Holidays in West Wales
Castlemartin is a stunning area of Pembrokeshire, the majority of which sits within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and understandably so, as this is an area of spectacular coastal scenery. A walk around the Castlemartin Peninsula will introduce you to some of Pembrokeshire’s hidden gems such as the Green Bridge of Wales, Stack Rocks, St Govans Chapel and Bosherston Lily Ponds.
Amongst these popular visitor sites, St Govans is perhaps the most unique. With a long history surrounded by myths and legends it is a fascinating place to visit for all. Perched precariously on the cliff edge, the tiny 13th-century St Govan’s Chapel is a spectacular sight. Huddled among the rocks, almost at sea level, it’s only accessible by climbing down 52 steps. It was built on the site of a holy well that once attracted pilgrims. Inside the sandy-floored chapel is a simple stone altar and a small cell hewn from the rock which contains a fissure. Legend has it that this first opened to hide St Govan when he was being pursued by hoodlums. It’s said that if you make a wish while standing in the fissure it will come true, provided you don’t change your mind before you turn around. Outside the chapel there is a large rock boulder known as the Bell Rock. The legend is that St Govan was given a silver bell which was stolen by pirates from its bell tower. St Govan prayed for its return and angels retrieved it and placed it inside a rock where it would be safe. St Govan used to tap the rock which gave a note a thousand times stronger than the note of the original bell.
Castlemartin is not just for history lovers it is also a must visit sites for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike as it has the highest concentration of birdlife on the Pembrokeshire mainland. Colonies of guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and nationally rare choughs can all be found along this stretch of coastline.
The Castlemartin Peninsula also contains one of Pembrokeshire’s most popular beaches, Freshwater West. A long stretch of open shore surrounded by dunes and with soft fine sand it is a popular spot for surfers and once hosted the Welsh Surfing Championships. More recently the scenic views of Freshwater West have been gracing screens everywhere having been featured in two star-studded Hollywood films.
In 2009 several scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows featuring cast members such as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were filmed at Freshwater West. Not long after this Robin Hood featuring Russell Crowe was also filmed along the striking shores.
Castlemartin also has a long history with the army and is still used to this day as a Range and training area. The War Office requisitioned the area in 1938 from the Cawdor Estate, and many ruins of the former settlements that belonged to the 53 farming communities, which had to be relocated, can still be seen. The land was returned to farming after the Second World War, but in 1951 the Korean War saw its reactivation for range use, which has remained in being ever since. Farming has also continued alongside the range’s primary use with cattle, and in the winter, flocks of sheep.
A beautiful area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Castlemartin contains a wide variety of flora, as well as some of the finest limestone coastal scenery in the National Park. It has significant archaeological and geological interest, including fossil records of international significance. Castlemartin has been preserved as a spectacular coastal landscape, and Defence Estates manages its special heritage to preserve it for future generations.
As certain areas of the Peninsula are restricted due to a military presence it would be advisable to contact one of the local Tourist Information Centres for details of firing times.