When the first few chords of your favourite Christmas song erupt from the radio, something magical begins and all thoughts start to have a certain sparkle that only this time of year brings. If you want to make this year truly special for you and your favourite people, what could be better than an escape from the everyday and a holiday to get in the spirit of it all?
Pembrokeshire is a stunning area of Wales with its unique combination of vast sandy beaches, quaint villages, imposing castles, wild mountainous regions and spectacular countryside – an ideal destination for a spot of rest and relaxation this Christmas. With the frost descending and the first flakes of snow drifting down, this beautiful county is further transformed into a winter wonderland, with dreamlike landscapes to explore wrapped up in your cosiest clothes, Sunday lunches to enjoy at pubs with open fires, and bustling markets to peruse for those last-minute presents.
Charmingly understated but always welcoming, Pembrokeshire is a getaway for nature-lovers and those seeking an escape from the norm – and here’s our guide to what’s going on over the Christmas season, from floodlit castles and carollers to pantos and New Year’s Day swims.
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With the scent of cinnamon and spices and the sound of carollers in the air, there’s nothing like wrapping up in your favourite cosy coat and heading out to a bustling Christmas market. Whether you’re looking for decorations for your Christmas tree, that perfect present for your favourite relative or simply want to indulge in those favourite festive tasty treats, there’s no better way to spend a chilly afternoon.
Melin Tregwynt Christmas Fair
Saturday the 11th to Sunday the 12th of November
Nestled in the beautiful countryside not far from Fishguard, Melin Tregwynt is a traditional 17th-century woollen mill that still produces beautiful woollen items (such as the world’s largest picnic blanket, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records). On Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th of November the doors open on their annual Christmas fair with almost 50 stalls selling bespoke arts and crafts made in Pembrokeshire and Wales, while the café offers festive specials and warming winter drinks. Afterwards, take a stroll through the woods down to Abermawr beach to blow the cobwebs away.
Picton Castle Christmas Fair
Saturday the 18th to Sunday the 19th of November
Considered to be Pembrokeshire’s finest stately home, Picton Castle near Haverfordwest is host to a fantastic Christmas market over a weekend in November. Taking place within the state rooms, all beautifully decorated for the holidays, there are over 60 stalls to stroll around, selling everything from stocking fillers to tasty, take-home treats. Pay a visit to Maria’s restaurant for a bite to eat, and, if you have children with you, the entry fee includes access to the Welsh Owl Garden and Zoo. Afterwards, explore the castle’s 60 acres of woodland gardens.
Pembroke Castle Christmas Market
Friday the 24th to Sunday the 26th of November
Set within the grounds of beautiful Pembroke Castle, this fantastic Christmas market hosts over 80 stalls selling lots of gifts, jewellery, toys, clothes and local produce, providing the perfect opportunity to find some unique presents for your loved ones. If you visit on Friday, Santa’s grand arrival takes place at 6.30pm, after which he’ll be in his castle grotto to meet children, hand out gifts, and accept your Christmas lists. In addition, there are carollers and musicians to provide the soundtrack to your visit, while the castle itself will be illuminated at night offering a spectacular view. Entrance to the market is free.
Ffar Nadolig I Christmas Fair, Cardigan Castle
Saturday the 25th of November
Ffar Nadolig I Christmas Fair at Cardigan Castle has over 40 craft stalls to explore over one festive-packed day. Perfect for finding a unique present or two, there’s also seasonal food and drink, and a Santa’s grotto for the little ones. Once you’ve had your fill, take time to stroll around the remains of the medieval castle and take a peek into the Georgian mansion to learn the history of this fascinating place.
Pembrokeshire celebrates the festive season with quirky charm and really embraces the spirit of Christmas with plenty of seasonal events taking place across the county. Here are a few top happenings to take a look at.
Broad Haven Christmas Pudding Run
Sunday the 10th of December, 9.30am
Broad Haven Christmas Pudding Run is a 10km race over a hilly terrain starting at Broad Haven seafront with the nearby YHA Centre as their registration base. Runners taking part will receive a Christmas pudding at the end as well as a lovely wooden medal, plus a prize for the best-dressed runner. In addition, there’s a Little Puds Run being held on the beach for children, and they’ll also receive a wooden medal at the end. Whether you’re keen to take part or just want to cheer the runners on, this is a lovely local event where crowds descend on the nearby pubs and eateries afterwards to warm up.
Folly Farm Santa’s Grotto
A lovely thing to do with little ones, a visit to Folly Farm near Kilgetty in December will not only find you getting up close to over 750 animals in their zoo and farm, enjoying 17 rides in their vintage fairground, or running riot in the adventure playground, but you’ll also be able to meet Santa! Over the weekends from Saturday 11th November through to Saturday 23rd December, Santa has taken time out of his busy schedule to set up residence in his grotto where children can meet him and receive a present, while grown-ups can indulge in a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. In addition, you can pay a visit to his reindeer with Folly Farm elves on hand to add sparkle to your visit.
