Newport

The seaside town of Newport in North Pembrokeshire is a place steeped in history and much favoured as a retirement destination.

Situated in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park the town slopes gently down to the shore and has a family friendly beach, boating and fishing facilities and a golf club enjoying the finest views of coast and country anywhere.

With a permanent population of only 1,122 which doubles in summer time when the visitors and second home settlers arrive, it is a tranquil place, lying west of a mystic mountain called Carningli (Rock of Angels).

Like many of the most attractive places in Pembrokeshire it was founded in 1197 by a Norman Knight - they knew how to pick them those conquerors! His name was William fitzMartin, son-in-law of the great Lord Rhys, and it was his intention that it should be the capital of the Marcher Lordship of Cemais overseen by a Portreeve. It was a busy port founded on the growing medieval wool trade and remained within the FitzMartin family for over a century. It maintains its old tradition and some of the borough customs and has a mayor who beats the bounds on horseback every August. The modest castle was built by FitzMartin and sited on a spur of Carningli mountain overlooking the sea and surrounding countryside, and it is still occupied.

Below it is the church of St Mary, dating from the same era and the FitzMartin crest is on the outside wall. Popular for walks on the coastal path and on the Preseli Hills, Newport is noted for its beaches, for a burial chamber or cromlech called Carreg Coeten Arthur, an Iron Age hill fort on Carningli and some Bronze Age hut circles just outside the town. Newport is twinned with Plouguin in Finisterre and also with Annapolis in Maryland USA. In the old days of sail it was noted as the favourite retirement place of sea captains, who could look out to sea from their porches and verandas, and their fine houses, which have changed hands many times, remain a memorial to their endeavours.

Carningli, as its name suggests, has always had sacred associations. St Brynach used to climb to the 400-metre rocky summit to find serenity and to commune with the angels in the 5th century, and the mountain certainly has a mystic presence. It is not difficult to climb but there is a steep scree slope on its southern and eastern flanks. It was quarried for some time until 1930 and had a little railway to carry the hard grey stone down to a crushing plant on the Cilgwyn Road. Some railway sleepers can still be seen in the turf, but the only prominent reminders of its existence are two stone pillars that supported a cable drum to control the descent of the loaded wagons and to pull the empty ones back up.

The Iron age hillfort is quite a prominent archaeological feature covering an area of about four hectares, and there are some 25 Bronze Age hut circles at the north east end.

Local author Brian John, who lives under the shadow of the mountain at Cilgwyn, where his wife Inger keeps a candle and gift shop, was inspired to write a series of five novels which is known as The Angel Mountain Saga.

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