Lower Fishguard Beach
Lower Fishguard, also known as Lower Town to the locals, is the old historic trading and fishing port which served Fishguard Bay before the present day Ferryport at Goodwick was built across the Bay in 1906.
For centuries sailing ships and fishing boats were active there for Fishguard was famous for its herrings and also for its advantages as a sheltered harbour between Cardigan and the smaller trading ports along the north-western coast round to Solva and across St Brides Bay to Milford Haven.
It is recorded that Lower Fishguard or Cwm Abergwaun, for it is the mouth of the river Gwaun, whch meanders down the picturesque wooded Gwaun Valley, was already, as early as 1566, “a good harbour” trading with Ireland to the west, Bristol to the south and Chester to the north.
In the late 18th century it had some 50 coastal trading vessels ranging from 20 to 100 tons in general trade, mostly with Bristol, the main exports being herrings and oats and imports being coal from the Pembrokeshire coalfield, slate and llimestone for burning in the kilns for use on the surrounding farms. The size of the mid-19th century four-storeyed, hip-roofed stone warehouse on the foreshore on the west side of the river indicates how important the trade was. The quay and houses are all on the eastern side of the harbour which dries out at low water, leaving a narrow stream flowing through the muddy estuary to the sea. It is only sutable for bathing at high tide when the quay affords a good diving platform which was once used regularly for regattas and water sports with rowing and sailing races, greasy pole and plate diving competitions. There is good sailing and Fishguard Bay Yacht Club has had its headquarters at the end of the long quay for generations, its Commodores and members traditionally providing coxswains and crews for the local lifeboat. A few local men fish from the harbour for lobsters, crabs and clams.
The single-arched stone bridge, built in 1875, takes traffic travelling from Fishguard to Newport on the A487 Trunk road into one of the worst bottlenecks on any main highway in Pembrokeshire. It bends in a narrow right-angle from Bridge Street into Newport Road with dire consequences for any articulated truck. Plans for a high-level by-pass via a fly-over across the valley have been thwarted for environmental reasons.
Lower Fishguard is described in Pevsner as “more picturesque than architecturally notable,” but there is one house of interest, which is Plas Glynymel up the valley, where the 18th century antiquarian and historian Richard Fenton lived, having blasted the rocks to widen the end of the valley to create a site for his mansion and exotic gardens. Its picturesqueness caused Lower Town to be chosen as Dylan Thomas’s mythical village of Llarregub when the film of ‘Under Milkwood” was shot there some 30 years go with Richard Burton as its major star.