One Castle a Day – St Govan’s Chapel

Hello, hello and hello!

Welcome again dear readers – Tour De Wales continues! As we promised, the entire month will be dedicated to the land of red dragon and we have plenty of beautiful sights to show you. Be prepared for another exciting adventure!

Map of the local area

Map of the local area

If you have missed our previous entries, please take a look at the following links:

Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/
Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/
Saundersfoot in 20 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/saundersfoot-in-20-clicks
Barrafundle Bay in 30 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/barafundle-bay-in-30-clicks/
Broadhaven South in 27 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/broadhaven-south-in-27-clicks/

Today, we will take you to one of the most mysterious and wild places in Wales – The Saint Govan’s Head. This remote but very popular location is perfect for entire families: history freaks will have a chance to learn about 12th century chapel, kids and dogs will have enough place to wander and those who enjoy sitting down will have plenty of room to set up picnic tables.

Closer look at the map

Closer look at the map

Chapel map

Chapel interior

Before we published this entry, we had a small discussion. Should we first write about Castlemartin Firing Range or should we introduce our readers to the chapel straight away? Castlemartin Firing Range is an absolutely wonderful place and since Govan’s Head is a part of it; our initial thought was to write about the range first. A bit later, we changed our minds. Three previous entries were dedicated to the beautiful shores of Wales and another photographic entry would be quite boring. So, enjoy the historical trip to St Govan’s Chapel with One Castle a Day and we will return to Castlemartin range some other time.

Picture of a picture - this is how St Govan's chapel looks through professional lence

Picture of a picture – this is how St Govan’s chapel looks through professional lance

Dramatic cliffs around the chapel - you will not find more beautiful sights anywhere else

Dramatic cliffs around the chapel – you will not find more beautiful sights anywhere else

Do you remember that we have left Stackpole Eastate and moved a little bit further? Two miles is not a big distance, but what difference it can make! The sandy beaches and azure blue water are now behind us and it’s time to investigate the rocky cliffs and limestone coastline that are Pembrokshire’s trademarks. Govan’s Head is actually one magnificent cliff named after an Irish Saints – but we need to start telling the tale from the beginning!

Enchanted steps

Enchanted steps

Valley surrounding the chapel looks like surface of an alien planet

Valley surrounding the chapel looks like surface of an alien planet

When Stackpole Estate fell on the hard times, part of the land has been taken away from the earls of Cawdor and given to the army at the beginning of 1939. It was a harsh blow to the proud landowners who felt betrayed and soon completely abandoned the grand mansion and returned to their native Scotland. Land taking was a necessity at that time. British Army lacked a good training grounds and the remote location (with a great overview of the Welsh coast) was a suitable place to train future soldiers and test the new equipment. Of course, Earls of Cawdor received a small payment for the land but not what it was truly worth. The Second World War was just starting and the government had little patience or the necessary resources to negotiate with the gentry. The entire transaction was quick and a bit ugly – what’s more important, there was no way back. To this day, Castlemartin and St Govan’s Head are the property of British Army and the training grounds are active for 44 weeks a year. To visit the brilliant place you have to pass through military gate and several guard stops. We were truly lucky – just few days before we arrived, the range was used for training and nobody was allowed in. To let the tourists know, the Army is putting notices in Bosherston’s village pub, but if you are here for the first time, you will not know about it. We were passing through the security checks with our hearts on our sleeves, expecting an abrupt stop and arrest for trespassing. After several minutes of travelling, we arrived at a large car park when we were informed that the range was open to visitors. We have never been happier!

Majestic lime stone walls

Majestic lime stone walls

The roof of the chapel with a bell cote

The roof of the chapel with a bell cote

Just one look is enough to understand why the Earls were so angry about losing this piece of land. The range is breathtaking! We have never seen such wild beauty, high cliffs, natural stone arches and rocky shore. We are also very pleased that the range is off limits for the majority of the year. It is now rarely used for arterially training and became some sort of a natural reserve with many endangered birds nesting among the rocks and feeding its young. The military polygon is also perfect for small animals; the wild meadows and uncut grass help maintain the diversity of local fauna and flora. Don’t get us wrong, the range is still actively used for any kind of military training, but the part opened to visitors has been mostly preserved for its ecological and scientific value.

The slate roof is a modern addition to protect the ancient building

The slate roof is a modern addition to protect the ancient building

We don't know  when the roof has been created, probably around 18th or 19th century

We don’t know when the roof has been created, probably around 18th or 19th century

The cliff known as St Govan’s Head is located some 700 meters from the car park and you can get there by walking along the turfed footpath. It is worth going there first before seeing the chapel but we will leave the decision to you. We have seen the chapel first (the entrance is situated just at the edge to the car park) and wandered to the cliff after – if we knew, we would do it the other way around. All legends about St Govan start at the cliff and the action moves to the site of the chapel. It almost felt like watching a movie from the end and then skipping to the beginning. We have a real vivid imagination and we could see with our mind’s eyes how the entire story unfolded. Some people however arrive here just to admire the views and they don’t care in which order they are visiting places.

Entrance to the chapel

Entrance to the chapel

Well defined archway leading to the single chamber

Well defined archway leading to the single chamber

According to legends, St Govan or Gofan was an Irish traveler who arrived to the United Kingdom by boat to visit his friend or mentor. His profession is not known, different versions identify him as a monk educated by Saint David, a teacher, a merchant, a poet and even as a thief. There is also a tale connecting Gofan with mystical Gawain, one of the noble Knights of the Round Table who came to Albion looking for a place to rest as an old man. Govan’s roots might be shrouded in mystery but all legends agree that he crashed at the Welsh shore in dire circumstances. The boat that Govan hired to take him to Great Britain was attacked by pirates and the entire crew was slain. Govan somehow managed to escape and swam to the shore near the Govan’s Head. Pursued by bandits, Govan ran along the rocky beach, climbed the rocks and looked for a place to hide but there was nothing around him. Fearing for his life, he started to pray and then miracle happened – a small fissure in the lime stone opened, allowing him to sneak inside. Pirates scouted the area for hours but they could not find him. Thinking he might have drowned, they finally left and Govan was able to leave his hide-a-way. He made his way to the nearest village (probably Bosherton) where he alerted the local inhabitants. The villagers took him in, gave him food and a place to sleep but Govan was not yet safe. Local people were terrorized by pirates and many of them have lost their lives trying to protect their homes. Govan listened to their stories and decided that running away would not solve the problem. They needed a plan and military help from local ruler. He volunteered to return to the coast to watch the waters waiting for the pirates to return. Upon seeing them he was to alert the villagers and then they would call the King for assistance. We will never know if the plan worked, but for many years, Govan lived in the cave that opened for him and was respected by villagers. His fame grew bigger and bigger and many traveled to see him or to seek his advice. He ate fish and drank water from a small spring that after his death became sacred – the water could cure blindness and other ailments.

