St Brides Haven Beach
St Brides Haven is a pretty little rocky cove flanked on its northern side by a low building known as Cliff Cottages, a dwelling so close to the sea that it seems in imminent danger of being swept away by stormy waves.
Indeed, there was an ancient fishermen’s chapel right on the ciff edge which was said to have been swept away and early 6th-10th century stone coffins have emerged from the crumbling cliffs, exposed by continuing erosion.
The narrow road from the west peters out by the beach and there is just about enough space for a few cars by the church gate, a few yards from the shore.
Presiding over the scene is the noble pile of Kensington Castle, once a family seat of the Barons Kensington, whose name is perpetuated in several streets in London where they owned a large slice of prime property.
Kensington Court, Edwardes Square, Philbeach Gardens, Pembroke Mews and other names with Pembrokeshire connections are to be found in the labyrinth of interwoven streets in their domain in fashionable Kensington.
The Edwardes family left Pembrokeshire in the 1920s and Kensington Castle was turned into an isolation hospital for TB patients in 1923. The buildings later became a hospital for geriatric patients and in 1990-92 were converted into a smart and beautifully located time-share holiday apartment complex with a magnificent panoramic view north and west across St Brides Bay.
The beach is a pleasant place to swim and for the children to paddle and explore the rock pools, but it is small and is more a launching place for small boats. Local people used to go out from here on summer evenings to fish for mackerel off Stack Rock and Nab Head. When they returned there was usually a small crowd of visitors ready to help take samples of their catch home for supper.
The castle was built in 1833 by Charles Philipps of Picton Castle, near Haverfordwest, and was enlarged between 1905 and 1913 when the Kensington family lived there.
Alongside the long entrance drive is the ruined shell of a much older mansion known as The Abbey, but with no known monastic connection. It is believed to have possibly been the home of John de St Bride, a powerful supporter of Henry V11, and part of it seems to suggest it was a medieval first-floor hall house. It has the remains of two walled gardens, the walls with ornate, corbelled and embattled parapets.
The church of St Bridget by the shore was restored in 1869 and contains some interesting architectural features including 18th and 19th century memorials to members of the Philipps family and, in the walled churchyard, a set of Celtic memorials to Kensington family members.
Less than a mile west on Nab Head is an Iron Age promontory fort, which, when excavated in 1971, revealed a circular stone hut with a single entrance and hearth, and nearby signs of a Mesolithic flint-knapping floor.