Pembrokeshire used to be known as “Little England Beyond Wales”, partly because its scenery was reminiscent of England, and partly because so many of its inhabitants spoke English rather than Welsh. The Scandinavians seemed to have liked this region and there are many towns with Danish place- names in the south of the county.
For many, this is the most scenic county in Wales. It boasts Britain’s only coastal national park – the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, an area of spectacular natural beauty that can be explored by following the186-mile coastal cliff top path. The coastal region is also a paradise for bird watchers. Running right around the ruggedly beautiful southwestern tip of Wales, around St Brides Bay and up along the north facing coast almost to Cardigan, the Park also includes quiet fishing villages, the huge cliffs at Castlemartin, sweeping golden beaches and small, often busy harbours.
Although not strictly on the coast, the labyrinthine Cleddau river system also lies within the Park’s boundaries and here there are delightful little villages such as Cresswell and Carew, as well as the superb sheltered harbour of Milford Haven.
Offshore there are various islands, including Grassholm, Ramsey, Skokholm and Skomer, which have changed little since they were named by Viking invaders. Many are now bird and wildlife sanctuaries of international importance. Grassholm is home to thousands of gannets, Skokholm has Manx shearwaters, Skomer has shearwaters and puffins. In addition, Ramsey harbours such species as choughs and the red-legged crow, and is also the resting place of many Welsh saints. One island, Caldey has, for over 1500 years, been the home of a religious community that continues today to live a quiet and austere life. Between their devotions, the monks of Caldey scrape a living from the land and are famous for their range of perfumes and toiletries inspired by the island’s wild flowers.
Pembrokeshire is the home of the corgi, which was brought to the notice of the Kennel Club by Captain Jack Howell. He presented Princess Elizabeth with her first corgi, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In Pembrokeshire you will also find the Preseli Hills, sometimes known as the Preseli Mountains, though in fact the highest point, Foel Cymcerwyn, is only 1759 feet high. Though the range of hills is inland, it forms part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and provides some excellent walking country. Also it was from here that the bluestones for the inner circle of Stonehenge were quarried.
There is one place in Pembrokeshire that is sacred to all Welsh people - the city of St David’s. City status was officially granted in 1994, though in truth, people had looked on it as a city long before that, thanks to its cathedral. It is near here that the country’s patron saint, St David (Dewi Sant), was born, and it was in what was then called Rose Vale that he founded a monastery that later became St David’s Cathedral. He died in AD589 and his bones lie in the Cathedral to this day.