Inside the chapel - please excuse the bright lights  streaming through the windows. It was hard to take good quality pictures during the midday. the chapel is situated especially to receive a lot of sunshine in the summer

Inside the chapel – please excuse the bright lights streaming through the windows. It was hard to take good quality pictures during the midday. The chapel is happily situated to receive a lot of sunshine in the summer

Doorway from the inside of the chapel

Doorway from the inside of the chapel

Legends cannot be taken for historical truth, but it has been established that the site of what is now known as St Govan’s Chapel has been used since the 6th century. Archeologists surveying the chapel have discovered signs of an earlier building, probably a small monastery or a single dwelling. The chapel as we know it today has been erected in the 13th century at the exact place where St Govan has supposedly died in 586. His body is now believed to be buried under the main altar. To reach the chapel, you need to climb down 52 steps and you have to do it very carefully as there are no rails and the steps are slippery even on a clear day. This single chamber chapel is built into the side of a tall limestone cliff in a small triangular valley. It has a tiny steeple with a bell-cote and measures only 6.1 m × 3.7 m. Its slated roof looks a bit out of place – it is a modern addition raised to protect the entrance to the grade I building.

People leave graffiti on the walls of the chapel since  the middle ages - we didn't feel inclined to do the same

People leave graffiti on the walls of the chapel since the middle ages – we didn’t feel inclined to do the same

Chapel's end seems to be semi-collapsed

Chapel’s end seems to be semi-collapsed

Other way out of the chapel

Other way out of the chapel

Main altar - legends say that St Govan's body is hidden underneath it

Main altar – legends say that St Govan’s body is hidden underneath it

Small cross made of straw left by one  of the pilgrims

Small cross made of straw left by one of the pilgrims

There are two stories connected with the chapel. One tells the tale of a silver bell that St Govan used to alert the villages with when the pirates were spotted and the other claims the steps to the chapel are enchanted. The small bell was given to St Govan by the King and it was made of purest silver to give a clear and loud sound. Each time the pirates were getting near, the bell would ring so powerfully that the villagers were able to hear it. Infuriated that their attacks were so easily thwarted, the pirates stole the bell and thrown it into the ocean. Govan prayed long for the bell to be recovered and his calls were heard by the angels. They removed the bell from the ocean floor and hid it in a large stone near the chapel so the bell would not get stolen again. From now on, St Govan had to tap the stone twice and the bell would ring, thousand times stronger than before alarming not only the nearest village but the entire coast as well.

Chapel seen from the outside - back entrance and the bell cote

Chapel seen from the outside – back entrance and the bell cote

Postcard shot - we are very pleased with this one!

Postcard shot – we are very pleased with this one!

Our favorite myth is that about the stairs leading to the chapel. The steps said to be magical and their number depends on many things: the weather, the time of the day or night, how many people were going up or climbing down. Some tourist guides swear that the difference can be huge: between 74 for certain gentlemen to 35 for the ladies. We have seen the groups of visitors counting each step very scrupulously but we haven’t asked about their mathematical skillsJ. To be very honest, it is easy to make a mistake – some steps are nearly invisible, some are cracked in half and people could count them separately, others are connected and potentially could be counted as one step. It doesn’t matter how many steps you counted, the number will be unique to you and maybe you can use it to play lotto! The chapel has long been associated with good luck; some still believe that a wish made there will come true.

Sacred spring and  another steps leading to the coast where St Govan was running away from the pursuing pirates

Sacred spring and another steps leading to the coast where St Govan was running away from the pursuing pirates

Chapel as seen from the shore

Chapel as seen from the shore

Chapel from  the cliffs - our farewell picture

Chapel from the cliffs – our farewell picture

The chapel may be small and simple but it makes strong impressions on those who visit it. If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic building, please take a look at the following links:

Visit Pembrokshire: http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/attractions-events/st-govans-chapel/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Govan
Wikipedia again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Govan%27s_Chapel
Pembrokshire Coast: http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk/website/AppAccess4All/stgovans_head.pdf
Britain Express: http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=645
Destinations UK: http://www.destinations-uk.com/articles.php?country=wales&id=115&articletitle=St%20Govan%20Chapel,%20Pembrokeshire

Coastline seen from the valley

Coastline seen from the valley

St Govan's Head in the distance

St Govan’s Head in the distance

The cliff walls are excellent for climbing - just not when the military training takes place!

The cliff walls are excellent for climbing – just not when the military training takes place!

Well, our visit to the lovely chapel of St Govan came to an end. In few days’ time, we will write about the Castlemartin Range and then we will finish our tour the Wales with a visit to the magnificent Pembroke Castle! Come back soon!

Lots of love,
Rita and Mal D.

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Broadhaven South in 27 clicks

Hello again!

Few days ago we complained about the gloomy winter weather in the UK. Today, we need the biblical ark! It has been raining cats and dogs and the canals around Worcester are now full. This is an annual river Severn flooding and Rita will have a lot of difficulties reaching her work. Streets will be closed, traffic jams will go for miles and only Mal will enjoy the lovely Mediterranean climate. Oh well, on days like these, all you can truly do is to put the heating on and look at some lovely photographs!

If you have missed our Tour de Wales, so far we have visited Ogmore-by-Sea, Saundersfoot and Barafundle Bay. You can read the reviews below:

Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/
Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/
Saundersfoot in 20 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/saundersfoot-in-20-clicks
Barrafundle Bay in 30 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/barafundle-bay-in-30-clicks/

As promised, we are still staying within the borders of the lovely Stackpole Estate. After seeing how beautiful Barafundle Bay is, we decided to show you another private beach that once belonged to the magnificently rich Earls of Cawdor. This beach is called Broadhaven and is located just two kilometers away from the picturesque village of Bosherston. We need to be very precise here – there are two beaches known as Broadhaven. The one we are interested in is officially known as Broadhaven South, the other is simply called Broadhaven. The other beach is situated near the village of Broadhaven, in the south east corner of St Bride’s Bay and lies in The Havens Community of Pembrokeshire. Please don’t make the same mistake as we did and ask the local residents how to get to Broadhaven Beach. You will receive pretty conflicting directions. Be more precise and either ask for Broadhaven South or for the Broadhaven Beach.

The two beaches are located quite close to each other but if you are new to the area, traveling on the narrow country roads can be a real challenge. To make matters even worse, SatNav on your phone will be useless, the internet connection in these parts of Wales is the worst we have seen! You will have to rely on the locals and road signs – almost as going back to The Middle Ages!

After arriving at Broadhaven South, the first thing you notice is a large car park and camping grounds at the popular Trevallen Farm (Bosherston, Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, Wales, SA71 5DR, Telephone: 01646 661643). Again, you will be charged five pounds for parking. On a busy day, you might be asked by the parking attendant to stay only for several hours, as the parking spaces are being filled very quickly. Forget about the free parking after 17:30, in the summer you will not find a single place to park until 2 o’clock in the morning! Broadhaven is a very popular location – it is visited by thousands tourists each season. In recent years, it has also become a particularly favourite spot for rock climbers and surfers.

