Don’t expect to get your shopping done in a hurry here — and not just because of the abundance of riches on the high street in this captivating little town. There are goodies available that you just won’t find in any other small town (or most big ones, or a fair few cities): Ultracomida has a marvellous range of Spanish wines and cheeses; Fforc is a Welsh deli where you can pick up locally fermented kimchi and locally brewed beer. Whether you’re buying homemade bangers from Andrew Rees, a brilliant butcher’s (£3.84 for six), or stopping for a tub of award-winning blackcurrant sorbet at the wonderful Fire and Ice gelato (and speciality booze) parlour (£2.25), you won’t get out without a friendly, probably lengthy chat. And if you’re planning a special-occasion shopping trip to buy clothes at the luxurious Golden Sheaf (also a top spot for local arts, crafts, furniture and scents), let them know in advance and they’ll lay on a glass of fizz.
With a serious seafood restaurant, Madtom (mussels with garlic, parmesan, cram and excellent chips £13.50) and a lively, healthy cafe, Plum Vanilla, on 2A St James Street (homemade smoky baked beans on toast £5.95), Narberth is a world away from the drab stereotype of a Welsh market town. Yet it hasn’t come easy: it struggled in the 1980s, though this has never been a snoozy backwater. The Rolling Stones and Elton John played the Queens Hall back in the day, and you can still catch the occasional big gig there (soul legend Geno Washington was there last month). Its revival was kick-started by a review of parking charges and business rates, and continued with a successful campaign against a proposed Sainsbury’s.
Local spirit is at the heart of everything here — one reason it was named as Britain’s cleanest, greenest town last year (albeit in a report by a holiday cottage company). The anti-waste ethos is demonstrated at the Happy Planet Green Store and the community fridge at the Bloomfield House Community Centre, where you’ll also find all kinds of classes and clubs, from Welsh and geology to yoga. If something needs doing, someone will get on and do it. The library and swimming pool are also community-run.
Most important of all, this is a supremely friendly place. “The people here are the nicest people anywhere — I’ve been into the pub or the garage, and people have switched from speaking Welsh to English so I’m not left out,” says Andy Mounsey, who moved to the nearby village of Lampeter Velfrey from Derbyshire in 2014 with his wife, Fiona, and their son, Ryan, in search of a new project to run alongside their publishing business. (Ryan now lives in not-too-distant Carmarthen.) “We had a long weekend here and instantly fell in love. We’ve got the countryside, the town and the coast. We’ve actually got three coastlines to choose from — the sandy beaches to the south, breakers rolling into the little bays to the west, and a wilder coastline to the north.”
After finding out that the field outside their new home would make an ideal vineyard, they picked their first grapes last year and expect to have the first vintage of Velfrey sparkling wine on sale in 2021. To their astonishment, 40 people responded to a last-minute Facebook request to help with the harvest. “It was incredible for so many people to volunteer their time at short notice,” Fiona says. “It was great fun, and everyone really enjoyed it, but that’s just part of this community.”
Why we love it A high-rolling high street in stunning surroundings.
Connections Surprisingly good for a town this far west: the train will take you to Carmarthen in less than half an hour or Swansea in about 1hr 20min; from there, it’s three hours to London. By car, it’s 1hr 40min to Cardiff and 2hr 15min to the Severn Bridge. Best of all, a 30-40min drive will take you to any number of outstanding beaches, from Barafundle to Broad Haven and St Davids.
Broadband The village has good superfast broadband, but coverage drops to just 88% once you include the roads linking to neighbouring villages. There are no ultrafast options (100 Mbps and faster) at this time.
Education The bilingual local primary was rated good by Estyn inspectors in 2016; at secondary level, most children go to Ysgol y Preseli in Crymych or Ysgol Caer Elen in Haverfordwest, both Welsh-speaking; Ysgol y Preseli is one of the best secondaries in Wales, according to The Sunday Times Parent Power guide. There are two private options in the area, Redhill High and the Castle School.
Air quality Lovely.
Best address There are some fantastic and friendly villages in the surrounding countryside, including Maenclochog and Lampeter Velfrey. For riverside pubs and particularly appealing scenery, try the Cleddau Estuary — known as the secret waterway. Prices vary wildly, but you’d be hard pressed to spend more than £650,000 away from the coast. The nicest houses in Narberth are on the high street or Market Square: expect to pay £250,000 for a family-sized terrace or £400,000 for a detached home. If you’re downsizing, a terrace for two can be had for £120,000.
Caveat emptor There’s no longer a bank in town, although there are a couple of ATMS: one in the Spar, one outside CK’s supermarket.
Tenby was also named in the “best place to live in Wales” list …
Pass the candyfloss. This is surely one of the most Instagrammable coastal towns in Britain: a picture-perfect harbour bobbing with boats, topped by brightly painted high-rise Georgian houses. Tenby’s alleys ooze atmosphere and there are jaw-dropping coastal views at every turn, enlivened by castle ruins, an old lifeboat station and, if you’re lucky, a passing porpoise or two. Even better, there are three standout sandy strands. Castle Beach is the pick, named UK Beach of the Year 2019 by The Sunday Times for its “pure and powerful seaside magic that awakens everyone’s inner child”.
Spacious South Beach is a wilder spot to stretch out and enjoy grandstand sunset views over Caldey Island, while North Beach is the place for watersports. It also has the warmest water, which is why the locals gather for a Boxing Day swim, and again on May 1 to start the season with the Ducking Day dip. No excuse is needed to take the waters all year round, whether for an after-work cooldown or a long-distance swimming challenge around Caldey Island or along three miles of coast to Saundersfoot. You don’t have to have big lungs to live here, but it definitely helps: triathlon is the sport of choice, thanks to Ironman Wales, which takes place every September, with the influx of Lycra- and wetsuit-clad superathletes bringing a party atmosphere.
