Porthmelgan Beach

The beautiful sandy cove of Porthmelgan can be seen to best advantage from the 595-foot summit of Carn Llidi, the craggy tor which presides majestically over St Davids Head.

Facing south-west, it is tucked into the sheltered crook of St Davids Head at the northern tip of Whitesands Bay, and its sheltered position from the prevailing winds, make it a tranquil haven for holiday makers and locals alike.

It has a triangle of golden sand surrounded on three sides by protective cliffs so is a virtual sun trap, with safe bathing and rockpools full of the creatures that children love to dredge up in their nets, like shrimps, crabs and small fish, or simply to watch and admire starfish and sea anemones.

Near the 167-foot triangulation station on St Davids Head is an Iron age Fort, Clawdd-y-Milwyr (The Warriors’ Dyke) with its interesting defensive dry stone walling with an outer wall clearly visible at the north end, protecting the site of eight circular huts which accommodated the ancient dwellers on this rocky promontory.

And a short distance away is a cromlech or dolmen marking the site of a Neolothic burial chamber of about 3000BC. Visitors should look out for choughs here, for they use the cliff crevices and caves as nesting sites and are frequently seen seeking their insect fare among the clifftop tussocks. Some people mistake them for their cousins the jackdaws, which also populate the cliffs all round the Pembrokeshire coast. But the choughs are different, their curved beaks are red, their legs orange and their call is an asthmatic version of the funereally-clad jackdaws’ ‘Tchack.’ Their flight. too, is somewhat erratic and butterfly-like.

These northern cliffs are also the haunt of ravens and peregrine falcons, the former delighting in complex aerobatics, the latter in rapid flight and stoops of up to 200mph on their unsuspecting prey.

To the north of Porthmelgan is a virtually inaccessible cave called Ogof Crisial (Crystal Cave) where fine quartzspar has been found by intrepid explorers.

Early records refer to St David’s Head as “The Promontory of the Eight perils,” in a reference to the offshore rocks known as the Bishops and Clerks, which have claimed many shipwreck victims down the centuries. Pembrokeshire’s Elizabethan antiquary George Owen said there were seven rocks in this treacherous archipelago, but the earlier records record eight, although at different states of the tide there must be a dozen or more different rocks on the surface. The packet steamer Morna, transporting Crimean recruits from Belfast to London, hit the North Bishop rock in 1855 and 21 out of 93 passengers and crew were lost. She was just one of the many victims of the cruel Bishops off this coast. The climb to the top of Carn Llidi is worthwhile, not only for the distant panoramic views in all directions, but also for the view of the irregular pattern of ancient fields below, a legacy of the old farming system. 

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