Luckily for tourists, Broadhaven South is not as remote as Barafundle Bay. National Trust has a small office near the parking that sells tickets, food, memorabilia, beach gear and souvenirs. You can even sign up as a National Trust member if you wish – you will not have to pay for the parking. This is what we have done and it proved to be a great decision. There is also an ice-cream van that has been in operation since the early 1960’s. The gentleman who owns it said that he is going to retire soon but each year he is delaying the decision. He remembered the original Cawdor Court at Stackpole and he could tell many interesting stories about the place. He informed us that the reason why the fantastic house was demolished was because it was abandoned for long period of time and the taxes for the land were too high to keep it. The Cawdor family apparently returned to their native Scotland and the grounds were sold. New owners were too poor to renovate the grand mansion and sadly it was destroyed. As a child, the gentleman was taught to swim by one of the Earl’s personal swimming instructors, who sometimes made exceptions for the local kids and worked for free. We were glad to hear that Broadhaven South has not changed much since them – it means the beach still remains clean and is not polluted.

Broadhaven South is surrounded by high cliffs and lime stones. The sand dunes are also much higher than those near Barafundle Bay and you will need a pair of sturdy shoes to walk around them. Don’t forget that the dunes and cliffs are part of coastal national reserve – you are allowed only to walk on designed paths not to disturb the local fauna and flora. Several plants growing on the rocks are indigenous to the local ecosystem and you will not find them anywhere else. Many people are involved in saving this splendid place for future generations!

The unspoilt and untamed beauty of Broadhaven South has been used as a filming location. In 1989, C.S. Lewis story “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (one of the books from “Chronicles of Narnia”) has been shot for a miniseries produced by BBC. In 2010, the post production and additional scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1& 2 were filmed here while the house of wizards, Bill and Flaur Weasley, the Seashell Cottage was created at the nearby beach of Fresh Water West. Broadhaven South has been used several times in Doctor Who as well – as you can see this is a famous ground for every fan of fantasy genre!

Last but not least – we also need to mention The Church Rock, a small but famous limestone solitary standing in the middle of the water some 150 yards from the sandy beach. If you believe the urban legends, The Church Rock is said to be some sort of an alien beacon or maybe an orientation point for the unidentified flying objects. It is true that UFO’s have been spotted many times flying around the beach. We haven’t seen any men in black sunbathing during our visit, but any paranormal activity at Broadhaven South could be a case for Mulder and Scully. We still believe!

1.

Broadhaven South - do not confuse with Broadchurch!

Broadhaven South – do not confuse with Broadchurch!

2.

National Trust office

National Trust office

3.

Ice scream stand offers treats to everyone including the fans of Mortal Kombat video game series

Ice scream stand offers treats to everyone including the fans of Mortal Kombat video game series

4.

Road to the beach

Road to the beach

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Sand dunes

Sand dunes

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The beach is popular all year round

The beach is popular all year round

7.

This particular picture has been edited by Mal to show you how the difference between natural pictures and those edited in Photoshop

This particular picture has been edited by Mal to show you the difference between natural pictures and those edited in Photoshop

8.

We arrived at the low tide, usually in the afternoon this part of the beach is covered by water

We arrived at the low tide, usually in the afternoon this part of the beach is covered by water

9.

At low tide the beach is growing in size

At low tide the beach is growing in size

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Rocks and sand - the beach looks almost like a California desert

Rocks and sand – the beach looks almost like a California desert

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Church Rock on the horizon

Church Rock on the horizon

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Calm waters

Calm waters

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Foot prints  - humans and animals. The dogs are welcomed to the beach

Foot prints – humans and animals. Dogs are welcomed to the beach

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The water is blue and green in the sunshine. It is considered the cleanest  in Wales

The water is blue and green in the sunshine. It is considered the cleanest in Wales

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How do you tell there is a razorshell hidden in the sand?

How do you tell there is a razorshell hidden in the sand?

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Broadhaven South is known from the dramatic coastline filled with limestone cliffs and caves

Broadhaven South is known from the dramatic coastline filled with limestone cliffs and caves

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Another beach and another Labrador swimming

Another beach and another Labrador swimming

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Cave close up

Cave close up

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Inside the cave

Inside the cave

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The lime stones are pretty interesting if you look at them up close

The lime stones are pretty interesting if you look at them up close

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The Coastal riff near the edge of Broadhaven beach

The Coastal riff near the edge of Broadhaven beach

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Cliffs again

Cliffs again

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This massive lime stone block is known locally as The Wall

This massive lime stone block is known locally as The Wall

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Rising tide creates  small streams along the beach

Rising tide creates small streams along the beach

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Water is quickly reclaiming the sand

Water is quickly reclaiming the sand

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Soon the sand is underwater and the tourists are escaping onto the sand sunes

Soon the sand is underwater and the tourists are escaping onto the sand dunes

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Panorama of Broadhaven South

Panorama of Broadhaven South

You can learn more about Broadhaven South by reading the links below:

BBC Nature: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/nature/sites/surfing/pages/sw_broadhaven.shtml
Bluestone Wales: http://www.bluestonewales.com/pembrokeshire/beaches/broad-haven-south
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_Haven_South
Pembrokshire Coast: http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk/?PID=122
Visit Pembrokshire: http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/explore-pembrokeshire/beaches/broad-haven-south/

All right, our work in Stackpole is done for now. We are moving, but we are not going very far. Just two miles away from Broadhaven South, there is a small 12th Century chapel that we always wanted to see. Please return soon, – One castle a day will be back!

Till then,
Rita and Mal

Barafundle Bay in 30 clicks

Welcome travellers!

It is the middle of November, the coldest and rainiest period for the United Kingdom (Malta is always sunny so they don’t care!) yet the gloomy weather will not scare us, as we are still remembering those beautiful and warm days of summer! Such memories are worth keeping especially during the winter gloom when all you can think of is the hot tea and a warm bed.

After visiting Ogmore-by-Sea and Saundersfoot, we are moving up the splendid Pembrokshire Coast and today we will invite you to visit one of the most unspoilt beaches in the world. No, we are absolutely not exaggerating at any point – Barafundle Bay has been called the Pearl of Wales, The Golden Beach and A Paradise on Earth. It has won several international awards for its wild beauty including Seaside Award (Rural) 2013, Green Coast Award 2013, Best Beach in Wales online award (voting took place in 2014), Best Beach in Britain (according to The Good Holiday Guide), Best place in the United Kingdom for a picnic (Country Life Magazine, 2006) and has been featured several times in Top Ten Beaches in the World by several magazines and tourist websites (Trip Advisor, Time Magazine, BBC and others). Do you need more encouragement? We didn’t think so!

