Travel Review: Milford Waterfront provides the perfect getaway for a relaxing weekend
It was a mid evening in March and darkness had descended on Milford Waterfront.
My family – partner Amy, daughter Eleanor and I – had just arrived at our destination, a beautifully furnished ground floor apartment called Shearwater, in Milford Haven, after a four-hour journey from the Midlands.
Having taken it upon myself to drive the whole way, I was gripped by an immediate desire to relax and unwind.
And, having had a brief look around our accommodation for the weekend, I stepped out onto Shearwater's own waterside terrace and the stress and strains soon slipped away from me.
Lights of all colours, from various boats and buildings across the bay, glistened and shimmered on the water and this opportunity to step out from our lounge area onto the terrace became a regular ritual of the weekend.
You can't beat the chance to take in the coastal air, while closing your eyes to listen to incoming waves gently pressing against the sea wall or teasing the stony, shelled beach.
Shearwater was accommodation to really make you feel comfortable and at ease.
For a start, the apartment block has security-coded gates, meaning that you can park your car up in its designated spot and forget about it.
Indeed, given its location at Milford Waterfront, you can forget your car for the weekend but more on that shortly.
Shearwater is offered for rental through Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire, a family run holiday cottage agency based in West Wales, now celebrating its 41st year in business.
Their collection of 500 cottages ranges from traditional stone houses to one-of-a-kind holiday homes, with a dedicated in-house Concierge team offering hand-crafted welcome packages and exclusive experiences.
Among the packages you can order for your stay is a Farmhouse Breakfast Hamper – home grown mushrooms and tomatoes, butcher’s homemade sausages, thick cut bacon, free range eggs and more.
We were lucky enough to select a delicious Welsh Produce Hamper packed with treats including Welsh cakes plus Bara Brith, Welsh Jam – my personal favourite – and fudge, Welsh tea and chocolate.
The apartment itself was particularly stylish, featuring a lovely light L-shaped living space with modern fitted kitchen and dining area.
The kitchen had all your requirements, including a coffee machine if you need that perk up before embarking on the day while the smart bathroom includes a bath.
Two double rooms – one ensuite – are both light and beautifully decorated, eye-catching art adorning the walls and their windows offer water views. It means, if you so wish, you can leave your window slightly ajar of a night and gently drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of the water.
After a pleasant night's sleep, we were well set to explore our surroundings.
I'll be honest, though well travelled in the UK, my knowledge of Milford Haven surmounted to memories of history studies and remembering Henry Tudor had landed at Mill Bay, at the mouth of the Milford Haven waterway in 1485, having lived most of his life in exile in France.
I'd since been told the Waterfront area at Milford Haven had been undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment in recent years, converting former harbourside buildings into shops and restaurants all overlooking the busy 300 berth marina.
Stepping onto our waterside terrace for a short time before going out, a gloomy shadow had descended over the water, suggesting it wasn't going to be the best of days from a weather point of view.
But, you know what, it didn't matter. Nor did it matter to the many people we spotted taking part in the town's parkrun on a rainy Saturday morning.
That was the sight that greeted us as we walked towards the marina. Indeed, many had already finished by the time we were up and about, making me feel slightly guilty.
A tempting scent of coffee drew us to breakfast at Foam, a very short walk from Shearwater and known for its 'Instagrammable' breakfasts.
It didn't disappoint and also seemed to be a place where the parkrunners headed after their early morning excursions.
I could have felt guilty tucking into my 'Foam Full Fave' having not been on a run myself but it was too delicious for me to care really as it arrived with delicious bacon, sausage, egg, tomato, fried new potatoes, beans and sugar loaf toast.
Amy tried the Foam Benny – thick cut sourdough toast, wilted spinach, thick cut bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise and a sprinkle of paprika – and this also got a nod of approval.
Our daughter Eleanor's preferred choice was fluffy pancakes with fresh fruit and maple syrup and this too got the thumbs up.
Well prepared for the day, our plan was to simply take in what the Waterfront area had to offer.
It was, by now, wet and windy but that didn't detract from a pleasant experience. I actually enjoyed listening to a symphony of sounds from the docked boats in the marina, sometimes creaking and often clanging, sails or flags slapping on the mast.
And it was the rain which forced us immediately into Dilly's Chocolates – as if you need tempting into a chocolate shop! Speaking to a delightful host, she told us owner Dilys started making her own chocolate in 2018 and hadn’t looked back since. You can understand why! We sampled some of the chocolate on offer and it really stirred the senses. We couldn't leave without buying some on the tasty treats on offer.
The foodie offering is impressive here. There are independent restaurants, delis, artisan chocolate producers, ice cream makers and more.
The kind lady who welcomed us in Dilly's Chocolates told us that, in the summer, the marina is particularly stunning, giving almost a flavour of Europe, with the sun glistening off the harbour's water, with music playing.
