Cwm Yr Eglwys Beach

The remains of a storm-wrecked seaside church, standing stark and dramatic like part of a film set or TV scenario, give Cwm-yr-Eglwys (Church Valley) in North Pembrokeshire its name.

For this little church dedicated to St Brynach was demolished by a violent hurricane in 1859, a storm which caused havoc all round the Welsh coast with many shipwrecks and much coastal damage.

The famous wreck of the Royal Charter off the Anglesey coast, while on passage from Melbourne to Liverpool, which resulted in the deaths of 497 people and the loss of a cargo of gold, occurred in the same storm.

Cwm-yr-Eglwys is a tiny hamlet and popular family beach at the eastern end of a little valley which runs from there to Pwllgwaelod in the west, separating the high headland called Dinas Island from the mainland by a narrow stream. Dinas Island is  a misnomer as you can cross the valley without getting your feet wet. The cliffs here soar to a height of 463-feet at the triangulation station at Pen-y-fan on its northern tip overlooking Fishguard Bay and the Irish Sea.

The walk round Dinas Island on part of the 170-miles long Pembrokeshire National Park Coastal Footpath, is an exhilarating one whether you climb the steep cliff slopes from the western or eastern end. Caution is required at the western end in particular for the path, which has eroded in some places, passes very close to the cliff edge as you leave Pwllgwaelod. The worst section is near Pen Castell (Castle Head) where some people believe the embankment was an Iron age fort, but experts say is a geological feature.

During World War Two the island was farmed by the naturalist Ronald Lockley, who kept pigs and sheep there, and sheep still graze on the clifftop fields.

St Brynach, who is also celebrated at nearby Nevern, was reputedly a bit of an Irish wild boy of the 6th century, who became a priest and had a cell at Nevern where he communicated with the angels at Carn Ingli (Rock of the Angels). Most of his work centred on Nevern and his cult is associated with ancient tracks leading to Glamorgan and Brecon.

Cwm-yr-Eglwys has a small sandy beach and the churchyard is a grassy area popular for picnics and children’s games. The bathing is safe and its sheltered situation - except in ‘Royal Charter” storms - makes it an ideal beach for launching small boats from a narrow slipway made for the purpose. There is limited parking for a modest charge. The beach has a Seaside Award and a Green Coast Award, which is similar to Blue Flag status, but for rural beaches, and dogs are permitted on the beach. During the first two weeks of August the local Boat Club provides a colourful spectacle for visitors with their annual regatta with swimming races, rowing races, sandcastle competitions and many other actvities in which anyone can join.

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