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St Davids

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Pembrokeshire : St Davids
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St Davids Cathedral and Bishop's Palace

St Davids [1] (Welsh Tyddewi or "house of David") is Britain's smallest city and home to Wales' most important cathedral. The city is in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and is part of a cultural history area in Wales.

Get in

By Road

St Davids is the westernmost city in Wales. The A487 connects St Davids to Haverfordwest and Fishguard, which provide connections to the A40, rail service to other points in the UK and ferry service to Ireland.

The A487 does at a few places between St Davids and Fishguard reduce to a single lane road, which may concern those who are not familiar with the traffic issues that this presents. In general, drivers should exercise caution and show courtesy to other road users. Many of the lanes and minor roads around St Davids have single lane stretches with passing places.

There is a large car park on the eastern edge of the city, as motorists arrive from Haverfordwest. From here you walk past a modern visitor centre and tourist office on the way into the centre. A second, smaller car park can be found near the Bishop's Palace, on the road to St Justinian, and a third small car park to the left on the way out of town towards Whitesands Bay and Fishguard. All car parks are fee-paying, including the large one at Whitesands Bay, which overflows into neighbouring fields in high summer.

By Bus

Richards Coaches service 411 Haverfordwest to Fishguard calls at St Davids. Connections with the National Express [2] network from the rest of the UK can be made at Haverfordwest.

By Rail

Fishguard harbour station is about 15 miles to the north-east, and is connected to St Davids by bus.

By Sea

Stena Line [3] sails from Rosslare in Ireland to Fishguard, which is a short bus journey from St Davids.

Visiting yachtsmen should use the harbour at nearby Solva. Contact the Harbour Master on 01437 721703.

Get around

The city itself is small enough that walking is the best way to get around and see the sights. Walking and hiking is also the best way to see the coastline around St Davids Head, as there are many hiking trails throughout the area. Roads in the area tend to be narrow, and can be busy in high season, also the car parks at the main tourist sites can fill up quite quickly, so driving can be a frustrating experience. To travel further afield than allowed by walking, cycling is a great option. Alternatively use the excellent bus service along the coast, organised by the local council [4].

Solva Harbour

See

  • The cathedral is interesting and free. It also has a decent and reasonably priced cafe-restaurant.
  • The Bishop's Palace is near to the cathedral, across a small river. It is a spectacular ruin showing how much wealth and power the clergy used to have.
  • Whitesands Beach. A large and picturesque sandy beach that has great views of Ramsey Island. Be aware that it gets very busy on sunny days in the summer. There are great walks along sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and out to St Davids Head (Welsh Penmaen Dewi). There is a small shop and cafe in the car park, and a lifeguard station on the beach, which is divided into sections for swimmers and surfers/windsurfers. Always look out for and obey lifeguard safety signals.
  • Solva (Solfach) — pretty little village at the head of a long, narrow natural harbour. Just over a 3 mile walk along the coast path to the east. The village has 4 pubs, so there's plenty of opportunity to get refreshments before walking back! The best views can be had from The Gribin, the cliff on the south side of the harbour. Solva's main car park is free.
The lifeboat station at St Justinian
  • St Davids Lifeboat Station, St Justinian — the "classic" lifeboat station, built up on stilts above the water, with the boat launching down a slipway to hit the water at speed. You can visit the boathouse in exchange for a donation. There are interesting displays telling the stories of some of the rescues carried out by the lifeboat over the years, mostly involving boats carried by some of the fastest tides in UK waters on to The Bitches, the row of sharp rocks in the middle of Ramsey Sound. The selfless bravery of the lifeboatmen really comes through, especially reading the stories from the days when the lifeboat was just a large wooden rowing boat.
  • Ramsey Island. An RSPB nature reserve known for its colonies of birds. Two boats per day land there, leaving from St Justinian at 10.00 and 12.00, returning at 12.00 and 16.00. Tickets available from Thousand Island Expeditions in Cross Square, St Davids.

