Music, food and the last invasion of Britain

48 hours in Fishguard

If you fancy some peace and coastal tranquillity, walks in ancient woodlands, or cwtches by an open fire with a local ale in hand, the sweet coastal town of Fishguard awaits.

Set across two parts, the main township perches on the top of the hill, while Lower Town cups a small river that flows into an idyllic harbour.

On your first day…

What better way to start the day (or work up an appetite for brunch!) than with a nice walk and some spectacular views? If this sounds like your cup of tea, then make your way up to the old fort, a 1 mile walk from the town centre or 0.5 miles from Lower Town. Facing north and with expansive views both east and west, this spot makes the perfect vantage point to survey your surroundings, watch the ferry come in, or have a picnic in a spot of historic interest. The canons, which can still be found at the fortress, formed the defence line that prevented the last invasion of Britain in 1797 – along with a crowd of local women who looked so fierce in their tall black hats and red cloaks that the French withdrew in terror!

Fishguard Fort at Lower Town

Once you’ve had your fill of clifftop views, head back up to town for brunch or lunch at the airy and spacious Mannings Ffres ar y Wesh. A café and greengrocers by day serving delicious hot food and cakes (including options for dietary requirements), its seating spills out into a lovely sunny garden, where there’s plenty of covered tables, as well as a quirky bar tent which opens up for evening entertainment.

With full bellies, stop in at the town hall to marvel at the impressive 100ft Last Invasion Tapestry, designed and hand-woven by more than 80 local women on the invasion’s bicentenary to tell the story of the dramatic event, before taking an amble down to Lower Town to explore the picturesque harbour (best at high tide).

Quaint cottages border the water, tiny boats gently sway and move in the current, twisting slowly around their moorings, and sunny benches dotted along the harbour wall provide the perfect spot for you to sit and enjoy the view. Absorb the mellow atmosphere watching fish rise and jump, children catch crabs with bacon on lines from the walls and people swim off the slipway near the yacht club, where you can often get fresh lobster and crab sandwiches. If you feel like getting wet, or getting on the water, why not try a kayak tour from Kayak-King, or stand-up paddleboard session from Board Games, who operate out of the harbour.

Paddleboarding session with Board Games

An afternoon of activity will have you ready for a tasty evening meal, so try Peppers, or JT at the Abergwaun Hotel for good food, followed by a drink at one of the numerous characterful pubs dotted around town. The Royal Oak hosts informal folk nights every Tuesday, where you’ll catch a small bunch of locals with instruments jamming together, or, for old and traditional pub vibes, head to the tiny Ship Inn at Lower Town.

If drinking isn’t your thing, catch a film or performance at Theatre Gwaun, an independent theatre and cinema screening a range of films including art house and foreign cinema. Embedded in north Pembrokeshire’s cultural scene, Theatre Gwaun hosts events as part of several annual Fishguard-based music festivals. On the August bank holiday, jazz and blues music take over the town during AberJazz; for classical music lovers, the Fishguard International Music Festival is a ten-day extravaganza that attracts excellent musicians, orchestras and ensembles from across the globe to perform in venues across north Pembrokeshire.

Folk night in the Royal Oak

The next day…

There are so many beautiful spots near Fishguard to explore, but before you leave town, stop at Seaways Bookshop to pick up a holiday read. The lovely independent shop stocks a great range of books for adults and children alike, including some fabulous nature writing, local maps, greeting cards and art supplies.

Prepare for your day out with a tasty picnic and coffee-to-go from The Gourmet Pig, who roast their coffee on site and stock lovely artisan treats to nourish your adventures, including Pembrokeshire cheeses, fresh pies, jams, chutneys and other great local produce. Or grab lunch from Peppers café at the West Wales Art Centre and peruse its quirky rooms, where each wall, space and surface is covered with some of Pembrokeshire’s finest original artwork. Pass through the small downstairs room half-filled by a grand piano, where intimate live music sessions are held, out onto the terrace for a coffee. Also a bottle shop for fine wines and open for evening meals, Peppers at the West Wales Art Centre is great at any time of day, especially when live music drifts between rooms and fills its higgledy-piggledy spaces with a mellow sound.

Strumble Head and lighthouse

Armed with a picnic, jump on the Strumble Shuttle Bus and head out to Strumble Head, where you’ll find a picturesque lighthouse atop a small island just off the coast. As one of the best seal and porpoise watching spots – not only in Pembrokeshire but the whole of the UK – in autumn the pebbled beaches play host to young pups that are easily visible from the coastal path. The walking both north and south along the coast path from Strumble Head is fantastic.

There are also some lovely woodland walks in the Gwaun Valley, following the river Gwaun that gives its name to the Fishguard’s Welsh title, Abergwaun. You can amble through ancient oaks alongside burbling water – beautiful at any time of the year but even more so when the leaves turn in autumn. Stop for a pint at the Dyffryn Arms in the village of Llanychaer, where landlady Bessie will serve you beer from a jug in her front-room pub that has been in her family since 1840.

Horseriders stop for a break at The Dyffryn Arms or Bessie's

Garden lovers should take a trip 3 miles east of Fishguard to Dyffryn Fernant. This 6-acre garden lovingly created from a wilderness by Christina and David Shand is a joy to visit. The 3-acre landscape garden at Penlan Uchaf in the Gwaun valley is also worth exploring, not only for the planting but the wonderful tearoom with views across the valley. Farmer Robert Vaughan of Penlan Uchaf also produces amazing lamb and beef, and you may be lucky to see some of his beautiful pedigree Longhorn cattle roaming the hillside.

Dyffryn Fernant garden

Back in Fishguard for the evening, it’s worth stopping at Bar Five for a drink on the balcony overlooking the tree-framed harbour and out to sea. This bar has a lovely, private outdoor courtyard where there is live music on the last Sunday of each month.

…Sounds like a perfect weekend to us, what about you?

Last Invasion Tapestry

The rocky outcrop of Garn Fawr, site of a large Iron-age hill fort with terrific coastal views back towards St David’s Head.

Paul Bray, The Telegraph