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Flag of Pembrokeshire
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 5th
1,590 km²(614 mi²)
? %
Admin HQ Haverfordwest
ISO 3166-2 GB-PEM
ONS code 00NS (ONS)
W06000009 (GSS)
- (2011)
- Density
Ranked 13th
Ranked 19th
74 / km²
Ethnicity 99.2% White
Welsh language
- Any skills
Ranked 8th
Arms of Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire Council
Control Independent
MEPs Wales

Pembrokeshire (/ˈpɛmbrʊkʃɪər/, /ˈpɛmbrʊkʃər/, or /ˈpɛmbrkʃɪər/; Welsh: Sir Benfro [ˈsiːr ˈbɛnvrɔ]) is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. Pembrokeshire County Council's headquarters are in the county town of Haverfordwest.

The county is home to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only coastal national park of its kind in the United Kingdom and one of three national parks in Wales, the others being Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons national parks. Over the years Pembrokeshire's beaches have been awarded many International Blue Flag Awards, Green Coast Awards and Seaside Awards. In 2011 it had 39 beaches recommended by the Marine Conservation Society.

Pembrokeshire's population, according to the UK Census, was 114,131 in 2001 rising to 122,400 by the following census in 2011, an increase of 8.2%.[1]

Much of Pembrokeshire has been speaking English for many centuries. The boundary between the English and Welsh speakers is known as the Landsker Line and southern Pembrokeshire is occasionally referred to as Little England beyond Wales.


Pembrokeshire is a maritime county, bordered by the sea on three sides, by Ceredigion to the north east and by Carmarthenshire to the east. The local economy relies heavily on tourism but agriculture is still important. Since the 1950s, petrochemical and liquid natural gas industries have developed along the Milford Haven Waterway.

The administrative headquarters, historic county town and largest town is Haverfordwest. Other settlements include Pembroke itself, Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven, Fishguard, Tenby, Saundersfoot, Narberth, Neyland and Newport. St David's, in the north west of the county, is the United Kingdom's smallest city with a population of 2,000 (in 2010). Saundersfoot is the biggest village in Pembrokeshire with a population of well over 2,500.

See List of places in Pembrokeshire for a comprehensive list of settlements in Pembrokeshire.

The county's coastline comprises internationally important seabird breeding sites and numerous bays and sandy beaches. Pembrokeshire contains a predominantly coastal park, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which includes a 186-mile walking trail, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.[2] A large estuary and natural harbour at Milford Haven cuts deeply into the coast, formed by the confluence of the Western Cleddau (which goes through Haverfordwest), the Eastern Cleddau and rivers Cresswell[3] and Carew. The estuary is bridged by the large Cleddau Bridge (toll bridge) which bears the A477 between Neyland and Pembroke Dock; upstream bridges are found crossing the Cleddau at Haverfordwest and Canaston Bridge.

Large bays are Newport Bay, Fishguard Bay, St Bride's Bay and a portion of Carmarthen Bay. There are several small islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, the largest of which are Ramsey Island, Grassholm Island, Skomer Island and Caldey Island.

In the north of the county are the Preseli Hills (Mynydd Preseli), a wide stretch of high moorland supporting sheep farming and some forestry, with many prehistoric sites and the probable source of the bluestones used in the construction of the inner circle of Stonehenge in England.[4] The highest point is Foel Cwmcerwyn at 1,759 feet (536 m), which is also the highest point in Pembrokeshire. Elsewhere in the county most of the land is used for farming of dairy cows, arable crops, oil seed rape, and the well-known Pembrokeshire potato.

Pembrokeshire's wildlife is diverse, with marine, estuary, ancient woodland, moorland and farmland habitats all within the county.[5][6]


Rocks now found in Pembrokeshire were formed more than 290 million years ago; the youngest rocks, from the Carboniferous period, contain the Pembrokeshire Coalfield. Younger rocks have been lost by subsequent geological processes. The land on which Pembrokeshire is today was established approximately 60 million years ago by a combination of uplift and falling sea levels. The sea cliffs and inland tors that are now a feature of the county were those that were resistant to weathering that has taken place since. The landscape was subject to considerable change as a result of the ice ages over the last several thousand years, meltwater from which cut the river valleys seen across the county today. About 20,000 years ago the Irish Sea ice sheet deposited areas of clays.[7]

While Pembrokeshire is not a seismically active area, two periods of activity were noted in the 19th century. In 1873 there was a double shock (intensity: 4) in the west of the county, and a series of more pronounced activity (maximum intensity: 7) over a six-day period in August 1892.[8]

Pembrokeshire's diverse range of geological features was a key factor in the establishment of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and a number of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).[9]


Human habitation of the region of Pembrokeshire extends back to 125,000 and 70,000 BCE.[10] By the late Roman Empire period, an Irish tribe known as the Déisi settled in the region between AD 350 and 400, with their realm known as Demetae.

