A Guide To St Davids
Explore Britain’s smallest city, packed with history, culture and adventure.
Found at the most westerly point of Wales, St Davids has the charm of a country village, with the added grandeur of an illustrious and mythical past. For centuries the North Pembrokeshire settlement has played a major role in the story of West Wales, becoming embedded in Welsh legend and folklore.
How To Get There
St Davids is a 40 minutes/24.3miles drive from Bluestone. Head towards Haverfordwest and it’s signposted from the town out towards the west coast.
Closest to the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, Merrivale Car Park (SA62 6RJ)
Quickwell Hill Car Park (SA62 6NT)
Slightly out of the centre, Oriel y Parc Car Park (SA62 6QT)
Things To Do
Eglwys Gadeiriol Tyddewi/St Davids Cathedral
At the heart of the city sits the magnificent St Davids Cathedral on the banks of the river Alun. Built on the site of what is believed to be St David’s original 6th century monastery and church, the incredible Norman structure is breathtaking in its beauty with a unique character.
Built in 1181, it has gone through many restorations in its 800-year history including the addition of Nave ceiling in the 1530s that is made entirely of carved Welsh Oak. Its gentle slopping floor, there is a 14ft difference in height from one end to the other, restored cloisters and the stream running under the Nave, are just some of the features that adds to its charm.
The cathedral is open daily and free to visitors. Opening times may vary depending on services, so make sure to check ahead of your visit. If you're curious about Wales' Patron Saint, and how he's celebrated find out more with our St David's Day guide.
The Bishop’s Palace
Directly opposite the cathedral in the valley of the river Alun are the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, the former home of the Bishop of St David. Another impressive building, at the height of its power would have competed with its neighbour for sheer splendor and together, would have been represented two of the most important buildings in medieval Wales.
The Palace was originally built by the Normans, who after arriving in Wales in the 11th century, took over the cathedral and appointed a Norman Bishop. The grand palace was not only a reflection of the growing importance of the Bishop of St Davids, but also formed a protective ring around the cathedral that had been a target of Viking raiders for hundreds of years and had destroyed the original holy building.
After the reformation, the palace was left to fall into ruin, though much of the building has remained intact including the main gate to the cathedral, arcaded parapets and great hall. Like the cathedral, it’s open all year to visitors and as well as the ruins, you can visit a small historical exhibition in the building that was it’s former main entrance to the city, Porth y Twr.
Get Wet and Wild
Part of St Davids’ charm is the ability to blend it’s sacred status with it’s National Park location and create a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. In the shadow of the cathedral you’ll find surf shops and outdoor adventure centres, that offer a gateway to the northern stretch of the coastline.
In the city, you can hire equipment, or sign up for a coasteering, climbing or sea kayaking session at one of the spots along the coast. There are also regular boat trips to the islands of Ramsey, Grassholm, Skomer and Skokholm, and wildlife trips where you can spot puffins, gannets, and perhaps even dolphins in the waters around St Davids head.
Venture just outside the city and there are beautiful walks and beaches around the headland. Porthlysgui Bay is a remote, pebbled beach that looks out at the island of Carreg Yr Esgob, while Porthclais Harbour and St Non’s Chapel to the south is the perfect location for an afternoon stroll along the coast path.
The hidden beach of Porthselau is tucked into the bottom corner of Porth Mawr known as Whitesands Bay in English and if you follow the coast path up towards the rocky out crop of Carn Llidi you’ll be rewarded with epic views out over the coast and Ramsey Island.