Harbours and Quays in Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is surrounded by sea on three sides, so it’s only natural that we have stunning harbours and quays to match our beautiful beaches. Once bustling with fishing vessels and industrial activity, these historic locations have since transformed into stunning tourist destinations that still maintain their charming community spirit.
You’ll find everything from high-class dining and art galleries, to family-friendly attractions and wonderful walking routes. Here are some of Pembrokeshire’s most famous harbours and ports that should be on your list of places to visit while staying at Bluestone.
Cresswell Quay is a picture-postcard hamlet situated on the Cresswell River which offers a quaint and quiet retreat for locals and tourists alike. It was once a bustling river port, exporting coal from some 50 small pits not far inland and taking it to Lawrenny for export in larger sailing vessels to destinations near and far. Grade II Listed buildings and the ruins of many old industrial buildings also testify to the importance of this stunning village’s industrial heritage.
Nowadays, visitors can while away the time on the quay and enjoy a trip to the Cresselly Arms, dining and drinking al fresco style in front of a beautiful backdrop of parkland trees and a beautiful view of the river before them.
Until the turn of the 19th century, the name Fishguard Harbour meant the narrow inlet with its stone quay and warehouse under the cliffs beneath the town itself where the river Gwaun flows into the sea. This little hamlet, known as Lower Fishguard, was the community from which the town itself developed on its cliff-top site.
However, in 1906 the name took on a whole new meaning when ambitious plans to develop a transatlantic liner port beneath the cliffs on the other side of the bay, near the little fishing village of Goodwick, came to fruition. Breakwaters were built to protect the north-facing bay, and thousands of tons of cliff rock were blasted away to create the sheltered quay which would link the Cunard liner service to the new Great Western Railway terminus, bringing in express trains from Paddington.
Fishguard’s other claim to fame is that in 1954, the coastal town was a location for the film ‘Moby Dick’, featuring Gregory Peck, Leo Genn, Glenys Johns, while other famous stars including Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Welsh comedy actor Ryan Davies, visited the old port at Lower Town in 1975 for scenes for the film of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’.
Milford Haven Marina
Once crowded with trawlers at the peak of the hake fishing boom, 60 or 70 years ago, Milford Haven Marina is now packed with yachts, cruisers and motor boats and the wharves and fishing industry buildings have been transformed into quayside shops, boutiques, salons, studios, cafes, art galleries and restaurants.
The views of the harbour attract a lot of visitors, with glimpses of berthed trawlers and supertankers, the passing Irish ferry and the to-ing and fro-ing of fishing boats, for Milford Haven still hangs on to what is left of its fishing industry - once one of the UK’s major ports. The Museum is a fascinating mirror of the port’s and the town’s past, and overlooking from Hamilton Terrace is The Lord Nelson Hotel, a reminder that the great man once visited the town and praised its deep water harbour as the finest in the world bar Trincomalee.
The marina development includes a complex of stylish marine apartments, while the boatyard seems constantly busy repairing, maintaining and restoring yachts and keel boats which can often be seen moving between the yard and the slipway on the cradle of a huge transporter.
Neyland Marina Yacht Haven
Tucked between wooded banks at the lower end of the narrow Westfield Pill, near the high-level Cleddau Bridge, Neyland Yacht Haven enjoys a prime position in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Neyland was the terminus for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s South Wales Railway in 1856, later to become the Great Western Railway, and the line snaked through the valley into Neyland station - a stone’s throw from where the Marina buildings are today.
Indeed, the complex is known as Brunel Quay - and there is a fine bronze statue of the famous Victorian engineer at the approach to the Marina. The 10ft high statue is, in fact, a replica of the original placed there a decade or so ago, which was stolen by unscrupulous scrap-metal thieves. The Brunel cafe and bar restaurant is a busy and popular rendezvous for yachtsmen and visitors with the bonus of fine views across the marina, while there is also a large visitor berthing pontoon and nearby haul-out facilities, boatyards. boat repairs and chandlers.
The sheltered little harbour at Porthgain on the North coast between St Davids Head and Strumble Head confirms the beauty of the area, combining fishing with another industry which has left substantial industrial archaeology behind. On one side of the harbour are cottages and a popular pub called The Sloop, while on the other, towering over the stout stone quay are the remains of the massive chutes of the crushing plant of a once-flourishing granite quarry. The massive stone crushing works seen at Porthgain today were built, with a tramway linking the plant to the quarry half a mile away, and the harbour was soon packed with steamers taking the various grades of roadstone away to Bristol, Devon, Newhaven, Newport and Haverfordwest.
