Pembrokeshire & South Wales: Pt 1 – Road to St Davids

At 2am one chilly Tuesday morning, we set off for the City of St David’s in the Welsh County of Pembrokeshire, around 5.5 hours away by road. En route, we would experience some stunning Welsh locations and towns, most notably around Cardigan…

Card 1

Sunrise – Ceredigion

2am is quite a time to start a journey, and by 6am the sun was rising over the Ceredigion Countryside, glistening over a layer of haze drifting over the hilltops. The moon was shining high in the sky, and the whole scene was like something out of a fairytale. What also made it special was that we were alone, out in the middle of West Wales, and whilst everyone else was sound asleep, we were taking in some unique views that we hadn’t seen the like of before.

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Cardigan Bay (Looking North) – Ceredigion

Just 10 minutes up the road, we reached the coast, and stopped to watch a stunning sunrise over Cardigan Bay, the largest Bay in Wales, which stretches from the area around Porthmadog, past Aberystwyth, and into Pembrokeshire around Fishguard.

In the distance, the peaks of North Wales, possibly even the Snowdonia National Park, loomed out of the hazy horizon like ghosts, whilst the lights of Aberystwyth twinkled in the near distance, just round the coast. The town is reasonably isolated compared to many others in Wales, with the nearest large towns/cities up to 2 hours away by road. The town is famous for its University, Promenade and substantial Castle Ruins which overlook the seafront.

Card 3

Cardigan Bay (Looking South) – Ceredigion

Looking across the bay to the South, the coastal A487 snaked off into the distance, towards the town of Aberaeron, whose shining lights you can see in the middle distance. The coast here is a mixture of beaches, rugged terrain and clifftops with sheer drops down to the water below.

Looking past the Bay itself, the vast expanse of the Irish Sea was laid out before us, with the neighbouring island of Ireland somewhere off in the distance, far out of sight.

Cardigan Guildhall – Ceredigion

In the centre of the town of Cardigan, stands Cardigan Guildhall, widely regarded as 1 of the finest buildings in the West of Wales. The initial designs for the building were put forwards in November 1856 by R J Withers, and approved the following year. He based his design on the style of John Ruskin (1819 – 1900, Victorian Architect/Philanthropist), a trend which would soon become common around Britain, known as “Ruskinian Gothic”. Cardigan Guildhall however is notable as the 1st building in the UK to use the style, which would eventually be used on such famous icons as Manchester Town Hall, and London St Pancras International.

When the Guildhall opened in July 1860, it contained a mixture of offices and Market Stalls, becoming a focal point for the town. The Clock Tower was a later addition, designed by Richard Thomas, and paid for by the then Mayor, David Davies (1818 – 1890). The Clock Mechanism was built by a firm from the English City of Derby called the “Midland Clock Works”, and was installed by 1892.

Outside the main entrance to the building sits a cast Iron Russian Field Gun, and its placement here is perhaps almost Ironic, as well as a memorial to a famous day in history. On October 25th 1854, the well known “Charge of the Light Brigade” was led by Lord Cardigan during the Crimean War. The original intention was to send the Brigade after a Russian Battalion in retreat, however they were instead sent against a volley of Russian Field Guns, which ended in tragedy for the Brigade. The mix up has been blamed on miscommunication, but it remains controversial today, as historians are unsure who to place the blame on. This very gun was used against the Brigade, and it reminds the town that it was their Earl, James Brudenell (1797 – 1868, 7th Earl of Cardigan) who led the charge.

Cardigan (Other Sights of Interest) – Ceredigion

The Guildhall lies at the top of Priory Street, where it meets the High Street. Looking back down Priory Street, there are a few other buildings of note, starting with the former Courthouse (shown in the 1st picture to the right), a small ochre coloured building completed in 1935. By 1943 it was home to the Cardigan Petty Sessions Court, which had presumably previously been held in the Guildhall.

To its immediate left, lies the towns Police Station, which opened in 1895. It was built by J Williams & Sons, who were also responsible for the construction of various other buildings around the town, including the Post Office.

Looking past the 2 of these, you can see the tower of St Mary’s Church, a historic place of worship the oldest parts of which date back to the 14th century (Nave). It stands where an old Benedictine Priory was located from the 12th – 14th centuries, in a prominent position on the North Bank of the River Teifi (out of shot to the right of the building). Just along the river you will find the ruins of Cardigan Castle, built sometime around the 11th/12th centuries.

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Dawn over Cardigan – Ceredigion

Sadly we didn’t have time to explore the rest of Cardigan, but we left via a large road bridge over the River Teifi, getting a great view back towards the Castle/Town Centre. Just outside Cardigan we stopped to admire the beautiful Welsh Countryside, illuminated by the sun which had by now risen fully, glistening over the low lying mist.

Fishguard – Pembrokeshire

20 miles South West of Cardigan, we had arrived in Pembrokeshire, and stopped to admire the views above the town of Fishguard. The town is effectively split into 2 parts, with the main town, and “Lower Fishguard”, the original fishing port that grew into the larger town. It was on a large incline between Lower Fishguard and Fishguard Town that we stopped in a layby, and gazed out across the Harbour.

It’s a vast area, which is defended from the crashing waves of the Irish Sea by a large Sea Wall, extending out into the water. Fishguard is now a major port, as Stena Line services to Rosslare Harbour in the Republic of Ireland regularly cross the Irish Sea from here.

Looking back at Lower Fishguard you can see how charming the area looks in the 3rd picture, a lovely Welsh fishing port in an idyllic setting.

Leaving Fishguard behind us, we made the final push for St David’s, just 15 miles away along the coast…

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