OL35: St Davids & North Pembrokeshire

OS Explorer map OL36, North Pembrokeshire – I own this map, but had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 22nd July 2022.

Google Maps location links: Square & Compass, Abercastle, St Davids

My previous post told you of the beginning of my holiday to Pembrokeshire with my friends Cheremy, Queenie, Millicent, Erithacus and Vesper, as we drove from Bridgend, where I’d collected a hire car, to visit Tenby, before arriving in Square and Compass in North Pembrokeshire (and this map area), where we’d rented a holiday home for the next three nights. When driving over, we were cutting it fine with arriving in time for the supermarket delivery slot we had booked in, and indeed as we pulled into the drive a Morrisons van appeared directly behind us! We therefore somewhat hurriedly located the key, let ourselves into the house, and then immediately shuttled the little crates of food back and forth to the ktichen. Following this, Cheremy cooked us some oven pizzas for dinner, heroically improvising a pizza bagel for Vesper, whose vegan pizza hadn’t been delivered on the order.

Pizza for dinner

The house was nice, with a very spacious living area that served us well. [1] Somewhat oddly, in something I hadn’t experienced before, it was clearly a family’s own holiday home that they use themselves, and rent out when they’re not present, as there were lots of photos of their children, storybooks, and the general apparatus of regular occupation hanging about – as well as a bit of wall where said children had marked out their heights over the years!

The route of our Saturday afternoon walk, from Square and Compass to Abercastle, Trefin and back

After our long day of travelling, we had a relaxed one the next day, waking up gradually in the morning and lazing around chatting until lunchtime. It was unfortunately, and in stark contrast to the blazing sunshine we’d had at Tenby the day before, rather grey and rainy, so enthusiasm wasn’t universally high for any kind of outing, however it looked like it would remain so for most of the rest of the trip, so though we’d better gather our fortitude and bear it. We therefore set out on a footpath from Square and Compass towards the coastal village of Abercastle, thinking that we’d walk as far as we felt inclined to given the weather.

Now, I really dislike wearing wet clothes – if I go swimming, for example (a rare occurrence), I need to get in, do my swimming, then once I get out, go and get dry and changed right away: no poolside lazing around post-swim for me. If I’m going for a rainy walk, I like to be fully waterproofed-up, but unfortunately I’d neglected to bring my waterproof trousers on this trip. For this reason, I therefore settled on the for me very outlandish getup for this walk of one of my walking shirts – i.e. the sporty t-shirt things which I generally use for avoiding sweaty backs when hiking on warm days with a rucksack on, discussed at length in a previous post – plus a pair of swimming shorts; these being both items that when they get wet (a) at least don’t cover much of my body to have the wet feeling against, and (b) will dry again quickly once the rain lets up. I therefore looked like an alternate-universe sporty version of myself!

My alternate sporty self costume

We soon arrived, only moderately damp, in Abercastle, which turned out to be a very pretty village, with a cute little beach at the end of a long inlet. There was an intriguing little fortification sitting on the hillside overlooking the bay, which I was interested in trying to clamber down into, but unfortunately while there was a path to it, it was very steep, narrow, and sat directly above a long drop onto rocks, so given the slippy conditions I thought I’d better not!

From Abercastle, we took a path up the hillside to see Carreg Samson, a Neolithic tomb – it wouldn’t be one of our trips if we didn’t go to look at some stones!

A view from the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

At this point, having come a fair bit further than I’d expected in the rain, we had a conference about what route to take back to the house: the rain was coming and going and was fairly light. We decided on a slightly longer one, letting us walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for a couple of miles before turning back inland, and walking to Square and Compass through the village of Trefin. Though I was doubtful and initially planned to go back by the more direct route, I’m very glad we went with the longer one: the coastal scenery was beautiful!

Making our way back inland

The last leg of our walk, taking us back to the house through the village of Trefin, turned up rather a cornucopia or zoological delights, as we passed first a bush positively heaving with snails, then a friendly cat in Trefin itself, and then an array of tiny frogs along the farm track back over to Square and Compass.

