‘Pembrokeshire is magically out of sync with modern times’ | Travel


Something about Pembrokeshire’s location gives it an otherworldly edge. It’s out on the peninsula, the end of the land surrounded by sea, and sometimes as the mist comes in, it feels as though we’re in some primordial soup – neither water nor land.

I was born on a farm here in Cerbid, a fourth generation of farmers. Although I’ve lived around the world, my heart’s always been firmly in Pembrokeshire. I came back in 2010 and have been living here in a yurt ever since.



Tim Rees

There’s a fierce independence and wildness to the region. Strange traditions are still upheld, especially in the Gwaun valley. They refused to adopt the Gregorian calendar when rest of world did [in 1582] so their dates are about 11 days out of sync. The Dyffryn Arms (known locally as Bessie’s) in Pontfaen sums up this spirit: it’s like walking into a 1940s living room. There’s not much furniture, just some benches, a fire, Bessie – who’s in her 80s – and her niece, serving through a hatch. Until recently it was just beer from a jug, though now you might get a bottled beer or a glass of wine!

Myth and legend are embedded in the landscape, though people drive past without noticing, say, a burial chamber in the middle of a field. There aren’t that many complete standing stone circles; they were often removed and became gateposts. There’s a strong sense of spirituality. The bluestone for Stonehenge came from the Preseli hills, and the druid heritage is kept alive with solstice processions.

We’re the wild, wild west and you get that sense as you drive in. One of the most striking views is the first sight of Newgale beach. You come over the brow of a hill, the land suddenly drops and you see the dark, rugged cliffs, long sandy beach and crashing waves. If you’ve driven down the M4 for hours, it’s an amazing feeling!

Dyffryn Arms, Cwm Gwaun, Wales



Dyffryn Arms aka Bessie’s

There are so many hidden beaches and coves, you can be by yourself even in summer. The other day, a friend discovered enormous caves in a little cove near Solva. We’ve been there countless times but had never been aware of them. Whitesands beach is fairly well-known but there’s something magical about it. St Patrick’s chapel was buried under the sand there. I remember it just being a mound when I was a kid but it has been excavated and you can see the ruins. Abermawr is another stunning beach. It’s on the north coast a few miles from St Davids and you walk to it through this enchanting forest, full of bluebells and wild garlic in spring. It’s a good spot for surfing: when the swell is too big from one direction, you can catch it from another. There are still tales of smuggling, and I’m not convinced it’s not still going on!

Whitesands Bay and Ramsey Island from Carn Llidi, St David’s Head.



Whitesands Bay and Ramsey Island from Carn Llidi, St David’s Head. Photograph: Ian Murray/Getty Images

There are some amazing local food producers here. Caerfai Farm near St Davids does a delicious unpasteurised cheese – you just leave money in the honesty box. And at Pen Pant Farm on the way to Solva, you can fill your car with fruit and veg direct from the land. There are plenty of great restaurants these days, too: The Georges in Haverfordwest does good vegetarian and vegan food; at St David’s Kitchen, everything comes from within a 15-mile radius; and The Shed in Porthgain has the best fish and chips. Follow signs to Something Fishy in Upper Solva and you can buy just-caught crab and lobster direct from the fisherman or his wife, live or dressed. The Royal George in Solva is a proper, no-frills community pub.

The Shed, Porthgain



The Shed, Porthgain. Photograph: Alamy

Lammas Eco Village near Glandwr is the UK’s first planned off-grid community. They do tours in summer, for a small donation, and run sustainability open days. Some of the self-build houses are phenomenal. It’s another example of free-spirited vibe you’ll find in Pembrokeshire.

I run Unearthed Festival on the family farm. It’s a lovely event, with everyone from fishermen to famous faces. There’s reggae, world and folk music, it’s all veggie, and there are lots of workshops and healing arts. People comment on the feel of the land: it’s next to an ancient church on the pilgrimage route to St David’s and there’s a calm, almost sacred feeling.

The Unearthed Festival runs from 16-18 June, weekend ticket with camping £85pp



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