Manorbier (pronounced manor-beer) is an attractive seaside village with a pretty sandy cove popular with both swimmers and surfers. The village has a cosy pub and an interesting Norman Church. It was designated as a conservation area by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in 1997.
Links with Famous Writers
The village was the birthplace of Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), a man of the church who was chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury to undertake a tour of Wales in order to recruit for the Third Crusade. His 12th century chronicles of this and 2 subsequent tours of Wales remain valuable documents to this day. Despite having travelled widely, he was loyal to his birthplace, stating that Manorbier was “the pleasantest place in Wales”.
It is recorded that Virginia Woolf was inspired to become a writer whilst taking a stroll along the beach at Manorbier, and she was staying here in 1908 when ideas for her first novel, The Voyage Out, began to take shape.
George Bernard Shaw was a frequent visitor to the village and Siegfried Sassoon’s poem “A Ruined Castle” was conceived there in 1924 while he was staying in nearby Shrinkle as a guest of Walter de la Mare.
The medieval castle was begun in 11th century by a Norman knight and the great hall remains the oldest stone building at any castle in west Wales. It has a chapel, round tower and gatehouse; there are numerous stairs, rooms and battlements to explore and an inner ward laid out as gardens. There is a huge expanse of well-tended level lawn, which just begs you to take a snooze on a sunny afternoon.
In 1630 Queen Elizabeth I sold the castle (then considered "ruynous ... quite decayed") to the Bowen family of Trefloyne. The Philips family of Picton Castle bought the castle in 1670 who leased it to J.R. Cobb in the late 19th century. It was Cobb who undertook much of the restoration work.
The castle was one of the locations for The Chronicles of Narnia and for the 2003 movie I Capture the Castle, starring Bill Nighy.
Many ancient stone tools (microliths) have been unearthed in this area and there are various bronze and iron-age remains.
In the village is the restored Bier House, now an information point for visitors. Originating in 1900, its function was to house the parish ‘bier’ which was used to carry the dead to their burial site. There’s an impressive round dovecote just below the castle walls, incorporating 260 boxes. The doves and their eggs would have been an important source of nutrition in medieval times. On the Coast Path to the east, it’s worth visiting the King’s Quoit cromlech which dates back to around 3000BC.
Walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is good in either direction. And there’s a train line which runs from Manorbier to Tenby or Pembroke Dock to the east. Why not take a trip out on the train and avoid the trouble of summer parking?
Bays and Beaches
Just to the west is Swanlake Bay, where you need not be balletic, but perhaps a little lithe in order to prance your way down via the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. At high tide it’s shingle, but low tide reveals golden sands and rock pools, backed by low cliffs which afford it a little shelter.
Even on a bright summer’s day you could be almost alone and it’s dog-friendly too! Check out the tide times to make sure you’ve plenty of beach and to ensure you don’t get cut off by the incoming tide! You can walk down a farm track having parked near the farm entrance.
A little further west is Freshwater East. Known locally as Fresh East, it has a wide sandy beach backed by dunes and headland. Like many secluded beaches, this was a haunt for smugglers in the past but now attracts those dedicated to equally scary pursuits: water sports enthusiasts. Fresh Adventure activity centre offers coasteering, kayaking and surfing.
To the east of Manorbier you’ll first find Shrinkle Haven. Small and sheltered, it faces south east but access is difficult and restricted due to army firing range. There is an impressive natural arch to the NE of the main cove and picnic tables on the top of the cliff.
Lydstep Haven is a very pretty, privately owned beach consisting of sand and pebbles with a small area of sand exposed at low tide. Backed by impressive wooded cliffs at either end, dog restrictions apply at the eastern end of the beach between 1st May & 30th September.
The only pub in Manorbier, The Castle Inn, serves meals or you can pop up the road to the Swan Lake Inn at Jameston which has a large selection of home cooked traditional meals using fresh local produce and home grown vegetables and salads. Tea rooms can be found at Manorbier Garden Centre and at Swan Lake Farm.
Behind Fresh East beach is Trewent Park holiday village with restaurant/bar.
Overlooking the beach is The Freshwater Inn. It serves meals throughout the day during the summer holidays. You can also try the village of Lamphey, two miles away. It has bakery, shop/post office, garage and restaurants The Lantern and The Dial Inn. The Lamphey Hall Hotel’s restaurant has a good reputation for traditional grub and The Lamphey Court Hotel opens its restaurant and spa to non-residents.
The Lydstep Tavern has a good pub food menu with veggie and gluten free options. Check before turning up though.
Some of the best things to do in and around Manorbier
Take part in one of the activities at the castle in Manorbier
Have a meal at one of the many great pubs in the area
Take the well-mapped 3 mile circular walk from Manorbier to Swanlake Bay
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