The Pembrokeshire Coast Path and Our Churches
If you are planning to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, you might wish to combine your walk with visits to some of the churches in the Greater Dewisland Local Ministry Area. A diversion inland from the path to one of the churches will, at the most, add an hour to your walk on any day. This is a wonderful way of combining an appreciation of Pembrokeshire’s coast and countryside with an insight into the religious and social history of this part of the county.
St Nicholas Let’s say that you have been walking from Fishguard, have passed Strumble Head lighthouse, and have arrived at the lovely little bay of Aber Bach. From here you can walk inland along a woody path to the historic mill of Melin Tregwynt. Having spent some time (and some money in the shop) here, and after a drink and something to eat in their café, a footpath will lead you directly to the village of St Nicholas. If you cannot find the path, ask anyone and they will point you in the right direction. The church is in the centre of the village, next door to the former school, which is now the village hall. There are no shops in St Nicholas, but you should be able to identify the building that was formerly the smithy. If you walk back to the mill, you can then take a different route, along the road, down to the beach at Aber Mawr. The large pebble bank at Aber Mawr was created by an extraordinary storm on 25th October 1859..
Granston From Aber Mawr to Granston church is an undemanding, although uphill, 25 minutes (or 1.4 miles) walk. Although the parish of Granston is quite extensive, including both the mill at Tregywnt and the famous Baptist chapel at Llangloffan, Granston itself is tiny: there is Granston Hall, a four-square gentry house and farm on one side of the road, and the tiny church dedicated to St Catherine on the other side of the road. The church might be tiny, but it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful churches in Pembrokeshire.
Mathry Continuing along the path, the next point of arrival is Abercastle. Today this is a quiet little fishing harbour, but it is easy to imagine just how busy it must have been up until the early twentieth century when it was used by trading vessels. Incredibly, at one time Abercastle had three pubs. Carreg Sampson cromlech can be reached via stiles adjacent to the coastal path. It is well worth making the 30-minute walk uphill from Abercastle to Mathry, not least because, as well as a church, Mathry also has a lovely café and a great pub serving great food. It is rated Number One on Trip Advisor.
Llanrhian Talking of pubs, one of the favourite stopping points on the coast path is Porthgain where you will find the historic Sloop Inn, which serves food from breakfast right through to evening meals. There is much to explore in Porthgain, a harbour that exported roadstones, slates and bricks from 1837 to 1931. But while you are here, it is well worth adding a quick 13-minute walk straight up the road from Porthgain to the beautiful cruciform church at Llanrhian.
St Davids It isn’t in our Local Ministry Area, but the cathedral at St Davids is obviously the highlight of one’s progress along the coast path. There is nothing quite as splendid as walking into a cathedral city, and, not surprisingly, many people walking the path like to imagine themselves as pilgrims making a special journey on foot to a very special spiritual site.
Solva The principal beach at St Davids is Whitesands. It is twelve miles along the coast path from Whitesands to Solva, although you can cut off a few miles if you walk down from the city to Porthclais or Caerfai Bay. The coast path will bring you into the harbour and main street of Solva. To see the church at Solva, go back along the road to Upper Solva at the top of the hill. This is the only non-medieval church in the Local Ministry Area. The church for Solva had been at Whitchurch, but by the late nineteenth century most of the people in the area lived in Solva – so a new church was built in 1879. Solva is a busy little place with a variety of shops, galleries, places to eat and several pubs.
Roch The final church close to the coast path in our Local Ministry Area is the church at Roch. The path will have brought you to Newgale, an enormous beach, almost two miles of sand backed by a huge pebble bank. Visiting Roch will demand a bit more of a trek from the coast to the church than with any of the destinations we have looked at so far. Starting at Newgale, it is two-and-a-half miles to Roch church, but well worth the effort as it a very pleasant meander through woodland and countryside. And when you arrive in Roch there is not only the church to see but also the spectacular castle. And a lovely pub, the Victoria Inn.
There are thirteen churches in our Local Ministry Area. These are the six in closest proximity to the coastal path. But do try to find time to visit the other seven churches as well – they are all beautiful and very special places.