There was a fantastic range of shops to look in. Akamuti offered a natural, organic and ethical skincare products, Salt on the Strand and Boobaloo Boutique offered fashion for all and Eleanor was particularly drawn to Scott's Sweet Shop, with its Aladdin's Cave of sweets and chocolates.
SugarLoaf deli has a selection of pies, pasties and filled rolls to take away, while The Cheesy Cow offers a range of grazing platters and other goodies
You are also in walking distance of the Waterfront Gallery and there's also a wonderful museum charting the history of the port and destination.
The Milford Beach Activity Centre – a converted shipping container at one end of the Waterfront – offers SUP and kayaking on the waterway while the village of Dale is a short drive away, plus visitors have the chance to explore the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for walks, wildlife watching on the Cleddau Waterway and enjoy history at Pembroke Castle and culture at the acclaimed Torch Theatre.
On the afternoon, we went on a walk known as the Scotch Bay stroll, starting off on Mackerel Quay, to take in the coastline, on a leafy trail with breathtaking views of the Milford Haven Waterway.
After a thoroughly enjoyable day taking in our surroundings, we headed to dulse for our evening meal. Executive Head Chef Simon Crockford is the heart and soul behind dulse, the vibrant bar and restaurant at Tŷ Hotel Milford Waterfront, named after the edible variety of seaweed that grows abundantly around the coast of Pembrokeshire.
Staff at the restaurant were warm and welcoming and, much more than that, incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the food they were serving. They didn't think twice about offering their thoughts on the menu, which offered a wide range of options.
It wouldn’t be a trip to the coast without sampling some seafood. So, for a starter, my dining partner Amy tried the grilled tiger prawns. The prawns were crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and dipped in a delicious lemon garlic butter with, lemon and samphire (AKA the asparagus of the sea).
They were served with legs and all, so don’t order if you’re squeamish, but it was well worth a little effort to peel back the crispy skins to reveal the soft prawn beneath. They were definitely cooked perfectly with the grilled texture adding another layer.
Meanwhile, I opted for the Pembrokeshire Crab Soup and it didn't disappoint. offering a whole host of flavours and textures to tickle your tastebuds and delight the palate. It was served up with a wonderful crab mayonnaise and seaweed butter as well as cornbread. A fantastic appetiser.
For the main, Amy opted for the Welsh pork belly with celeriac and apple. If ever there was a match made in heaven, it was pork and apple, and this dish proved it. The apple had just enough of a sweetness to compliment the meat without being too cloying. A flavoursome bed of black pudding (which was sourced from Trealy Farm in Pontypool) and celeriac gave the meal another dimension.
The pork itself was almost melted in the mouth and was topped off with a tasty bit of crackling. Flawless.
I chose Tenby Harbour market fish, beer battered, and served with tartare sauce, mushy peas and lemon and chips.
The fish was, like Amy's pork, a melt-in-the-mouth dish. If I could have found a fisherman to take me out on a boat to catch some more, there and then, I would have grabbed my waterproofs from Shearwater!
After two top-class courses, it would be churlish to say no to dessert. Amy picked cherry and white chocolate blondie to round off her meal. It is a fairly new addition to the menu which has been proving popular with diners – and for good reason.
They’re thick, and chocolatey but with a light texture and a burst of fresh cherry flavour. It was accompanied by a Marzipan ice cream, which gave it an indulgent twist, and the mulled cherries made this one a moreish treat.
I opted for the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta, with Gower cider poached pear, pear sorbet.
This was rich in textures and so flavoursome, a delectable way to finish off the evening's meal.
Our daughter, Eleanor, incidentally wasn't just sitting by idly while we tucked in. dulse provides an impressive children's menu and she tucked into home-baked tortillas for starters, which came with a tomato salsa dip, sour cream and cheese. For her main, she opted for a tomato and mozzarella pizza. Eleanor can be a bit picky when it comes to pizza but this proved a big hit. She rounded off her enjoyable meal with a fresh fruit salad.
After that, we enjoyed a nightly stroll around the marina to walk off our meal and then headed back to our apartment, discussing a wonderful day and how a return visit in the summer would be on the agenda.
After checking out of Shearwater on Sunday, we took a leisurely drive to see some of the stunning sights of Pembrokeshire before our journey home.
The beauty of Milford Haven is that, as well as being a great place to sample local delights, you can also use it as a base for further afield – places like St Davids or Saundersfoot.
A short drive from Milford Haven is Neyland, a small town that was once the terminus of a railway constructed by Brunel. Now there’s a smart marina to visit and you can walk along the old railway line, which is now a popular cycle way.
We stopped off in Tenby for a short time on our way home. I had to try and find someone to help me catch me some of that delightful dulse fish, after all!
A week's stay at Shearwater on Milford Haven Waterfront starts from £450 with short breaks available too. To book, go to www.coastalcottages.co.uk
For more information about Milford Haven Waterfront visit www.milfordwaterfront.co.uk
To book Dulse Restaurant https://www.ty-hotels.com/destinations/milford-waterfront/dining/