The trading port serving St Davids for many centuries, Porthclais is a sheltered harbour on the south-western tip of the St Davids Peninsula where the River Alun enters the sea.
Its importance can be gauged by the fact that it has a sturdy quay at its entrance and two lime kilns where the road comes down at the end of the inlet.
It was a well-used landing and embarkation point back in early Christian times and no doubt the men who built their promontory forts all round this coast used it to fish from. Porthclais means Port of the rivulet, ditch or stream and ships landed coal here for the nearby gasworks, where the carpark is now, and for the local coal merchants, right up until the 1950s. Thankfully the old gasometer beside the road no longer blots the landscape, but the well-preserved lime kilns remain to remind us of the cargoes of limestone that were brought here from the Carew River at West Willamston and other quarries to sweeten the land on the surrounding farms. The gasworks and cottage were demolished in 1967.
The importance of Porthclais as a trading port began to diminish when Solva’s trade experienced a boom, and damage to the quay also had an effect on the use of the little harbour. But the boat owners formed an association to repair and maintain the quay and ensure the continued use of the harbour by fishing boats and any other craft that wished to pay to use the sheltered inlet. The Valley is typical of the glacial features found all along this coast, deepened by melt waters and drowned by rising sea levels. As far back as 1385 cargoes came into this inlet for the Cathedral, and in 1566 there were no fewer than eight locally-owned trading ships.
In the spring the locals used to flock down to Porthclais to watch the annual migration of elvers down the River Alun from their breeding grounds upstream, and to wonder that those millions of small silver eels, little bigger than earthworms could migrate all the way to the Sargasso Sea from this remote corner of Wales. The toll from predators as they crossed the ocean must have been enormous, but it still seemed that they arrived in millions to perpetuate their kind.
Porthclais is an interesting stopping point on the 170-mile long National Park Coastal Footpath, and the flora and fauna are a feature which attracts considerable attention. Fulmars glide the cliffs, ravens show off their aerobatic skills in the thermals, choughs peck for insects among the tussocks alongside the footpath, which is flanked by vernal squill, sea campion, thrift and red campion. Golden gorse seems to bloom here all the year round, its coconut scent filling the air, and stonechats nest in many a gorse thicket, their song, like two pebbles being knocked together, as much a feature of the area as the screaming of gulls and piping oyster catchers.