Barafundle Bay is usually described as “remote, slightly curved, east-facing sandy beach” that lies between the Stackpole Quay and Broadhaven South on Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the only coastal natural reserve in the United Kingdom. It is one of several beaches that were part of the famous Stackpole Estate. This magnificent Georgian and Victorian country estate measured 24 kilometers and belonged to the richest family in Britain – the earls of Cawdors. The grand Stackpole Court has been sadly demolished in 1960, but even today the entire estate will amaze anyone who comes there. Right now it is a listed designed landscape and an internationally important nature reserve with cliffs, rock pools, wild lakes, semi natural woodland, remains of English and vegetable gardens (so called walled gardens), sand dunes and lily ponds. We will write about the estate in a separate entry in the future – we still haven’t visited all the right places and we want to write a proper, detailed review!

Sherlock fans should pay a special attention to Barafundle Bay – it is one of Benedict Cumberbatch’s favourite places in the world and it played an important part in a move called “Third star”. It is an independent production and we didn’t like it that much, but you can clearly see how much Mr Cumberbatch enjoyed being there! The movie was completed in 2009 and is widely available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can purchase a copy at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Third-Star-DVD-Benedict-Cumberbatch/dp/B0058ILL2K

Getting to the remote beach can be a bit of a problem. The only car park is at Stackpole Quay, nearly a mile away and you will have to pay five pounds per day. This is a standard fee for all National Trust managed places in the area so it is cheaper to join the National Trust than to pay a fiver every time you want to park somewhere. You can also walk to the beach from Broadhaven South, but the path is much more difficult – 3 miles of climbing the lime stones and dragging yourself through the sand almost feels like completing the London Marathon. We recommend parking at the Stackpole Quey and walking through the woodland and sand dunes. There is also a different path that leads through the cliffs and you can take some fantastic pictures from the top. Be careful when you are near the edge as there are no barriers and few unfortunate travelers met their end after falling down. Once you reach the beach, you will have the privilege of walking through a small gate that has been constructed for John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor. At the end, there is small stone staircase with 54 steps leading straight to the sandy shore. Let’s not forget that for nearly 200 years, Barafundle Bay has been a private beach and it has been protected by a guardsmen!

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Barafundle Bay

Barafundle Bay

2.

Entrance to the beach

Entrance to the beach

3.

Barafundle Bay as seen from the cliffs

Barafundle Bay as seen from the cliffs

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Green fields and blue sky - Wales at its best

Green fields and blue sky – Wales at its best

5.

I can't go down to the water's edge

I can’t go down to the water’s edge

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Water is crystal clear but you wouldn't want to fall down!

Water is crystal clear but you wouldn’t want to fall down!

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Sharp cliffs and hidden riffs make the Barafundle Bay a dangerous place to swim

Sharp cliffs and hidden riffs make the Barafundle Bay a dangerous place to swim

8.

There are small caves in the cliffs, but you cannot get there from the top - you will have to hire a rowing boat

There are small caves in the cliffs, but you cannot get there from the top – you will have to hire a rowing boat

9.

The views from the top are stunning

The views from the top are stunning

10.

It doesn't matter which direction you look to - the entire bay looks beautiful and wild

It doesn’t matter which direction you look to – the entire bay looks beautiful and wild

  11.

Let's get down...to the beach. You can reach the sandy beach by going down 52 stone stairs

Let’s get down…to the beach. You can reach the sandy beach by going down 52 stone stairs

12.

The beach photographed from the stairs

The beach photographed from the stairs

13.

It was a lovely warm day, but as you can see nobody was brave enough to swim - the water was dreadfully cold

It was a lovely warm day, but as you can see nobody was brave enough to swim – the water was dreadfully cold

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We weren't afraid to let our feet get wet

We weren’t afraid to let our feet get wet

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Barafundle Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales - here's a proof!

Barafundle Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales – here’s a proof!

16.

Blue Jellyfish is common sight in Wales - this one was  sadly dead

Blue Jellyfish is common sight in Wales – this one was sadly dead

17.

Owrd of advice - don't touch the jellyfish that has been washed on the beach. They can still sting. It will not be strong but the sensation is not pleasurable

Word of advice – don’t touch the jellyfish that has been washed on the beach. They can still sting. It will not be strong but the sensation is not pleasurable

18.

Rocks located near the shore - you can sit on them watching the waves come and go

Rocks located near the shore – you can sit on them watching the waves come and go

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And the other end of the beach - even more rocks!

And the other end of the beach – even more rocks!

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Sand dunes between the Stackpole Estate and Barafundle Bay

Sand dunes between the Stackpole Estate and Barafundle Bay

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Narrow path leading to the beach from the dunes

Narrow path leading to the beach from the dunes

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The sandy road goes on and on

The sandy road goes on and on

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Thick grass growing on sand dunes - it is so sharp that it will cut through your skin

Thick grass growing on sand dunes – it is so sharp that it will cut through your skin

24.

Wild blackberry bush growing near the steps to the beach

Wild blackberry bush growing near the steps to the beach

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Barafundle Bay is known for its  diverse flora - poison ivy is a common sight growing among the rocks

Barafundle Bay is known for its diverse flora – poison ivy is a common sight growing among the rocks

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We don't know the name of this plant but it is very popular around the beach. Anybody knows what it is?

We don’t know the name of this plant but it is very popular around the beach. Anybody knows what it is?

28.

Safety first

Safety first

29.

Beach again - empty at the end of the day

Beach again – empty at the end of the day

30.

Early evening  - it's been a long day!

Early evening – it’s been a long day!

You can learn more about this amazing place by reading the following articles:

Visit Pembrokeshire: http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/explore-pembrokeshire/beaches/barafundle-bay/
National Trust: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1356400537038/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barafundle_Bay
Pembrokshire Council: http://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=101,100&id=13343
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/4761873.stm
Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g1474995-d481159-Reviews-Barafundle_Beach-Stackpole_Pembroke_Pembrokeshire_Wales.html
Wales Online: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/20-best-beaches-wales-2013-2573728

We will hang around the Stackpole Estate a bit longer and take you to Broadhaven South next. Stay tuned for another amazing collection of beautiful pictures and clicks! Have a fantastic day!

Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

Saundersfoot in 20 clicks

Hello, Hello!

Another week and another entry about Wales! We are turning Welsh pretty quickly and we are proud to say it loud. There is nothing to be ashamed of, anyway. Wales is one of the most beautiful places in the UK and discovering it was a true pleasure.

Last week, we have reviewed the picturesque sea side resort of Ogmore-by-Sea, a real Welsh pearl sadly overlooked by tourists. Let’s hope after a bit of marketing, Ogmorians (is this how you call the local residents?) will have their hands full when the next season comes! If you’d like to read the two part blog, please use the links below. What can you find inside? Lots of breathtaking pictures, ghost stories, beautiful ruins, great food and views to die for!