Do

  • Nature Exploration trips. Several companies offer nature exploration tours by rigid inflatable boat around RSPB Ramsey Island from nearby St. Justinian. These trips can be quite expensive at around £20 for an hour but offer a unique perspective on the coastline. Take at least a waterproof coat as the fast boats and rough sea can result in a lot of splashes. Details of two firms below:
  • Thousand Islands Expeditions, Cross Square, St Davids, SA62 6SL, 01437 721721, [5]. The RSPB have given this company sole landing rights to Ramsey Island, but Thousand Islands also offers trips around the island, and others for wildlife enthusiasts
  • Voyages of Discovery, Cross Square, St Davids (opposite Lloyds Bank), 01437 721911, [6]. Rival boat-trip outfit which offers a wide range of guided voyages and expeditions around Ramsey and other smaller islands.
  • Hiking on the many trails. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs along the coast through the entire of the Pembrokeshire National Park. This means that you can turn up at any point on the coast and walk along to the next village or bay. The National Park Authority now runs subsidised bus services along the coast that will take you back to the place you started from for a small charge.
  • Swimming and scuba diving
  • Spend some time on the many beaches on the coast nearby. There are many beaches within a short drive of St Davids, all of which are clean and most of which have a lifeguard service. Facilities such as toilets and cafes are usually available but vary depending on how popular the beach is.

Buy

  • Ma Simes Surf Hut, 28 High Street, St Davids, 01437 720433, [7]. Specialist surf shop, selling clothes, equipment, books. Also offer surfing lessons. Their website has a daily surf conditions report and a webcam of Whitesands Beach.
  • National Trust Shop, High Street, St Davids, 01437 720385, [8]. The National Trust owns and cares for large parts of the St Davids peninsula, as well as the historic cross in the centre of the city. The shop features some informative displays about the work they do in the surrounding countryside, as well as a nice range of gifts, cards, postcards etc.
  • St Davids Bookshop (Siop Lyfrau Tyddewi), 5a The Pebbles, St Davids, SA62 6RD (between Cross Square and the Cathedral), 01437 720480. Interesting selection of new and second-hand books on local topics.
  • St Davids Food and Wine, High Street, St Davids, 01437 721948 (). Deli specialising in local produce. Order freshly-made sandwiches and baguettes from the counter at the rear of the shop.
  • TYF Adventure Equipment, 1 High Street, St Davids. Outdoor equipment, accessories and clothing, as well as kites, frisbees, beach toys etc.

Eat

  • The Old Cross Hotel, The Old Cross Hotel, Cross Square, +44(0) 1437720387, [9]. The Old Cross Hotel is a good place to get a drink and snack in a quieter atmosphere than is available in many of the more bustling tourist places.
  • Morgans Restaurant, 20 Nun Street, St Davids, 01437 720508 (), [10]. Excellent quality cuisine in a friendly, relaxed setting, close to the centre of St Davids. A touch pricier than some other local eateries, but you are definitely getting what you pay for, and visitors from larger UK cities will probably be surprised at how cheap it is! Sustainability is a watchword here, all their produce is from local suppliers, which they list on the menu and the website.
  • The Bench, 11 High Street, St Davids, Pembrokeshire, SA62 6SB, 01437 721778, [11]. An Italian-style coffee-, wine-bar and ice cream parlour in the heart of St Davids. It can get crowded, so consider booking, especially in the evening. Typical fare includes pasta and home-made pizzas, but for a splurge, try one of the main courses.


Drink

  • Farmers Arms, Goat Street, St Davids, 01437 720328, [12]. Surprisingly the Farmers is the only real pub in the city, and consequently can get pretty busy at any time of year. Always a good atmosphere with a real mixture of different people.
  • The Harbour Inn, 31 Main Street, Solva, 01437 725071 (). One of four pubs in the nearby village of Solva, the Harbour Inn is in what used to be the Harbourmasters House. Owned by Cardiff-based Brains brewery.

Sleep

Camping

  • Pencnwc Farm [13], Treginnis, St Davids. Just a short walk from the cliff top that forms Wales' most westerly point overlooking Ramsey Island. Simple but lovely site. Ready-pitched tents available to order, also a Mongolian Ger. Of course you can bring your own tent!
  • Caerfai Bay, 01437 720274 (fax: 01437 720577), [14]. Popular and well appointed camping and caravan site, located just to the south of St Davids, overlooking a sandy bay. Organic Farm Shop on site. Advance booking recommended, though they have a minimum 4 night stay for advance bookings, extended to 7 nights in the school summer holidays (mid July to early September).

Hostels

  • YHA St Davids, Llaethdy, Whitesands, St Davids, 0845 371 9141, [15]. Lovely, if basic, hostel in former farm buildings on the slopes of Carn Llidi the rocky hill that dominates the northern part of the St Davids peninsula. About 2 miles to the north-west of St Davids, close to Whitesands Bay.

Get out

St Davids is near the extreme southwest tip of Wales, so to get out, you will likely have to return the way you came. If travelling around the coastal path, or touring by car, nearby towns include Haverfordwest and Fishguard. Places of interest further afield include Cardigan to the north, Tenby to the southeast and Carmarthenshire to the east



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