Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Easter in Pembrokeshire

The trip down was a pleasant one. I was firmly relaxed in the passenger seat of the Land Rover Discovery (it would have been the Merc with the top down, but the weather forecast put paid to that as a lot of rain was forecast that weekend).

We left home at around 9 am on Thursday 5th April and decided to take the slow route down through mid-Wales & round the Brecon Beacons. Living so closely to North Wales & Snowdonia, we were used to the rugged, dramatic vistas to be seen there and were interested to see how the countryside of South Wales would differ once we got past the Brecons. Pembrokeshire was apparently untouched by glacial ice sheets whereas the rest of Wales was affected by the movement of the ice so the geology would be very different. Below the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire was more reminiscent of the gentle rolling hills of Devon & Cornwall. With soft sloping roads (or rather tracks) down to the sea. I say tracks as there were some very narrow roads to negotiate to see some of the undoubtedly beautiful views out across The Celtic Sea, & St Georges & The Bristol Channels.

The Harp Inn is situated just outside of Haverford-West in the village of Letterston. They'd not been doing B&B for long and I think they are still finding their feet. Whilst the rooms & beds were very comfortable, I found the bedding to be of gigantic proportions making it feel like you were being swallowed. If you like heavy quilts it's fine, but there was absolutely no alternative to the mound of blancmange that engulfed me every night. We ate at the Harp every evening mainly so that hubby could have a few wines & not have to drive. The food was tasty & well cooked by Giles Sandall & his team, whilst Giles' wife Becky ran front of house and was ready to chat at all times even though she seemed rushed off her feet all the time!

The highlights of our visit for me were our trips to St. Davids City (The smallest in Britain with just 1,600 inhabitants), The Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber & Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill Fort. You may have noticed a theme here... History! Yes, it seems to take up quite a large part of our trips away. We love archaeology and anything ancient!

St Davids was amazing because of the view of the Cathedral when you first see it. You wander down through the town, an unassuming little place (although there is a visitor's centre which tends to give a hint of it's importance). It occupies the valley floor below the village. As you approach from The Square, you can't see the cathedral until you get quite close. You pass through the gatehouse and there it is - magnificent!

Pentre Ifan is to be found near the village of Nevern near Fishguard. It is the best known & most impressive megalithic monument in Wales.

 It is a splendid burial chamber with a huge capstone balanced on three pointed and slender uprights . This capstone is said to weigh over 16 tons. It is 5 metres long and 2.5 metres off the ground. The name translates as Ivan's village and the monument dates back to about 3500 BC (the Neolithic Age). It is unusually oriented north-south & stands on the slopes of a ridge commanding extensive views over the Nevern Valley. It was apparently originally covered by a cairn thought to have originally been 36 metres long.

Another place that I would recommend all to visit is Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill Fort. 

It is a mixture of archaeology, reconstruction & experimentation. The foundations of the fort were originally discovered by archaeologists around 20 years ago. It is the only site in Britain where Iron Age roundhouses have been reconstructed on their original foundations and it's believed people first lived there in around 600BC & that the site was still occupied throughout the Roman occupation of Britain. The fort overlooks the valley of the Nant Duad stream, which flows into the River Nevern. There are footpaths & sculpture trails leading up to the site which is nestled in 9.5 hectares of woodland & meadows. It's a great place to take children as you can actually enter the roundhouse & imagine how the people would have lived all that time ago!

There were of course other places to visit, such as the St Davids Lifeboat Station where trips are possible to Ramsey Island to see the wonderful wildlife there.

There is also the majestic Victorian seaside resort of Tenby with it's Castle & Fort, sandy beaches and Palm trees - but that is definitely for a sunny day!

There is the Lighthouse at Strumble Head just past Fishguard where the old WW2 lookout post is now used as a shelter for bird watchers.

I did enjoy my trip to Pembrokeshire despite the drive home in constant rain, (which actually stopped as we emptied the car at home) but I missed the ruggedness of North Wales & the beauty of the Shropshire Hills.  Strange really, coming from a woman who was born & grew up in the City of London and lived in Dagenham in Essex for more years than I care to remember!  Since moving to Shropshire just 5 years ago, I seem to have become a country girl, relishing the beauty & diversity of the countryside around me.  I still crave a trip to Romford Market now & then, but I don't think I'd move back to the smoke now if you paid me!!

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