City West Trail
A really picturesque and interesting trail which starts and finishes at the car park adjacent to Oriel y Parc Visitor Centre, St Davids. Explore the enchanted cathedral city itself and sections of the rugged coastline around the peninsula to the west.
This has been a cultural hotspot for thousands of years and the area’s prehistoric past has certainly left its mark on Britain’s smallest city. The City West Trail blends history with scenery as it winds its way through places of beauty, peace and pilgrimage, rich in wildlife.
If time allows at the end of the Trail, take a short trip down to Caerfai Bay a little over 1/2 mile away. Turn left out of Oriel y Parc car park and follow the road to the elevated location overlooking the lovely south facing bay and the rest of St Bride’s Bay right the way along to Skomer Island. Caerfai Bay itself is sandwiched between towering cliffs of purple sandstone and stones from nearby were used to build St Davids Cathedral
Britain’s smallest city with its cathedral and other early Christian heritage sites nearby. Superb coastal scenery on quiet lanes around the westernmost peninsular of Wales. A picturesque little fishing harbour, a superb sandy beach, lifeboat station and the dynamic Ramsey Sound
9.1 miles (14.7km)
|2 hours plus additional time for stops|
|Oriel y Parc Car Park, St Davids (Grid Ref SM757252, Sat Nav SA62 6NW). Charges apply, generally from March to November. On the A487 approach from Haverfordwest, turn left at the roundabout and first left into the car park. On the A487 approach from Fishguard, turn left immediately after the 30 mph signs, go straight ahead at the roundabout and first left into the car park|
|No rail station within 5 miles|
|Mostly on quiet country lanes. Gradients are generally shallow but a little steeper just after leaving Porth Clais Harbour and Whitesands, and also within the Cathedral Close. None of the hills should provide a problem for anyone used to cycling. One section follows a bridleway about half way along the Trail and this is stony and a bit bumpy.|
Total climb (sum of all uphill sections) - 205 metres
|St Davids, Porth Clais, St Justinians and Whitesands|
|St Davids, Porth Clais and Whitesands|
Trail Directions (distances in miles)
0.0 Start: Exit the car park and turn left. (Before turning left you may wish to explore Oriel y Parc Visitor Centre and Gallery directly opposite or save this visit until the end of the trail. There are refreshments and toilets on site as well as cycle stands). After turning left out of the car park, take the 2nd right (after a row of bungalows). Then join the narrow bridleway path on the left after about 50 yards. Follow this path for nearly 1/2 mile until it joins a minor road opposite the Warpool Court Hotel. Then turn left
0.9: Arrive at St Non’s. After a stop to visit the birthplace of St David and the Holy Well, turn around and follow the road back towards the city
1.5: At ‘T’ junction turn left following a sign for Porth Clais. Keep on this road ignoring all side roads. Once out of the city you will follow the rim of Merry Vale which contains the River Alun flowing from the cathedral down to Porth Clais. To your right you will notice the outlines of a number of rugged and long extinct volcanoes in the distance. Follow the hill down to Porth Clais
2.4: Porth Clais Harbour on your left. After a brief stop, continue on the road. This is a steep uphill section of the trail as you climb out of the valley
3.0: Carry straight on at the cross roads following the sign for St Justinians. After about 200 yards the road sweeps around the southern end of the rocky outcrop known as Clegyr Boia. At the junction with a bridleway leading to a farmhouse on the right a narrow unofficial path leads up the side of one end of the outcrop. From the top you are rewarded with an amazing 3600 panorama of the whole peninsula
3.5: Turn left at ‘T’ junction following sign for St Justinians. Ramsey Island will come into view ahead before you finally get to the end of the road at St Justinians. Cycle stands are available for a worthwhile pause to explore the area properly. Afterwards, turn around and head back on the same road for about 1/2 mile and turn left along a road signed ‘No Through Road’. The road turns into a bridleway leading to Treleddyn after about 100 yards. Carry on along the surfaced bridleway ignoring a private sign saying ‘Footpath Only’
5.1: Where the surfaced lane turns left at Treleddyn, continue straight ahead on a stoned track and follow this to the right just beyond the large twin-gabled house. Out of interest it was from this farmstead that the 1797 French Invasion fleet was spotted by the farmer, retired seaman Thomas Williams, who raised the alarm, alerting the troops in defence of Fishguard. This next section of the Trail is quite stony and you may prefer to dismount and push your bike. As you progress you will see a property with an unusual roof on your right. Look back to your left and you will notice a rock outcrop with a recess facing you. This is reputed to be the spot where St Patrick sheltered while awaiting the boat which would take him to Ireland. The track ahead soon improves and eventually links through to a tarmacked road
6.0: Turn left to go downhill following a sign for Whitesands
6.4: Arrive at Whitesands. Cycle stands are available on the left as you enter the car park and toilets and a shop/cafe are available just beyond the stands. After your visit to Whitesands, cycle back up the hill on the same road that you arrived on
6.8: At the top of the hill turn left following a sign for Youth Hostel. Ignore the next sign for the Youth Hostel and just carry on along this same road until you get to a ‘T’ junction. Turn right at this junction (joining National Cycle Network Route 4)
7.7: Carry straight on at the crossroads. Take care crossing this road
8.3: Turn right just before the river bridge and carry on past the old buildings of St Davids Cathedral Close. After the road turns left, the entrance to the Bishop’s Palace ruins is on your right and the Cathedral is straight ahead. Cycle stands are available outside the Bishop’s Palace and there are toilets at the side of the footbridge. After stopping for a visit, cross the river on the footbridge and carry on up the hill past the main gates to the Cathedral on your left - don’t turn left or right at this point. You may want to dismount and push your bike up this quite steep hill. The road will soon take you under the Tower Gate Arch. Turn right immediately after the arch and follow the narrow lane for about 100 yards.
