A great place to explore in Pembrokeshire is St Govan’s Head and Chapel. It is a free walk close to Bosherston so you could combine it with a day visiting Bosherston Lily Ponds. Pass through Bosherston and towards St Govans and Castlemartin until you reach the free car park (Sat Nav postcode: SA71 5DR). There are no facilities here (the closest toilets are situated in the National Trust carpark in Bosherston) but in the summer there is usually an ice cream van. Castlemartin is a firing range so this walk is only open when the range is not in use. Check ahead for firing times for military ranges before you visit.
St Govan’s Head: Car park to Coast Guard Station Walk
Once parked, head left onto the tarmac path. There is an accessible path all the way to the old Coastguard Station.
We met up with Mum, Jo, Cerys, Ceri and Lexy for an afternoon walk. Dave and Danny were tempted to stay home in the warm but I’m so glad they decided to come with us.
At the beginning of the walk there is a cattle grid and a side path. Of course most of our group chose the cattle grid. When I was young there was a sty to get over the gate (my sisters and I used to love climbing over it!).
As soon as you arrive on this peninsula you are treated to stunning views and almost completely surrounded by the sea.
The old shelters are fun to climb over. These used to house the winch for the moving targets used for practice.
Running down the old shelter.
There is plenty of room (away from the cliffs) for the kids to explore with care. In the past we have seen lots of wildlife- ladybirds, beetles, lizards and even snakes as the natural grassland makes a great habitat. It was too cold for reptiles on this visit.
We’ve had a lot of rain recently so there were lots of deep puddles and marsh land too. The kids were drawn to the muddy parts!
On the other side of the path is the cliff edge. Take care here as erosion does take place.
Jo takes a snap of the stunning views.
The sea mist makes this look like a ghost ship.
There is so much room, at times the kids played together and at others they made the most of the peace and walked alone.
I was just saying that we don’t see so many climbers at St Govan’s head as we used to and then lo and behold of course we spotted some climbers. I expect there are more in the warmer weather too. I was always intrigued by climbers when I was younger but when I explore with the kids I’m keen to stay as far from the cliff edge as possible.
Sheep (and cows) can be seen in the fields nearby. Quite regularly we are stopped on the way here waiting for cows to cross the road.
At the end of the path we come to the Old Coastguard Station.
We climbed up to enjoy the incredible views. As well as admiring the rugged cliffs it’s also a great spot for bird watching, especially seabirds,including guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes. St Govan’s is also a great habitat for chough, and other birds such as wheatear, skylark and stonechat are often spotted.
Dave said he didn’t want to get in the photo and then proceeded to walk into it- these photo-bombers get everywhere!
We made our way back down.
Can you spot the climber?
On the way back the kids ran along the ditch. I popped to take a photo upsetting Rebecca as she had planned to “ambush me”- sorry for spoiling your plan Rebecca-I’m sure you’ll ambush me another day!
Sisters in wooly hats.
Another play by the moving target shelter. It was quite funny to watch everyone run towards this together.
St Govan’s Chapel (The Little Chap)
Saving the best until last we then walked to St Govan’s Chapel (it’s located near the car park).
There are steep steps and a railing leading down to the chapel. It has always been said that if you count the steps going down you will never count the same coming up. We used to always count them to see if this was true but on this visit we just concentrated on getting everyone down safely.
There are passing places to stop and wait for oncoming people but I always feel unsteady when I’m not next to the rail!
When you reach the chapel look for a fish (symbol of Christianity) carved into the brick next to the chapel door.
The chapel dates from the 13th century and marks the site where St Govan, a 6th century hermit chose to live a religious life.
An ancient altar still exists in the chapel.
To the left of the altar is a crevice.
Look inside and find the rib like markings. Legend has it that St Govan hid here when his hide out was attacked by pirates. He prayed that he would not be discovered. A miracle happened and the rocks opened up and enclosed him- so tight that it left the imprint of his ribs ever since. People used to say that if you can fit into the crack and turn around three times without touching the rock face you can make a wish.
St Govan was safe from the pirates but they did steal the silver bell. Some people say that there was an almighty storm and both the pirate ship and bell were lost at sea but the bell can still be heard chiming during rough weather.
The other chapel door leads out to the rocky shoreline.
One holy well was located inside the chapel and the second well can be seen in the photo above. Both wells were thought to have healing powers but the outside well is said to have been a wishing well also. The kids love to hide in the well shelter.
A room with a view.
As far as we know St Govan stayed here for the rest of his life in his cell, worshipping, preaching and teaching.
His saintliness was marked by the Church, which designated March 26th as St Govan’s Day, and by followers who built the chapel in the cliffs. Tradition says that St Govan lies buried under the altar in the chapel. He died in the year 586. Local priests have been known to hold services in the chapel on St Govan’s Day and people still leave flowers on his shrine.
Make a wish Izzy!
I spotted Rebecca in the window but each time I went to take a photo she moved away!
A family shot outside St Govan’s Chapel, often called the Little Chap.
We then made our way carefully back up the steps.
In the summer we reward ourselves with an ice cream or ice lolly when we make the top! It’s also a great spot for a picnic and flask of tea.
Here is a poem that I recently found about St Govan:
St Govan, he built him a cell
By the side of the Pembroke sea,
And there, as the crannied sea-gulls dwell.
In a tiny, secret citadel
He sighed for eternity.
St Govan, he built him a cell
Between the wild sky and the sea,
Where the sunsets redden the rolling swell
And brooding splendour has thrown her spell
On valley and moorland lea.
St Govan still lies in his cell,
But his soul, long since, is free,
And one may wonder – and who can tell –
If good St Govan likes Heaven as well
As his cell by that sounding sea?
Arthur Glyn Prys -Jones, 1920
We had a lovely day and certainly blew the cobwebs away! It’s a lovely free day out with a scenic walk, picturesque chapel, wildlife in addition to historic, military and religious points of interest.
As well as easy access by car St Govans is also a stop on the Coastal Cruiser Bus Route
Bosherston Lily Ponds
Have you visited St Govans?