In the post Roman period, the Irish Déisi merged with the local Welsh, with the name of the region evolving into Dyfed, which existed as an independent petty kingdom until its heiress, Elen, married Hywel the Good in AD 904.[10]

Hywel merged Dyfed with his own maternal inheritance of Seisyllwg, forming the new realm of Deheubarth.[10] The region suffered from devastating and relentless Viking raids during the Viking Age, with the Vikings establishing settlements and trading posts at Haverfordwest, Fishguard and Caldey Island.[10]

Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII

Dyfed, the region of Pembrokeshire, remained an integral province of Deheubarth but this was contested by invading Normans and Flemings who arrived between 1067 and 1111.[10] The region became known as Pembroke (sometimes archaic Penbroke[11]), after the Norman castle built in the Penfro cantref. But Norman/Flemish presence was precarious given the hostility of the native Welsh Princes.

In 1136 Prince Owain Gwynedd sought to avenge the execution of his sister the Princess Gwenllian of Deheubarth and her children; with Gwenllian's husband the Prince Rhys swept down from Gwynedd with a formidable army and at Crug Mawr near Cardigan met and destroyed a 3,000-strong Norman/Flemish army. The remnants of the Normans fled across the bridge at Cardigan which collapsed and the Teifi river was choked with drowned men-at-arms and horses. Owain's brother Cadwallader took de Clares daughter Alice as his wife. Owain incorporated Deheubarth into Gwynedd, re-establishing control of the region. Mortally weakened Norman/Flemish influence never fully recovered in West Wales. Princess Gwenllian is one of the best remembered victims.[12] In 1138 the county of Pembrokeshire was named as a county palatine.

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Proportion of Welsh speakers (2011 census)

The county has long been divided between an English-speaking south (known as "Little England beyond Wales") and a historically more Welsh-speaking north, along a reasonably sharply-defined linguistic border (see map) called the Landsker.

The Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth, Princess Gwenllian's son, reestablished Welsh control over much of the region and threatened to retake all of Pembrokeshire, but died in 1197.[10] After Deheubarth was split by a dynastic feud, Llywelyn the Great almost managed to retake the region of Pembroke between 1216 and his death in 1240.[10]

In 1457 Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle and, 28 years later, landing an army not far from his birthplace, he rallied support, marched through Wales to Bosworth field in Leicestershire and defeated the larger army of Richard III. As Henry VII he founded the Tudor dynasty which successfully ruled England until 1603.

The Act of Union of 1536 divided the county into hundreds, which followed with some modifications the boundaries of the cantrefs, ancient jurisdictions which went back to before the Norman conquest. The 1536 hundreds were (clockwise from the north-east): Cilgerran or Kilgerran, Cemais or Kemes, Dewisland or Dewsland, Roose, Castlemartin, Narbeth and Dungleddy or Daugleddau. The Genuki web pages on Pembrokeshire include a list of the parishes within each hundred.

During the First English Civil War (1642-1646) the county gave strong support to the Parliamentary cause, in sharp contrast to the rest of Wales which was staunchly Royalist. In spite of this an incident in Pembrokeshire triggered the opening shots of the Second Civil War when local units of the New Model Army mutinied. Oliver Cromwell defeated the uprising at the Siege of Pembroke in July 1648.[13] In 1649 Cromwell's expeditionary force for Ireland sailed from Milford Haven.

There has been considerable military activity in Pembrokeshire from the Civil War to the Cold War with, for example, military exercises in the Preseli Hills and a number of former military airfields.[14] Military and industrial targets in the county were subjected to bombing during the Second World War.[15]

In 1791 a petition was presented to the House of Commons concerning the poor state of many of the county's roads, pointing out that repairs could not be made compulsory by the law as it stood. The petition was referred to committee.[16]

There are many known shipwrecks off the Pembrokeshire coast.[17][18] The county has six lifeboat stations, the earliest of which was established in 1822.

