If you want to visit a charming Welsh village, Solva in Pembrokeshire will tick all the boxes.
Nestled on St Bride’s Bay in the Pembrokeshire coast national park and 3 miles from St Davids City, Solva’s quaint harbourside fishing village bursts with character and charm.
In this post, find out why Solva is somewhere you need to visit on your next trip to Wales.
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Is Solva worth visiting?
If you are wondering what’s at Solva, you have come to the right place.
Solva is known for its historic harbour, colourful houses and artisan shops, and I am pleased to say it lives up to expectations. It’s tiny, which adds to its charm, but it also packs a punch.
It can be visited in a few hours, allowing enough time to walk along the beach if the tide is out and pop in the artisan shops before enjoying refreshments from one of the pubs or restaurants in Solva.
If you have longer than a few hours to spare, you can follow the coastal path for stunning views across the harbour.
Where to park in Solva
The main A487 runs through Solva, and parking is limited, so get there early to get a spot. Better still, jump on a bus if you can.
It is a pay-and-display car park but is free to National Trust members.
We visited Solva twice during our Pembrokeshire holiday, and on our first attempt in the afternoon, there was nowhere left in the car park, which meant we couldn’t stay.
Our second attempt was early in the day, and thankfully we were able to park in the harbour.
There is another parking area in upper Solva near the church; however, it is a bit of a walk back to the main harbour area.
Best reasons to visit Solva on a day trip
#1 Solva is packed with independent galleries and shops
If you love looking around teeny-tiny artisan shops and galleries, you will enjoy wandering along lower Solva and dipping in and out of a few.
Look inside Window on Wales for everything relating to Wales, from ornaments to clothing. Much of the merchandise is focused on Puffins, a nod to the colony living on nearby Skomer Island.
The Little Gallery showcases local artists, and the Little Bee House sells all honey-related goods, from body creams and lip balms to pots of local honey.
It’s good to know that if you buy a souvenir from one of these independent shops, you are helping to support one of the small businesses in Solva.
#2 You can try a traditional Welsh Cake
Have you ever tasted or heard of a Welsh Cake? If the answer is no, you must stop at MamGu, which specialises in Welsh cakes in all flavours.
These traditional Welsh pastries are a bit like scones and are one of the things that Wales is famous for.
They are a staple food in Wales and come plain, with fruit and with veg (think leek and potato). They also cater for gluten-free visitors.
On my visit, we nabbed an outdoor table and tucked into the MamGu vegetarian breakfast with leek Welsh cakes and a stack of homemade crempogs (welsh pancakes) with butter and maple syrup – yum!
MamGu has an extensive menu. It includes Welsh cakes with toppings like beans and cheese and jam and cream, to name a few. One thing is for sure if you want to taste a piece of Wales, this Solva cafe is the place to do it.
#3 You can surround yourself with beautiful Welsh scenery
Being one of the most charming fishing villages in Wales means there is so much to love about Solva. The river running through the village is just one of those things.
It lends itself to catching some lovely photographs; if you turn up early or stay overnight, you may even have the place to yourself.
#4 Visit the Speek Gallery for a glimpse of Caribbean art in Wales
The Raul Speek Gallery, located in the beautiful old chapel, dominates the entrance to Solva village. Speek is Cuban by birth and an international artist who moved to Solva to open his gallery and studio in 1995.
Speek’s work includes original paintings, prints and sculptures. Unlike the traditional Welsh pastel seascapes and wildlife scenes, he introduces a splash of Caribbean colour to Solva.
If you are lucky, you might find Raul performing a Cuban jazz piece whilst you view his art; after all, he is a musician as well as an artist.
#5 Enjoy a pint in the Harbour Inn
The hub of the community is the Harbour Inn, a place to meet for refreshments in the heart of Solva. It is also dog friendly and popular with passing walkers and day visitors.
Enjoy the award-winning cask-ale and tuck into hearty pub favourites like fish and chips while watching the boats in the harbour bob up and down.
If you want something more refined, next door to the Harbour Inn is 35 Mainstreet.
