The journey to Manorbier takes you through Pembrokeshire’s beautiful countryside, with colourful hedgerows and winding country lanes. Once in the village you will find a medieval castle, a Norman church, a pub, a post office cum general store, a garage and a cafe/ tea rooms. No …it’s not the commercial capital of Pembrokeshire but your not here for the shopping! Although there is only one pub in the village, The Castle Inn provides a warm and friendly welcome to all, and serves appetising meals… or just have a pint of beer and a ploughman’s lunch. Located along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, walking east from the village will bring you to the delightful seaside resort of Tenby, while in the opposite direction you will come to the quiet places of Swanlake Bay and Freshwater East.
Manorbier Castle: The castle is by far one of Manorbier’s most appealing and fascinating attractions. A 12th century medieval building, it perches on the hilltop overlooking the bay. However, where once livestock would roam and crops would grow, today the only things growing in the ground below the castle are bracken and marshgrash. The castle comprises of many outer buildings: curtain walls, chapel, gatehouse, and round towers.
Manorbier Castle is most famous for being the birthplace of the above-mentioned scholar, cleric, traveller, crusader, and medieval politician, Gerald of Wales. Gerald was the son of William de Barri, a Norman lord, and Angharad, the daughter of the Norman, Gerald de Windsor, and the famous Welsh princess, Nest.
The castle and its surrounding grounds are tucked into a narrow valley between two streams, which flow to Manorbier Bay. In hard times, the streams would have been the castle’s main water supply. The inner ward is a striking and beautiful place itself. The southern section has been heavily restored over the centuries, and the last restoration was undertaken during the 19th century. The great hall, built in the 1140s, today remains the “oldest stone building surviving at any castle in west Wales.” Some sections of the 12th century wall-painting have survived and provide us with a fascinating insight into medieval artwork. Surprisingly, the castle only ever saw two assaults and those being minor; the first was in 1327 when Richard de Barri invaded Manorbier to claim the castle which was lawfully his and the latter in 1645, when during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads seized and slighted the castle.
St James Church: Perched on the opposite side of the Shute Valley from Manorbier castle is St. James Church, a 12th-century Norman church and the parish church of Manorbier. As with many Welsh churches, St James’ church has a double knave, but St James’ has the addition of a striking crenellated tower. I presume the church has recently been the subject of renovation works as the lime-washed tower is a sure sign that Cadw, the Welsh heritage organisation, has been involved. (“Yes we will pay for improvements to your church …but you must paint it white”. Saint James’ Church is a Grade I listed building as one of the most interesting medieval churches in South West Wales, retaining a valuable series of stone vaults and furnishings.
The King’s Quoit: Close to Manorbier alongside the coastal path you will find The King’s Quoit, a striking stone cromlech (a prehistoric megalithic structure), which dates from around 3000BC. It is a beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic during the summer months.
Dovecote: The village is home to a well-preserved late mediaeval dovecote of a West Country type.
Manorbier Beach: Manorbier’s second most popular attraction is its delightful beach. Sheltered by two cliffs on either side of its wide golden sands, the beach is overlooked by both the castle and the 12th century Norman church. It is a sandy beach with pebbles along the banks. Children will love playing in the rock pools spotting starfish and crabs, whilst parents laze on the sand beside the shore! If you are feeling brave enough to test the “warm” Welsh waters don’t forget your surf board. However, you won’t be alone as Manorbier beach can be very popular with surfers during the summer months.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: If you need a break away from the sand and sea, you can take a delightful walk along the cliff tops, which offer excellent views of not just the beach, but also the castle, church and Pembrokeshire countryside. Footpaths criss-cross the landscape at Manorbier including one of Wales’ most famous trails the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. It cuts through Manorbier on its way eastward to Tenby, or winding westward along the scenic route to the secluded Swanlake Bay.
The main source of the history of Manorbier lies in its castle. As we know, it was the birthplace of Gerald of Wales; a medieval clergyman who battled to become Archbishop of St David’s and sadly failed. Born in 1146 it is through Gerald that we know most of the history of the village …and indeed the medieval history of Wales. Manorbier was also a popular haunt of the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and author Virginia Woolf. St James’s Church stands to the right above the beach, upon the opposite ridge top to the castle. Built during the Norman times, it was active during the years the castle was thriving. These days it remains a fantastic historic monument in the heart of Manorbier.