The most beautiful places in England
Guest writer Rachel Summers identifies the places that she feels best demonstrate the beauty of the English landscape for first-time visitors
Visiting Pembrokeshire soon? Discover some things to do when you're there.
Pembrokeshire, with its craggy cliff faces, golden beaches and quaint fishing towns, has won hearts and minds across countless generations. In fact, the list of its most notable residents includes such luminaries as Henry VII, Sarah Waters, Rhys Ifans and Christian Bale. Fellow resident Nicky Wire of Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers told theguardian.com how the area was "utterly magnificent", mentioning that the tourist hotspot of Tenby "just makes me a bit of a better person when I'm down there," before adding "it's not easy to do that!"
Though Pembrokeshire is the fifth largest of Wales' 22 counties, it drops to 18th for population density. As such, visitors can expect plenty to see and do, without too many crowds of people getting in the way. For just some examples of these things to entertain, look no further.
Widely touted as the only one of its kind in Britain, the 243 square mile National Park features a vast array of coastal topography, from beaches to cliffs, dunes, hills and wooded estuaries. The addition of the Wales Coast Path means that visitors could walk on an entirely unbroken arc around Pembrokeshire, should they so wish, taking in the historic Caldey Island, St Govan's Chapel and Pentre Ifan.
Wildlife watchers are also well served in Pembrokeshire, with the coast offering rare glimpses of bats, gannets, razorbills, puffins and guillemots, as well as the more typical crabs, mayfly and grass snakes. One of the biggest attraction, though, is Pembrokeshire's seal population, most typically seen off the coast of Cardigan Bay, Fishguard, St David's and Skomer Island.
Despite its name, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park isn't just along the seaside. In the north, the National Park stretches around 12 miles inland, taking in Tycanol Wood, Pantmaenog Forest and the Rosebush Reservoir - as well as potentially limitless countryside walks.
In addition to the well-known individuals outlined above, Tenby has close connections with another famous face - Beatrix Potter. The renowned children's author was staying at a house in Croft Terrace when she decided to draw the garden pond - an illustration that went on to feature in 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'. This link earned Potter a blue plaque on the house in which she stayed.
Cultural aspects aside, there's still plenty on offer in Tenby (and nearby Saundersfoot). The holiday hotspot is a prime example of what British seaside towns should be: featuring sprawling beaches, rockpools, multi-coloured townhouses and more then a few sweet shops. Visitors spending more than a day at Tenby may also wish to make the short journey across to Caldy Island - famed for its historic monastery. A trip to Caldey isn't exclusively spiritual, as visitors can spend the entire day walking across the island. As Nicky Wire went on to explain in his Guardian interview: "[Caldey has] one of the best beaches you'll ever come across."
Wales' largest theme park also contains one of Britain's most famous roller coasters: Megafobia. The old-school wooden coaster turned Pembrokeshire's Oakwood Theme Park into the well-loved attraction it is today; no mean feat, given that it arrived in the same year as The Big One, Nemesis and Shockwave. Whilst other parks went for big and scary - using metal wherever possible - Oakwood turned toward history, offering an older wooden attraction that ended up sending demand soaring.
Around two decades on, Megafobia is still in operation, alongside the more modern coaster Speed and water-flume Drenched. If thrills and spills don't hold much appeal, though, there are boating lakes available, as well as toboggan rides where you get to dictate the speed.
Pub quiz question: How many castles does Wales have? Answer: More than 500. This figure - put forward by Visit Wales - actually puts Wales at the top of the European table for castles, even beyond the likes of Germany, France and Romania - which all occupy demonstrably larger areas.
Dating back to 1093, Pembroke castle was first established as a relatively rudimentary timber structure by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger Montgomery. It became a stone structure in 1189 before undergoing a comprehensive extension in 1234. Today, after a Victorian restoration, the castle is one of Pembroke's biggest tourist attractions. Accessed through a huge gatehouse that dominates the nearby Main Street, the castle also offers visitors a maze of tunnels, subterranean caves and walks around the mill pond.
St David's isn't just Britain's smallest city by area, it also takes the gong in terms of population as well. Just 2,000 people live within the city - making it 162 times less populated than Cardiff, 214 times smaller than Bristol and about the same size as the relatively unknown Presteigne in Powys. Being a city, St Davids has its own cathedral, as well as a rugby club, art gallery and numerous pubs. Although the seemingly random nature of shop opening times in the city has been a source of much bemusement among visitors, the diminutive city's charm has kept people coming back year on year.
These are, of course, just a tiny section of the many things to do in Pembroke - following in the footsteps of everyone from Henry VII to Beatrix Potter - via Christian Bale and Nicky Wire, of course.
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