When thinking of vacationing in the UK, most people automatically gravitate towards London, Manchester and Edinburgh. As beautiful and cosmopolitan as those cities are, many forget that the British Isles also cradle the beauty of Wales. The Pembrokeshire area on the island of Wales hides gorgeous cliffside beaches, an idyllic rolling countryside and quaint, colourful towns.
Pembrokeshire, or as the Welsh call it, Sir Benfro, is the perfect place to live in, with friendly locals, tree-lined roads and sheep galore. And if you are looking for a budget trip, this part of the world is much cheaper to visit than the tourist-traps of London, Liverpool and such.
Studying in the UK is a unique privilege. You get to learn a lot and mingle with different cultures and people. At the same time, you are often exhaustingly broke, especially if the rate of conversion is not on your side. One of the first things I learned when I went to the UK was to leave behind the whole concept of mentally converting pounds to rupees, lest I go a little cuckoo!
While there are a host of lovely houses to live in and a lot of super convenient student housing options, the cost of living often makes or breaks the people staying in the UK. Having lived in multiple student houses, PGs and hostels through life, my mantra has become simple.
When student accommodations are sucking your bank account dry, it’s time to shift bases.
As our stint in the UK was coming to an end, my friend and I decided to save some of the money that we were funnelling towards lodging and reinvest it in travel. Thus began our journey of looking for housing far away from commercial centres and closer to the myriads of beautiful locales that the isles have to offer. Ricocheting between Scotland and Wales, we decided to find a place where we could satisfy our craving for the fresh ocean breeze and the need to travel roads less taken.
After intensive googling and going back and forth between many perfect-looking options, we rented an Airbnb in Neyland, across Pembroke dock, for a quarter of the price that we were paying for the student accommodations. Booking an Airbnb for more than a few days came with its own unique perks and we booked ours for two whole months. There was a discount because of the long duration of our stay and as our Airbnb was a whole apartment instead of a few rooms in a house where the landlord lives within the premises, we had the place to ourselves.
Neyland is a very tiny town, consisting of one main road sloping down to the marina. You can see the diamond-crusted waters of the Pembroke dock from almost any point in the town and there are conveniently placed benches every few meters, where you can catch ruddy sunsets and gaze at the crystal-studded sky.
Being much cheaper in general than the big cities in England and Scotland, Wales is the perfect place to live on a budget. You can buy fresh farm produce from the markets and head to Pembroke to find all that you need to live in comfort. The best way to save money, after low-cost accommodation, is to travel via bus. The stops have schedules for the buses that ply in the area and it is a good idea to find the nearest bus stop to your house and remember the buses that go through.
Usually, the buses connect all the major hubs in the small, gorgeous area—so going to places like Milford Haven or Pembroke Dock would not be a problem at all. Catching a bus to Swansea or Cardiff is also pretty easy, just a small hike up the main road to Honeyborough roundabout. The National Express buses go through there.
Another great way to travel in Pembrokeshire is to buy the railcard and take the train from Pembroke dock. The station is a quaint junction and all the trains have great Wi-Fi. If you think you love railway travel, the tracks that travel along the craggy cliffs bordering the sea will make you reconsider everything you thought you had seen. There are panoramic views to fall in love with, in Pembrokeshire.
You will find in the course of your journey, whether by train or bus, huge undulating farms with horses running parallel to the tracks and lovely old buildings with children playing in the yard. Most local sightseeing in Pembrokeshire can be done via local buses and for the more adventurous souls, there is trekking and hiking.
For self-professed mermaids and water-lovers, Wales has a staggering 2,740 km of coastline including offshore islands, dramatic cliffs, secluded sandy beaches and rock pools to explore. All provide a spectacular backdrop for a range of leisure activities and water sports.
Harbour porpoises are easily spotted from the coast of Pembrokeshire and there are several boat trips available into the deep waters nearby, where you can come across bottlenose dolphins that live here. Huge fin whales and smaller whales can also be seen sometimes.
Here are some places in Pembrokeshire that you must visit:
There's a unique feel to Carew Castle and this tiny hamlet is dominated by the 13th-century castle that stands proudly over its millpond. Its unusual setting has a lot to do with its picture-perfect facade, overlooking the millpond spread over 23 acres. Its subsequent gentrification as a rather splendid Elizabethan country house demonstrates the rich and colourful heritage of the castle, which has recently undergone a major renovation in the past few years.