Insider’s Guide to Fishguard and Goodwick

Lower-Fishguard-02-150x150Fishguard and Goodwick are welcoming Pembrokeshire communities, only a 10 minute drive (7.5 miles) from Wolfscastle Country Hotel.

Rich in history and character, and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, we’d recommend a visit – here are a few local highlights to enjoy when you come and stay with us:

1) Discover Pencaer

This beautiful peninsula juts out into the sea west of Goodwick, and is known for its stunning landscapes and seascapes, and fascinating archaeology – including ancient hill forts and numerous ancient burial chambers. 

Go whale watching on Strumble Head, climb the rocky volcanic outcrop of Garn Fawr for its Iron Age fort and breathtaking vistas, or drive down to the coastal beauty spot of Pwll Deri.

Nearby Trefasser is associated with Bishop Asser – a local monk who became one of King Alfred of Wessex’s right-hand men, who helped codify English law for the first time.

2) Whale and bird watching on Strumble Head
Strumble Head’s dramatic cliffs are one of the best places in Britain for spotting whales, porpoises and dolphins.

If birds are your thing, keep an eye out for shearwaters, storm petrels, gannets, and skuas. You can make good use of the undercover wildlife observation post, first opened by Bill Oddie.

Get advice on local whale, porpoise and dolphin watching at The Ocean Lab down at Fishguard Harbour.

3) Breton saints and Celtic carvings
Don’t miss the ancient church in Llanwnda, where Britain’s last invaders first took shelter after landing at nearby Carregwastad Point in 1797 – this is known as St. Gwyndafs, after a Breton holyman who is said to have settled here during the Age of Saints.

There are seven incredibly beautiful 7th-9th century Celtic carved stones in and around the churchyard, and don’t miss the holy well.

You can also visit a fascinating burial chamber “cromlech”, just to the south of the village, on the edge of Garnwnda.

4) Traditional textiles at Melin Tregywnt
This woollen mill can be found on the south western edge of the Pencaer Peninsula, near the historic Tregwynt Mansion – watch the wool being worked, or buy a traditional Welsh blanket.

Dating from the 18th Century, the products created by the mill combine Welsh tradition with modern design, and are sold all over the world.

5) The Black Prince and Fishguard Fort
The local coastline remained the haunt of pirates and smugglers right up until Napoleonic times. On 15 September 1779, Fishguard’s Lower Town was approached by an American cutter, the Black Prince, which demanded a ransom in return for not attacking the town.

Fishguard’s dignitaries said no, so the vessel bombarded the town with its 6-pounder gun, hitting St. Mary’s Church and several other buildings.

To fend off future attack, a fort was built on the local headland – head up out of Lower Town, on the main Cardigan Road – at the top of the hill, on a sharp bend, there’s a car park – go and explore the well-preserved fort, and enjoy the fantastic views across Fishguard Harbour.

6) Exploring the Gwaun Valley
Fishguard’s Welsh name is Abergwaun, meaning “Mouth of the River Gwaun” – and the River Gwaun threads its way from Newport to Fishguard. Pontfaen and Llanychaer are the Gwaun Valley’s main communities.

The Rough Guide to Wales described this as “one of the great surprises of Pembrokeshire”, and we agree – head up the narrow and steep sided valley, cloaked in oak trees, and enjoy the valley’s walks, history and scenery.

This is an independent kind of place, a little removed from the outside world – they celebrate New Year’s Day, or Hen Galan, on 13 January – keeping to the ancient Julian calendar, which came to an end in the rest of Wales in 1752.

During this celebration, the children of the valley travel from house-to-house singing traditional songs and rhymes to ‘let in’ the coming year – a tradition known as Calennig (meaning new year’s gift).

7) A pint at Bessie’s
For a memorable pint, head to the Dyffryn Arms in Pontfaen, which is 5 miles up the Gwaun Valley. Owned by Bessie Davies, and known as Bessie’s by locals, this is an old style pub like few others – order a pint of Bass and a pickled egg from the hatch…

Bessie’s is rooted in another era, which is why it’s well worth a visit. If you’re a beer aficionado, you might also like to visit the nearby Gwaun Valley Brewery.

8) Llanllawer’s holy well and the Field of the Dead
The Gwaun Valley has always been known as rather a mysterious place – it features in the Mabinogion, and was known as a place of many “wise” women and men.