Ogmore-By-Sea Part 1:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea

Ogmore-By-Sea Part 2:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/

Today, we will visit a very popular beach resort called Saundersfoot. This beautiful village is located in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is probably the most popular beach destination in the UK. Booking for summer holidays starts in January and by April, all places are gone till December! Lying in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Pembrokshire has been voted the most picturesque part of Wales by TripAdvisor and we completely agree. Taking a short break from castles, legends and ghosts – please enjoy this short and sweet entry  – Saundersfoot in 22 clicks!

1.

Saundersfoot village centre

Saundersfoot village center

2.

Brass band playing on the street of  Saundersfoot

Brass band playing on the street of Saundersfoot

3.

Residential district - there were no vacancies, when we arrived just one or two houses to buy

Residential district – there were no vacancies, when we arrived just one or two houses to buy

4.

One of the main roads - it was rather empty on Saturday afternoon

One of the main roads – it was rather empty on Saturday afternoon

5.

Saundresfoot Harbour looks beautiful anytime day or night. If you’d like to book a place to stay for your boat, please contact them at: http://www.saundersfootharbour.co.uk/

Saundersfoot marina at the low tide

Saundersfoot marina at low tide

6.

Castle in the sand

Castle in the sand

7.

Seagull dinner

Seagull dinner

8.

Tiny streams at the beach - sea water returning to the ocean

Tiny streams at the beach – sea water returning to the ocean

9.

Sea jelly

Sea jelly

10.

Southern part of Saundersfoot beach

Southern part of Saundersfoot beach

11.

Limestone near the cave

Limestone near the cave

12.

Ladies cave is a small chevron fold located on the southern end of Saundersfoot beach. You can only get here at low to mid tide, it is a perfect picnic location. The cave was named in Victorian times, ladies and children arriving at the beach would look for a shelter there during the rain. It is made from mud stone and limestone and is quite spectacular.

Ladies cave

Ladies cave

13.

The rocky part of the beach is very interesting, you can find crabs and  seashells in the rock pools forming at high tide

The rocky part of the beach is very interesting, you can find crabs and seashells in the rock pools forming at high tide

14.

Bigger picture with the cave in the background

Bigger picture with the cave in the background

15.

Razor shell among millions of  other sea shells. We have seen people fishing for them using water bottles. Apparently razor shells make  a delicious soup

Razor shell among millions of other sea shells. We have seen people fishing for them using water bottles. Apparently razor shells make a delicious soup

16.

We love sea shells - we have gathered an entire bucket!

We love sea shells – we have gathered an entire bucket!

17.

Main beach in Saundersfoot

Main beach in Saundersfoot

18.

Calm seas in the afternoon

Calm seas in the afternoon

19.

Saundersfoot is a popular tourist destination. It is twinned with Tenby, another mega popular sea resort

Saundersfoot is a popular tourist destination. It is twinned with Tenby, another mega popular sea resort

20.

Village as seen from the beach at the low tide - you can go for a mile before you reach the water

Village as seen from the beach at the low tide – you can go for a mile before you reach the water

21.

Walking in shallow water can be hard - your legs are getting stuck in the sand

Walking in shallow water can be hard – your legs are getting stuck in the sand

22.

It's time to go home - the tide is rising!

It’s time to go home – the tide is rising!

Popular links:

Saundersfoot on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saundersfoot
Chamber of Commerce: http://www.visit-saundersfoot.com
Chamber on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/visitsaundersfoot
Visit Pembrokshire: http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/explore-pembrokeshire/towns-and-villages/saundersfoot/

Please come back soon, we will be visiting the world famous Barafoundle Bay next!

Ahoy!
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

One castle a day – Ogmore-By-Sea part two

Ahoy!

Welcome back again!

Thank you kindly for returning back so soon! We are thrilled that so many people have read the first part of our review from the trip to Ogmore-by-Sea! It seems that our column, One Castle a day, generates a lot of traffic for our little blog. It is a cheering thought that we are not the only ones who love history, local legends and visiting all the strange places! If you have missed the previous entry, here’s the link to the article:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/

Castell Ogwr

Castell Ogwr

Ogmore Castle photographed from the entrance

Ogmore Castle photographed from the entrance

Today, we will try to interest our readers in Ogmore Castle, a tiny ruined Norman fortress that is sadly overlooked by tourists. It is a truly romantic place and we cannot think of a reason why, it doesn’t get much coverage. When we started researching the topic in preparation for this entry, we couldn’t find many historical facts and a trip to local library was necessary to be able to learn more. Yet, our efforts were rewarded and we will be happy to share the knowledge we have gained!

Main ruined wall  and the former courtyard

Main ruined wall and the former courtyard

Main wall - the biggest original fragment of the castle still standing

Main wall – the biggest original fragment of the castle still standing

Compared to the castles we have seen in the past, Ogmore Castle may not look as impressive or grand. Indeed, it has been constructed not as a seat for the king or a local lord, but simply as a protective fortress overlooking the newly conquered lands. We don’t know when exactly the castle has been built, but the chronicles mention that “Ogor Castelle” was being completed sometime around 1106. An earlier fort or fortified manor might have existed before the castle, as the crossing between River Ogmore and River Ewenny was an important strategic point and a trade route for the Welsh tribes since at least the 10th century.

The Keep

The Keep

Stone Pillar located in the middle of the courtyard. There is an recorded information about the castle installed nearby

Stone Pillar located in the middle of the courtyard. There is an recorded information about the castle installed nearby

Known to the Welsh as Castell Ogwr, Ogmore Castle played an important part in a defensive line against the Welsh attack on barely established Norman domain in Glamorgan Vale. Along with two other fortresses, Coity Castle and Newcastle Castle in Bridgend, Ogmore served as a fortified border separating the Welsh from Norman invaders. Creation of such barrier was essential – the political situation of the region was complicated after the major Norman victory and successful campaign of Robert Fitzhamon in 1075.

Lower part of the castle

Lower part of the castle

Entrance to lower castle in greater details

Entrance to lower castle in greater details

This additional building  was probably a prison. After torrential rains, it is filled with water

This additional building was probably a prison. After torrential rains, it is filled with water

