After walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales for 10 days, the city of St. Davids was a pleasant retreat from rural coastal walking. As the smallest city in the UK, you can find a lot of great things to do in St. Davids, whether you’re just passing through or staying for a couple of days.
I really enjoyed St. Davids and was surprised by the wide variety of places to eat and things to explore near St. Davids. Check out my guide with the 10 best things to do in St. Davids, Wales.
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10 Best Things To Do In St. Davids – Wales
St. Davids, Wales
St. Davids, on the tip of St. Davids Peninsula in South-West Wales, is the smallest city in the United Kingdom. Since the 16e century, St. Davids was granted city rights due to their Cathedral. These city rights were taken away in 1886 but on special request, Queen Elizabeth, re-granted them to the city of St. Davids.
If that doesn’t convince you to visit the tiniest city in the UK, then these 10 great things to do might persuade you!
Best Things To Do In St. Davids, Wales
St. Davids was an intermediate stop, while we hiked the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The city is a great base to explore the area around St. Davids or rest up a bit after some intense days of walking. I just recovered from a severe stomach bug and was feeling slightly better by the time we arrived in St. Davids. Better enough to explore and take in the great sites and beaches around St. Davids.
1.Visit St. David’s Cathedral
As soon as we arrived in St. Davids from Solva, we headed straight to the Cathedral of St. Davids. After days of walking and being out in nature, I was craving some sightseeing and wanted to take in the history and grandeur of such a historic site.
The Cathedral sits on the site of the former St. David’s Monastery, the pilgrimage site where people from across Wales pay homage to their patron’s saint. St. Davids was a Celtic saint from the 6th century. He was born in nearby St. Non’s (see below) and besides the cathedral and the city, the St. David’s Festival is also named after the saint.
As we approached St. Davids Cathedral from the main city square, I was surprised by the grandeur and magnitude of the cathedral. For such a small city, it really is a BIG cathedral. You can visit the cathedral and admire the 16the century oak ceiling and the outward leaning wall.
Walking around the cathedral is one of the must-do things in St. Davids. You can take your time taking in the building, admire the silent and embrace the halls filled with history.
Bonus: Visit Bishop’s Palace
The nearby Bishop’s Palace shows you the richness and wellness of the bishops of the 13th century. Roam around the Great Hall and admire the staterooms for a peek into the abundant lifestyle of Bishop Henry de Gower.
2. St. Non’s Retreat and St. Non’s Chapel
If you like to pay homage to the Saint of St. Davids and his mom. Or you just like old, historic and crumbling buildings, edged on a cliff with a magnificent view, then a visit to St. Non’s Retreat and St. Non’s Chapel must be on your list of things to see in St. Davids.
Follow Goat St. from St. Davids, or follow the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, to visit this remote retreat and the remains of the Well and Chapel.
St. Davids was born on this site, around 500 ACE. The retreat now holds his mother’s name. You can find more information here.
Today you can enter the little chapel. Only room for a couple of chairs and an altar, it is quite the reflective hide-out overlooking the cliff and the sea beyond. You can encounter dog walkers who hide for the rain or a devout pilgrim, lighting a candle.
St. Non’s Well is a little further away. At the moment of our visit, the area was closed off due to possible landslides but we could see some ruins in the land from historic farmland activities.
3. Oriel y Parc Gallery & Visitor Centre
Just on the left side of the road, as you enter St. Davids, sits the greenest building in the area. This tourist office, visitor center, gallery, and education center is tucked away in the landscape.
It has enough parking space, a cafe and toilet facilities. As well as a great opportunity to learn about the landscape of St. Davids, and the history of the area. The exhibit area has different rotation art and science collections year-round.
When we visited we could see the skeleton of a bison-like animal, artifacts made of flintstone and several fossils and pictures of cave paintings.
We spent roughly 1 hour at the Oriel Y Parc to take in the exhibit and different pieces of art.
4. Best Beaches Near St. Davids
As St. Davids is situated at the center of the peninsula, you cannot leave St. Davids without a visit to one of its pristine beaches.
From St. Davids, several roads (and bus services) will take you down the coast and the beaches below, but you can also explore them while walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
We visited a couple of them, and my favorites were:
Easily accessible from St. Davids with picnic facilities and sweeping views across to Solva and Skomer Island. Because the beach is south facing, it might be the sunniest side of St. Davids. Other than a small free car park, there are no facilities here.
