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Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. Haverford, insists the topographer Saxton in 1610. is a good British name and is the same as Hereford. Both should be Henffordd (Old Road), signifying their joint foundation by Roman power and the line of communication turning upon each. Humphrey Lhuyd, about thirty years before, certainly calls Hereford by that name, but the only concession he makes to Saxton's theory is to write on his map Herford West for Haverford and add the Welsh word accepted today for it: Hwlffordd. At some time, Saxton's guess that Romans founded the town may be proved correct; but no evidence has yet been found to confirm it. Except for a remote Station at Castell Fflemish, and a few scattered finds about the coasts, the Romans do not seem to have left anything to show they occupied Pembrokeshire as a whole.

Today, Haverford makes no doubt of its position as a centre for the Englishry, that part of the county of Pembroke which calls itself “Litt1e England beyond Wales”. It is true that Paterson's coach-road directions of 1811 pause to note that 1 mile out of Haverford there is a place named Merlin's Bridge. But Harford (to use the local pronunciation), the centre of county administration and for the Assizes and Quarter Sessions, is as sure of its Englishness, though ranked as a Welsh borough, as Monmouth is sure of its Welshness, though still reckoned as English in some quarters. Its unique privilege of having its own Lord-Lieutenant, the only town in Great Britain to enjoy the distinction, summarizes its situation. It was a palatinate, a border outpost, more detached from the seat of government than any other palatinate earldom Chester, Lancaster, or Durham. It was an island, in fact, cut off from England by the storms of war that stirred about the long valleys of the South. But almost in geographical fact it is an island, since the two long arms of the Cleddau, the West and East branches of water than run from inland to strike due South and pour into Milford Haven, cut a deep and double trench across the country and almost take in Haverford with an arm from the sea. “Cledd” is a word given various meanings, from sword to left-hand; but here the name seems to spring from the great cleft the rivers and their submerged valleys make. Their significance for the geography and therefore the strategy and politics of the area is shown by the village in the North of Pembrokeshire, almost on the coast, called Scleddau, on this side of the forked entrenchment they create. If the Norman adventurers and the Flemings sent by the first two Henrys to settle in this part of Dyfed, as Pembroke is called, felt themselves cut off from English bases, much the same was felt by the native Welsh who grew into a sense of their separate development apart from the rest of Wales.

The steepness of the main street of Haverford emphasizes its situation on a height above the Western Cleddau, and its growth around the high, square-walled fortress built in the 13th century by one William de Valence. It seems typical of the history of the place, and the efficiency with which its Flemings possessed it, that the Haverford Castle, until well into the 20th century. was used as a police station. Gerald de Barn had much to say of it when he went there in 1188. The effectiveness of the sermons that he and his Bishop preached on behalf of the Third Crusade was such that, by a miracle, a young man, inspired to volunteer, gained the sight that he had never had. But the sermons were preached in Latin and French; no word of Welsh was used. Gerald was himself a deeply patriotic Welshman, and wished for nothing more deeply than to see Wales re-established in the pride of its own independent Church; what is more, he knew Welsh. But the inhabitants were Flemings still in blood, speech, and manners. Their customs, particularly that of divining the future by means of rams' bones, he discusses at length, and he praises the character of these alien people who were fitted both to wield the sword and to handle the plough and held the isolated country in their charge with consummate skill and courage.

Not that they were subject to much Welsh assault. Elsewhere in Pembrokeshire, the Norman adventurers were met by local rulers with the choice of two things, war or intermarriage; and most of them seem to have chosen the second. Relations between the new half-Welsh, half-Norman lords and the people were excellent and undisturbed; Gerald de Barn was himself the offspring of such an alliance. But, in Haverford, the Fleming knew himself to be a thing apart, and to find a Welshman there was something to marvel at. Gerald, however, speaks of one event that showed that conditions were not always idyllic. The Governor of Haverford Castle arrested a Welsh raider and held him prisoner. The captive, with his tales of bold archery, naturally excited the boyish interest of the Governor's small son; and the two were allowed to meet and talk every day. But the prisoner had suffered wrongs at the hands of the Norman, and he suddenly took the boy to the top of the Castle tower. The anguished father promised everything if the man would free the child. But, after playing with the Governor's fears and hopes for a while, the man threw the boy to death from the tower and then flung himself down as well. It is a cruel tale but the Governor had put out the eyes of his captive and had done him other physical damage of a kind no man could forgive. The Governor set up a monastery for the soul of the child, and called it Sorrowful. There is another tale with which Gerald is connected, of a different sort. Near Haverford is a place called Poorfield, where, until a generation or two ago, a regular fair with cakes and ale was annually celebrated around St Caradoc's Well. The fair included horse-races. The saint in this case was of relatively recent sanctity, for he had died only in 1124, a little before Gerald's time. He had a hermitage at St Ishmael's. not the one set on the shore of Milford Haven, but close to Haverford. Born in Brecon, the good man left the world and followed his contemplations. among other places, on the Isle of Ary, from which he was seized by Norwegian pirates, who, either affected by his saintliness or finding there was nothing to be made out of him, let him go. It was Gerald who persuaded the Pope to canonize the hermit.

The Governor whom Gerald met was Richard FitzTancred, the youngest of his father's sons and somehow protected by Providence from many perils. So, it seems, was Haverford; for, in the days of Owain Glyndwr, the French Kingdom took up again its policy of helping Wales to reassert the independence that, half a century before, it had attempted in the cause of that Owain of Wales who is said to sleep under Carreg Cennen Castle. In 1405, 800 men-at-arms, 600 crossbowmen, and 1,200 infantry landed from 120 ships that sailed into Milford Haven. They took and burnt the town; but the Castle withstood all attack. It surrendered to Parliament in the Civil Wars: but, after the revolt of Pembroke against the Puritan dictatorship, Cromwell ordered that the Castle should be “slighted”. The keep, however, remains as a stately landmark dominating the countryside. The waters of the Cleddau go by, and men go by too.

Once Haverford was the main link with Ireland, but in the 19th century Milford Haven, nearer the outlet to the open sea and more specifically developed, outdistanced it, though in 1811 people said that not much future could be expected for a place so far from London. Haverford is still an outstanding market centre. It has its own small port, and Withybush and Brawdy are nearby airfields. But its abiding charm is in that sense of islanded resistance to threat and even disaster which has marked its history. The Old Butter Market is a reminder of its past, and its churches are three. St Mary's, in the High Street close to the Butter Market, has most interest. It is in every sense an English church in architecture and plan, particularly in the arcade and clerestory. The tracery and capitals of the columns are distinguished, and the roof of oak is one of the finest in existence.

Nearby towns: Fishguard, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newport, St Davids

Nearby villages: Bletherston, Boulston, Brawdy, Broad Haven, Burton, Camrose, Carew, Clarbeston, Cosheston, Freystrop, Haroldston West, Hasguard, Hayscastle, Hayscastle Cross, Herbrandston, Hubberston, Johnston, Landshipping, Langwm, Lawrenny, Little Haven, Llandeloy, Llangwm, Llanstadwell, Llawhaden, Minwear, New Moat, Newgale, Neyland, Nolton, Paterchurch, Pelcomb, Penycwm, Roch, Rosemarket, Rudbaxton, Saint Dogwells, Saint Ishmaels, Spittal, Talbenny, Treffgarne, Uzmaston, Walton East, Walton West, Wiston, Yerbeston

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