There are many holy wells across this part of Wales – visit Llanllawer’s restored holy well, near Llanychaer, which is said to cure eye ailments.

Just to the east of Llanychaer is Parc y Meirw, or Field of the Dead – a Bronze Age stone row alignment of standing stones. Nobody really knows what this alignment was for – perhaps the stones had some spiritual purpose, or were used as a navigational aid of some sort.

9) Last invasion of Britain
France mounted the last invasion of Britain here, in 1797, in an attempt to divert attention away from the forthcoming 1798 rising of the United Irishmen*, which received French naval support.

The “last invasion” story is told in a magnificent 30 metre tapestry, produced to mark the bicentenary of the event – visit it at Fishguard Library (phone 01437 776638).

In reality a distraction rather than a determined invasion. 1400 mainly irregular French troops and Irish/French officers, under the command of Irish-American William Tate, landed at Carregwastad and proceeded inland – there were a few clashes with locals before all discipline broke down, and the incursion fizzled out.

Local lady Jemima Nicholas is said to have rounded up a skulking rabble of invading soldiers, with her pitchfork – her grave can be visited in St. Mary’s Churchyard, just off Fishguard Square.

Tate made his unconditional surrender at Trehowel farm, after two of his officers had travelled to the Royal Oak on Fishguard Square – to tell the British that they wished to negotiate terms.

Having visited the tapestry, you might like to visit Carregwastad Point (some 3 miles west of Fishguard), where the Last Invasion began – to get there, park at nearby Llanwnda and take the path down to Carregwastad, which is about a mile away.

*The United Irishmen were a mixed band of Irish “Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters” who came together in an attempt to overthrow British rule, and rid Ireland of sectarian division. They were brutally crushed by the British, and tens of thousands died – the fighting took place mainly in Counties Wexford, Wicklow, Kildare, Down and Antrim.

10) Wander down to Lower Town
This incredibly photogenic part of Fishguard lies to the north of the town centre, down at the mouth of the Gwaun Valley – it’s perhaps best seen from above, walking down the coastal path from the town centre. This ancient harbour was once the haunt of smugglers, pirates and herring fishermen.

Lower town became Llareggub in the first film of Under Milk Wood (1971), featuring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole – after discovering the county, the two hell raisers are known to have returned to stay with a local actor friend in nearby Newport.

Fishguard also featured in the film Moby Dick (1955), featuring Gregory Peck.

Refreshments
If you can’t make it back to the hotel for refreshments, I’d recommend Goodwick Fish and Chip Shop (also known as Gary’s Fish Bar), or Ffwrn in Fishguard town centre (Main Street) – run by a French/Welsh duo. The Ship Inn is a popular pub in Lower Town.

Books and Art
Seaways Bookshop (on West Street, in the town centre) is a great place to go for books about Fishguard and the surrounding region. If art’s more your thing, pop next door to West Wales Arts Centre, where you’ll find some fabulous paintings and sculptures.  

Tourist Information
Fishguard Tourist Information Centre can be found in the Town Hall on Market Square, slap bang in the centre of Fishguard – phone them on 01437 776636.

History of Fishguard
Fishguard is thought to have been founded by the Normans, with the name perhaps derived from earlier Scandinavian origins. Norman Fishguard is said to have along the High Street, with a Norman motte-and-bailey castle on its southern end.

The town later developed as a herring fishery and trading port (and at one time it was known for its smugglers and pirates).

And Fishguard remains North Pembrokeshire’s main commercial hub – don’t miss the Thursday market in Fishguard Town Hall, which is open from 8am to 4pm.

History of Goodwick
Just a short distance to the south west of Fishguard, Goodwick is a small town with a Scandinavian name, and is perhaps best known as a ferry terminal for the Stena Line route to Rosslare in County Wexford.

The town started life as a fishing village – in 1887, work began on a railway connection and harbour, to support plans for turning the harbour into a terminus for transatlantic liners. However, things didn’t go to plan and the dream evaporated.

Go for a short wander around this pleasant town, whose streets cling to the steep sides of Pencaer – the chip shop is one of Pembrokeshire’s best, if you need a bite to eat.

Wolfscastle Country Hotel is in the perfect central location for exploring everything this wonderful county has to offer – contact us on 01437 741225 to book your stay, or make an online booking.

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