Around St Ishmael’s

St Ishmael’s Church © Nigel Summerley

Away from its busy inland towns, Pembrokeshire offers huge helpings of tranquillity. And one of its most peaceful areas centres on the southern coastal village of St Ishmael’s.

A footway alongside the village’s expansive sports field takes you to the coastal path. And heading east along the clifftops, you soon come to the vertiginous stairway down to the beach of Lindsway Bay.

Come here at the turning of the tide for wonderful swimming as the water starts to run back in. On a blazing hot spring day I had the beach to myself for a couple of hours before the incoming water drove me progressively back to the rocks.

When I was finally forced to retreat to the foot of the steps, I bade farewell and escaped back up the 100-odd steep steps to the coast path. But this time I turned west, into the warm sun, and with the enormous navigation tower at Watwick Point, south of Dale, highly visible across the water.

After passing some old bunkers, I stopped at the ruined watchtower above Monk Haven then carried on down, to sit and absorb the serenity of this eccentric little sandy inlet.

The name more than suggests a religious connection and it appears that long ago there was an educational monastery here. Monk Haven is also said to have been a landing point for pilgrims in the Middle Ages heading for St Davids (Ishmael was known as a disciple of David and is thought to have been made Bishop of St Davids after his master died in the 6th century). Going overland from here was thought to be safer than the sea route round the hazardous west coast. 

A high stone wall sections off the beach from the woodland behind it. This wall, like the ruined watchtower, is a remnant of the boundaries of the 19th-century Trewarren Estate.

The wooded valley which runs north from the beach is idyllic, touched with the sacredness of nature – it was heavenly to walk through its pure timelessness. 

St Ishmael’s churchyard © Nigel Summerley

The path brought me to the 12th-century St Ishmael’s Church – cute in its stunning simplicity and not even spoilt by a smell of dampness inside it. And on a sunny day, the graveyard here, overhung by the loveliest trees, looked just about the best place one might wish to rest in peace.

On up from the church, the path led me back to the sports field via the village – which was still apparently asleep.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley recently retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health.

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