Pope Calixtus II declared that two pilgrimages to St. David’s were equal to one to Rome. If he’d travelled, like I did, by the tiny stopping train that trundles through the Welsh marshes and then for hours along the South Wales Coast I think he might have revised that to a one:one ratio. St. David’s is still quite ridiculously difficult to get to from almost everywhere but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort.
I confess I’d never been to Pembrokeshire before and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’d heard it was beautiful, of course, but that didn’t prepare me for the reality of waking up to the most incredible view of sea and sky punctuated by rocky islands and parenthesised by the arc of Whitesands Bay. I’d arrived in the dark and seen nothing more than the intermittent flash of the South Bishop’s lighthouse the night before. It was so beautiful that (and let me tell you, this is not something that happens often) I walked down to the beach before breakfast. Amazingly, I had the place to myself for a while and, after a very stressful couple of weeks, I felt the tension start to lift as I stood and stared out to sea.
Later I went into St David’s. It’s one thing knowing it’s the smallest cathedral city in Britain, it’s quite another being there and realising I’ve seen larger villages. It is quite incredibly petite but delightfully so. The cathedral is tucked away in a dip (apparently to keep it hidden from Viking raiders) and has the most incredible carved wooden ceiling. There was a friendly feeling to the cathedral which I really liked and it seemed to be an integral part of the city rather than just a tourist attraction.
I’d come on a weekend of meditation and chanting with likeminded souls who also appreciate Pembrokeshire in November. Sunday morning saw another pre-breakfast trip to the beach to see the sunrise. I was glad that sunrises happen at a fairly reasonable hour at this time of the year but setting off in the pre-dawn light made me realise how rarely I take the time to stop and witness them. The sunrise wasn’t particularly spectacular but as a faint golden glow back-lit the clouds it was special because we witnessed it together. Post sunrise we walked to the site of St Patrick’s chapel which is set a little way back from the beach. All that remains of it is a mossy stone but legend says this is the spot from which St Patrick set sail to Ireland to begin his ministry there.
I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a place with so many tangible links to saints. The cottage next door to the one I stayed in had been monastery and the tale is that St David spent his early years there. I was brought up a slightly confused Methodist so saints are not something I’m all that comfortable with but there was something very real about the stories I heard in Pembrokeshire which reminded me that these were people who lived and walked here long before they became saints.
I ended my weekend with a visit to Druidston Bay. Obviously, I was predisposed to love a place with druid in the title and I could completely imagine my druids, Finn and Winston, there. I’m now trying to work out how I can work Pembrokeshire into future books of The Spellworker Chronicles and I’ve already got a few ideas…
I will undoubtedly be returning to Pembrokeshire (very possibly on a research trip!) If it’s a place you know well or if you’ve got any suggestions for places I could visit then I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below.