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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Road to Pembrokeshire

I woke up in an ebullient mood, filled with child-like anticipation as our semi-spontaneous roadtrip to Pembrokeshire finally materialized. I remember it was a Sunday in Cardiff, a city with predictably Sybilish weather. Like a thief in the night, a thick dark fog consumed the city, leaving us with minimal to zero visibility. Considering the current state of the roads, we were apprehensive since we rented a car from the Enterprise group instead of the taking the train or bus. It appeared as if we were driving in a dream that would lead us to Pembrokeshire.

With its reputation as a holiday destination, Pembrokeshire presented a much different allure. It was barely even spring but I wanted a taste of UK beach life. As a traveler coming from a country dotted with stunning coastlines and dreamy islands, I could not help but wonder how a beach in the UK would be like. Having a bit of elementary research, Ralph's limited yet solid right-hand driving experience, and the indispensable power of GPS, we felt primed to make this trip happen.

Fact: There are three National Parks in Wales (The other two are Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia) but Pembrokeshire is the only coastal national Park. Pembrokeshire county, situated in the South of Wales, is home to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, an arcadia that offers rugged cliffs, hidden coves, and sandy beaches. It has been voted by National Geographic as the second best coastal destination in the world (Trivia: Recently, Pembrokeshire was made more famous because some Scenes in Harry Potter: the Deathly Hallows were shot here)

Since there were too many attractions in Pembrokeshire to visit for a day trip, we became realistic and decided to see two destinations: 1) Tenby, a quaint harbor town and seaside resort and 2) Barafundle Bay, an isolated hideaway with swathes of smooth golden sand, accessible only by a half-mile walk from the nearest car park.

At the beginning of this trip, the fog proved to be relentless but presence of mind seemed to have kept possible accidents at bay. After two almost two hours of challenging navigation, taking roundabouts and exits, we managed to reach Tenby. 

We parked our car near the Five Arches Gate, a part of Tenby's old castle walls. Similar to our Intramuros, this walled city was also built to protect the city from Welsh rebellion. I noticed that people back then were constantly concerned about possible invasion or attacks. 

Inside these walls is a maze of narrow streets where you'll find interesting shops, restaurants and cafes. I wanted to leisurely check shops but our limited time did not allow me to do that. At least I didn't have to unnecessarily spend on souvenirs.

As we sensibly scaled the streets of the city, we later found ourselves on the edge of the hill where Tenby's true charm was revealed. The bipolar weather made it difficult to take beautiful shots but that was not going to stop me from clicking away.
In the 19th century, Tenby's potential as a tourist destination came to light. It became a  fashionable seaside destination for the wealthy tourists and high society. It was probably the only part of Wales that remained Anglicised. 

The Victorian revival architecture still survives here, as displayed by the buildings and shops with pastel colour scheme. You could say this is Wales' own French Riviera, minus some snotty French.

During lunch time, we headed to the eastern part of town for an enjoyable little picnic. In true Filipino fashion, we laid out our mat and all sat there in bliss as we devoured abodo and rice. There was nothing better than a Filipino meal at this once posh seaside town.

The sun occasionally peeked and that made it possible to take better photos. The colors become more vivid and Tenby's character was apparent.

The most visible land mass you'll see would be Catherine's Island, a small tidal island that is home to Palmerston Fort. This was built to protect Pembroke Dock after its completion in 1870. 

Inside the Fort, you'll find a life size statue of Queen Victoria in the Banquet Hall. Would you believe this was sold privately for 500 pound at one point?? 
St. Catherine's Island, Tenby

After all the endless photo ops, we were ready for our next destination fifteen miles from Tenby. We wanted to reach Barafundable Bay before last light. 

Even if Barafundle Bay was voted as one of Great Britain's best beaches, I still had my reservations. Generally, Filipinos and people in Asia have high standards for beaches: White sands, clear waters, and of course, warm tropical weather. I knew I was not getting that here though. However, I was sure the United Kingdom's beaches had something that we did not have.

I was right. What Barafundle Bay clearly lacked, it more than made up for with its sheer rugged and natural beauty.

For a moment or two I stood there captivated, slowly savoring one of nature's astonishing creations. Without fear and hesitation, I found myself cautiously walking closer to the edge, as I was drawn by the Bay's subtle hypnotic pull. I could have fallen to my death (or any of us. Right, B, Jabeth, Iris, and Jean?) but my rational faculties took over. I made sure that each step was firmly planted on the ground, eliminating the risk of making a fatal and regrettable mistake.

There were no pauses, only certainty. One wrong move, it could have been "Goodbye World".

As the bay opened up, I did not wonder anymore why Barafundle Bay is described as the Jewel in the crown of Pembrokeshire's beaches.
The cliff path leads to a steep walk down to the beach. 

The clear waters, golden sands, dunes, craggy cliffs make Barafundable Bay an ideal getaway for nature lovers. 

From this vantage point, I remember myself thinking: "What a humbling privilege it is to be here. At this point and time, this whole Bay felt like it belonged to us, like we were the only people on earth."
Barafundable Bay, as seen as from the other side.
As the night drew closer, we were all ready to go back to Cardiff. This time, the fog was nowhere in sight but somehow, with empty stomachs and full bladders (Calling Iris), we ended up getting lost after missing a couple of exits. Talk about irony. Our trusty GPS even led us to the wrong restaurant. Rather, it led us to someone's house!

Nonetheless, for some peculiar reason, that was the way I wanted the day to end: chaotic, unpredictable and full of contagious laughter. That trip just became more memorable than it already was. I look forward to having more. (Thanks B, Jean, Iris, and Jabeth!)

For Car Rentals.

Check out  Enterprise www.enterprise.co.uk/car_rental/home.do. I honestly think Driving would be the best and most practical way to go around Pembrokeshire.

Accommodations in Pembrokeshire:

Stackpole Inn: www.stackpoleinn.co.uk. "Best Gatropub in Wales"

Guesthouses in Tenbywww.tenby-bed-and-breakfast.co.uk


Louise said...

oooh..ganda naman. Nice to see you are blogging more doc.

Ralph said...


deobaraanmd said...

Thanks Louise!

deobaraanmd said...

Ill add limited yet skilled..haha

Pinoywanderer said...

I enjoy reading your blog deo. I wish i could travel around UK when i have more money saved up. Pinas muna ako. hehehe

Bladdergirl said...

the road to pembroke...is not so littered with good intentions (by the driver!!) =p. Oh the memories. hehe. Cheers!

deobaraanmd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deobaraanmd said...

Iris? haha. This was indeed a memorable trip! Till next time! :)

Liliram said...

It's always good to review "old" blogs, if only to recapture the sentiments attached to a memorable trip. Enjoyed the writing plus photography. I'm sure you enjoyed writing this one too!

John Hilston said...

Would love to visit more beautiful travel images.
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