West Wales might be famous for its rolling countryside and beautiful coastline, but it is also home to some of the country’s best and most beautiful towns and villages. Among the very best of those is the small town of Narberth. With a population of fewer then 3,000 people, Narberth is situated on the eastern end of Pembrokeshire, 11 miles from the county’s biggest town of Haverfordwest and 21 miles from Carmarthen in neighbouring Carmarthenshire.
To call it a hidden gem would be pushing it – it is by now a well-known gem, regarded as one of the best places to live and work in not just Pembrokeshire but the whole of Wales. The Sunday Times has previously declared it the best places to live in while other accolades just keep coming, from award-winning chefs, award winning hotels, and regular appearances in lists of the most trendy places to set up home.
So what makes it so special, apart from the pretty high street, the independent gift, jewellery, antique, and butcher shops, the quirky cafes and the unchained bars, and the fact that you can walk around and breathe it all in within a matter of minutes?
“I’d heard that Narberth had become more and more of a foodie destination over the past few years, with different places opening up, and it started to get a reputation for that,” said Chris Lees-Price, who has run Hwb – a tap and food hall on the north end of the town – since December, 2021, having previously lived in the south of England for many years. The building was once the local primary school, but it sat dormant for a decade. Today, it’s a bustling hub of activity, full of people of all ages, enjoying burgers, tacos, street food, coffee, craft ale, you name it.
Chris, originally from Fishguard, now works and lives in Narberth. “It’s lovely,” he said. “To my mind it’s just a typical small Welsh town, there’s that sense of community. Everyone who was involved in setting this place (Hwb) up are local people, and I don’t just mean Pembrokeshire, I mean local to Narberth. The community here likes to protect local businesses by using them, and there’s a real pride in the town because you see how hard people have had to work to make things happen and to make Narberth this way – it’s not by accident.”
Chris even says that there is a community within a community in Narberth – made up by all the people who own and run the independent shops that line the streets and give the town its unique charm. “People aren’t trying to step on each other’s toes,” he said. “Our mindset is – the more people come to Narberth, the better it is for everyone.”
Just down the road from Hwb, it’s hard to ignore No. 47, a beautiful independent two-floor shop selling just about anything you could need from a trip to a small and idyllic market town – gifts, accessories, clothing, toys, books and a lot more. “It’s a very friendly place to live,” said Nora Divina, who runs the shop with her partner Dominic. “It’s very convenient, and everything is where it needs to be. The shops are all independent and they’re all different types of shops, too. I think it’s important that it keeps that independent feel because there aren’t many towns left in Wales like that.”
As you leave the wonder of No. 47 and turn right you make your way down Narberth High Street. It’s a bit like stepping back in time. Not in a negative way, in a wonderful way. The butcher, the antique shop, the baker, the shoe shop. There isn’t a Wetherspoons or a McDonald’s in sight.
Towards the bottom of the road, right next to the Town Hall, you’ll find Top Joe’s, a pizzeria and town house where you can dine, wine, have a coffee and stay the night. It’s cosy and welcoming as soon as you step through the door. Dimly lit, stylish, it doesn’t really feel like you’re in a west Wales town (I’m from one so I can say that!).
Recently, its pizza chef was named one of the best in the world at the Pizza World Championships in Italy. Inside, guest experience manager Tomos Williams-Mason explains what makes Top Joe’s, and Narberth, so special. “I think local people and businesses are not apprehensive to give a lot,” said Tomos, originally from Ystradgynlais, who moved to Narberth after a period living in London.
“From a customer perspective there’s a real local feel. It has a real Welsh connection but there’s also a mix of people – art students, a chef from Italy, people that have come over from Ukraine, Chris who works here is a designer by trade who worked in London…….a lot of people move here because they want to live in Narberth. It’s described as a market town but I think it’s more market in terms of people chatting to each other.
“This sofa here is somewhere where all the shopkeepers come and have some olives and a chat. It’s not pretentious, it’s not fake, it’s genuine. I don’t drive but I don’t actually feel the need to. I can get everything I need here. I can see great art, I can see live performances, and I can also put my wellies on, do some gardening and then go for a pint in the pub and sit next to a couple sharing an expensive bottle of wine.”
In many towns across Wales and the whole of the UK, there is sometimes a divide that forms between generations, social classes and people who hold differing political beliefs. Not here, however, according to Tomos. “There is an old Narberth and a new Narberth – made up of the farming community and younger people who may have moved here from Brighton, for example. There might be friction in other places between different people – people from different backgrounds, people who are different politically – but here there isn’t. People just live here for the lifestyle. It’s beautiful.”
Its lack of beaches may make Narberth less of an obvious destination town than its more celebrated Pembrokeshire neighbour, Tenby, some 10 miles to the south, but this charming haven really is as good as it can get in Wales if you want to visit a thriving, exciting and ambitious town that is never keen to sit on its laurels, and always keen to be a shining example of what a Welsh town can and should look like in 2023.
If you are looking to move to Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion, or buy a property here, then call West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.co.uk on 01834 862816. We can find your perfect property for you whilst saving you time, stress and often money too.