Seeking a mid-life change of direction, osteopaths Jo and Adam Sheridan, from Rugby in the English Midlands, ended up falling for west Wales. In May, they moved into a smallholding on 14 acres near the town of Lampeter, about 20 miles south of Aberystwyth, including a barn and a two-bedroom holiday rental property from which they plan to run art and pottery-themed weekends.
“Initially, we wanted France, then after Brexit we changed to Devon or Cornwall but found it too expensive,” says Jo, 57. So they started looking in Pembrokeshire. “Our budget increased from £500,000 to £700,000 after three properties fell through — the market felt a bit frenzied. We ended up buying over the border in Ceredigion, where the scenery is similar — stunning rolling hills run right down to unspoilt sandy coves like Cei Bach and Mwnt — but it feels less discovered.”
With its miles of pristine beaches and ruggedly dramatic national park coastline, Pembrokeshire has been popular with second-home owners from England and Wales for decades, with many seeing the area as a cheaper and less crowded alternative to Cornish holiday hotspots. From London, Pembrokeshire can be quicker to reach than Cornwall too, typically a four to five-hour drive, rather than six hours on a Friday evening in summer.
But since the start of the pandemic, demand from buyers in south-west Wales has increased sharply, with the area attracting full-time movers seeking more space and a change in lifestyle.
In the 12 months to October, the average property price in Pembrokeshire increased 13.7 per cent to £204,710, according to estate agency Hamptons using ONS data. In Ceredigion, the average price rose 12.8 per cent to £217,690.
The proportion of sales priced above £500,000 is still much lower than in parts of Cornwall, however. In Pembrokeshire, about 5 per cent of sales recorded in 2021 were priced above £500,000. In Cornwall, that figure was 13 per cent — in popular Padstow and St Agnes, it was more than 40 per cent.
Buying agent Carol Peett of West Wales Property Finders brokered 12 sales for between £750,000 and £1.25m in that period — and three sales of £1.5m still going through conveyancing. “Most of our buyers tend to have a connection with the area — or at least Wales — but have been moving back to allow their children to experience the type of childhood they had.”
There’s more going for tourists on the southern coast, where access from the M4 is also quickest — around Tenby, the Victorian seaside resort that is throwing off its stag weekend reputation to gain sophisticated pockets with £2m-plus houses — and the smaller holiday villages of Saundersfoot and Amroth.
For those that love mucking around in boats, the tidal creeks and salt marshes of the Cleddau river area and Neyland on the Milford Haven estuary are popular. “Those with boats and kayaks might be lucky to find a tucked-away cottage with its own mooring,” says Daniel Rees of the estate agency Savills.
For people who prefer the rugged far west, on St Davids Peninsula the pretty coastal villages of Solva (sitting on an inlet in a steep sided valley) and Porthgain (home to the popular fish restaurant The Shed Bistro) are sought-after locations. As is the Marloes Peninsula, where Rees recently sold a thatched cottage close to the remote sandy beach of Marloes Sands for £420,000.
Prices tend to be higher in the south than the west. The area known as “Little England beyond Wales”, below the Landsker Line that crosses south-west Wales, dividing the predominantly Welsh and English-speaking parts, is often considered more desirable by English buyers, according to Peett.
In the past decade the town of Narberth — with its independent shops, galleries and hotels — has evolved into the chic hub of Pembrokeshire. Narberth’s Madtom Seafood Restaurant and The Grove Hotel are evidence of the new money flowing into the area in recent years, says Diana Dredge, 61, who moved to a Welsh farmhouse on 12 acres in Manorbier Newton 10 years ago.
She and husband Charlie from south-west London had originally been looking in next-door Carmarthenshire — they featured on the TV show Escape to the Country — but ended up falling for Pembrokeshire, where, according to the Met Office, it rains less. “We loved the fact it felt like North Cornwall in the 1970s,” she says. “A bit of gentrification has been a good thing: gourmet street-food trucks have started appearing, like Café Mor at Freshwater West.”
Tapping into — and fuelling — the growing tourism in the area, Dredge and her friend Amber Lort-Phillips founded The Big Retreat Festival in 2016, a “feel-good” themed event of wellness, yoga, music and gin workshops in Lawrenny.
According to short-term let analysts AirDNA, the number of active Airbnb/Vrbo listings in Pembrokeshire fell by 10 per cent between August 2019 and August 2021 — possibly down to staycationing owners using their own properties. But the average daily rate (ADR) increased by 23 per cent to £161; in Carmarthenshire, by 36 per cent to £137.
In the face of the issue of local buyers being priced out of locations prized
by holiday-home purchasers — as is happening in areas of Cornwall — Pembrokeshire’s council tax on second homes is being increased from 50 to 100 per cent more than primary residences from April (see panel). However, holiday-home owners are simply registering them as businesses (that only need to be available to let for 70 days a year to qualify) to pay lower or zero business rates.
Max Howells hopes that lower-profile Carmarthenshire might be beginning to catch up with Pembrokeshire. He owns the Portreeves restaurant in Laugharne, described as “a timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town” by its most famous resident, the poet Dylan Thomas.
Sitting where the River Taf flows into Carmarthen Bay, the town is just over the Pembrokeshire border. “This area hasn’t had the same investment as Tenby or Saundersfoot,” says Howells, 56. “But the number of English people moving here or buying holiday rentals is increasing.” He’s selling his self-built six-bedroom home in the town (for £850,000), to buy a rural property.
The relative affordability of a property that comes with land in strongly agricultural Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion is beginning to be appreciated by buyers from outside the area, says Neil Evans of West Wales Properties. He is selling a five-bedroom detached house on 2.2 acres close to Llanelli, the coastal hub of Carmarthenshire, for £600,000.
This area looks across the Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for its rolling moorland and sandy beaches — including the surfing magnet of Rhossili Bay. While many Welsh holiday-home buyers will spend less than £300,000 on a property, many English buyers will spend £450,000- £650,000, says Kirsty Johnson of estate agent John Francis.
“The southern Gower is more expensive. It includes the village of Mumbles — popular for all its boutiques and restaurants.” The downside of getting on to the Gower can be traffic jams on summer weekends — maybe not quite so different from Cornwall after all.
Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire), Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire constitute the corner of south-west Wales known as the county of Dyfed until 1996. The M4 motorway is the main arterial route from London and the nearest international airport is Cardiff.
In Pembrokeshire the annual council tax on an average (Band D) property in 2021/22 is £1,189.69 (with second-home owners paying double this rate from April). For Ceredigion the rate is £1,354; for Carmarthenshire £1,361.97.
The Welsh equivalent of stamp duty is the Land Transaction Tax (LTT). On properties over £180,000 up to and including £250,000 the rate is 3.5 per cent, on a sliding scale up to 12 per cent for the portion of a property over £1.5m. For second homes, it’s 3 per cent for the first £180,000, up to 15 per cent for the portion over £1.5m.
What you can buy for . . .
£400,000 A four-bedroom, two-bathroom Georgian detached cottage near the port of Fishguard, western Pembrokeshire. The Grade II-listed, whitewashed property has a walled, well-tended garden and large conservatory. For sale with Fine & Country.
£749,950 A four-bedroom, two-bathroom detached house in Llanmadoc, a peaceful village on the North Gower Peninsula with a late 17th-century pub, shops and post office. The house is within walking distance of coastal paths and is on the market with John Francis.
£925,000 A Grade II-listed manor house with a total of 12 bedrooms, including two guest cottages and a self-contained apartment. Currently run as a holiday business, the property is 3.5 miles from Newgale Beach in western Pembrokeshire. Available through West Wales Properties.