Technically not a beach, but it is a great place to stay a bit and take in the views of the water and the changing sea level at the tiny harbor. A regular bus service runs by here or you can walk from town.
The colorful pinnacles of the harbor make for interesting shots and you can enjoy some home-made cakes and a cup of tea at the small shop near the car park. You’ll find toilet facilities here too.
Whitesands Beach St. Davids
Whitesands Beach is THE beach to go to near St. Davids. It is the widest, the largest and it has lovely white sands. It is the ultimate surf spot year-round and offers all facilities for a day at the beach.
Regular bus services leave from St. Davids, there are a (paid) car park and toilet facilities with tap water. Daily surf lessons can be taken too.
5. Visit Ramsey Island from St. Davids
One of the 4 largest islands of Wales, Ramsey Island offers a lot to the visitors who seek quietness and love birdwatching. It measures 259 hectares (640 acres) and is an RSPB Wildlife sanctuary.
For a fee, you can enter the island and explore the visitor center, followed by a walk to spot numerous birds and marine wildlife in the many inlets around the island.
6. Boat Trips from St. Davids
From St. Davids, you can also take numerous boat trips. This was one of the main reasons we booked an extra day in St. Davids but sadly, our trip got canceled.
Luckily, St. Davids has plenty of other things to do, but always keep in mind boat trips are subject to the weather conditions.
Boat Trip around Ramsey Island
If you don’t feel like landing on Ramsey Island, you can also take a boat trip around the island. You’ll take a nice trip by boat, while the crew explains you all about the geology of Ramsey Island and take you to secret inlets and hide-outs for millions of birds. Check for trips here.
Whale and Dolphin Watching Trips
We booked one of these. You go on an extensive boat trip, far out to sea to spot dolphins and when possible whales! Doesn’t that sound amazing. You have to be lucky though, with the weather and pick the right time of the year to do so. June to September are the best times. Check for details here.
Other boat trips from St. Davids
Numerous local companies offer boat trips around the waters of St. Davids, to Ramsey Island but also to more remote Skomer Island. As Skomer Island is quite a boat ride away, I recommend going to Marloes and visit Skomer and Skokholm Island from there.
7. St. Davids Walks
The peninsula of St. Davids was made for walking! Not only is St. Davids surrounded by one of the most beautiful coastal walking paths in the world, but it also offers plenty of opportunities for getting to the trailheads.
As we visited St. Davids during our hike of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, we mainly focused on the coast path for our walking. I’ll explain a bit more about what you can expect.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path near St. Davids
St.Davids is located in the heart of the St. Davids Peninsula and is literally surrounded by an amazing, well-maintained walking path: the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. I was just recovering from a severe stomach bug so I needed to catch my breath a bit more than average, but the Pembrokeshire Coast Path around St. Davids was quite easy and relatively flat.
Caerfai Bay to Porthclais Harbour
The day before, we arrived in St. Davids from Solva, so we picked up the trail again at Caerfai Bay. We walked from town and took the road next to the Oriel y Parc. We passed campsites and dairy farms and finally reached the lovely beach of Caerfai Bay. It was still early in the morning and cloudy, but it proved to be a lovely day.
The grass was freshly cut, leaving room for swarms of purple lupines to stick out their heads and great us on the trail. We rounded the corner to St. Non’s Bay and visited the chapel (see above) and the ruins and remains in the landscape.
After an hour or so, we reached Porthclais Harbour were the retreating water left the boats out on the dry. The pinnacles of the opposite cliff showed some dramatic colors that the sea left behind and we took a photo stop here. As I waited with cake and tea at the car park, my boyfriend was out to take pictures.
Hiking Pembrokeshire Coast Path in video
What is it like to hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales? We walked the full Coastal Path from Amroth to St.Dogmaels in springtime and I recorded a video of each hiking day. Check out a compilation of the best, the most beautiful, and the worst moments on the trail!
Find more video’s about my travels on YouTube. Make sure to follow me to get a notification when I upload new videos.
Porthclais Harbour to Ramsey Sound
After this long break, the sun came out and we continued walking for another hour on the trail. The trail was so green in this part and we kept looking down from the cliffs to see if we could spot some animals in the water below.
