In 2013, we crossed the English Channel with some friends to discover Wales. I initially wrote this post on my own blog, Hobography. I share with you some of my favorite places in Pembrokeshire.
While a lot of people think there’s only London or Scotland in the UK that are worth to spend your holidays at, why wouldn’t you try Wales? If you’re looking for a change instead of going every year in French Brittany, this may be the place you’re looking for!
It is on my way to London in the Eurostar that I first wanted to discover Wales. I met this Welsh man so fond of his homeland that he spent the entire 2 hours ride filling my mind with all sorts of stories about the people, the landscapes and so on. I wonder… is there any Welsh person who’s not in love with Wales?
A few months later here I am finally discovering Wales with Frédérique, some friends, and Pim’s (our dog). Having only one week to spend there we decided to focus on Pembrokeshire’s Coast path and Cardiff.
This was the first time that I left the city streets since I decided to commit myself seriously to photography and I realized how difficult it was for me to catch a landscape in a way that it would look as dramatic on picture as it was through my eyes there. What I was missing was an additional subject, something that could make people imagine themselves standing into the landscape. Long after that, I learned about « the human element » but it was clearly too late for this trip ;).
It was also the first time that I hiked with (almost) all my equipment. Boy, it wasn’t as easy and practical as I expected. For instance, I learned that a sling bag is not adapted at all to hiking, that a stain (so tiny that you can’t even see it) can destroy an amazing long exposure, and that the more people there are in your group the less able you are to slow down to compose your shot correctly :D.
The Coastal path through Wales
Wether you come to Wales for hiking or photography, the coastal path delivers the essence of the Welsh nature through a 1400-ish kilometers long marked trail.
I walked it at several places along the coasts of Pembrokeshire. If you want more information so you can plan your own hikes, I highly suggest you go and catch what you need on the official website of the Welsh coastal path.
Ok, let’s just have a look to some places I really liked :).
It was our kind of headquarters as we had booked a cottage there. Trefin is a peaceful village very characteristic of what you would expect of a small Welsh village. Let’s be honnest, there’s nothing much to do but hiking, relaxing and drinking a good pint of Ale or cider (your choice) at the pub. But the landscapes and the walk from Trefin to Porthgain are definitely worth the trip.
Be sure to check-in at The Mill Café. Tea room and art gallery at the same time, they serves wonderful pancakes and scones! (and there’s even free WiFi, what’s not to love?!)
We were driving near this place so we stopped to have a look at it. The megalith is located in a farm’s field. Everyone is free to go and see it. If you come from the farm, make sure you pass the dolmen to get back on the coastal path’s track, the view is stunning.
Strumblehead is a headland in the North of Pembrokeshire. You’ll see there Ynys Meicel, one of the local islands, and on top of it, Strumble Head’s Lighthouse. The landscape is of the most dramatical effect! Sadly enough, my variable ND filter proved shoddy and there was so much light that I couldn’t get the long exposure I was looking for.
If you’re lucky enough, you’ll see some seals and maybe even a whale or a porpoise.
St David’s being the ecclesiastical capital city of Wales, you can expect St David’s cathedral to be photogenic, and it is. Beside it, the ruins of the former cathedral and a nice cemetery complete the show. Speaking of city… don’t expect something as big as Cardiff or London. In fact, St David’s is also the smallest city in the UK.
It is a really nice place to wander and you’ll find a lot of photo opportunities, other than the surroundings of the cathedral I mean. For instance, walk to the coastal path and you’ll see St Non’s ruins, where St David was born. And no need to tell about the landscape which is gorgeous.
For those who are looking for a thrill, TYF offers coasteering sessions, the local extreme sport which is a kind of canyoning except that you do it on the cliffs of the coastal path. In a few words, you climb on the cliffs, you jump in the sea, you climb back — trying not to rip your hands off on the rocks, so you can jump again… We tried it and it’s guaranteed fun!
Bonus on the personal side, looks like I’m not afraid of heights anymore!
The Little Fortress of Fish (its name in Welsh) used to be a spa resort for victorian tourists. Tenby is a medieval village from the XIIIe century and somehow still looks like it. Besides its huge fortification walls and its beach, you’ll notice its colorful streets like Crackwell St which has inspired a lot of painters.
Tenby also has an island, St Catherine, which is an island only during the high tide.
If you like the beaches, Newgale Sands is for you. I’ve set my tripod there while my friends walked with Pim’s (who enjoyed chasing kites quite a bit). Nothing much to say about this beach except maybe that this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Pembrokeshire, and it is 4 kilometers long.
Cardiff, capital city of Wales
As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff offers a great contrast with the small towns and villages of the Pembrokeshire. Nonetheless, it doesn’t have the soul of a large city either. I found the place most welcoming and friendly (and no, it’s not because of Dr Who).
It is also a city xhich mix well the ancient and modern architectures. Great example: Cardiff Bay where you can see the Pierhead Building, a building from the end of the XIXe century — now a museum about Welsh History, and within a few feets, the Wales Millenium Center and it’s copper structure, which shelters a art center.
In the city center, you can wander in victorian arcades reconverted as markets or one of the many gardens, listening to street musicians (among them, the worst accordion player I’ve heard EVER).
Have you visited Wales yet? I’m sure of one thing, I’ll go back as soon as I can!