My inspiration for this Blog is simple, just one word: Pembrokeshire. I have worked as a DJ providing the music and entertainment at weddings, parties, events and functions all over the UK, but obviously, primarily, in my home county of Pembrokeshire, which I truly know best. Usually, on arrival at a venue to set up my disco equipment, I ensure that I have the opportunity to take in my surroundings before it gets dark and some of these places are just mind blowing, both there and en-route.
Based on my experiences of fantastic wedding and event or party locations, I decided to also have a chat with one of Pembrokeshire’s most well-known and respected photographers. He is a photographer who has previously photographed hundreds of Pembrokeshire weddings and now works for clients in business and tourism. This man knows the County like the back of his hand, Gareth Davies, from Tenby. Therefore, some of this blog is written through his knowledgeable eyes from behind the lens as well as from my own personal experiences.
I have written before in previous blogs about the absolute importance of wedding timings and the scheduling of your wedding to allow time to stop off en-route from your wedding ceremony venue and the reception venue, right through to your ‘sit down’ timings and the start time for the evening disco entertainment. Therefore geographic considerations are also important in working out travel and timing logistics to allow yourself the opportunity to embrace what Pembrokeshire has to offer in terms of amazing locations for your wedding photographs, without being too late and therefore not sitting down on time and possibly ruining your wedding breakfast meal. Also, the ‘hassle factor’ for your guests needs to be considered. Obviously many venues offer the ceremony and whole wedding reception in the one venue which is a huge saving in time and effort, but because of what Pembrokeshire has to offer, many brides and grooms like to go off with their photographer to capture the many awesome photographic delights on their wedding day.
With regards to wedding timing scheduling and particularly for Autumn weddings when the sun starts to set earlier, there’s no better location to capture this stunning backdrop than from the Esplanade in Tenby, overlooking the South Beach and Caldey Island where the setting sun drops down over the South Beach and then behind Giltar Point. The Giltar Hotel is an ideal venue for your wedding reception to capture this view, though, again, the view and location is always there and indeed as long as your timing scheduling is considered, this can be embraced anytime by anyone.
Likewise, staying with Tenby, The Croft which overlooks the North Beach, Goscar Rock, ‘Tenby Harbour and the most photographed view in Wales’ and all of Carmarthen Bay with Monkstone Point and Worms Head in the distance, offers an equally stunning backdrop. Again, good scheduling will allow you to get married anywhere in Pembrokeshire and still take in this location, but the Fourcroft Hotel is your ‘doorstep venue’ to embrace this without using a car. Likewise, the Park Hotel is situated a bit higher on Tenby’s North Cliff and this location, again, offers a breath taking view over Tenby and Tenby Harbour. For a more intimate wedding experience, then look no further than Heywood Spa Hotel in Tenby.
Just south of Tenby is the picturesque and iconic village of Saundersfoot with its lovely harbour area and the Glen Beach just off the far end of the harbour with good vehicle access and parking offers heart-stopping views along the coastline towards Monkstone Point, whilst the main beach and harbour area encapsulate Carmarthen Bay in all its glory. St Brides Hotel is the perfect ‘one stop’ location here with its dominating position at the top of St Brides Hill overlooking Saundersfoot and the harbour and beyond towards Wisemans Bridge and Amroth. The hotel has amazing views across Carmarthen Bay and from this viewpoint, it’s a location to be considered. Speaking of Wisemans Bridge, the Wisemans Bridge Inn is situated right on the beach and weddings here have to be the ultimate beachside location. You are literally on the beach here. Just 2.5 miles from Saundersfoot is Begelly Arms Hotel, near Kilgetty which is a perfect location for a wedding and not too far for the bride & groom to go off with their photographer and utilise Tenby, Wisemans Bridge & Saundersfoot beaches and coastline for their memories to be recorded on ‘film’.
Moving north along the coast we have Lydstep Haven with more stunning photo backdrops as we follow the coast road and for the smaller weddings, Celtic Haven is a great venue to embrace the stunning cliffs and coastline. Just a couple of miles from Lydstep is the village of Manorbier where the spectacular Manorbier Castle can be found. This Norman fort is located a stone’s throw from the beach and provides magnificent photo opportunities. Castlemead Hotel is again a stone’s throw from the castle and beach, or indeed the option to hire the castle with a marquee for the reception is always a worthy consideration. You can even hold your reception here in the Castle Crypt.
Further along the coast between Tenby and Pembroke, just off Lamphey is the iconic Freshwater East with its stunning beach and the best venue to enjoy this location is The Longhouse, just across the road from the beach. Lamphey Court Hotel, a great venue itself with lovely gardens is adjacent to Lamphey’s Bishop’s Palace, though I understand that there is a charge to use this location for wedding photographs.
Speaking of castles, Pembrokeshire is full of them and again, they offer different and quirky photo opportunities. Carew Castle offers scenes across the tidal mill pond with its low walls and opportunities to capture the castle and its reflections bouncing off the water. Carew Castle has easy access for parking to quickly stop off here for that one-off wedding photo. Pembroke Castle is not quite so accessible for a quick stop-off but, if planned, it again provides a stunning location with backdrops to give you that ‘WOW factor’. Narberth Castle and Llawhaden Castle also provide great photo opportunities and Plas Hyfryd Hotel in Narberth is a good venue to enjoy this beautiful Pembrokeshire town, whilst Picton Castle is like a cross between a castle and a manor house and again a marquee wedding here works brilliantly. Almost next door to Picton Castle is Slebech Park, just 7 miles from Haverfordwest and this unique venue, as well as a stunning backdrop of the inlets of the Cleddau River, offers the opportunity to arrive by boat (tide permitting) which is certainly a bit different and again, a quirky photo opportunity. Crucially, pre-planning and scheduling here is important to capture the tide so the river is high for your backdrop or potential arrival from the ‘high seas’ as landing is not possible at low tide.
