Church Doors Cove

Charmingly-named Church Doors Cove, on the south Pembrokeshire Coast near Manorbier, is so-called because two high arched caves in the sandstone cliffs so much resemble the doorways of a church.

It is one of two adjacent beaches of beautiful golden sand, the westernmost one being Skrinkle Haven, which is slightly larger in area. They are separated by a thin headland or ridge of limestone, which looks as if it might have been built as a wall between the two beaches. At very low tide it is possible to get round the seaward end, and there is also a way through a narrow and slippery cave which pierces the ridge, ending up in a rock pool.

Access to both beaches is via a flight of steep stone steps down to Church Doors adjacent to the National Park Coastal Footpath. The spot can be reached by turning off the B4585 Manorbier road in Skrinkle village and continuing past the Artillery Range and Youth Hostel to the end of the road. To get to the beach, follow the coast path westward for about 300 yards. Steep, concrete steps (140 in total) lead to a metal stairway which descends to Church Doors Cove (Grid Reference SS080972). The high arches which give the cove its name are directly in front. Both beaches are golden sand backed by rocks and pebbles with high cliffs of limestone changing to Old Red sandstone on the west side of Skrinkle Haven. There are steps on the far west side but they are unsafe and have been closed off. The two beaches are really only worth visiting during the low tide period when there is plenty of space and a good expanse of sand.

Nearby Manorbier is well worth a visit as its history goes back to 1188 when it was known as Maenor Pyr - the Manor of a man called Pyr. By the 14th century the name had evolved into Beere. The famous Welsh priest ad chronicler, Gerald the Welshman (Giraldus Cambrensis) was born here in 1146-7, son of a Norman noble and a Welsh Princess. Despite his fiercely military family roots, he entered the church and became Archdeacon of Brecon, but the job he aspired to was to be Bishop of St Davids. However, King John, fearful of having a brilliant academic and Norman noble in charge of the Diocese, thwarted his ambitions and appointed a less able man who was not so likely to think outside the box and prove a possible future threat to the Royal regime. Gerald consoled himself by writing a series of topographical books and becoming to all intents and purposes a 12th century journalist, recording not only political and geographical facts but much social history.

His “Itinerary Through Wales”, for which the material was gathered during an extensive tour with Archbishop Baldwin, has become a standard text book on the life and customs of the ordinary people of his time, to which he opened an interesting window. 

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