There’s something pretty special about Pembrokeshire, a wonderfully unspoilt county on the south-westerly tip of Wales. Its rugged coastline is the main attraction but whether you’ve come for the beautiful beaches, harbourside towns or historic castles, you’ll find plenty to keep you and your four-legged friends amused. We took our lead from Pembrokeshire’s annual Dog-Friendly Tourism Awards, which sniff out the best accommodation, beaches, cafes and days out. Read on to find out which ones we visited!
WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEES? You’d be mad to miss out on a trip to Carew Castle. It has been named the county’s Best Dog-Friendly Attraction for 2018 and instead of simply exploring the grounds, you can actually take your dog inside!
Ernie loved lording it up as King of the Castle and being able to share somewhere so historic with him was a first for me, too. The only place he wasn’t allowed to explore was the tower that is home to some bats – but humans were banned from there too, so he didn’t miss out on anything.
Entry to the castle costs £5.50 for adults and that will also get you in to Wales’ only fully-restored tidal mill, a 10-minute stroll away. It’s on the other side of the mill pond, which you can walk round entirely in about 40 minutes.
St David’s – the smallest city in Britain – is well worth visiting too. It’s a lovely little place with quirky coffee shops, food stalls and beautifully-maintained homes and shops. The impressive main attraction is St David’s Cathedral. As you would expect, dogs are not allowed inside but pets on lead are welcome to explore the grounds. Make sure you pop in to Gianni’s afterwards for a £2 dog-friendly ice cream. Made with bacon and salted caramel, the sugar-free and dairy-free treat will go down a storm with your pup.
The seaside town of Tenby is another must-see, with superb sandy beaches and independent shops. Many of them have stickers or signs to say if your four-legged friend will be allowed in. Check out the pet shop in the indoor market and Two Red Dogs, which sells locally-produced clothing inspired by Red Setters, Tag and Maisie. They will probably be waiting in the shop to say hello.
Dogs are also welcome at Wisebuys deli in Pembroke, which is a great place to stock up on Welsh food, beer and cider. The lovely lady behind the counter even treated Ernie to a chunk of local cheese, which he made very short work of!
In Wales, 2018 is the Year of the Sea and from Tenby, you can take a boat trip to the wonderfully peaceful Caldey Island. Home to Cistercian monks, the island is great for scenic strolls. You can even visit the priory and buy some of the monks’ homemade produce – or pack a picnic of your own.
The island also has a lighthouse, chocolate factory and several other shops, as well as a tea room and some beautiful beaches. From April to October, boats sail for Caldey Island every 20 minutes from Tenby Harbour and cost £12 return. Well-behaved dogs travel for free. You can also see Caldey from the water on an Island Cruise or Seal Safari. The 75-minute tours start from £14 per adult and again, dogs are welcome to join.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Start with the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Opened in 1970, it was the first National Trail in the UK and Lonely Planet has even gone as far to say it’s one of the best in the world. Praise indeed! Lying almost entirely within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the park hugs the coastline from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south and truly is spectacular.
On average, it takes 10 to 15 days to walk the path in full but most visitors sensibly take it one section at a time. The key walking stages range from seven to 17 miles in length – read more about them here. And if you think you might need more information about the coastal bus services that rescue weary walkers, click here. They all have very cute names, such as the Puffin Shuttle and Poppit Rocket.
The beaches in Pembrokeshire are a huge draw too. From Barafundle Bay to Broad Haven, you are sure to find plenty of sandy coves and rocky spots where your pup can let off some steam. We spent a lot of time on Tenby South but also loved Freshwater West – where you can refuel at Cafe Mor afterwards (keep reading to find out more).
Many of the county’s beaches are dog-friendly all year round but some of the most popular do have restrictions during the summer months. As a result, it’s wise to make sure you do your homework before you go. This article from Wales Online gives you a great idea of what to expect from individual beaches.
A walk around Bosherton Lily Ponds also comes highly recommended – speak to any local and this is where they’ll tell you to go. The scenic mile-long stroll only takes around half an hour but there’s the option to extend your walk with a visit to nearby Broadhaven beach or Stackpole Quay. The site is owned by the National Trust which, unless you’re a member, will charge you £5 to park. It’s especially worth it if you visit when the lilies are in bloom, though – or if you spot one of the secretive otters.
