This cheeky puffin was enjoying the spring sunshine on Skomer

Travel Blog: Wandering and eating our way around Pembrokeshire

A brief holiday is a wonderful time to think about nothing in particular and let your mind wander.

A recent trip to Pembrokeshire where we walked for miles along the coast and took a trip to the bird haven that is the island of Skomer provided some space to enjoy nature and reflect.

It was also a perfect opportunity to get the camera out and let the scenery inspire me to take photographs of whatever took my fancy. The weather was glorious with clear blue skies and Spring sunshine warm enough to discard the jumper in favour of just a T-shirt and jeans.

This was our first proper visit to Pembrokeshire and my-oh-my the scenery was breathtaking and the local food delicious. visitpembrokeshire.com/

We stopped at Camarthen, en-route to St Ishmaels, for some lunch. We wandered around the town centre and came across @conpassionata and wandered in. A picture of the chef with Raymond Blanc seemed oddly reassuring and we grabbed a table.  the Con Passionata website

Climbing the cliffs from the boat landing at Skomer.
Climbing the cliffs from the boat landing at Skomer.

This was a great start to eating in the area as the food was delicious for me as a confirmed meat and fish eater and my wife, who is vegetarian. There were only two other tables occupied but the atmosphere was good and was helped by the enthusiastic service of the sole waitress.

Arriving in the lanes of St Ishmaels boded well as the area is quiet, rural and very beautiful. But it was our bed and breakfast and its location that really confirmed to us that we were in for a treat. We squeezed our car past the old church – ringed by bats at night – and found Monk Haven B&B.

St Ishmael's church, Monk Haven, http://www.monkhaven.co.uk/
St Ishmael’s church, Monk Haven

And what a find. This is a beautiful old house just minutes from the beach and surrounded by woods and ferns. Owner Jan Mathias was warmly welcoming and cooked the most amazing breakfasts. Jan bakes her own bread each day and makes all the breakfast preserves, with the delicious whisky-flavoured marmalade giving an early-morning sugar boost.

The location was perfect as a launchpad to stunning coastal walks. We chose to walk to Dale to sample the locally caught bay fish. We found that at high-tide the footbridge was submerged, adding a cross-country hike of some three miles to our hike. It didn’t matter, as it just added yet more glorious scenery to our walk.

Plank bridge on the coastal walk to Dale at low-tide.
Plank bridge on the coastal walk to Dale at low-tide.

The Griffin Inn  was recommended by other guests at the B&B so we sat down for lunch overlooking a picture-perfect bay replete with yachts, surfboards and small fishing boats. The simple lunch and welcoming staff were enough to persuade us to book a table for dinner that evening. Read the Guardian review of the Griffin Inn.

The glorious view to Dale Bay
The glorious view to Dale Bay

That was the best decision of the week as the seafood is caught daily by local fishermen, who also drink in the bar and offer their opinions to the restaurant customers on which fish will eat best.  We told our B&B host over breakfast the next morning where we had eaten and how good it was. Jan explained that her daughter and son-in-law run the Griffin, but had not told us when she reeled off a list of pubs and restaurants that might be worth a visit!

The crowning glory of our short four day visit was a trip to Skomer. The day was sunny but on Skomer the exposed island meant the wind was cold. On the boat trip over on the Dale Princess we saw a dolphin breaking through the water in the distance. This turned out to be a good omen for our visit. As the boat puffed its way to the landing spot we could see over 100 seals basking on the beach.

Puffin burrows on Skomer
Puffin burrows on Skomer

Clambering off the boat and up the narrow and steep cliff steps the volunteer worker explained the recently arrived puffins were not always visible during the day. Apparently, they were spending a lot of time fishing in the local waters. Undeterred we headed to the burrows where the cheeky-looking birds nest and one by one the orange-beaked birds arrived to the delight of the camera-wielding visitors.

Landing on Skomer the puffin way
Landing on Skomer the puffin way

The puffins do steal the show but there are the rare Manx Shearwaters to see, along with rabbits so inured to human visitors that they do no more then glance as you walk past.

Looking for Manx Shearwaters on Skomer
Looking for Manx Shearwaters on Skomer

The pathways are littered with skeletons of Shearwaters killed by the Greater black-backed gulls, but, according to @WTSWW there are plenty of Shearwaters to go round!

Our final act of a long day after we left Skomer was to drive to St Davids and visit the magnificent St Davids Cathedral  We are both confirmed atheists but enjoy the  beauty of cathedral architecture. We were lucky with the timing of our visit as the choir were practising – the choral sounds echoed around the cathedral and was magnificent. The sight of two very portly clerics scurrying past the choir and the collection bowl did make me wonder about religious abstinence and the riches enjoyed by the church, but decided that I wasn’t going to let such negative thoughts spoil the day.

St Davids Cathedral
St Davids Cathedral

Our final meal in Pembrokeshire was in the pub next door to the cathedral, the aptly named Bishops. A proper feast of beer-battered fish and crispy chips it was too. Accompanied by a pint of Reverend James, homemade tartar sauce and mushy peas it was a fitting end to a fabulous visit.

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