Make the trip for…
Britain’s smallest town (population 1,350) has history and heritage in abundance and is close to the beaches of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It also houses the country’s first contemporary art hotel. Twr y Felin, a windmill built in 1806, is now a hotel/gallery. The owner commissioned more than 100 artworks depicting Pembrokeshire and St Davids when the hotel opened in 2015, and a further 70 for an expansion in 2021.
Sinister portraits of Welsh stars like Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey by street artist Pure Evil Eyeball Diners in the restaurant; spray-painted landscapes by Mr. Jago enliven the gallery-style lounge; and depictions of drunken escapades inspired by Dylan Thomas and painted by Cherry Pickles spur on the drinkers in the bar.
Oriel Y Parc, St Davids’ eco-friendly gallery and visitor center is a stone’s throw from the hotel and features exhibitions on local nature, geology and archaeology. The gallery often features works by Graham Sutherland, who was inspired by the Pembrokeshire countryside, and hosts temporary exhibitions by visiting artists in its tower. The Riverside cultural center in Haverfordwest, 16 miles from St Davids, also features works by Sutherland and other Welsh artists including Gwen and Augustus John.
St David’s has been a place of pilgrimage since 1120 and its magnificent cathedral with its carved oak nave ceiling and many chapels is still an unmissable sight. Next door is the Bishop’s Palace, which once rivaled the Cathedral for glory and is now a picturesque ruin (£4.80/£3.40).
Shopping for souvenirs
Several venues in St Davids sell work by local artists including the New Street Gallery, Goat Street Gallery and Albion Gallery. Some fishing villages also have thriving arts scenes, including Solva and Porthgain, home to the family-run Harbor Lights Gallery, the 18th-century Sloop Inn and a fish-and-chips bistro, The Shed.
When to go
The Cathedral hosts events throughout the year, while August hosts open-air shows in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace. The Festival Arts Theater Company has performed everything from family shows to Shakespeare since 1969.
The 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is just a mile from the town. The St Davids and Solva Art Group suggests places to draw along the way, including Porthclais Harbour, St Justinian’s Lifeboat Station, views of Ramsey Island and St David’s Head.
drinks and dinner
There are some fantastic pubs in town: Farmers and Bishops. Farmers has an open fire in winter, a terrace with an outside bar and views of the cathedral, and live music most weekends. Bishops is more food-focused, with Welsh dishes such as fagots, lamb cawl and rarebit, as well as locally sourced lobster, crab and mackerel. St Davids Gin and Kitchen specializes in Welsh tapas, steaks and seafood platters. Twr y Felin’s Blas Restaurant serves afternoon tea (2pm-4.30pm) with a free art tour on request. The fine dining dinner menu showcases ingredients from both the land and the coast, such as cod poached in olive oil with Jerusalem artichoke, smoked eel and chicken sauce (£26).
Twr y Felin has 41 en suite rooms, all with original artwork (doubles from £97.50 B&B, plus a free dinner with a two night stay until 31st March). The Tyddewi Suite occupies three floors of the original windmill tower and offers panoramic views of the islands of Skomer, Grassholm and Ramsey, St Brides Bay and the Preseli Hills. St Davids Escapes offers a range of cozy holiday homes in St Davids, Solva and Porthgain. Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park is a family run campsite 300 meters from the beach and less than a mile from the town center (pitches from £18 per night for two people).
The area is served by Haverfordwest railway station with trains from Milford Haven, Cardiff and Manchester. There are connecting buses to St Davids.