Don’t know about you, but the last few years have persuaded me that when it comes to holidays, there’s no need to leave this green and pleasant island of ours.
There are so many quiet corners and sweet spots worth exploring right here. So why go anywhere else on earth?
Of course, it’s easy to say that sort of thing in the Summer time, when we can head to the British seaside for a health boosting dose of sun, sea and sand. All washed down by lashings of local ice cream.
But when the days are short, the evenings long and the weather grim as mud, it’s very tempting to make excuses, dig out the passport, then head overseas in search of warmer climes and maybe even, different sorts of sorbet. Mmm.
Either way, to test the above theory, I recently decided to spend a holiday by the British seaside in the very depths of Winter.
To see how it feels to be beside the sea when the wind blows, the rain falls sideways and storms are about the only visitors in town.
After a spot of research, I came across a company called, Coastal Cottages, who, as the name suggests, specialise in cottages close to the coast.
They helped me find a delightful place snuggled down in the picturesque patchwork of Pembrokeshire, just outside Tenby. A mere stones throw from the sea.
Must admit, things did not go entirely the way I expected.
Driving to Tenby is actually a joy in of itself. You follow the M4 all the way west to its merry end, then continue on wide open A-roads, twisting and turning as they go. When we were there, they were practically deserted.
Turns out, Pembrokeshire may famously be quieter than Cornwall in the Summer, but in Winter, it is so empty as to be positively peaceful. Like a lost land taking a gentle snooze to escape the excitement of autumn.
What’s the cottage like?
We were staying at Westhills. A homely, cosy and comfortable bungalow that sleeps 7 in three bedrooms, is dog friendly and boasts an open fire in the living room.
It also has oil fired heating throughout which works a treat and feature windows looking out on all fronts.
Waiting for us in the dining room was a friendly note from the owners, encouraging us to let them know if there were any problems, along with a bottle of red wine and some Bara Brith, the Welsh version of a relaxed fruitcake. All very welcome gifts indeed and a great way to start the holiday.
Not sure if this happens every time someone brings their dogs along, but inside the fridge was a box of very tasty looking doggy doughnuts, “dog-nuts,” courtesy of the Pembrokeshire Pet Bakery.
With personalised biscuits on top, showing our dogs names. Everything was made out of dog friendly ingredients, even the brightly coloured, “icing.” Certainly ensured that Mabel and Foggy’s tails were wagging whenever the fridge door was opened.
Outside, it’s got a great lawned garden, with a patio perfectly placed for eating out whilst watching sunsets in summer, or whilst watching children and dogs race around under the spreading boughs of the enormous pine tree.
Of course, none of this applies when the winds blows and the rain falls, but luckily, there are other charms. Several of the rooms have large bay windows, each with great views.
The living room in particular has a sharply pointed bay that overlooks the valley below and the sea beyond. Sitting on the window seat, sipping tea, as the wind moaned all around whilst curtains of rain scythed down across the valley, was a thrill all in itself.
Giving you the glorious feeling of being on a small boat at sea in the midst of a gale, when actually, you were tucked up cosy and warm on dry land trying to work out what to have for dinner.
Before arriving at the cottage, we called at a local butchers to pick up some superb steaks, then stopped at a roadside honesty box filled with fab looking, locally grown greens.
After which we went to the cottage, opened the mighty fine bottle of red left for us, cooked an even finer dinner and spent the rest of the evening in front of the fire listening to the weather outside, wondering if life could ever get any better.
Really was a great start to the staycation. Just what you want from a relaxing break.
Things to do walking from Westhills
The next morning, the clouds parted and we set off down the lane beside the cottage, four minutes stroll took us to the National Trust owned Lydstep Headland.
Turning left takes you to a dog friendly beach, turning right takes you along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. As ever with the coastal path, the views were incredible. Also gave us a front row seat view of the ever changing weather at this time of year.
Not so much four seasons in one day, more like four seasons in one mile. Strangely enough, we were the only ones out and about to enjoy it.
As we rounded the headland leading to Church Doors Cove, the sun came out, the light shone golden bright and it felt as if we had discovered our very own, private seaside paradise.
The two small dogs were in doggy heaven, racing around the soft sandy beaches, chasing waves and having the time of their doggy lives.
Things to do driving from Westhills
Next day, we took the eight minute drive into Tenby. Expecting it to be as deserted as the roads, with most of it closed down for the winter. In fact, it was gently humming with activity.
Nothing like summer, obviously, when it’s hard to find somewhere to stop, let alone park. Instead it was pleasantly busy, with smiling strangers nodding to one another as they passed in the street, wishing each other well.
Some places had shut down for the season. With signs varying from, “closed,” to “closed all day,” right the way up to, “closed til summer” But they were relatively rare.
There were still plenty of cafes, shops, bars and businesses with doors thrown wide open just waiting to welcome in wanderers.
After a couple of happy hours spent in cafes, shops, exploring the hidden back ways and alleys of Tenby, we realised we were getting peckish. So popped into the nearest Fish and Chippy, getting our takeaway cod and chips home before they even had time to stop steaming.
Twenty minutes drive from the cottage takes you to the charming little seaside town of Saundersfoot. When we arrived, rain was streaming down the windscreen, leaving us no choice but to sit tight and wait it out.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, the sky cleared and the sun came out. Able to resist anything but temptation, we climbed out of the car and made our way over to a nearby stall selling locally made ice cream.
Within minutes, I was on the beach, eating a chocatello cornet, watching the dogs zoom in and out of the surf, whilst the sun shone and behind us, a rainbow arched its way across the sky. Perfect.
Must admit, there was a part of me expecting to have to grit my teeth whilst pretending to enjoy a blustery break by the seaside in winter.
But it never happened. Instead, found myself thoroughly enjoying every moment on deserted beaches, strolling along empty paths or seeking out views to savour whilst having a most joyously peaceful time. Whatever the weather did, it didn’t dent the mood. The whole trip was completely fab.
Proves that even in the wettest, windiest and stormiest depths of a bleak midwinter, you can still find sun, sea, sand and, delicious local ice cream at the British seaside.
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, whatever the season!
More Info On Coastal Cottages
Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire is a family run holiday cottage agency based in West Wales, now celebrating its 41st year in business.
Their collection of 500 cottages ranges from traditional stone houses to one-of-a-kind holiday homes, with a dedicated in-house Concierge team offering hand-crafted welcome packages and exclusive experiences.
The only privately-run full-service agency in Wales consists of a small local team guaranteeing first-hand expertise of the area and portfolio, with a commitment to protecting Pembrokeshire’s landscape for holidaymakers to enjoy for years to come.
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