Local government

Under the Local Government Act 1888, an elected county council was set up to take over the functions of the Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions. This, and the administrative county of Pembrokeshire were abolished under the Local Government Act 1972, with Pembrokeshire forming two districts of the new county of Dyfed: South Pembrokeshire and Preseli – the split being made at the request of local authorities in the area.[19] In 1996, under the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, the county of Dyfed was broken up into its constituent parts, and Pembrokeshire has been a unitary authority since then.


The main towns in the county are served with bus and train services, but those living in more rural parts have little or no access to public transportation.


There are no motorways in Pembrokeshire. The nearest motorway to the county town of Haverfordwest is the M4 which terminates at Pont Abraham in Carmarthenshire, some 46 miles (74 km) to the east.

The A40 crosses Pembrokeshire from the border with Carmarthenshire westwards to Haverfordwest, then northwards to Fishguard. The road is used heavily by tourists and traffic from the ferry port in Fishguard; some improvements have been made since the 1990s but others were still the subject of discussion in 2014.[20]

The A477 which runs from St. Clears to Pembroke Dock is 24 miles (39 km) long, of which only 2 miles (3.2 km) are dual carriageway. Improvements to the road have been made in recent years. The Cleddau Bridge carries the A477 connecting South Pembrokeshire with North Pembrokeshire across the Cleddau Estuary. The A478 traverses eastern Pembrokeshire from Tenby in the south to Cardigan, Ceredigion, in the north, a distance of 30 miles (48 km). The A487 is the other major route, running north-west from Haverfordwest to St David's, then north-east following the coast, through Fishguard and Newport, to the border with Ceredigion at Cardigan. Owing to width restrictions in Fishguard, some freight vehicles are not permitted to travel north-east from Fishguard but are obliged to take a longer route via Haverfordwest and Narberth.

Rail and ferry

The West Wales branch railway lines, terminating at Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven have two-hourly services. The Fishguard branch has seven services each weekday; two are timed to meet the Rosslare Europort ferries to and from Ireland at Fishguard Harbour. There are also year round ferries to Rosslare and Cork from Pembroke. Seasonal ferry services operate from Tenby to Caldey Island, from St Justinians, St Davids, to Ramsey Island and Grassholm Island, and from Martin's Haven to Skomer Island.


Haverfordwest (Withybush) airport provides general aviation services.



Until the 12th century, much of Pembrokeshire would have been virgin woodland, and clearance in the lowland south began under Anglo-Flemish colonisation and under mediaeval tenancies in other areas. Such was the extent of development, by the 16th century there was a shortage of timber in the county. Little is known about mediaeval farming methods but much arable land was continuously cropped and only occasionally ploughed. By the 18th century, many of the centuries-old open field systems had been enclosed, and much of the land was arable or rough pasture in a ratio of about 1:3.[21]

Kelly's Directory of 1910 gave a snapshot of the agriculture of Pembrokeshire: 57,343 acres were cropped (almost half under oats and a quarter barley), 37,535 acres of grass and clover and 213,387 acres of permanent pasture (of which a third was for hay). There were 128,865 acres of mountain or heathland used for grazing, with 10,000 acres of managed or unmanaged woodland. Estimates of livestock included 17,810 horses, 92,386 cattle, 157,973 sheep and 31,673 pigs. Of 5,981 agricultural holdings, more than half were between 5 and 50 acres.[22]

A consequence of widespread sheep farming was that Pembrokeshire had a flourishing wool industry.[23] There are still working woollen mils at Solva and Tregwynt.[24]

Pembrokeshire's mild climate means that crops such as its new potatoes (which have protected geographical status under European law[25]) often arrive in British shops earlier in the year than produce from other parts of the UK. Other principal arable crops are oilseed rape, wheat and barley, while the main non-arable activities are dairy farming for milk and cheese, beef production and sheep farming.[23]

The county lends its name to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, a herding dog whose lineage can be traced back to the 12th century,[26] but which in 2015 was designated as a "vulnerable" breed.[27]


