St Davids is remote and quite unlike anywhere else I have been. Perched in the south west corner of Wales and surrounded by sea on three sides (St Davids peninsula), this place feels special. Maybe this is due to the spiritual history going back thousands of years, or the unavoidable presence of the churning and dramatic Irish Sea (with it’s gales to match!). Legend has it that St David himself was born here, on the cliffs - the Welsh name Tyddewi literally means 'David's House'.
I spent a weekend as a solo parent with the little'uns (aged 5 and 3). Here is my list of things to do, and why I think St David’s is a fab destination…..!
- Cathedral: Nestled in a hollow to stay hidden from once troublesome pirates, the marauders have long been replaced by tourists who flock to discover the wonders of St David’s cathedral and the Bishop's Palace. The approach and first glance from the town above is dramatic. It’s a beautiful spot with lots of paths and grassy areas for running around, and even a little stream for summer paddling. The 12th century cathedral itself is worth a look - my two were fascinated with the tombs of the knights and kings, and the stone tomb of the legendary Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffudd can be seen. Staff there seemed reasonable tolerant of two slightly exuberant pre-schoolers invading the sanctuary! The Refectory attached to the cathedral is a good place to stop for snacks or drinks. Combine with a trip to the town for window shopping and ice cream sampling.
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path: Five minutes from town you connect with the coast path which could theoretically take you all around the entire coast of Wales if you had the time, energy and inclination to do it! (one of my life goals.....). Highlights on the peninsula are:
- Whitesands beach: A blue flag beach, great for surfing as it catches a lot of swell - surf lessons are available from Whitesands Surf School (http://www.masimes.co.uk/surfschool/). There is a little cafe too.
- St Non’s chapel and spring - a special spot perched on the cliffs (take a dip in the healing spring to cure your ills). Something to do with the wind, sea, cliffs, exposure to the elements, the history of pilgrims here with a purpose; gives a special atmosphere and a perfect place to sit and reflect (not that I had much opportunity for that with the kids in tow!)
- St Justian's: A small tidal harbour two miles from St Davids and home to the RNLI lifeboat Station. Boats to Ramsey Island leave from here.
- Porthclais: One of the cutest fishing inlets I’ve seen – tiny and narrow, the quay is the perfect spot for some crabbing at high tide. You can also launch small boats here. Don’t miss the gorgeous traditional Welsh bwythn (cottage) perched above.
- Dr Beynon's Bug Farm: About five minutes outside of St Davids is the small but perfectly formed bug farm. There is a ‘bug zoo’ room full of beautifully kept creepy crawlies – my two were fascinated with the leaf ants marching around the room within their perspex pipe system busily carrying leaves to and fro. There was also an impressive collection of stick insects and spiders. The bug handling room holds sessions throughout the day where we could ‘pet’ a stick insect, a giant cockroach, and a huge grub (!!!). Much to my dismay my daughter declared she would only handle them if I did it first so in the spirit of not wanting to pass on a lifelong fear of bugs to her I plunged straight in – it was not nearly as bad as I thought and actually rather nice!
For design inspiration:
- Solva Woollen Mill: A few miles outside St Davids on the banks of a bubbling brook. I was in heaven – you can see the looms in action and the beautiful and the well stocked shop is a haven for colourful Solva Mill rugs and other Welsh crafts and produce. Fabulous spot. https://www.solvawoollenmill.co.uk/
- Oriel y Parc Gallery: Art gallery, visitor centre, café, talks and exhibitions - a nice spot to drop by and take a look at what’s on. There is a Discovery Room developed with children in mind. Currently partnering with the Tate to display some works.
Where to stay
- Warpool Court hotel: Tucked away between St Davids city and the sea- we stayed for two nights in a very comfortable family room. The décor is classic rather than uber trendy – but I loved the characterful touches like the amazing painted tiles, the fireplaces, and the panelling. The gardens and setting are absolutely beautiful with stunning views of the ocean (voted one of the best hotels for views by the Sunday Times), and the kids loved exploring the lawns and the hidden nooks and crannies. From the lawn you cross a meadow and you are direct on the cliff path overlooking the sea, right next to St Non's Chapel. Many rooms have stunning a seaview. The waiting staff and reception staff were lovely and we felt very pampered and looked after there! https://www.warpoolcourthotel.com/
- Capel Tŷ Ddewi: Stunning 5* holiday cottage sleeping 6 across two rooms. Converted from a chapel - the oldest chapel in Pembrokeshire to be exact! Expect beautiful, traditional interiors, sunsets, and lots of character. It's on my list for when we come back to St Davids! See link: Under the Thatch
- YHA St Davids: This place looks awesome – a converted Welsh farmhouse at Whitesand’s bay- double, single and dorm rooms are available, and it was newly renovated in 2017 with very good reviews on Trip Advisor: https://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-st-davids
- Porthclais campsite: One of fifty best camping sites in the UK according to the Independent – this small campsite sits on the cliffs just south of St Davids. Space for tents, touring caravans and camper vans, as well as an existing static caravan. Toilet and shower block, and a campsite shop selling milk, eggs, bread and other basics. http://porthclais-farm-campsite.co.uk/
Best coffee in town award:
- The Meadow. Gorgeous coffee served in a 300 year old stone cottage with whitewashed walls and bright blue window frames. What is not to love. Plus the added bonus were the staff who were so friendly and thoughtful – they served my children’s milk perfectly for them (not scalding like you get in so many places). https://www.themeadow.co/
For a nibble:
- The Grub Kitchen @ The Bug Farm: Curious to try meal worm hummus or cricket cookies? Well now is your chance – apparently the future of food is bugs, and you can taste the future here. Other delicious non-bug food available too!
- The Bench: Amazing ice cream and heaven for the kids – try flavours like Skittle Sorbert, Dandelion and Burdock, Banana and Nutella.
- St David’s Kitchen: One of the best places to eat in St Davids - expect delicious seafood, great coffee and fine wine! Might be one to leave the kids at home for....
Thank you for reading, do let me know your St Davids tips and I can add them in!