To understand why Ogmore Castle was so vital to Normans, we need to tell you more about Robert Fitzhamon himself and his connections at the royal court in London. Robert was a proud grandchild of Hamon Dentatus, a powerful noble man, holder of many titles and lands in Normandy. He didn’t fight at the battle of Hastings and is not mentioned in Doomsday book, but several of his close relatives are. Robert probably arrived to England after 1066, after being called by the new king – William the Conqueror. The reason for his arrival is not certain, but Robert quickly has been dispatched deep into Wales, continuing William’s policy of conquest and unification of the British Isles. His skills and bravery quickly won him the respect of other knights and by 1075 Robert won several battles in Glamorgan area, successfully driving the Welsh army away. In recognition for his service, Fitzhamon was named the first Lord of Glamorgan.  By 1088, Robert’s position was so strong that he has been chosen as an adviser of William Rufus (Wiliam the Red), William the Conqueror’s son in his struggles against his older brother Robert Curthose. The events known now as Rebellion of 1088 had serious consequences: Robert Curthose has not been successful in claiming the English throne and Wiliam Rufus became the most powerful ruler in Europe, not only being crowned the King of England but also taking much power away from Robert in Normandy.  Fitzhamon found himself working for the richest ruler in the world and his faithful service has been rewarded greatly  – he received the feudal barony of Gloucester with over 200 fortified manors. As baron, Robert Fitzhamon became the most powerful of the Marcher Lords and continued his conquest of Southern Wales until his death in 1107. A popular legend mentions Robert and his Twelve Knights of Glamorgan winning numerous battles against the Welsh royalty and cunningly gaining the Cardiff Castle for themselves. You can learn more about their heroic deeds here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Knights_of_Glamorgan

The lower castle as seen from the side of the stepping stones

The lower castle as seen from the side of the stepping stones

Another look at the castle from the stepping stones

Another look at the castle from the stepping stones

Ogmore Castle from the parking (a bit distant picture!)

Ogmore Castle from the parking (a bit distant picture!)

According to the legend, one of the Glamorgan Knights was named Sir William de Londres (also known as William of London) and he was given the Ogmore province to govern. At first Williams was pleased with Fitzhamon decision as he found Ogmore to be very beautiful and fertile land. However, he soon realized the whole area was under constant attack from the Welsh and was considered the most dangerous to rule. To keep his borders intact, William constructed “Ogmore triangle” – three castles and Ewanny Priory in the middle. All buildings have been given thick stone walls and natural protection provided by hills and rivers.

Stepping stones  just before the rainfall

Stepping stones just before the rainfall

And the grazing flock not bothered by flocks of tourists

And the grazing flock not bothered by flocks of tourists

Ogmore Castle has been captured only once during the Welsh attack in 1116. William de Londres had to abandon it for a short period of time, but his butler, Arnold led the defense and managed to get the castle back with minimal loss of life. He was later knighted and received the castle and manor of Dunraven as reward.

Ogmore Castle has been rebuild several times. The first person to change the original structure of the building was Maurice de Londres, William’s eldest son, who created an oblong keep, now the highest surviving building and the oldest  keep in Glamorgan. A wooden palisade was replaced by a new stone wall in 1200 and a new bailey has been added later. By the 14th century, the castle enclosed an area of 164 feet (50 m) in length by 115 feet (35 m) in width with well designed courtyard,  additional private buildings, administrative center, a court house and elaborate two story high gateway. Lise Hull writes in her book “Britain’s Medieval Castles” that despite rather basic exterior (consisting of “irregularly shaped field stones, glacial pebbles, Lias limestone slabs held with brown mortar), the interior of the castle was modern and quite luxurious. The castle had round-headed windows decorated with Sutton stone ashlar that was considered uncommon in the 12th century, a great hall with kitchen and an ornate fire place on the first floor, a latrine tower and private chambers on second floor equipped with large garderobes (added roughly 100 years later). Castle rooms were decorated by paintings and tapestries. Sadly, the ruins we can see today are showing only a fragment of the original castle  –  three walls, the keep and some external buildings have survived.

Main entrance to the castle and the wooden bridge above dry motte

Main entrance to the castle and the wooden bridge above dry motte

This arch is the  only fragment remaining today from the original two story gatehouse

This arch is the only fragment remaining today from the original two story gatehouse

Two local legends are connected with Ogmore Castle. We have mentioned the first one in previous entry, but by mistake we called the haunted spirit a Gray Lady. Her true name is Y Ladi Wen (“the White Lady”) and she can be seen around the stepping stones looking for her lost treasures. The other legend is quite interesting and it is worth writing about.

After losing the Ogmore Castle to the Welsh (and then getting it back thanks to the actions of Arnold Butler), Maurice de Londres swore revenge. Each Welshmen captured in the woods belonging to the Norman nobles was to be tortured and then sentenced to death.  One day, during a hunting party, Maurice’s knights found a Welsh poacher aiming at a stag with his arrow. Caught in the act, the proud Welshman was brought to the court at Ogmore to meet his destiny. Entire castle came to the yard to witness the torture and the execution of a mysterious stranger, but despite pain, the young man would not scream or beg for mercy. He introduce himself as a Welsh prince and admitted that hunger suffered by his people forced him to hunt in the forest. The prince refused to apologize, blaming the Norman invaders for the fate of his people. His proud speech and bravery impressed Maurice’s daughter so much that she pleaded with her father for the life of the Welshman to be saved. It was her birthday as well and she wanted no gifts or jewellery, only the prince to be spared. Her father agreed, the Welsh prince would live yet the girl pressed  for more. She begged her father to give the Welsh people a land where they could hunt freely. De Longres wasn’t pleased with such request but yet again he complied, but under one condition. The land given to the Welsh was to be as big as  the distance his daughter would walk barefoot from the moment until the sundown. The girl was offered no shoes and she was to set on her journey at once. The girl didn’t think twice – she left the castle and traveled for miles and miles, over hills and valleys. She stepped on a rock injuring herself but she  would not stop, she kept on going until she reached the sea. Two soldiers followed her and reported to her father how far she went. On the next morning, the Welsh prince has been set free and was told  about the girl’s sacrifice. The distance she covered was given to Welsh as promised and the prince could return home. The girl and the prince have never met again, but her kind deed was known among the Welsh tribes. The beach the girl arrived at is now called Southerndown and the land is known as the Southerndown Common. It has belonged to the public ever since.

Place to rest

Place to rest

Another look at the main wall   - take a look at the  well designed windows

Another look at the main wall – take a look at the well designed windows

You can still see the signs where the second floor once was!

You can still see the signs where the second floor once was!

Southerndown is a popular beach near Ogmore-by-Sea and we plan to visit it next time we go there. Doctor Who fans will recognize it as Bad Wold Bay from “Doomsday”, the place where the 10th Doctor and Rose Tyler said their final goodbye’s.

Additional information about the castle can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogmore_Castle
http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=498
http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/ogmorecastle/?lang=en
http://www.tipiwales.co.uk/thestoryofogmore.html
http://www.castlewales.com/ogmore.html

Ogmore Castle had  long and thick walls protecting the castle against the Welshmen

Ogmore Castle had long and thick walls protecting the castle against the Welshmen

Once impenetrable, the castle walls are now full of holes and  "back  entrances"

Once impenetrable, the castle walls are now full of holes and “back entrances”

And we are done! We are leaving the beautiful Ogmore behind us and we are moving on to Saundersfoot! Come back in a few days time, our next entry is going to be amazing!

Have a great evening,

lots of xxxx
Rita and Mal D.

One castle a day – Ogmore-By-Sea

Bore-Da Dear Readers!!

