Porthselau is a little sandy bay at the south end of Whitesands Bay, St Davids, and at low spring tide it is possible to walk from one to the other,
It is easily accessible from the coastal footpath and is worth the short walk from the main car park at Whitesands if the main beach is crowded.
It can also be reached by a pleasant walk along a clearly marked footpath across the peninsula from Rhosson Farm, where limited parking can sometimes be found.
Sometimes spelled Porthsele, the beach is sheltered from the south-westerly prevailing winds so there is usually no need for a windbreak, and the sunbathing is good.
Not far inland from the clifftop is the farm known as Treleddyn, a double pile 17th century house whose history is associated with smuggling. It is said that a tunnel connects the house with Porthselau through which an early owner brought in contraband landed on the remote beach at night.
The house can claim an important role in the thwarting of the abortive French Invasion of Fishguard in February 1797, when the merchant farmer, former High Sheriff and magistrate who lived there, Thomas Williams, spotted a squadron of four Men o‘ war off the North Bishop while out for his morning walk. A former sailor and owner of a trading ship called Phoebe, he was not fooled by the fact that the vessels were flying the British colours. Through his telescope he saw that the ships’ decks were crammed with troops and there was a distinctively French aura about them, so he raised the alarm by sending a messenger to St Davids. The story goes that Mr Williams kept the ships in sight all the way round to Strumble Head, which would have been quite a feat, entailing a hike, or a horse ride, at least as far as Porthgain, six or seven miles up the coast.
But the Williams family were hardy folk. A few years earlier in about 1780, Thomas Williams’s wife Mary had rowed out alone from Porthselau to one of the lesser Bishops to rescue the seven surviving members of the crew of a Swedish vessel whose fate she spotted through her telescope after the ship had been wrecked there. She took them back to Treleddyn and looked after them until they recovered from their ordeal, earning herself the accolade “The Welsh Grace Darling.”
Treleddyn has another claim to fame which involves a Royal romance. The famous 18th century actress, Mrs Jordan, leased the house and was regularly visited there by her enamorata the Duke of Clarence, later King William 4th. It is said there was a Royal coat of arms decorating one of the ornate ceilings, but it was not present when later historians visited the house, so it may have been a figment of someone’s imagination.
Many of the present-day visitors to Porthselau are unaware of its interesting history, but they can still enjoy its golden sands and rock pools.