West Dale Beach

The valley that runs from the coast at West Dale Bay to the other side of the Dale Peninsula facing Dale Roads is of great geological interest.

A break in the solid rock of the cliff marks the western end of the Rhaetic (or Ritec fault) system which runs east up the Milford Haven Waterway and through the Ritec Valley at Tenby before crossing under Carmarthen Bay to Gower where it almost separates that peninsula from the South Wales mainland.

In pre-glacial times the sea ran through the Dale Valley and the St Anne’s peninsula was another offshore island, before the strait was plugged by material released by the melting ice. Now the plug is again being eroded by waves, wind and rain.

In the valley a short distance back from West Dale beach, is Dale Castle, an 18th century castellated house remodelled in the early 20th century having been built on the site of a medieval castle of which no trace remains.

The old castle’s history is obscure but the deVale family lived there in the 12th to the 14th centuries, possibly giving the village its name, although some historians say it is the Viking name for a valley.

Across the road from the Castle is the church of St James the Great, the slim tower of which looks 15th century, but the outer walls with their crude, grey roughcast finish, spoil its entire appearance.

Just a short walk from Dale village, West Dale beach is an attractive sheltered bay with a D-shaped expanse of golden sand and rockpools at the southern end where children can explore. It is said to be a safe bathing beach with limited parking and looks due west into the shipping lanes with the bird sanctuary island of Skokholm  in full view some three miles distant. The close proximity of the village means that all the necesary facilities are not far away, a couple of shops, the Dale Sailing Company boatyard, public toilets, The Griffin Inn and a recently renovated and updated village hall where all kinds of entertainment and exhibitions of local history and art are regularly arranged for locals and visitors alike.

Overlooking the southern end of the beach on Great Castle Head is an Iron Age Fort or Rath, and about half a mile inland to the north-east is Windmill Farm, with the tower of one of the last windmills in the county prominent on the ridge above.

The cliffs south of the beach at Long Point were bought by the National Trust with Enterprise Neptune money in 1967 while on the cliffs at nearby Welshman’s Bay fragments of worked flint have been found, suggesting that this was the site of a Mesolithic chipping floor about 10,000 years ago. Just to the north of the bay a large area of farmland was requisitioned at the beginning of World War Two to build Dale airfield, which was a busy Royal Naval Air Station, now restored to agriculture.

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