Waking up to the pale gray morning light at the YHA on the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales, I am grateful that this hostel is generous with the blankets. From my spot on the top bunk, I can see that the haunted mountain is still, in fact, there through the skylight.
Making our way down to the communal kitchen, E made a friend of a single dad who wrote her a list of anarchist book recommendations, and I had a confrontation with a massive spider when trying to move a stone acting as a doorstop.
In planning out our last full day in Wales, we decided to start with a visit to St. Davids before it would be crazy busy with other visitors, then we’d hang out in central St. David’s again since we had such a nice time there yesterday. Finally, we’d go to White Sands bay, the local beach that sits along the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. S in the wise, wise words of Doja Cat, lets get into it!!
I don’t remember the context, but we decided to go for yet another hike around the hostel grounds. We didn’t go all the way to the cliffs this time, but along the side of the mountain, we got some great views of the White Sands bay in the distance. That made me even more excited to go to the beach later! It seems like no matter which direction we go in, there’s no one for miles around. It’s very different from the other places in Europe I’ve been so far, but is comforting in a way that reminds me of home.
After awhile, we turned around and hiked back down the mountain to get to the bus station that would take us back into the center of town. Passing fields of sheep and a campsite, we eventually got to the bus stop, with signage carved in Welsh and English.
Arriving in the center of St. Davids without any problems, we made the short walk over to the towering St. David’s cathedral.
St. David’s Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace
It was ever-so-slightly rainy, but not enough to stop my four friends and I from exploring the grounds of St. David’s cathedral. The cathedral is a huge stone structure, and looks a lot like a medieval castle. Although it was first built as a kind of monastic community, it survived more than one Viking raid and has been hosting church services continuously for fifteen hundred years. FIFTEEN HUNDRED.
It’s free to go in, and is just as large on the inside as it is on the outside. It’s pretty dark in there, and so the first think I notice is a crucifix hanging from the ceiling. It honestly touched a soft spot in me, because it reminds me of the Catholic church in my hometown. Unlike my little local church, St. Davids is much bigger and far more ornate. The high ceiling above the nave is made of gorgeous welsh oak panels, carved in one of a kind patterns.
Wandering behind the altar, we arrived at a golden triforium with some relics underneath. Unsurprisingly, these are the remains of St. David.
And St. David isn’t the only guy here, lots of Welsh figureheads also rest here, as evidenced by their tombs. Also in the cathedral is the treasury, where they’ve saved some Celtic and Welsh relics. My personal favorite was a blue purse decorated with Celtic knots (I think). Honestly, there’s so much history inside the Cathedral from the last couple thousand years that I can’t cover, and so because I love you guys, you can get a deep-dive into the history here!
In the vicinity of St. David’s Cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace, though I’ve gotta say, it’s a little worse for wear than the cathedral. As Bishop Henry’s pet project of the 1300s, he turned his home into a palace fit for welcoming Christian pilgrims. They offer tours for the ruins, but at 15 GBP, it was gonna have to be a no from me. However, you can still see the ruins if you really want to! There are some trails that take you behind the ruins, where you can peek through the gaps in the wall to see the courtyard. I felt very sneaky and successful using this method, but it would’ve been cool to learn more about its history too.
Welshcakes and Coffee in Cross Square
We had so much fun yesterday in the center of St. David’s that we decided to go back to just hang out there. On the way back to Cross Square, we stopped in a grocery store to pick up some meat and cheese pasties for lunch. Very economical, very tasty!
After making it into the square, we popped into a couple of shops before settling at a cafe. Because I’ve gotten frighteningly accustomed to Oxford tea times, a mid-morning caffeine break, I got a latte. When ordering, I noticed little packets of “Welshcakes” for sale and decided to give those a try as well.
As it turns out, Welshcakes are a Pembrokeshire staple. A sort of mix between a pancake and biscuit, they’re crammed full of currants and sultanas (different types of raisins) and are delightful when dipped into coffee. I am instantly obsessed. If you ever find yourself in Wales, please, PLEASE have some Welshcakes for me. Mmmmm now I’m thinking about them. :p
After being kinda disappointed by Brighton beach, I could hardly wait to have a day on a beach made of actual sand.
Getting to Whitesands took another very short bus ride. The beach itself is absolutely massive, stretching about 1/3 of a mile from the water, and begins at the foot of a rocky cliff, so we were able to put our stuff on the rocks to keep it from getting sandy. Out of the 5 of us in our little group, two opted to sunbathe on the warm rocks, two went for a walk, and I ran directly into the sea.
The waves are surprisingly high, and I’ve heard that this makes Whitesands bay one of the best surfing beaches in Europe. I had a great time either diving headfirst into each wave or being bowled over by them. The water in September was kinda cold, but not paralyzingly cold like I’d expected given the high latitude. It was just perfect: a day full of plenty of sun, soft sand, and swimming.
We spent the rest of the day walking up and down the beach, climbing some of the cliffs to take in views of gorgeous shoreline after gorgeous shoreline.
Nothing could have prepared me for what Wales would be like. Maybe its our hostel’s closeness to a giant cliff overlooking the ocean, but the Pembrokeshire coast feels like it’s on the edge of the world. Full of wildflowers and close to the sky, it’s definitely left an impression on me. As for YHA hostels, it was a fair price and comfortable, with everything you might need, and I’d definitely stay at one again. As a destination, I’d say it takes awhile to get to the Pembrokeshire coast, but is a wonderful place to get away from people and see some real natural wonders of the British Isles. The people that we did meet loved to chat and were all outrageously nice. Honestly, I could not recommend a trip to this part of Wales enough. It certainly made for a memorable weekend trip.
Where did she come from? A train from Oxford Where is she going? Edinburgh, Scotland