The circular three-mile walk around the Pembroke Mill Pond is also excellent. The pond was split in two by a railway embankment in the 19th Century and both halves are very different. With great views of Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry VII, you get a real sense of history – and if you visit during the summer months, you can even hire a rowboat. Parking is available just outside the castle, costing £1 for four hours.
BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE? Let’s start with Tenby, where you’ll be spoilt for choice. We found plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants that were pet-friendly – and none more so than The Stowaway Coffee Co., which has a big sign outside saying dogs are welcome, even if they’re wet and sandy! This tiny coffee bar is tucked away under the arches by the harbour. Festooned with fairy lights, it serves a great range of local produce and has a selection of quirky books on the tables for customers to peruse.
For delicious Welsh rarebits, head to The Fuchsia Caffe on Upper Frog Street, which is handily opposite the trendy Sand Bar tap room and kitchen. Here, you can sample the delights of Tenby Brewing Co and stock up on merch to take home as souvenirs. The street food-style menu here is well worth checking out, but be warned – go hungry as the portions are huge.
I also loved the award-winning Pembrokeshire Pie & Pasty Company. Dogs aren’t allowed inside but it’s essentially a takeaway, so grab yourself a savoury treat and find a bench nearby. Because the name is a bit of a mouthful, the company web address is “Parcels of Magic”. That should tell you all you need to know…
For high-quality food, head to The Brewery Inn in Cosheston which is run by a friendly, pug-obsessed couple. The staff made a real fuss of Ernie when we visited, immediately bringing him a water bowl and some treats. The upmarket inn serves “proper pub food with a dash of panache” and it really is fantastic. As a result, it does get very busy so make sure you book in advance and mention that you’re bringing a dog.
If you’re in to quirky places, don’t miss Cafe Mor by Freshwater West beach. It takes a bit of effort to get to but this award-winning food truck – owned by the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company – is worth the trip. The simple menu consists of a few core items, such as bacon butties, burgers and crab rolls, but it’s the unique condiments that make the food stand out. We loved the “kelpsup”, which is made from local seaweed, and you can also try Welsh Sea Black Butter and Seaweed Pesto, among other things.
From Easter to September, Cafe Mor generally opens from 10am to 4pm but it’s worth checking the website before you set out. You’ll find the food truck in the beach car park – and the beach itself isn’t bad, either! Also make time to check out the old-fashioned Hope Inn in Pembroke – a pub/coffee house with the longest beer garden I’ve ever seen.
And although it’s not technically Pembrokeshire (it’s very much on the cusp), I can’t not mention The Cowshed at Cowpots. This fantastic pizzeria and ice cream parlour is located on a dairy farm in Whitland, just over the Carmarthenshire border.
The pizzeria, which is housed in an old milking shed, serves delicious wood-fired fayre and dogs are very much welcome. A freshly-made ice cream from the family farm is the perfect way to round off your meal and you can choose from a range of unusual flavours from coconut to Jaffa cake. Farm Collie Maisie has the run of the 100-acre site, which will open its doors to campers later in 2018. Pizza, ice cream, open fields and a constant stream of playmates… what a life she must have!
WHERE SHOULD I STAY? Haven’s Kiln Park is a great budget option. The nautical-but-nice holiday park is a short drive from the lovely town of Tenby – or a 15-minute stroll along the beach. Read my review of the site here.
GET ME THERE: Travelling to Pembrokeshire is easy. By road, you can be in Wales in less than three hours from London – just get on the M4 and keep going to the end! You will then need to pick up the A48 and the A477 to take you to the heart of the county.
Great Western Railway services visit London Paddington, Reading, Bath, Bristol, Newport and Cardiff, from where you can easily pick up a connecting service to Pembrokeshire. There are also direct trains to Wales from many other major UK cities. Cardiff Airport, approximately 70 miles away, is the nearest major airport.
FIND OUT MORE: For further dog-friendly ideas and holiday inspiration, take a look at VisitPembrokeshire.com and VisitWales.com. To see the full list of winners in the latest Dog-Friendly Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards, click here.