If I had to choose my favourite pub in the world, it would probably be the Farmers Arms in St Davids, Pembrokeshire. This isn’t because of its beer offerings or even because of the great atmosphere, but because all my early pub memories were formed here.
When I was growing up, we went to the Pembrokeshire coast every year for our annual holiday, sometimes as a family, sometimes with a large group of my parents’ friends as well. It’s a very special place for me, and I try to get back there every couple of years at least. St Davids itself keeps evolving – I remember it being a sleepy village for hardcore hikers in the 1980s, a bucket-and-spade resort in the early nineties, and now it’s like Hampstead-on-sea, with posh restaurants, and artists selling paintings to each other.
Because of its large beer garden, the Farmers was open to kids, and so was probably the first pub I ever went to, and certainly the first pub I remember. And obviously, because I was always there on holiday, the memories are all pleasant. When I walk into the beer garden now, there’s a little bit of me that’s five years old, really excited about going to the beach.
I tasted beer there for the first time, a sip from the parents’ pints. Urgh — how can they drink that stuff? I observed the pleasure that my parents and their friends got from drinking and chatting in the afternoon sun. I learnt that drinking too much makes you boring and repetitive. And then did it anyway, when I was old enough.
Here I also developed my strange love of pub fish and chips. Yes, I know it’s usually frozen fish and oven chips. But we didn’t eat out much when I was growing up, and so it was always a bit of a treat, and continues to be now I’m older and can afford to eat better stuff.
As a sulky teenager, I continued to love the Farmers, even before I could drink. Its status as the only pub in town has always made it a lively place, the centre of the social scene for young and old alike. There are always a surprising number of young people in St Davids — surfer types, I always assumed.
I’ve just spent an afternoon there with my mum, and it’s as charming as ever. Reverand James (Brains), Double Dragon (Felinfoel) and Rhymney Bitter on tap, all in good nick. Friendly bar staff. Same great view out of the beer garden. I’m sad to be missing GBBF, but extremely contented to be here instead.
The Farmers Arms is on Goat Street. You don’t need a map to find it as St Davids is a pretty small place. However, it is officially a city (the smallest in the UK) thanks to its beautiful 12th century cathedral. Its population is fewer than 2000 people, although this probably quadruples during the summer. These days it must also have the highest percentage of espresso machines per capita in the world.