Milford Haven Docks & Marina

With much of Pembrokeshire being coastline or tidal river estuaries, fishing was an important industry at least from the 16th century, with many ports and villages dependent on the industry before it declined.[28] The former large sea fishing industry around Milford Haven is now greatly reduced, although limited commercial fishing still takes place. At its peak, Milford was landing over 40,000 tons of fish a year.[28] Pembrokeshire Fish Week is an annual event[29][30] which in 2014 attracted 31,000 visitors and generated £3 million for the local economy.[31]


Slate quarrying was a significant industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries with quarrying taking place at about 100 locations throughout the county.[32] Over 50 coal workings were in existence between the 14th and 20th centuries,[33] with the last Pembrokeshire coal mine, at Kilgetty, closing in 1950.[34]

Oil and gas

Pembroke Power Station under construction (Jan 2011)

The banks of the Milford Haven Waterway are dominated by the oil and gas industry with two oil refineries, two large liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals and a new 2000 MW gas-fired Pembroke Power Station is currently under construction on the site of a previous oil-fired power station which closed in 1997 and demolished in 2000.

The two oil refineries in Pembrokeshire are:

  • Chevron (formerly Texaco): 214,000 bpd (barrels per day) and
  • Murco (formerly Amoco/Elf): 108,000 bbl/d (17,200 m3/d)

At the peak, there were a total of five refineries served from around the Haven.

The LNG terminals on the north side of the river, just outside Milford Haven are now complete, and opened in 2008. A completed but controversial pipeline runs through rural farms and countryside connecting Milford Haven to Tilbury in Gloucestershire.

Renewable energy

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has identified a number of areas in which renewable energy can be, and has been, generated in the county.[36]

Following several years of planning after the initial impact studies begun in 2011,[37] the first submarine turbine of three was installed in Ramsey Sound in December 2015.[38]

The cumulative impact of single and multiple wind turbines is not without controversy[39] and was the subject of a comprehensive assessment in 2013.[40]


In 2010 4.2 million tourists visited the county, staying for an average of 3.3 days. Overall, in 2010, £544 million was brought into the local economy through tourist spending. The tourism industry supported 16,300 jobs.[41]

Many of Pembrokeshire's beaches have been awarded International Blue Flag Awards: 11 in 2015. There were 12 Green Coast Awards and 19 Seaside Awards in 2015.[42]

A major draw to tourists is the Pembrokeshire coastline; in 2011 National Geographic Traveller magazine voted the Pembrokeshire coast the second best in the world and in 2015 the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park was listed among the top five parks in the world by a travel writer for the Huffington Post.[43]

The many wrecks off the Pembrokeshire coast attract divers.[18]


There are seven local newspapers based in Pembrokeshire: the Western Telegraph (the largest in Pembrokeshire), The Milford Mercury, Tenby Observer, Pembroke Observer, County Echo and The Pembrokeshire Herald (founded 2013[44]). The Milford Mercury (circulation 3,681) and Western Telegraph (circulation 19,582) are part of the Newsquest group. Pembrokeshire's Best Magazine was launched in 2011.[45]

Narberth is home to Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Carmarthenshire and Scarlet FM[46] broadcasting to listeners every week.[47]


As the national sport of Wales, rugby union is widely played throughout the county at both town and village level. Haverfordwest RFC, for example, founded in 1875, is a feeder club for Llanelli Scarlets and won the WRU Division Three West league in 2011/12. Village team Crymych RFC won the previous year and in 2014 plays in WRU Division One West.[48]

Triathlon event Ironman Wales was hosted by Pembrokeshire for the third year running in 2013, contributing an estimated £4 million to the local economy.[49] Ras Beca, a mixed road, fell and cross country race attracting UK-wide competitors, has been held in the Preseli Mountains annually since 1977. The record of 32 minutes 5 seconds has stood since 1995.[50] Pembrokeshire Harriers athletics club was formed in 2001 by the amalgamation of Cleddau Athletic Club (established 1970) and Preseli Harriers (1989) and is based in Haverfordwest.[51]

The annual Tour of Pembrokeshire[52] road-cycling event takes place over 50, 75 or 100 miles in north west Pembrokeshire. The 4th Tour, in April 2015, attracted 1,600 riders including Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman.[53] Part of Route 47 of the Celtic Trail cycle route is in Pembrokeshire.