As it was so quiet in this part of the trail, we were stopped by a rumbling sound in the distance. We didn’t really know what it was and speculated about a big river or another water stream ahead. But I looked on the map previously and didn’t recall a large river of some sort?
As it turned out, we arrived at Ramsey Sound! The small part of water, separating Ramsey Island from the rest of Wales. Water was gushing through the narrow straight with alarming magnitude and noise!
Ramsey Sound to St. Justinian’s
The path from Ramsey Sound was a bit difficult. Not so much because of altitude gain, but agricultural activities had seriously left their marks on the path. Large tractor tracks left permanent marks in the earth and I twisted my ankle a couple of times.
Luckily I had my Black Diamond trekking poles with adjustable height with me. If you prefer the same trekking poles as me, but with cork handles, then check the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Poles here. My boyfriend uses the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z trekking poles which are 1 size but can be folded and are ultra-lightweight.
After 45 minutes we saw the orange roof of the St. Justinian’s lifeguard in the distance. As I seriously needed a bathroom, we decided to go check it out. Sadly, no bathroom but we did learn a lot about the activities of the Wales Coastguard and the role the St. Justinian’s lifeguard fulfills.
St. Justinian’s to Whitesands Beach
You can almost see Whitesands Beach as you leave St. Justinian’s, but it took us nearly an hour to get there. I was getting tired by now, so I moved slower. And there was a lot to see on the way too!
We spotted 3 seals playing on the rocks below the Pembrokeshire Coast Trail and we enjoyed the nature all around. We passed some very remote guesthouses and enjoyed the view of the beach in the distance.
Once at Whitesands beach, we were overwhelmed with the number of people. When you walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, especially in the spring, it is quite a quiet experience. But as we approached Whitesands Beach, we were greeted by hordes of screaming and shouting youngsters, just finishing off their surf class of the day.
Circular walks around St. Davids
If you don’t feel like hiking the 8,5 miles (14 km) from Caerfai Bay to Whitesands Beach or you want to take one of the shorter, circular walks around St. Davids there are other options. In all cases, the Celtic Coaster bus 403 is your best friend.
Make sure to check the schedule as it somewhat complicated and erratic but it can help you to take some shorter walks near St. Davids. For example:
- Walk to Caerfai Bay, continue to Porthclais Harbour and take the bus back to town from here. This is 2 miles (3,2km) on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. You’ll pass St. Non’s Retreat where you can take the road to St. Davids too (0,7 miles)
- Porthclais Harbour to St. Justinian’s. This is a lovely quiet stretch of 4,5 miles (7,2 km) but it does require either walking or bussing to Porthclais Harbour. I strongly recommend to take bus 403 from St. Justinian’s back to St. Davids as this is a 2-mile walk along the road.
- St. Justinian’s to Whitesands Beach. Lovely coastal 2,3 miles of walking but you do need the bus to get to St. Justinian’s and back from Whitesands Beach.
Continue reading after this image:
8. St. Justinian’s Lifeboat
If you’re in the neighborhood or passing by on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a visit to the RNLI St Davids Lifeboat Station at St. Justinian’s is a must-do! They have been saving lives at sea since 1867 (!!) and are run by volunteers.
Opening hours are limited, Monday to Friday from 10 am to 12 pm and 2-4 pm but worth a quick visit. Inside you’ll see the actual lifeboat, ready to go. On the walls, you can read about the work the RNLI does and how many lives have been saved by the station.
For more information about the RNLI and the St. David’s Station, check here.
9. Go shopping in St. Davids
After more than a week of walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, only visiting tiny villages and arriving at larger towns well after opening hours, St. Davids was a true shopping haven for us.
We strolled the few streets of this tiny city a couple of times and each time discovered new shops and stores, we just had to visit.
For example, the Veg Patch, a lovely little shop with only locally grown produce. St. Davids Food & Wine provided us with lovely old local Welsh cheese and we bought some new shirts, a hat and other stuff for the remainder of our trip at the local adventure gear store.
We also loved to roam around at St. David’s Garden Nursery. A green little retreat in town with small plants for your garden. We recognized quite a few plants from the trail, but sadly, we couldn’t take anything home with us.
St. Davids also offers a lot of gallery space to local artists and creative people.
The local ATM will provide you with enough cash for the remainder of your trip. The next ATM won’t be until Fishguard which is a few days hiking away.
