Monday, 22 September 2014

ST DAVID'S



Walking down through the centre of St David's, you get the impression of a typical large Welsh village, with a couple of pubs, a small but select range of shops, cafes and restaurants, and rows of rustic cottages.  However, when you reach the end of the main street, the sight that greets you makes it obvious that this is no ordinary village.  In fact, St David's is a city, thanks to the beautiful cathedral nestling in a dip just off the bottom of the main street.  The cathedral dates from the 12th century, and the adjoining ruins of the Bishop's Palace date mainly from the 14th century.  The patron saint of Wales, St David founded a monastery in this spot in the 6th century, and during the Middle Ages St David's became a place of pilgrimage.  Another ecclesiastical site to the south of the city, St Non's Chapel, is reputed to be the birthplace of St David's mother, and it has a healing well.

Aside from the city's religious heritage, the other main draw is the nearby RSPB Reserve of Ramsey Island.  Boat trips to the island can be booked from ticket offices in St David's, and they leave from St Justinian, around a mile from the city.  We went on one of these trips the first time we visited St David's and, although the seals were not on view on that occasion, the knowledgable guide gave a fascinating insight into the abundant birdlife of the island, which includes guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.  There are sheep and deer grazing on the island, which provide an ideal habitat for lapwings and other birds.  To the northeast of the city is St David's Head, where there is a Neolithic cromlech and an Iron Age fort, near a stone rampart called The Warrior's Dyke.  The headland was once part of an ancient route linking Pembrokeshire to Salisbury Plain.

Map of the area.

Britain's most rural cathedral setting

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

ABEREIDDY



The people who used to operate Abereiddy's slate quarry, which was closed in 1904 after being flooded by the encroaching sea, might be surprised to find it a hive of activity still, over one hundred years later.  This delightful spot on the south-west coast of Wales is now a pool 100 metres across known as the Blue Lagoon, and is a favourite spot for a range of outdoor activities such as diving, kayaking and the curious sport of 'coasteering', which involves exploring the coast by a combination of climbing the cliffs and plunging into the sea.  Another popular way to enjoy this stretch of coast - and the one favoured by us on our visit - is by walking the coastal path while marvelling at the antics of the coasteerers down below.  In 2013 the lagoon hosted the Red Bull Cliff  Diving World Series. The Blue Lagoon is owned by the National Trust, and the number of visitors flocking there has created some conflict between the operators of the activities and the conservationists, necessitating an agreement on limiting the number of people who can use the lagoon each day.  The village itself consists of a number of colour-washed cottages backing onto a sand and shingle beach made a greyish-black by the slate.  Many of the scenes from a 1961 film starring Peter Cushing were filmed in Abereiddy.  The film, 'Fury at Smugglers' Bay', depicts the ravaging of a small seaside village by pirate wreckers.

Map of the area.

File:Abereiddy, the Blue Lagoon, with 'Coasteers' diving - geograph.org.uk - 1406824.jpg
Photo by Keith Salvesen, via Wikimedia Commons