We cannot believe that the lovely autumn is finally over. The long, sunny days are now gone and this past week we had a truly winter weather. Of course, the cold doesn’t affect Malicia, as she is living on a beautifully warm Mediterranean island, but Rita had to put a warmer underwear on not to freeze off her backside. Ah the glorious November weather in the rainy United Kingdom. No worries, we refuse to be affected by the sudden temperature drop and we don’t plan to hibernate for the next 6 months. Instead, we have decided to survive the dark days of winter by remembering all those fascinating places we have seen this year. Be prepared to visit some of the most breath-taking sites in West Midlands, historical buildings and wild beaches in Wales with us!

Welcome to the beautiful Ogmore-by-Sea

Welcome to the beautiful Ogmore-by-Sea

To be very honest with you – this year has been all about Wales. We have traveled to Cardiff to see the premiere of Doctor Who Season 8 at St. David’s Hall; we went to Doctor Who Experience, discovered the Cardiff Rift and newly redeveloped Cardiff Bay. We visited the coastal town resorts of Sandersfoot, Tenby, Pembroke and many others. Today, we will start with a small coastal gem named Ogmore-by-Sea that sadly is usually overlooked by tourists and tour guides. It is hard to understand why that happens. Ogmore is beautifully situated, has a large sandy beach that is perfect for swimming and surfing, dramatic coastline and is not crowded at all, even in the high season. You can get there from Cardiff under 15 minutes – this is a perfect place for a family holiday that doesn’t get the tourist traffic it deserves.

Ogmore Beach

Ogmore Beach

There is a lot to do in Ogmore. The village has a small medieval ruined castle located in the same heart of the community, an established riding school well known for its long beach horseback rides, ancient stepping stones allowing the tourists to get across the river and great restaurant called “Pelican in her Piety”.  You don’t have to worry about booking a place to stay for the night – several good quality bed and breakfasts and houses to rent are available all year long.  You can turn long weekend into an affordable mini holidays for the entire family.

The beach at Ogmore has a sandy part but majority of the coast is covered by stones

The beach at Ogmore has a sandy part but majority of the coast is covered by stones

The weather can be  very unpredictable  - the sunshine is quickly followed by rain

The weather can be very unpredictable – the sunshine is quickly followed by rain

One word of advice though. Ogmore is what we call a one street town. All attractions the village has to offer, rented accommodations, pubs, castle, riding school and the beach are located quite far from each other. To explain it better: the castle and riding school are located in the same heart of the village. River Ogmore estuary and picnic areas with picturesque walking trails are on the outskirts near water plant facility. The beach is situated about a mile outside the village. Everything is located along one very busy road that runs through the entire area. You will not find any sidewalk or even a safe public path to move between the places worth seeing. We are discouraging anyone from walking along the road, you will have to drive and look for a free parking space.

The stones from the beach are  a popular paving materials - many drives in the village are paved with them

The stones from the beach are a popular paving materials – many drives in the village are paved with them

The stones can serve as  house decorations as well - they look truly elegant in the bathroom (we have a marine theme)

The stones can serve as house decorations as well – they look truly elegant in the bathroom (we have a marine theme)

We have been to Ogmore many times in the past and almost every single time we are witnessing some sort of traffic incident. The drivers (locals and tourists) are racing through the village at about 70 m/per hour without thinking about pedestrians and animals. The number of cars that are literally thrown out of the road into the private drives is simply scary. During our last visit, we have seen three drivers losing control of their vehicles and nearly crushing into sheep or people. Ogmore farmers are using grazing techniques to feed sheep and horses and keep the local hills well cultivated. The animals roam freely and sometimes the flock decides to move to the other side of the road quite unexpectedly. If you don’t mind traveling short distances to see different parts of the same village (it is still worth it) please visit Ogmore. In other case, consider taking your kids to Doctor Who Experience or to Barry Island.

This green fields are the flooding plains for the River Ogmore. At the high tide, the plains located near the estuary, are completely covered by water

Those green fields are the flooding plains for the River Ogmore. At the high tide, the plains located near the estuary, are completely covered by water

The constant tides have left a permanent scars  along the flooding fields

The constant tides have left a permanent scars along the flooding fields

Now, we have complained a lot, but in reality, Ogmore is pretty as a picture. Once you find a good parking space and you are moving far from the roads, you are as safe as rich person’s money on a Swiss account. Ogmore-by-Sea is located in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. The entire village, hills, beach, coastline, Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes, churches and even the old bridges are considered an area of special scientific interest and are protected. Don’t be surprised if you met local researchers or biologists taking samples of water, soil or flowers – such sights are considered pretty normal around here. Those who come to Ogmore quite regularly can tell you which parts of the beach/sand dunes would be off limits to the public during the research. We have seen a group of  Glamorgan University students collecting data about the marine life from the rocks and it was pretty epic. All the scared students running up and down the beach with probes and reporting to their professor – it felt so good to watch them work hard while we were sun bathing 🙂 Life is not fair kids!

River Ogmore estuary - the currents are dangerously strong, be careful when crossing!

River Ogmore estuary – the currents are dangerously strong, be careful when crossing!

Flooding plains turning into grass sand dunes

Flooding plains turning into grass sand dunes

The Welsh name for Ogmore-by-Sea, Aberogwr, means the Mouth of River Ogmore. The river Ogmore flows into the sea just outside of the village creating a wide estuary. It may look like a shallow place to cross to the other side (the dunes are perfect for a long walk), but be careful, the water currents are very strong here and we had to give up in the middle of our journey. The water is very cold even at the height of summer and the currents  go in all directions. They can sweep an adult man off his feet! Walking along the estuary is hard and we recommend a pair of  sturdy shoes for the excursion. Don’t ask what happened to Rita’s pair of sandals after a short distance. Spare yourself the horrors of destroying your favorite summer shoes and go for Karrimors. Your feet will thank you, believe us!

This is not Broadchurch - the coastal rocks at Ogmore are as impressive as those in Dorset

This is not Broadchurch – the coastal rocks at Ogmore are as impressive as those in Dorset

You will need a pair of sturdy shoes to walk around here!

You will need a pair of sturdy shoes to walk around here!

Now, for such a big history freaks like us, it wouldn’t be fun to visit if Ogmore-by-Sea was just another pretty seaside tourist destination without any historical background or at least a legend to follow. Luckily the town has an ruined castle to admire and a terrible reputation! Sounds interesting? Delightful – we will take a closer look at the castle in another entry, but today we will try to discover more about the fascinating caves on the beach, the stepping stones near the castle and finally learn more about the very unusual name behind the local pub. Off we go!