Visit the local market
On the day of our departure out of St. Davids, we stumbled upon the local market. Such a cute little gathering of artisan craftsmen and local produce. Only a few booths but it is worth a browse if you happen to stumble upon it as we did. You can find the market every Thursday from 9 am at Cross Square (March till October).
10. Stuff your face at the amazing places to eat in St. Davids Wales
When you hike the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, you’re continuously hungry. Doesn’t matter if you’ve just eaten, there is always room for more. St. Davids offered plenty of food to taste and try.
Some personal favorites:
Gianni’s Ice Cream
This lovely little shop offers amazing flavors of locally made ice cream with dairy from the nearby dairy farm. Delicious and a green choice!
The Farmer’s Arms
A local watering hole and the place to be for a pint, glass of chardonnay or some lovely pub grub. We visited during the day when it was absolutely packed to the brim and returned later at night for some delicious bean chili and fajitas. Great vibe and good value for money.
The Grove Hotel
We stayed here and their breakfast was delicious, so we decided to give their evening menu a chance. We had mainly eaten in pubs in Wales for the past 1.5 weeks so we decided to sit down in their bright restaurant and try the grilled chicken and lamb tajine. And it was finger-lickin’ good.
Places to stay in St. Davids Pembrokeshire
It is not difficult to find a place to stay in St. Davids but it is hard to find budget options or value for money options. During high season, most budget accommodations are fully booked. St. Davids has many options a little bit further away from the city but if you don’t have your own transport, it might be harder to get around.
Hotels in St. Davids
We stayed at the Grove Hotel in St. Davids. The hotel is situated in an old building, right at the entrance of St. Davids. The rooms are warm and charming and the downstairs pub and restaurant are always full. On a sunny day, the terrace outside is lovely to rest a bit and I found the place offered good value for money. Check out availability and prices here.
Another good contender is the Twr y Felin Hotel in St. Davids. This is an adults-only hotel with luxurious rooms. I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else than in the main tower room, with circular views of the landscape around the hotel. Check for options and prices here.
If you’re looking for a local’s touch, there are numerous small B&B style accommodations around St. Davids.
If you plan to stay longer in St. Davids (and why wouldn’t you) renting a holiday cottage can be a good idea.
Several campsites, farmhouses and rural retreats across the St. Davids peninsula are also available.
YHA St. Davids
Just 1,2 miles from Whitesands Beach, you can find the YHA St. Davids. The rooms in the converted cowshed have charm and character but are also very comfortable. The YHA has a small shop and is self-catering only. You can only get here on foot from Whitesands Beach or by taxi. Check for availability and rates here.
Extra things to do in St. Davids
In case you’re spending more time in St. Davids, or you find yourself coming back over and over again and you want something different from visiting the cathedral, here are some extra fun things to do.
Sadly, due to time restraints, we didn’t get to do this ourselves, but I have heard great things about it, so I didn’t want to hold it from you:
Dr. Beynon’s Bug Farm
A country farm, where you can learn everything there is to know about bugs and how they help out lives. Follow the pollinator trail or explore the garden or the museum. They offer organic lunches from their own kitchen around noon and have loads of fun things to explore.
Check for opening hours and details here.
Adventure adrenaline activities
Coasteering, sea-kayaking, rock climbing, you name it and you can do it in St. Davids. With so many miles of rocky inlets, rough coastline and height differences, the peninsula of St. Davids is an adrenaline junkie’s playground.
As you know by now, that is not me, but if you feel like it is for you, feel free to check for more details here.
More Pembrokeshire Coast Path
This blog is part of my Pembrokeshire Coast Path series. I will write about my experiences hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This was our 10th and 11th day of walking. Feel free to check out the other stretches below:
Make sure to visit St. Davids Wales
I think it is pretty clear from the above story that I really enjoyed my time at St. Davids. It was way too short and I can totally see us return and stay a week or more. We had amazing weather in St. Davids, which made the hikes around St. Davids even more special.
But also with bad or rainy weather, there are plenty of things to do in St. Davids for everyone.
Did you know St. Davids is a city? If you’d visit it, what would be the first thing you’d want to do in St. Davids? Share any remark or experience in the comment section below. I’d love to read it. If you found this story useful, feel free to share it with your friends and on social media.