Our, in the end, very nice walk had a mildly alarming ending: just before we arrived at the house, I had the unfortunate realisation that I no longer had the house keys on me: clearly I’d lost them on the walk sometime. I was pretty confident they must have fallen out of my pocket a fair while back, such that retracing the route seemed very unlikely to bear fruit, so we continued back to the house, thinking we’d see if we can get in some other way, and call up the host if not. Fortunately, it turned out that we’d left the patio doors open so we were able to get back in that way, and when I called the owner they were pretty relaxed about it: my offer to pay for a replacement key was turned down, and we were instructed to use the back door (which had a separate key) for the rest of our trip. That evening was relaxed, and Millicent made us some very nice enchiladas for dinner.

The second of our two full days of the trip started with a cooked breakfast that I made for everyone, after which we got in the car and went off to the nearby village and cathedral city of St Davids.

St David’s Cathedral was pretty great! It’s constructed in a grey stone, which is a nice contrast to the mostly yellow older cathedrals in England, and is rather quirkily built on an incline, with the east end being higher than the west such that the floor has a noticeable slope to it on the inside. It’s not really visible in my pictures, but the columns at either side of the nave were also noticeably leaning outwards. There were some fun modern icons of St David and several other saints, and a rather snazzy touchscreen interpretation board that would let you explore their stories. We were all happy to see the memorial of Gerald of Wales, who has featured on this blog before.

It was raining rather heavily once we were done with the cathedral, so we went into the associated café for some tea and an afternoon snack while we waited out the rain. Among other things, we ordered some Welsh rarebit which was really nice: I’d never normally order Welsh rarebit, which I normally see on pub menus, since, well, cheese on toast isn’t terribly exciting as a starter when having a meal out, though I do enjoy a nice bit of cheese on toast for lunch at home, maybe with a bowl of soup. I’ve mostly experienced a rather sad form of it as a starter at the less nicely-catered Oxbridge college formal halls (I’m looking at you, Christ Church), in a form such as some boring not-very-mature cheddar on half a slice of white toast, maybe with a tomato slice on top or something. St David’s Cathedral café’s, though, was an entirely different beast: the cheese came in the form of a rich, mature thick cheesy sauce, with a strong note of mustard, on a good crusty roll, with some laverbread in the mix too and a nice side salad. It was great!

I thought this pub sign looked a little horror-movie-like! (I say, never having watched a horror movie…)

The rain having let up a bit by this point, we set out for the short walk to the coast to see the remains of St Non’s Chapel – St Non being St David’s mother, and the Chapel and its associated holy well marking the traditional location of David’s birth, and a part of the medieval pilgrimage site along with the cathedral.

The walk to the chapel ruins gave us some more dramatic coastline views, and we enjoyed pottering about the chapel ruins as well as the modern intact little chapel nearby, which charmingly had a sign telling visitors to leave the door open so that the nesting birds can get in and out.

Returning from St David’s, we had a very important activity to do, namely to celebrate Vesper’s birthday! Millicent and Cheremy, having raided a nearby shop the day before, gifted her with a pirate baseball cap and a bubble wand, which went down well, and Erithacus had made a very nice cake, as is her usual habit, this time topped with raspberries. We had a jolly time eating slices both then, for dessert later in the evening, and on our trains back home the next day!

Finally, later that evening and we watched the first couple of episodes of the second season of the TV series A Discovery of Witches, a franchise with which we have a long and complicated relationship as a group. Erithacus and Queenie were familiar with it as a book since long ago, holding a low opinion of its quality when, as I found out when we were still at university, when I mentioned that I’d nearly bought a copy in a bookshop recently to complete a 3-for-2 deal. A few years later on our trip to the Isle of Harris, we had somehow acquired a copy for the purpose of amusing ourselves on the long car journeys, by reading out bad/funny/both passages in silly accents. In the Netherlands a year later, the first season of the TV series had come out, and we watched the whole of it that holiday, so it seemed appropriate to try a little more now!

And that’s it, really! The next morning, we packed up and drove off back to Bridgend, to return the hire car and make our way to our respective homes on the trains. We made one notable stop soon after setting off, which was described in my previous post. It was a nice little trip and I’m glad to have finally got to Pembrokeshire – I really should get myself over to the South Downs and the New Forest sometime, as they’re now the only two remaining UK national parks that I’ve not been to!

[1] Personally I’d probably have placed the dining table in that long living area, where there were sofas at one end, and a big fairly empty section at the other, occupied only by a desk and a couple of armchairs. I’m not a big fan of a house’s main dining table being in the kitchen myself, since I like being alone when I cook.

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