Porthlysgi Bay Beach

Porthlysgi Bay, facing south-west on the southern tip of the St Davids peninsula, is a deep inlet with a rocky beach looking out towards the craggy islet of Carreg yr Esgob (Bishop Rock).

This Bishop Rock is not to be confused with the archipelago of rocks stretching from the north-west to the south of Ramsey Island, between three and four miles offshore. There are seven main islets and a dozen or more rocks in the group which are known as The Bishops and Clerks, the North Bishop lying four-and-a-half miles due west of St Davids Head and the South Bishop five-and-a half miles further south and about three miles off Ramsey Island.

These rocks, which have been the site of several shipwrecks, were described in colourful fashion by the Eizabethan antiquary George Owen of Henllys, who wrote “The Bishop and these his Clerkes preache deadly doctrine to their winter audience, such poor seafaring men as are forcyd thether by tempest, onlie in one thing they are to be commended, they keepe residence better than the rest of the canons of that see are wont to do.”

Such is the nature of the waters that mariners down the ages have had to traverse to reach the safety of the sheltered harbours on the Pembrokeshire mainland or to negotiate on their voyages out to far places. Further out between Grassholm Island and the Smalls Rock, with its lonely lighthouse, are another group of treacherous reefs called The Hats and Barrels, which have also taken their toll of shipping over the centuries.

Surviving these hazards, a Celtic warrior of the time of St David sailed in to land on the beach in the cove that took his name, which was Leschi (Lysgi in Welsh). Porthlysgi means Lysgi’s Harbour, and the name has survived to this day. The legend goes that Leschi’s aim when he landed at Porthlysgi was to topple the local Ruler, Boia, who at first resented St David’s plan to settle in his territory in the blessed Vale of Roses. The Saint had been told by an Angel to build his church in this sacred place, but Boia, whose castle overlooked the vale, had other ideas, and plotted to kill St David. The Saint possessed such charisma that he charmed the warlike Boia with his fearless and friendly personality, so that he spared his life and even gave him the land where the Cathedral was later established.

But Boia’s days were numbered and Leschi challenged and vanquished him. St David was evidently also able to charm the invading Leschi who allowed him to keep the land he had acquired from Boia and continue his work there.

Both Leschi and Boia are still commemorated in the area, Leschi in the name of the cove and also in that of the little hamlet of Porthllyski, a short distace inland near St Non’s, and Boia at the site of his former fortress at Clegyr Boia.

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