Until the turn of the 19th century the name Fishguard Harbour meant the narrow inlet with its stone quay and warehouse under the cliffs beneath the town itself where the river Gwaun flows into the sea.
This little hamlet, known as Lower Fishguard, was the community from which the town itself developed on its clifftop site.
But in 1906 the name took on a whole new meaning, when ambitious plans to develop a trans-Atlantic liner port beneath the cliffs on the other side of the bay, near the little fishing village of Goodwick, came to fruition. Breakwaters were built to protect the north-facing bay and thousands of tons of cliff rock were blasted away to create the sheltered quay which would link the Cunard liner service to the new Great Western Railway terminus, bringing in express trains from Paddington.
The arrival of the Cunard liner Mauretania in August 1909 was hailed as the start of something big for Fishguard. But the investment required to build a deep water quay big enough to accept these huge ships, combined with vested interest opposition from Liverpool and Southampton, meant the liner trade was short-lived. Fishguard reverted to its original ferryport role and passengers still cross to and from Rosslare twice a day.
Fishguard’s other claim to fame is that it was the scene of the lasg invasion of Britain, when French mercenaries and troops landed near Strumble Head in February 1797. But, they didn’t get far. After drunken pillaging of coastal farms and hamlets, they were seen off by the Pembrokeshire Militia, helped, so legend has it, by an Amazon of a woman named Jemimah Nicholas, who led a band of ladies in red fannel Welsh costume round a hill at Fishguard, leading the French to believe they were reinforcement troops. Lord Cawdor took the surrender on Goodwick Beach where a commemorative stone can be seen. The abortive invasion is also commemorated by a tapestry on permanent exhibition and a pageant featuring Jemimah Nicholas’s modern-day counterpart. Fishguard offers reasonable bathing in shallow waters and is a centre for leisure boating and fishing while in summer the town Festival attracts top-class musical events. In 1954 the town was a location for the film “Moby Dick,” featuring Gregory Peck, Leo Genn, Glenys Johns and other famous stars and in the old port at Lower Town in 1975, scenes for the film of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood.” were shot with stars Richard Burton. Peter O’Toole and Welsh comedy actor Ryan Davies. Lower Town was ingeniously transformed into Dylan Thomas’s village of ‘Llareggub’. The old harbour flourished in the days of sail, with over 50 coastal vessels berthed there. Fishguard herrings were far-famed and gave a big seasonal boost to the local economy. The flora and fauna around Fishguard is varied and interesting with all kinds of seabirds and waders, the marshland behind the beach having recorded water rail and bittern, while Atlantic grey seals, porpoises and dolphins are regularly seen offshore.