Saturday 2 April 2016
Newport to Fishguard/Goodwick
9 miles (+ bus)
The heavy rain that started yesterday afternoon carried on all through the night and was still going as I ate my Welsh breakfast and delayed departing. Always nice to see the upbeat tv weather forecaster proclaiming a warm, sunny day across everywhere except SW Wales and NW England. Oh well, out into the rain I went fully suited up.
I crossed the Nevern Estuary and headed along the edge of Newport, the path sandwiched between the stony beach and the garden walls of some lovely houses. (I later found out Newport is apparently one of the most expensive places to buy a house in Wales.)
Finally I was up on the cliff path heading towards Dinas Head. The path was incredibly muddy and I found myself slip-sliding at a snail’s pace. The views weren’t great, there was no wildlife about and it wasn’t long before I was soaked to the skin.
I hit the road into Cwm-yr-Eglwys, yet another quaint little village nestled in a cove with a beach.
This one had a ruined church, St Brynach’s, that was destroyed in the Royal Charter storm of 1859. The Royal Charter was one of 114 ships lost off the Welsh coast in that storm.
I decided there was no point walking around Dinas Head as it would just be a trudge up a muddy cliff top with no views to admire. Instead I took the tarmac’d shortcut across the ‘neck’ of Dinas Island (not really an island) to Pwlldwaelod – a mirror image of Cwm-y-Egwlys except with a pub instead of a ruined church. A good place to stop for a coffee and reevaluate my day. To be honest I wasn’t fancying another 6 miles slip-sliding along a cliff path. I took stock and found I could head less than a mile inland to Dinas Cross and catch a bus to Fishguard. Sorted.
Bus drivers are great. This one stopped to let me off at the top of the hill on the way down into Fishguard Lower Town so I could go and look at the Old Fort at Castle Point.
The fort was built in 1781 in response to the French Revolutionaries’ attempt to invade Fishguard four years earlier. The French seriously underestimated the size of the forces ranges against them (apparently the French spies mistook women wearing Welsh national costume for soldiers) and unconditionally surrendered (how unusual for the French!). Crisis averted but the prosperous town decided it needed to protect its port and so built a fort and armed it with a militia (3 invalid gunners from Woolwich – should be enough to take on the French). What a story. I thought the best part was that when the French landed the local cobbler, Jemima Nicholas, marched out with a pitchfork, captured 12, and went back for more!
Fishguard Lower Town is nestled in a natural harbour and from here you can take the lovely Marine Walk up and around the small headland to face Goodwick (there’s no ‘w‘ in Good-ick) and the port.
Fishguard ferry terminal is actually in Goodwick and was built by the Great Western Railway company in 1902 to try and attract transatlantic liners. In 1909 the Mauretania dropped and, until The First World War, Fishguard was a regular stop for Cunards flagship liners, the Mauretania and the Lusitania. After WW1 Cunard moved its operation to Southampton.
Goodwick’s other claim to fame is that in 1912 it was the take-off point for Denys Corbett Wilson when he became the first person to fly from Britain to Ireland. It took him 1 hour 40 minutes in his Beriot XI.
My hotel was on its own next to the main road. I was thankful to have arrived as I was wet and cold. My heart sank when I read the sign saying the bar was open nightly until 2.30am. However, upon chatting to Kylie, the owner, it is open until then to cater for the last ferry passengers (in particular those who miss the last ferry sailing at 2 am). Kylie’s dad set up the hotel because he used to catch (and sometimes miss) that ferry and the town of Fishguard, despite relying on the ferry for its business, does not really cater to the ferry. So Kylie’s family moved here from Coventry and now, if you need a cup of tea, a sandwich, or to warm a baby’s bottle at 2 am, you will find a warm welcome at the Seaview hotel. (Don’t ask for a taxi at that time though – the local taxi drivers aren’t interested.)
I had a nice evening chatting in the bar to Kylie and an American lady who was visiting Ffald-y-Brenin Christian retreat in Newport. It seems every restaurant has faggots on the menu (a local dish here and in the Midlands) so I decided to try them this evening. Not bad actually.