The restaurant focuses on more fish dishes than the pub, including mussels, prawns and cockles. The Welsh speciality lamb cawl is also a favourite dish on the menu.
Interestingly, in 1840 you could board a ship from the harbour, pay £4 and sail to America; how cool would that have been?
There are two other village pubs in Solva, The Ship and The Cambrian Inn. And yes, that’s quite a few pubs for a tiny community!
#6 Wander along the main road and see Solva’s colourful houses
If you are a fan of brightly painted houses, Solva’s properties will have you in a frenzy.
With no surfaces left untouched, the houses create a rainbow-coloured main street. The village reminded me of my time in Burano in Italy and Symi in Greece.
#7 Walk the Pembrokeshire coast path
Solva is the starting point of several coastal walking trails. You will find a map in the harbour showing you routes to take and distances.
One of the most popular walks in Solva is along the 5-mile coast path to St Davids, where you will find the famous cathedral and a wealth of charming shops, galleries and eateries. Another walk starting in Solva will take you to Porth y Rhaw.
Another walk is to the rocky headland known as The Gribbin. To reach it, cross the river from the car park, take the right-hand path uphill, and be rewarded with fabulous views of the harbour and out to sea.
#8 Enjoy a picnic by the river
The River Solva runs through the village until finally flowing into St Bride’s Bay, and beside it is a picnic area and children’s play park. It is a nice place to take a break, just keep an eye on the kids near the water’s edge.
#9 Walk the length of Solva Harbour at low tide
At low tide, the seawater drains almost completely away from Solva Harbour. When this happens, you can walk past the boats lodged in the sand all the way to the sea.
If you have a dog with you, this is a great place to take them for a walk. We saw several four-legged friends enjoying their time chasing balls on the beach!
#10 Enjoy a free experience and go rock-pooling
Once you have walked to the mouth of St Bride’s Bay at low tide, you will be rewarded with plenty of rock pools, perfect for the family to go rock-pooling.
The sheltered waters are also perfect for a dip if you are brave enough to venture into them; after all, this is Wales and not the Mediterranean!
If you want to swim, check the Solva tide times so the incoming tide doesn’t cut you off!
If you visit Solva in July, you may see the ‘Swim to the Edge’ competition. It’s one of the UK’s largest organised open-water swimming competitions.
#11 Relax with a coffee and a view
Walk along the quay on the right-hand side of the harbour and enjoy a coffee, ice cream or a light lunch at Cafe on the Quay.
It’s a lovely place to sit beside the harbour to watch the fishing and leisure boats in Solva harbour.
High above the cafe is upper Solva, home to the more residential area of Solva and the main church. You can also find more parking opposite the church.
#12 Stay in a pub or one of the holiday cottages in Solva
If the sound of Solva has to whet your appetite, why not book overnight accommodation in Solva?
By staying in the village, you will have it all to yourself when the day visitors have packed up and gone home. There are several properties to choose from, all giving you a warm Welsh welcome and ensuring you have a fabulous holiday in Pembrokeshire.
Places to visit near Solva
Once you have left the main village, you can head to the small settlement of Middle Mill and the Solva woollen mill. If you are a fan of traditional crafts, this working woollen mill is a good place to visit. You can see weavers at work and buy distinctive runners and rugs for which Solva is famous.
If you are looking for somewhere to camp in Solva, Solva Valley Camping site is close to the wool mill and opens every summer to visitors.
Solva is in Haverfordwest between St Davids and Newgale, home to one of the most stunning beaches in Pembrokeshire.
St Davids is the UK’s smallest city and is a must-visit in Pembrokeshire. The city cathedral is the resting place of the patron saint of Wales and is a beautiful place to see. The city is tiny compared to others around the country but has much to explore.
If you want to experience Newgale Beach, be aware of parking fees. It is, however, a Blue Flag beach and perfect for surfing, so if you are into watersports, bring your surfboard or bodyboard and hit the waves.
You will find an ice cream shop, a surf shop, and a pub at the beach’s northern end.
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