailing through narrow rock gorges and past extraordinary caves.

 

13:00 EAT THE FRESHEST PRODUCE

Delicious local produce is always on the menu at St Davids Kitchen, a restaurant which follows the farm-to-fork initiative. Feast upon Welsh Black Beef, reared just outside the city, Ramsey Island lamb and venison as well as St Davids lobster. Make sure you leave room at the end of the meal for the locally sourced Welsh cheeses.

 

15:00 TAKE AN ADVENTUROUS TURN

Enjoy this National Coastal Park to its fullest and participate in the huge range of watersports activities on offer. You’ll find plenty of surf schools and adventure activity companies based in St Davids. Try your hand at coasteering – where you jump from rocks, then swim and scramble back up them – or how about a spot of sea kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, powerboating or fishing?

 

18:00 TIME FOR REFRESHMENTS

After all that activity you deserve something cold and refreshing; stop for a drink in The Bishops in St Davids city centre. It’s an exquisite old whitewashed stone building and the interior is charmingly rustic, perfect to relax in with a local ale.

 

20:00 CUDDLE UP FOR DINNER

There’s a lovely word in Welsh that describes a cuddle or a warm safe place; this St Davids restaurant has taken it as its name and has ensured its meaning is prevalent throughout. Cwtch is a cosy, comfortable eaterie where you’ll find divine local food on its menu; Solva crab, Welsh ribeye steak, Caerfai cheeses and Welsh lamb are all there to tempt you.

New Year, New You

As we wave goodbye to turkey-guzzling and bubbly poppin’, and the Christmas jumper is tucked into drawer for another year, it’s time to start the New Year as we mean to go on. We’ve rounded up the ways in which we can stick to those New Year’s resolutions, as the year ahead shines bright and fresh.

 

Find courage and conquer your greatest fears

New for 2018, The Bear Grylls Adventure at Birmingham NEC is a great way to channel your inner strength with a series of adventure activities designed to test self-belief and physical and mental agility. Challenges will include conquering small spaces, indoor skydiving and the highest free-roam high ropes in Europe.

Can’t think of anything worse than falling face-down deep inside a cave? Turn that fear into thrills by signing up to the Black Cat Free Fall at Cheddar Gorge & Caves – the first of its kind in any UK cave.

Those who prefer feet safely on the ground, meet some fluffy friends at Longleat (Wiltshire) for its animal experiences, as rangers arrange a personal introduction where you can hold a tarantula, or let a snake slither across your shoulders.

 

Get spiritualised

With meditating emojis taking over our digital lives, find your zen in the real world with health and wellbeing retreats at Chilston Park Hotel in Kent. From New Beginnings and Restoring You courses to Couple’s Mindfulness, free your mind from the stresses of 2017.

Or get back in the saddle as horse riding has been billed as the latest fitness trend to aid mindfulness. The new Salisbury Plain Horse Back Safaris take in the dramatic landscapes and picturesque villages surrounding Stonehenge and the Plain, as well as Europe’s largest chalk grassland while on horseback.

 

Enjoy more ‘you time’

Indulge yourself with a spa break at HarSPA, the newly opened Southampton Harbour Hotel & Spa. From a crystal steam room to hydrotherapy pool and massages, the new spa offers all the facilities for a perfect moment of relaxation. After a busy day, enjoy a facial massage or a hot stone back massage.

Or, head to Llandrindod Wells in mid-Wales. The legacy for this town is resplendent with Victorian hotels such as the magnificent, recently restored Metropole. Enjoy contemporary four star spa experience at The Rock Spa, amid the surroundings of a Victorian-style conservatory. The hotel’s award-winning Radnor & Miles Restaurant serves up a delicious à la carte menu for lunch and dinner.

Alternatively, go up the North and visit the Scottish town of Crieff, located less than an hour and a half by train from Scotland. To this day, its Crieff Hydro remains a relaxing retreat for visitors. This four star spa is set amid beautiful grounds and offers an enormous range of leisure activities additional to the usual body and beauty treatments, making it a family holiday destination too.

 

Let your creativity flow and learn a new skill

The hills are alive on the Isle of Wight and the sounds of your song can run through them, learn to hit those high notes with the Joy of Singing Weekend (16-18 Feb). Free your voice, increase your confidence, enjoy self-expression and ignite your creativity.

If your voice is best kept for the shower, tie on your apron, unleash your creativity, and get cooking! For a cookery class with a difference, head to Blackaddie Hotel in Scotland, owned by Ian McAndrew. This is not your normal cookery school, but hands-on work in a real kitchen, with a maximum of two students at a time. Experience what goes into a full day in the kitchens, from initial menu planning with the chefs in the morning through to preparation and live service.

If in London, the V&A Museum also offers a range of various artistic workshops from gouache portraits to polaroid photography techniques. Participants will be able to explore and develop new skills and learn from experts in a creative environment.

 

Work off those mince pies

Get in shape with a two-night electric-bike sightseeing package on the Isle of Wight, offering a great way to get exercise in the fresh air but the extra help from the electric motor. Yoga classes on the water are a great way to challenge your body’s balance and restore inner peace.

Or, following in the steps of Wales’ national footballers and head to The Vale Resort where the team trained before their semi-final run at 2016’s European Championships. This four-star hotel have outstanding sporting facilities but offers also Wales’ largest spa, a gigantic gym geared for professional athletes and two 18-hole championship golf courses, plus academy and pro shop.

As the only Northern Irish hotel to promise ‘sporting excellence’, no wonder the Crowne Plaza receives so many visiting sports teams. Its on-site health centre stars a large pool and can rent out bikes, while local partners include rugby, cricket, Gaelic football and hockey clubs, with all those sports possible to arrange. Ditto sea-kayaking. Some guests work up an perfectly-adequate sweat merely exploring Belfast, and especially its Titanic Experience

Lonely Planet declares North Wales in Britain as one of the world's top regions for 2017

North Wales has been named one of the top regions in the world for travellers in 2017. The region receives the accolade in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017, the highly anticipated collection of the world's hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead.

North Wales earned its place as a must-see destination for 2017 thanks to the region's reinvention. As the book highlights, Surf Snowdonia, based on the site of an aluminium factory in the Conwy Valley, is perhaps the most headline-stealing example of this reinvention, while Zip World at Penrhyn Quarry boasts the world's fastest (and Europe's longest) zip line. Bounce Below offers the chance to enjoy giant trampolines strung in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog, one-time capital of Wales' slate-mining industry.

If that wasn't enough, Snowdonia National Park - Wales' largest - has been designated a dark-sky reserve, thanks to its lack of light pollution.

North Wales featured fourth on the list of top regions for 2017, coming in ahead of South Australia, Aysén in Chile, the Tuamotus in French Polynesia and Coastal Georgia in the USA.

Lonely Planet's writers and experts spend time on the road in almost every destination on the planet, and each year they report which destinations are set to take off, offering travellers the best experience available. The destinations selected for Lonely Planet's Best in Travel meet specific criteria; it could be that something special is going on in the year ahead or there's been recent development and a lot of buzz about the place, that it offers travellers new things to see or do, or that the Lonely Planet team of experts thinks it's been overlooked and underrated and suggests travellers visit before the crowds do.

Top 10 Regions in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017:

1. Choquequirao, Peru

2. Taranaki, New Zealand

3. The Azores, Portugal

4. North Wales, UK

5. South Australia

6. Aysén, Chile

7. The Tuamotus, French Polynesia

8. Coastal Georgia, USA

9. Perak, Malaysia

10. The Skellig Ring, Ireland