Abereiddy's Blue Lagoon was the venue for a round of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2012 and 2013.[54][55]

The Welsh Surfing Federation has held the Welsh National Surfing Championships at Freshwater West for several years.[56]

While not at major league level, cricket is played throughout the county and many villages such as Lamphey, Creselly, Llangwm, Llechryd and Crymych field teams in minor leagues under the umbrella of the Cricket Board of Wales.


See also List of schools in Pembrokeshire

There are some 60 primary and 8 secondary schools in Pembrokeshire. A comprehensive review of education in Pembrokeshire was carried out in 2014 with a number of options for discussion in 2015.[57]

The Preseli Branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A) provides musical appreciation as a subject, but suffers from the library service not having a catalogue of the CDs in stock.[58]

Health services

Health services in the county are provided by Hywel Dda Local Health Board which also provides for Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. The county's principal hospital is Withybush General Hospital in Haverfordwest, and there are local hospitals in Tenby and Pembroke Dock.

Notable people

Sarah Waters, novelist
See also Category:People from Pembrokeshire

Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, was born in Pembrokeshire.

Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton GCB, born in Haverfordwest, was the most senior officer to die at the Battle of Waterloo.

Jemima Nicholas, heroine of the so-called "last invasion of Britain" in 1797, was from Fishguard.

The artistic siblings Gwen and Augustus John were both born in Pembrokeshire. Graham Sutherland painted locally in the 1930s, gaining inspiration from the landscape.

The novelist Sarah Waters was born and raised in Pembrokeshire.

Actors Rhys Ifans and Christian Bale were born in Withybush Hospital in the county.

Singers Duffy and Connie Fisher both grew up in Pembrokeshire.

Current Secretary of State for Wales, Stephen Crabb, was raised in the county and continues to represent Pembrokeshire as one of its two Members of Parliament.


The flag of Pembrokeshire consists of a yellow cross on a blue field. In the centre of the cross is a green pentagon bearing a red and white Tudor rose. The rose is divided quarterly and counterchanged: the inner and outer roses have alternating red and white quarters.[59][60]

Filming location

Pembrokeshire's coastal landscape has made it a popular location choice for television and film. In recent years, several notable films have been filmed in the county.

Year Title Location
1940 The Thief of Bagdad Whitesands Beach
1956 Moby Dick Fishguard
1961 Fury at Smugglers' Bay Abereiddy
1968 The Lion In Winter Pembroke Castle, Marloes Sands, Milford Haven
1972 Under Milk Wood Fishguard
1977 Jabberwocky Pembroke Castle & Bosherston
1984 Sword of the Valiant Bosherston
1994 Dragonworld Manorbier
1998 Basil Tenby, Manorbier, Bosherston
2003 Baltic Storm Fishguard
2003 I Capture The Castle Manorbier Castle
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead Haverfordwest & Fishguard
2008 The Edge of Love Tenby & Laugharne
2010 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Freshwater West
2010 Robin Hood Freshwater West
2010 Third Star Barafundle Bay, Stackpole Estate
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Freshwater West
2012 Snow White & the Huntsman Marloes Sands
2015 Under Milk Wood Solva
2015 The Bad Education Movie Pembroke Castle
2016 Their Finest Hour and a Half Trecwn, Haverfordwest, Cresswell Quay, Freshwater West, Porthgain

Places of interest


Preseli Hills

Visitor attractions

Historical places

St. David's Cathedral


Barafundle Beach

See also


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External links

Further reading

  • Dillon, Myles, The Irish settlements in Wales, Celtica 12, 1977, pp. 1–11
  • Downes, John, Folds, faults and fossils: Exploring geology in Pembrokeshire. Llygad Gwalch Cyf, 2011. ISBN 978-1845241728
  • Fenton, Richard, A historical tour through Pembrokeshire. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme &Co, 1811
  • James, J. Ivor, Molleston Baptist Church-Reflections on the Founders' Tercentenary, V.G. Lodwick & Sons Ltd., Carmarthen, 1968
  • John, Brian, The geology of Pembrokeshire. Abercastle Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-1872887203
  • Lloyd, Thomas; Orbach, Julian and Scourfield, Robert, Pembrokeshire - The buildings of Wales, Yale University Press, 2004. ISBN 9780300101782
  • Owen, George of Henllys, A History of Pembrokeshire. Reprinted in Cambrian Register, Volume 2, 1799. 1603.

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