Ogmore-by-Sea is a favourite swimming spot for  surfers and labladors

Ogmore-by-Sea is a favorite swimming spot for surfers and Labradors

Strong Atlantic winds can be a bit dangerous but the waves are spectacular

Strong Atlantic winds can be a bit dangerous but the waves are spectacular

If you think that Ogmore-By-Sea inherited its name from Ogmore river, then you are mistaken. The Welsh word “Og” means a cave and it’s perfect for a location filled by sharp cliffs and dramatic coastline with shallow rocks, pointy edges and hundreds of caves and coves all over. The caves are now a major tourist attractions drawing crowds of climbers and kids who love to play hide and seek among the maze of stone corridors and tight passages. Since the Middle Ages, Ogmore has been known as a graveyard for ships, a place where strong Atlantic winds and shallow waters were especially dangerous. According to popular local legend, the Ogmore River and its estuary were an important water trade route, allowing the goods to be transported from Bristol and other cities.  To deploy the goods, the ships had to come deep into the bay, as close to the shore as it was possible. If they were successful, the cargo would be then loaded into small boats and taken to the shore. To ensure the safety of such operation, a castle has been built to scare off the pirates and robbers. Unfortunately, the allure of wealth was so strong that the entire area soon was plagued by organized crime. The castle defenders were powerless against the thieves who would put up lanterns on the cliffs at night, tricking ships into believing they were showing a safe passage to the shore. Many ships crashed against the Tusker Rock (also known as Ynys Twsgr, a massive reef about two miles off shore from Ogmore visible only at the low tide) and many people lost their lives. Each victory was well celebrated by the bandits – they would store all stolen riches inside the caves, sit around the campfires, drink and sing loudly. The winds would lift their songs for miles and their voices would ring in the silence of the night even in the village.

Majestic overview of the beach

Majestic overview of the beach

The villagers were terrified and prayed for help. Their prayers have been listened to one morning when a group of pirates woke up after another raid only to find out that the way our of the cave have disappeared, leaving them stranded inside, with almost no air and plenty of gold. For the first time in their lives, the robbers understood the error of their ways and begged the God to be merciful. They promised to abandon their shameful profession and to protect the shores and its inhabitants. God allowed them to leave and the robbers remained true to their word – some of them become monks and traveled all over the Wales preaching the glory of God, some joined the Ogmore castle defense and fought against their former companions and others settled in the village earning their keep in an honest way. The last ship was wrecked near Ogmore on April 23, 1947 claiming the lives of 40 crew members and the rescuers.

The coastline rocks are still very impressive

The coastline rocks are still very impressive

Another look at the rocks - they look beautiful and wild, the pictures don't do them justice

Another look at the rocks – they look beautiful and wild, the pictures don’t do them justice

There is little historical evidence of organized shipwrecking at Ogmore but the tale of plundering and redemption is very vivid, especially if you hear it sitting on the sand surrounded by ancient caves. What we found truly unique about the lime rocks is that they seem to be alive! The Carboniferous limestones are covered in fossils and moussels and they look incredibly beautiful. You can read more about the geological structure of Ogmore at: http://www.swga.org.uk/pdf/ogmore.pdf

Lime stones covered by sea weed and fossils

Lime stones covered by sea weed and fossils

Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean series will be delighted to know that there is also a cave known as Davy Jones Locker. You can visit it, but you’d need a professional climbing equipment: http://www.southwalesmountaineering.org.uk/wiki/Davy_Jones%27_Locker_and_the_Sea_Caves

Another interesting legend connected with Ogmore-by-Sea is the tale of two lovers living on the opposite sides of River Ewenny. Ewenny is a tributary of River Ogmore and flows just behind the Ogmore castle.  The lovers were able to see each other only when the tide on the river was low and the separation took a huge toll on the love-struck youngsters. When the girl fell ill, the boy was not able to see her for many days and  became very worried. According to tradition, he asked his fellow villagers for help and together they created a stone pathway to the other side. The couple was reunited and soon after the whole village was celebrating their union in marriage.

People crossing the Ewenny river using the ancient stepping stones

People crossing the Ewenny river using the ancient stepping stones

There is also a different version of this legend. The stepping stones were created for a wealthy lady, an occupant of the Ogmore Castle. Her riches were so great, she had to hide her possessions in a secret storage outside of the castle walls as she was running out of places in the treasure vaults. She would visit the storage every night to try on her priceless jewelery and admire her reflection. One fateful evening returning home, she slipped and fell into the dark waters. The secret storage has never been found but the gray lady is still protecting the gold. Some travelers have seen her standing on the shore looking in the direction of grass sand dunes. Maybe the treasure is hidden there? Who knows? The stepping stones were probably placed across the river around 11th of 12th century and originally there were 52 stones. Today the number is smaller but you can still reach the other side without getting wet. The last place we would like to mention in this entry is the pub – Pelican in her Piety. This traditional English pub has a very unusual name! It serves an excellent food and each time we arrive in Ogmore, we treat ourselves to a splendid meal.  The interior is beautiful – you can relax in front of a huge fireplace with real logs and dry off your clothes if you got caught in a downpour like we did! The weather in Wales can be moody as a spoiled Persian kitten, we tell you!

Pelican in Her Piety

Pelican in Her Piety

The pub has been in operation for more than 250 years, maybe even more. From the beginning it was connected to the nearby Ewenny Priory, Benedictine abbey founded by either William Londres, lord of Ogmore Castle or by Arnold le Boteler, a Norman knight in service of William. The owners are not sure but before the dissolution of monasteries in 1535, the building was probably used as a food storage for the Benedictine monks. After establishing the Chrurch of England and separation from Rome, the monastery buildings were sold into private hands. Ewenny Priory along with all possessions were purchased by sir Edward Carne in 1546 who took the ancient Christian symbol of a pelican feeding her young with her own blood as his personal coat of arms. In 1741 the pub was passed as a martial gift to Tubervilles Family and the detailed history of the place is now written down on place-mats. You will never be bored again while waiting for your order to arrive!

There is no need to order side dishes - the portions are epic!

There is no need to order side dishes – the portions are epic!

Ewenny Priory on CADW: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/ewennypriory/?lang=en
Pelican in her Piety official website: http://www.pelicanpub.co.uk
Pelican on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pelican-in-her-Piety/153241731375609
Pelican on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pelicanogmore

There are few other things worth mentioning. Ogmore is home to Farm Riding Centre, a well known horse riding school that organizes wildly popular two hour treks along the beach, and Ogmore Farm Tea Room, a cozy nice place that serves delicious cheesecake with pineapple and berries. They also have a cat statue  near the entrance!

Ogmore Farm TeaRooms

Ogmore Farm TeaRooms

Official website for the school: http://www.rideonthebeach.co.uk
Trip Advisor entry for the Tearooms: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g186458-d3357524-Reviews-Ogmore_Farm_Tearooms-Bridgend_Vale_of_Glamorgan_Southern_Wales_Wales.html

Few interesting links if you still want to know more:
Please return again shortly as we will go and finally pay a visit to the romantic ruined castle!
Have a great day!!
Rita + Mal Dabrowicz
P.S.

The second installment about Ogmore Castle can be now found at:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/