A Christmas Spectacular, St Davids Cathedral
Saturday the 9th of December
Head to the beautiful cathedral of St Davids for a magical candlelit evening of carols and Christmas tunes. With the St Davids Cathedral Choir and musical group Vox Angelica, expect a memorable evening of hauntingly beautiful music, both sacred and secular. The first half explores Benjamin Britten’s ‘A Ceremony of Angels’ while the second half is a more relaxed affair with a host of Christmas songs that you can sing along to – make sure to bring your Santa hats with you! This is a fantastic evening event – perfect after a day’s Christmas shopping in this lovely city. Tickets need to be booked ahead.
Panto at Torch Theatre
Friday the 15th to Sunday the 31st of December
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a pantomime, and this year is no exception with the quintessentially evergreen fairytale of Beauty and The Beast coming to the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven. This is a must for children and the young at heart alike as you’re whisked into a tale as old as time – will Belle rescue her father from the grips of the Beast? Oh yes she will! This makes for a lovely day out, especially when combined with a stroll around nearby Cleddau Woodlands.
Adding a cheery glow to everything from villages and harbours to castles and botanical gardens, Pembrokeshire’s Christmas lights are a spectacle worth exploring - with a cup of mulled wine in hand, naturally!
Tenby Christmas Lights
Saturday the 25th of November
One of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful towns, Tenby puts on a cracking show at Christmas, especially at their beloved Christmas lights switch-on event. With Santa on the guest list and set to arrive via lifeboat, and DJ Steve Briers ensuring the air is filled with all of your festive favourites, it’s easy to get into the Christmas spirit here. Stop and listen to the musical musings of the Tenby Friendship Group carollers, join in some free lantern-making workshops before joining the parade, and get your Christmas shopping all wrapped up with the town’s many fabulous independent shops and pop-up charity Christmas market.
Glow at Carew Castle
Friday the 1st to Sunday the 17th of December
After the success of last year’s displays, Carew Castle will once again be hosting its popular Glow event. Both the castle and walled garden dress up for the occasion, with twinkling lights and enchanting displays turning the historic site into a celebration of colour and wonder. New to the seasonal scene this year is a glow-in-the-dark games and activities area where the whole family can get involved in some luminous fun before heading to the Nest Tearoom for a warming hot chocolate.
Luminate, National Botanic Garden of Wales
Wednesday the 29th of November to Sunday the 24th of December
Gather family and friends and embark on a magical trail at Luminate, the National Botanic Garden of Wales’ immersive walk through light, colour, and enthralling stories. The trail is around a mile long and holds many secrets waiting to be discovered, including a firepit for all your toasted marshmallow needs! Ideal for all ages, this fairytale wander is an excellent way to make the most of the darker evenings.
Christmas by Candlelight at Picton Castle
The 6th, 13th and 20th of December
For a truly magical evening, head to beautiful Picton Castle and Gardens on one of their Christmas by Candlelight soirees. With rooms swathed in woodland-themed decorations and flickering candles, welcoming roaring fires where you can enjoy festive goodies and mulled wine, and the gardens alive with the twinkling of lights, it makes for a memorable evening away from the frantic preparations of the festive season. Taking place on the Wednesdays of the 6th, 13th and 20th of December, from 6pm to 8pm, you’ll need to book your ticket in advance.
Feeling brave? Don your swimming costume and take the plunge over the festive season! A bracing dip is the perfect opportunity to join hundreds of others daring to face the icy waters and raise some money for charity, followed by a hearty bowl of soup (and maybe a glass of something even stronger) of course.
Tenby Boxing Day Swim
Running for over 50 years and taking place on Tenby’s North Beach at 11am, Tenby Boxing Day Swim is probably Pembrokeshire’s most prestigious festive swim. With around 700 swimmers taking part and thousands of family, friends, and visitors cheering on, this is a fantastic event to raise the spirits. There’s a canoe race, a hilarious raft race, and a fancy dress parade, with the sea swim taking place at 11:30am. Afterwards, brave souls can huddle around the beach bonfire with a warming cup of soup and go home with a medal.
Saundersfoot New Year’s Day Swim
Arguably Pembrokeshire’s biggest seasonal dip, as many as 1,800 people have taken part in previous years! A full-on event, fancy dress is optional at Saundersfoot New Year’s Day swim (but very much encouraged – one group of people in a previous year turned up in a massive wooden Trojan Horse!), with a mass dance warm-up ahead of the swim, followed by fireworks afterwards. The swimming rules mean you need to fully submerge (head included) to qualify, while those who are over 80 years old only have to go up to their knees.
The Mayor’s New Year’s Day Dip
Taking place at Newport Boat Club in Parrog, the local mayor leads the way in this chilly dip in the Parrog estuary. Surrounded by the beautiful countryside of the Nevern Estuary and Newport Bay, swimmers launch themselves into icy waters for a splash around before dashing back up the slipway for a hot shower and a mug of soup in the Boat Club. Afterwards, enjoy a brisk walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to warm yourself up.