In truth, you never have to wait long for a party here. Half of west Wales decamps here to watch rugby internationals, celebrating/drowning sorrows afterwards with ale from the town’s two breweries. (It’s that kind of place.) The Tenby Brewing Co’s street-food venue, Sandbar, is the coolest place to eat: a huge bowl of pad thai costs £12.50 and a pint of Son of a Beach is £4.50.
Unless you can live on fudge and ’99s alone, dining isn’t Tenby’s strongest point: there are lots of lengthy, scattergun, tourist-luring menus. Honourable exceptions include the upmarket Salt Cellar; Florentino’s, an authentic new Italian; and the Fat Seagull, where you can get a cup of tea and a scone almost as big as your face for £5. The biggest treat for home cooks is the fish and seafood sold fresh from the boats at the hut on the harbour.
Connections Not many until you get to Narberth, a 25-minute drive away. Trains from there will take you to Carmarthen in less than half an hour and Swansea in about 1hr 20min; from there, it’s a three-hour ride to London. Swansea is 1hr 10min by car from Tenby; it’s a 2hr 15min drive to the Severn Bridge.
Broadband In theory, only a handful of homes can’t get superfast broadband, but there are no options for faster speeds at this time.
Air quality Ozone fresh.
Education The Greenhill School, Tenby’s secondary, is struggling. It’s in the red zone of the Welsh government’s traffic-light system, and adequate but making “insufficient progress”, according to Estyn. At primary level, Estyn rates Ysgol Hafan y Mor as good, and Tenby Church in Wales and St Teilo’s as adequate with good elements.
Best address Anywhere within the old walls, particularly Lexden Terrace, which overlooks Castle Beach and was built on the profits of opium trafficking by a local shipping magnate. A grand townhouse here will cost about £1m. Other addresses, including Rock Houses and Crackwell Street, are not far off in price and prestige. Bungalows on the outskirts range from £250,000 to £350,000.
Caveat emptor If you don’t like your seaside bustling in summer and tranquil in winter, look elsewhere.
Cardigan was another entry in “best places to live”, proving that here in West Wales we are incredibly spoilt living in such a fabulous place:
This tidal town on the River Teifi has long had a reputation for being “cybyddlyd”, or miserly. Yet last year Paul Morris, proprietor of the local bookshop, Bookends, “sold up”, giving away raffle tickets for ownership to everyone who spent more than £20 there. That’s certainly not the action of a skinflint. The winner was Ceisjan Van Heerden, a Cardigan resident who hails from Holland. “It’s a fantastic, lively community,” he says. “There’s lots of interest in books and it’s great to meet the locals over a drink in the Cellar Bar, where they have really good musicians, too.”
Cardigan seemed to shake itself into a generous sense of life when its 900-year-old castle reopened in 2015 after a £12m makeover. The tidy-up extends to the remodelled waterfront and the pretty high street, where the market, held from Monday to Saturday in the arched cellar of the Guildhall, is always worth a look – as are shops such as Awen Teifi (Welsh books and gifts) and the Custom House Shop and Gallery (local art).
The busiest buyers of late have been early retirees and those seeking a change of lifestyle, with the ability to work from home. They’re lured by nearby attractions such as Poppit Sands, the clifftop church at Mwnt cove and the little town of Newport, where you and your dog can drop in for a pint at the Golden Lion. New restaurants have flocked to Cardigan like seagulls following the trawler. The main street is a mix of chains and independents, including Flat Rock Bistro and Food for Thought, which serves up a delicious bowl of traditional Welsh cawl. And you can feed the mind as well as the body: there’s a thriving arts centre with a three-screen cinema, a public library and, of course, Bookends.
Get connected It’s an hour’s drive to Aberystwyth and an hour and a half to Swansea; the nearest motorway is the M4, 44 miles away at Pont Abraham.
Broadband There’s good superfast coverage in town; perhaps surprisingly, the best ultrafast speeds are found in rural areas on Cardigan’s fringes.
Insider view “The high street is so compact, and you can buy everything you need there,” says Jenny Blake, 44, a barmaid at the Teifi Boating Club. “In fact, Cardigan is the perfect size – big enough to have amenities such as a hospital and a theatre, yet small enough to be really friendly.”
Education Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi (3-11) was judged good by Estyn in 2017; Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi (11-18) was deemed adequate in 2015, but came out of monitoring the following year; and Coleg Ceredigion is a bilingual further education college. Lifelong learning is on offer up the coast at Aberystwyth University, twice rated The Sunday Times University of the Year for Teaching Quality.
Air quality It “ranks with the best in Wales”, according to the council.
Caveat emptor Cardigan’s “dead as a dodo” reputation is a thing of the past, but it still feels a long, long way from anywhere else.
Best address Gwbert-on-Sea, a hamlet on the headland with a golf course. The average sale price for a house there was £312,500 last year – steep for the area.
Why we love it The coast that now generously has the most.
If you are looking to move to West Wales, give West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk a call on 01834 862816. We can find your dream home for you whilst saving you time, stress, and often money too.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/narberth-pembrokeshire-best-places-to-live-in-the-uk-2020-30rm6lz8p?fbclid=IwAR1M-XyD6Ag2HCN_IJW9rn-87N9sYuZhLFTe0WwykzFzssHMzM2Pp89s3oA – The Sunday Times March 22nd 2020