An artsy weekend in… St Davids, Pembrokeshire

Take the trip to…
Britain’s smallest town (population 1,350) has a history and heritage in spades 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 representing Pembrokeshire and St Davids when the hotel opened in 2015, and another 70 for a 2021 extension.

Sinister portraits of Welsh stars Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey by street artist Pure Evil diners in the restaurant; spray-painted landscapes by Mr. Jago enliven the gallery-like drawing room; and Dylan Thomas-inspired depictions of drunken antics painted by Cherry Pickles stimulate drinkers at the bar.

And now?
L’Oriel Y Parc, the ecological gallery and visitor center of St Davids, is a stone’s throw from the hotel and hosts exhibitions on local nature, geology and archaeology. The gallery frequently displays work by Graham Sutherland, who was inspired by the Pembrokeshire landscape, and hosts temporary exhibitions by visiting artists in his tower. The Riverside Cultural Center in Haverfordwest, 16 miles from St Davids, also exhibits work by Sutherland and other Welsh artists including Gwen and Augustus John.

St David’s Cathedral. Photograph: Sebastian Wasek/Alamy

St Davids has been a pilgrimage site 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 in 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 New Street Gallery, Goat Street Gallery and Albion Gallery. Some fishing villages also have thriving arts scenes, including Solva and Porthgain, which is home to the family-run Harbor Lights Gallery, the 18th-century Sloop Inn and a fish and chip bistro, the Shed.

When we go
Events take place at the cathedral all year round, while in August there are open-air shows in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace. The Festival Arts Theater Company has been performing everything from family plays to Shakespeare since 1969.

Go out

Pembrokeshire coast

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path offers excellent drawing opportunities. Photograph: CW Images/Alamy

The 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coastal Path comes within a mile of the town. The St Davids and Solva Art Group suggest points along the route for sketching, including Porthclais Harbour, St Justinian’s Lifeboat Station, views of Ramsey Island and St David’s Head.

Drinks and dinner
There are a couple of great pubs in town – the Farmers and Bishops. The Farmers has an open fireplace in the winter, a patio with an outdoor bar and cathedral views, plus live music most weekends. The Bishops is more about the food, with Welsh dishes like fennel, cawl of lamb and rarebit, and local lobster, crab and mackerel. St Davids Gin and Kitchen specializes in ‘Welsh tapas’, steak and fish dishes. Twr y Felin’s restaurant, Blas, serves afternoon tea (2-4.30pm), with a free art tour on request. Its fine-dining evening menu showcases ingredients from the countryside and the coast, such as poached cod in olive oil with Jerusalem artichoke, smoked eel and chicken gravy (£26).

Twr y Felin has 41 en-suite bedrooms, all with original artwork (doubles from £97.50 B&B, plus one free dinner for two-night stays, until 31st March). His Tyddewi Suite occupies three floors of the original windmill tower and offers panoramic views of Skomer, Grassholm and Ramsey Islands, St Brides Bay and the Preseli Hills. St Davids Escapes have a range of cozy holiday cottages in St Davids, Solva and Porthgain. Caerfai Bay Caravan and Tent Park is a family run campsite 300m from the beach and less than a mile from the town center (pitches from £18 a night for two).

Getting there
The area is served by Haverfordwest railway station, with trains from Milford Haven, Cardiff and Manchester. There are connecting buses to St Davids.

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