Whitesands New Year’s Day Charity Swim
This year marks the 19th anniversary of St Davids New Year’s Day swim at Whitesands Bay, a well-loved surfing beach on the westernmost tip of Wales with spectacular views. Run by the St Davids Penknife Club, registration is from 11am and the swim starts at midday with swimmers throwing themselves into the wintry sea. Whether you’re a spectator or brave enough to take a dip, you can’t really ask for a more beautiful setting and afterwards you can enjoy a bowl of Cawl ( a kind of Welsh stew) and enjoy live music at local pub The Farmers Arms.
Ah, Christmas food – there’s something about it that warms the cockles of your soul and it really is the foundation of the festive season. From mince pies and mulled wine to brie and bundt cake, nothing is guaranteed to bring comfort and joy more than a good feed. Pembrokeshire is just the ticket whether you love donning an apron and getting stuck in or you prefer to let someone else spoil you, with a veritable larder of exceptional local produce to discover – just bring along your appetite!
Cooking at home from home
To really get into the Christmas spirit when staying in your holiday cottage in Pembrokeshire, the best thing to do is embrace all things local and stock up on delicious regional produce to make your meals totally unique and extra special. From lovingly baked bread, cakes and pastries to hand-pulled carrots and other flavoursome veggies, organically-reared meat to micro-brewed ales and beers, there’s a smorgasbord of exceptional food and drink to discover from local farm shops and markets.
Bubbleton Farm Shop near Tenby is famous for its homegrown vegetables and also for being the first farm to grow hops, with a huge range of local brews to choose from. Bethesda Farm Shop near Narberth sells award-winning meats while there’s also a coffee shop on site (make sure to try their homemade cakes!). Mannings in Fishguard is a fantastic grocer selling everything from local honey and cream liqueur to hampers and fresh orange juice. Their café is also fantastic for a bite to eat! For super-fresh delicious seafood, a visit to Mrs Will the Fish in Solva is a must (and ordering ahead is recommended). If you’re a cheese aficionado, head to Pant Mawr Farmhouse Cheeses near Clynderwen in the Preseli Hills while the Bluestone Brewery Company in Newport is the place to go for a drop of local ale. If gin is more your thing, head to Cinnamon Grove Gin near Haverfordwest where they also offer a gin-tasting experience – so as they say in Wales, iechyd da (pronounced yaki-dar), which means good health!
With so much delicious food and drink flowing through the county, it’s no surprise that Pembrokeshire has a fantastic selection of eateries to choose from, whether you’re after a cosy café, a hearty roast in a country inn after a long walk, or a laidback restaurant in which to celebrate over the Christmas period. The 300-year-old pub The Griffin in the seaside village of Dale has a wonderful Christmas menu running up to the big day with firm festive favourites to enjoy, such as roast turkey main and clementine panna cotta dessert, while overlooking the Milford Haven waterway.
The Castle Inn in Newport offers a fantastic Christmas menu that’s great after a walk at the Iron Age village of Castel Henllys, where you can cosy up next to the wood burner and enjoy such delights as gin and beetroot cured smoked salmon and game pie. For something a little different, Wolfscastle Hotel & Spa in Haverfordwest are offering a festive afternoon tea that includes turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwiches, a cheesecake bauble, and Yule log. If you want to eat out on the big day, Coast restaurant in Saundersfoot offers a fabulous five-course menu with champagne, which can be enjoyed while gazing out over the view of Coppet Hall beach.
With treats galore and plenty of relaxation, sometimes it’s good to get out and about on a walk or two to blow away the cobwebs. From coast to countryside, Pembrokeshire has a rich seam of gorgeous walks to discover, whether you’re after a gentle amble or something a little more adventurous. There’s something particularly bracing about a coastal walk, and a stroll along a beautiful beach is a great way to get your fill of vitamin sea. Broadhaven Beach in Bosherton is a wild spot overlooking St Brides Bay, offering dunes and a vast stretch of sand to run about on – great for little ones and dogs too. Tenby’s South Beach is over two miles long and has the added benefit of cafés, shops, and restaurants all within easy reach – ideal for warming up after a blustery meander.
Of course, there’s lots of opportunity to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with the trail running for a full 186 miles. There are plenty of sections to choose from, each offering spectacular views and unique surroundings. Alternatively, a tranquil woodland walk might be just the ticket, and there’s lots to choose from such as the ancient oak woods of Pengelli Forest (where some trees are said to be over 10,000 years old) and the 420-acre Canaston Woods near Narbeth, where you can stomp through frosty leaves and play hide and seek.
Feeling inspired to plan your festive escape? Take a look at our gorgeously welcoming holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire and start planning your Welsh Christmas today.