They say that travel broadens the mind – it certainly does and what I truly love is discovering places with so much history. I imagine myself in a particular place at a particular time and sometimes wonder about “time travel”. On a recent trip to Wales this was certainly the case.
We were in Cardiff and about to explore the Pembrokeshire coast. Knowing very little about the area, we stopped at the Visitor Centre and chatted with the local staff member. She insisted that we stop at “the chapel in the rock”. Never having heard of this place, St. Govan’s, we decided to go and find out what it was all about.
The coast is absolutely jaw dropping – fantastic limestone cliffs, beautiful beaches, open grasslands, rare plants and many varieties of birds, caves by the hundreds and several World War 2 bunkers. There are pathways for walkers and rock climbers can be challenged by the sheer rock formations.
Just near here is Huntsman’s Leap and legend has it that a huntsman leapt across the chasm with his horse and then died of shock when he looked back at what he had done!
We crossed a grassy plain and found some steps going down the cliff and there, we found St Govan’s chapel. This tiny chapel is nestled amongst the rocks and is said to have been built in the 13th century although some believe it may have been as early as the 6th century after St Govan was saved from the pirates. During the 5th and 6th centuries it was common for Celtic missionaries to travel the coast. Tradition says that St Govan was being chased by pirates when a rock opened up for him to hide in and then closed until the enemy had passed. Govan stayed here for the rest of his life and prayed and taught here until his death in 586.
Whatever the truth, it is a fascinating place and the logistics of building a little medieval chapel such as this so long ago must have been enormous.
Govan’s body is buried beneath the rustic altar and his hand prints are on the floor of the cave – it is also said that one should make a wish here. We did – and I am still waiting for that wish to be granted!
There is an air of ancient mystery here and it is an area of secluded beauty and well worth any detour to come and visit, dream a little and travel back in time.
St Govan’s chapel is at St Govan’s Head, one mile south of Bosherston on a minor road in Pembrokeshire, Wales.