Some venues in the centre and north of the county like Pembroke Dock, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Fishguard have developed their venues to provide amazing gardens with beautiful shrubs and landscaped gardens, making it a true one-stop wedding venue where you can get married and enjoy your wedding reception, then crash out at the end of the night without going anywhere near a car. One such venue is Beggars Reach Hotel in Burton, near Milford Haven where the landscaped fields, gardens, flowers and shrubs offer many varied photographic opportunities as well as being a fantastic venue with amazing food and excellent rooms too. I can recommend this venue from experience, because we got married here and the opportunity to ‘camp out’ at one venue with all our guests there not worrying about driving or moving from A to B to C, was too much to ignore. But, we are all different and every wedding is different, so we all plan our wedding to suit us best and to get what we want out of it.
The Cleddau Bridge Hotel in Pembroke Dock offers lovely views of the Cleddau River and also the amazing backdrop of the Cleddau Bridge and up the estuary with Neyland in the background across the river. Just through Neyland is the hamlet of Llanstadwell and the Ferry Inn is located right on the Cleddau River offering great views across the water and when the Irish Ferry comes in, you almost feel you can touch it, so striking and bold. Looking at this Pembrokeshire location, another great option if you would like to put your own stamp on everything is the Woodhouse Barn at Rosemarket, Milford Haven. Moving further north and heading towards Fishguard, just 8 miles from Haverfordwest, the Wolfscastle Country House Hotel offers lovely landscaped gardens and then on to Fishguard, where the Fishguard Bay Hotel sits majestically atop the cliff overlooking Fishguard Bay. Just beautiful. Yes, this is Pembrokeshire.
I have provided the disco entertainment at so many stunning locations and one view that always takes my breath away is when I am driving towards St David’s and I come over the brow of the hill to see St Brides Bay over Newgale Beach and the stunning rugged North Pembrokeshire coastline embracing Skomer Island, St David’s Head and Ramsey Island in the distance. This view is just breath taking and a stop-off in the lay-by here is a must, just to take it all in. Heading towards St David’s is the picturesque village of Solva with its beautiful harbour. There are some amazing locations around St David’s to provide stunning land over sea photographs, but decent-sized venues providing this backdrop are few and far between without having access to the land and therefore a marquee wedding. However, Walpole Court Hotel provides a lovely backdrop for an autumnal wedding to capture the sun setting over the bay. Likewise, Crug Glas just outside St David’s on the Cardigan Road, is a superb and spacious venue that enables the bride and groom to embrace all that the St David’s area has to offer with minimal travelling time required. St David’s Bishops Palace is a ‘must’ location in Britain’s smallest city if time and again, scheduling permits.
Staying in the north of Pembrokeshire, Newport and Nevern between Cardigan and Fishguard offer more quirky ideas with Nevern’s Trewern Arms Hotel offering a superb riverside location and Newport’s Llys Meddyg offering a rustic homely and natural atmosphere for your wedding reception whilst Dinas Head off Newport Bay again makes us so grateful for the beauties of Pembrokeshire. Newport Golf Club has amazing views from the venue across the bay, whilst Rhosygilwen Mansion is in the midst of the Pembrokeshire countryside with the Preseli Hills, Fishhguard and Newquay all within easy reach. Idyllic.
Marloes, Dale, Druidston, Nolton Haven, Porthgain, Abereiddy, Little Haven, Broad Haven, Abercastle and Trefin are all hidden Pembrokeshire gems that need to be explored and considered as wedding photograph locations when planning your wedding reception, but again, timing and scheduling considerations are imperative to ensure that your wedding day runs as smoothly as possible. As always, an early wedding at, say, 11am or 12 midday will allow you the time to plan some of the above into your special day, as well as considering travel and journey times for your guests and the timings for your sit down wedding breakfast, speeches, ‘down time’ and the start time for your disco and evening guests’ arrival for the party.
I know I have missed many more places with hidden qualities in Pembrokeshire, but I’m sure you will find this blog a good reference starting point for when you are planning your Pembrokeshire wedding location. Geographically, Pembrokeshire is not a large County, I live in Kilgetty and I am only 28 miles from St Davids, 28 miles from Fishguard, 15 miles from Haverfordwest, 5 miles from Tenby, 2 miles from Saundersfoot, 5 miles from Narberth, 10 miles from Pembroke, 10 miles from Manorbier, 15 miles from Haverfordwest, 18 miles from Milford Haven, 30 miles from Newport and as you can deduce, wherever you are in the County, on average, maximum travelling time between the furthest places are only around an hour and indeed to benefit from the wonderful Pembrokeshire Coastline, you will never be much more than half an hour away from the sea and usually a lot less, so all in all, why would you want to get married anywhere else?
Pembrokeshire’s adjoining counties of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion also offer amazing wedding locations with more breath taking scenery, with Carmarthenshire boasting great venues such as Pendine and Laugharne Castle and all that encapsulates the mystique of Dylan Thomas. Broadway Country House and The Corran are two exceptional wedding venues in Laugharne, whilst Mansion House in Llansteffan offers views from its gardens overlooking the estuary of 3 rivers merging. Ceredigion boasts such great venues as Cardigan Castle, Hammett House Hotel at Llechryd near Cardigan and The Cliff Hotel in Gwbert-on-Sea, Cardigan, whilst a drive further north to Aberystwyth offers the splendid Nanteos Mansion and Constitution Hill perched high above the town adjacent to the cliff railway. Now this is a view worthy of getting the camera out. However, it’s Pembrokeshire I know best. Pembrokeshire, still a hidden gem for many, but keep spreading the word.