8.7: Turn left by the Farmers Arms and take the first right into Mitre Lane. At the top of the lane turn left into Bryn Road. After 200 yards there’s a path leading off the road on the left opposite Pen-y-Garn junction. You will need to push your bike along this path which takes you past public toilets and on to the front of the City Hall where you’ll find cycle stands. This is an ideal place to secure your bike so you can explore the city centre on foot. Afterwards follow the path back to Bryn Road and turn left
9.0: At the end of Bryn Road turn right at the ‘T’ junction and turn left at the next ‘T’ junction
9.1: Finish at Oriel y Parc Car Park on the right
Points of interest along the way
Oriel y Parc
A bold, semicircular and environmentally friendly building which is truly the ‘gateway’ to St Davids and this area of the National Park. It functions as a tourist office and a visitor centre and houses changing exhibitions from the National Museum Wales’ art collection. The building also has an interactive interpretation area, a discovery room, an Artist in Residence Tower, gift shop and cafe
Named after the mother of St David who lived in a house on the site of the ruined Chapel. This is where St David was born around the year 500AD. Near the ruins is St Non’s Well which is said to have sprung up during a thunderstorm at the time of St David’s birth. It is regarded as one of the most sacred wells in Wales and its water is considered to have healing and other miraculous powers. Near the retreat house is a more modern and lovely Chapel built out of stones originally taken from old church buildings in the area.
A lovely snake like harbour built in the 12th Century to serve the city of St Davids. It was once a bustling port with ships importing and exporting goods to and from coastal communities. Timber, grain, limestone and coal were among the items traded with the latter two feeding the lime kilns on both sides of the harbour. The original harbour wall was believed to have been constructed by the Romans, and during the Middle Ages, streams of disciples and pilgrims landed here from England, France and Ireland. Porth Clais is supposedly the place where St David was baptised
An outcrop of very old volcanic rock and a notable landmark on the peninsula. There is evidence that it was the site of enclosed Neolithic and Iron Age settlements and later became the stronghold of the 6th Century Irish chieftain called Boia. A tiny well named Ffynnon Lygaid on its southern side is reputed to be the source of water used to cure eye ailments. Although 50 metres above sea level, it has historically been recorded as an ‘Ebb and Flow’ well used to determine the state of the sea tides over a mile away
A stunning location looking out over the treacherous Ramsey Sound to Ramsey Island beyond. There are two lifeboat stations, the old one which is used as the embarkation point for adventure boat trips and visits to the island, and the new one alongside which became operational in 2017. A ruined medieval chapel marks the burial place of St Justinian, a contemporary of St David
Overlooked by the imposing craggy outcrop of Carn Llidi, this wide expanse of fine sand curves north towards the remote rocky headland of St Davids Head. A very popular Blue Flag beach and one of the best places for surfing in the country. The slopes of Carn Llidi and St Davids Head are littered with the remains of Neolithic monuments. It is said that St Patrick had his vision to convert Ireland to Christianity here at Whitesands, and he set sail to Ireland from the bay in the 5th Century. The bay was also the terminus of two Roman roads used for gold trading between Ireland and Southern Britain and beyond
Built on the site of a monastery founded by St David. Work on its construction started in 1181, about 600 years after St David’s death. It endured a turbulent early history with the tower collapsing, earthquake damage and even an attack by Parliamentary soldiers. It has been rebuilt, enlarged and embellished over the centuries. It is quite a remarkable place, built, for defence purposes, in a hollow so it would not be visible from the sea. It has beautiful oak and painted ceilings, extraordinary sloping floors and wonderful restored cloisters that all contribute to its special character. The Pope decreed in the 12th Century that two pilgrimages to St David’s Shrine at the Cathedral equalled one to Rome
Located adjacent to the Cathedral. It was built in the14th Century to house the bishops and entertain guests. It’s a ruin, but an impressive one with plenty of areas to discover including staircases to towers and undercrofts. It is looked after by CADW as a visitor attraction and entry fees apply. It is worth checking their website for opening times etc
The city itself is named after Wales’ own patron saint and despite its city status it is really very small with a resident population of less than 2000. Take a short walk around the historic centre with its narrow streets filled with art galleries, gift shops and cafes. The 13th Century Tower Gate and the Celtic Old Cross on The Square are also worth a look. The Trail itself will have taken you to the magnificent medieval Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace in the tranquil Vale of Roses adjacent to the city centre.