Prosperity reigned until World War One when the conflict caused a slump, while the World War Two period benefited from a demand for stone to build the many airfields which sprang up in the county. It was all downhill after that, and in the 1950s the National Trust acquired the workings, which remain as a monument to an industry with a very chequered history.
Dam-buster hero, Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, spent much of his childhood romping on the sands and exploring the harbour at Saundersfoot. But as a carefree child enjoying seaside adventures, he was unaware that he would be demolishing massive dam walls in World War Two, or that the destruction would be an echo of what the sea did to the stout walls of Saundersfoot harbour in October 1836.
A south-easterly hurricane blew in with such violence that the huge seas it generated smashed through the stout wall of the harbour over a length of about 30 yards. The harbour was barely two years old at this time and the storm also damaged two ships out of six sheltering in the harbour at the time. Once an important centre of coal exportation, as well as iron ore, the Harbour has gradually shifted its emphasis towards tourism and the marina which thrives there today.
The old Jones and Teague building at the end of the Harbour has been used to create a new marine tourism centre - the Wales International Coastal Centre - for activities which include sailing, paddle boarding, and coastal rowing.
Solva is a small coastal village set in a deep inlet on the north shore of St Brides Bay, well hidden from the sea end, where the cliffs curve round in a protective arc. Reminiscent of similar secret harbours on the Devon and Cornwall coasts, the traffic between Newgale and St Davids descends steeply in either direction, virtually to sea level, taking the visitor quite suddenly into an earlier era. Stone cottages line the narrow main street and a carpark, with yachts sharing the space with the vehicles, allows visitors to take a walk down the quay to the Yacht Club on one side and the southern shore on the other. Solva harbour was once the main trading centre of the bay, with around 30 registered trading ships in the 18th century.
Now it is a centre for yachting and boating, and a prime location for walks along the 180-mile-long National Park Coastal Footpath between the Cardiganshire border at Poppit and the Carmarthenshire boundary at Amroth. There are all kinds of water sports and visitors are well-catered for with gift shops, an art gallery, pubs offering excellent food and restaurant facilities and, at nearby Middle Mill, the oldest continuously working woollen mill in the County with its own tea room and shop.
Stackpole Quay, tucked under the South Pembrokeshire cliffs between Stackpole Head and Greenala Point, was built in Georgian times by the wealthy, land-owning Cawdor family as part of a major landscaping project. The ambitious scheme included not only a new mansion at Stackpole Court, but the damming of rivers to create 100 acres of lakes on the 15,000-acre estate and to landscape the beach at Broad Haven South.
Ornate bridges, including an elegant eight-arched structure, were erected crossing the lakes and in the man-made estuary meandering down to the beach they created the spectacular Bosherston Lily ponds, a popular tourist attraction. Stackpole Quay was built to accommodate the Cawdor family’s love of sailing, as well as to serve the coastal trade in limestone and other commodities.
There is a car park there to serve visitors to the nearby beaches of Broad Haven South and Barafundle, and a charge is made during the tourist season.
Tenby Harbour is a picturesque sight with its moored pleasure boats and fishing craft beached at low tide or bobbing when the water is high. Seen from the High Street above North Beach it is like a film set, backed by Castle Hill, with the remains of its Norman castle, now housing the resort’s fascinating private Museum.
Castle Hill is the springboard for the Tenby Lifeboat where a new boathouse was built recently and the old accommodation was converted into a residence. Just around the corner Tenby Pier jutted out from Castle Hill, but this Victorian structure was demolished in the 1950s as it was deemed unsafe and uneconomical to repair. An arched gateway off the Castle Square leads down to Castle Beach, a sheltered sandy cove between the North and South beaches.
There just a few yards offshore is St Catherine’s Island, with its Palmerston fort on the top. Tenby has 40 hotels and many guest houses and a wide range of cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops. All kinds of activities for tourists are provided in the vicinity of the harbour. Tuition in surfing, sailing, swimming and other sports are available, as well as rockpool exploration and other diversions for children, organised by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, which regards Tenby as one of the jewels in its portfolio of tourist attractions.