15 reasons to visit the UK’s smallest city – St Davids
Throughout the past three years I have had the pleasure of spending about six months in Pembrokeshire, which is one of Wales’ – and Great Britain’s – most beautiful regions. A region mostly famous for its dramatic coastline and addictive coastal walk, but also for being home to the smallest city in the UK, St. Davids.
A city being named after Wales’ patron saint, and a place owing its city status to one of the country’s greatest landmarks – St. David’s Cathedral. But this tiny city is much bigger than its body, so here I’ll give you 15 (of many) reasons why you should pay it a visit…
St David’s Cathedral
You simply can’t miss this astonishing cathedral on your way around Wales. A masterpiece that was completed in the 13th century, while it has been extended and restored several times since. Today it still stands in its low cover behind the small city centre, strategically hidden from the sea nearby, but glorious when admired from the benches above the hilly cementary. Set in rustic grey and purple slate, this is an almost heavenly highlight of Wales, whether you’re religious or not.
Oriel y Parc Gallery & Visitor Centre
This centre is worth visiting for its architecture alone, but it’s also an excellent place to learn more about the Pembrokeshire Coast and to get inspiration on what to experience around the region. Here you can visit the free gallery, do some souvenir or gift shopping – or just take a rest with a cup of coffee or a light bite. A must-do-stop on your walk down to Caerfai Beach.
SEE ALSO: 12 extraordinary structures around Wales
St Davids Bishop’s Palace
Neighbouring the mighty cathedral, don’t miss out on the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, where you can surround yourself with medieval history and try to imagine how this place might have looked back in the 13th and 14th centuries. The ruins are often used as a unique setting for open-air theatre, concerts and small festivals. An experience I can highly recommend.
There’s a bunch of small galleries in St Davids, but my favourite is Oriel-Y-Felin on Nun Street facing the central Cross Square. Here you’ll find a very interesting mix of local and Welsh art – paintings, smaller sculptures, glass and ceramics. A great place to find an original souvenir to bring home.
A 45 minute walk (or a short busride) from the centre of St Davids, you’ll find the city’s most popular beach known as Whitesands Beach. A very wide and sandy beach surrounded by grassy hills and fields, and popular with both local and visiting surfers, who brave the waves in Whitesands Bay – part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The regional Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs along the beach, also being a part of the National Wales Coast Path. A surf shop and a small café can be found here.
Gianni’s Ice Cream
Try to see if you can pass this place on a sunny day without being tempted. Gianni’s Ice Cream might come with a queue – but trust me, it’s worth it! This artisan ice cream is made with organic milk from a local farm, and comes in a wide range of flavours, including alcoholic variations such as cider, Guinness and Lambrusco. My personal favourite is the salty caramel though, and they even have special made ice cream for dogs.
For spectacular red cliff formations and a more rocky beach, take the 20 minute walk from the city centre to arrive at Caerfai Bay. A beautiful place to catch some sun on a summer’s day, or to start your 4-5 hour coastal walk around St David’s Head to Whitesands Bay. A route on which you will pass by the Chapel of St Non, thought to have been the birthplace of St David himself.
Cwtch means ‘hug’ or ‘cuddle’ in Welsh, and this intimate little restaurant kind of hugs you with its cosy and relaxed atmosphere, while serving up some high quality dishes of local and International character – all for reasonable prices. Highly recommendable whether your’re up for Welsh lamb, steak, chicken, pork or fish. They’ve got some really delicious desserts too. Just remember to book your table in good time.
Whether you arrive by the coastal path or via the road from the city centre, don’t miss out on St Davids’ little picturesque harbour of Porthclais. Wedged in between green hills and with surprisingly blue-greenish water, this is a gathering place for small boats that are bobbing up and down like rubber ducks in a tub. As most places in Pembrokeshire the tidal change is huge here, and the waves can be powerful on stormy days. A perfect place for a break on your coastal walk.
This gem of a surf shop brings a surprisingly urban vibe to the high street of little St Davids – offering everything from surf- and skateboards, to cool clothing and coffee beans. So while you explore its two well-equipped floors, you might think that you’ve ended up in vibrant cities like Miami or L.A. Pop in here to browse the racks or just to chill out with a cuppa!
SEE ALSO: A hostel with heart and history
Boat trips / St. Justinian’s
Several boat touring companies are offering exciting whale and dolphin watching expeditions, that set out from beneath the impressive lifeboat stations at St. Justinian’s – a 40 minute walk from the city centre. Spring is the perfect time to see the colourful puffins around the small islands, while autumn is the big seal pup season. There’s always something to experience. I sure enjoyed my own boat tour a couple of years ago, and the lifeboat stations are definitely worth checking out.
The Peepal Tree
For a breath of ‘exotic air’ in the centre of St Davids, take a look at the colourful selection of fabrics, jewellery and gift items inside The Peepal Tree. An exciting shop focused on fair trade and sustainable crafts from far flung destinations in India, Nepal and Thailand. This is the place to find something special when you visit to St Davids. An uplifting shopping experience.
No trip to Pembrokeshire without visiting some of the local pubs, and St Davids has some really nice options. I gotta go with The Bishops, which offers the classic british pub-atmosphere, with its low ceiling, wooden beams and carpet on the floor – and you’ll find plenty of maritime touches too. A cosy place to enjoy a meal or to hide away with a pint of Welsh cider. And if the sun is out try to catch a seat at the lovely terrace in the back.
Visitor Centre and National Trust Shop
Another must-visit spot while strolling through the city centre is the charity run National Trust shop combined with a small visitor centre. National Trust is dedicated to preserving cultural heritge, historic buildings and natural areas, so when you’re shopping here it’s for a good cause indeed. The shop sells many quality products and gift items – and has a visitor area dedicated to the stunning nature of Pembrokeshire.
Pebbles Yard Gallery and Espresso Bar
Right next to The Bishops, the bright coloured Pebbles Yard Gallery is a combined art shop and coffee house. On the main floor you can browse through paintings and crafts, while coffee, cakes and light bites can be enjoyed in the first floor café. A nice place to take a rest while exploring the city.
Check out visitpembrokeshire.com for more information on this lovely Welsh region.
You will also find much more inspiration to all of Wales right here on on Travelooney Blog.
AND DON’T FORGET to follow the blog’s Facebook page for the latest updates and exciting bonus material