Pembrokeshire Coast Walk 9. St. Govan’s & Green Bridge of Wales

This walk includes a visit to the ancient site of St. Govan’s, then westwards across a rugged and wild coastal landscape to the awesome natural rock feature ‘The Green Bridge of Wales’. As this area is part of the Ministry Of Defence Castlemartin Range East, access is restricted on military training days and planning a walk here in advance is essential.

This walk can be done either as a 6 miles ‘out and back’ starting from the car park at St. Govan’s, or as part of an extended 10.25 miles circular walk continuing Coast Walk 8 from Bosherston.

St. Govan’s Chapel

At the top of a steep cove a set of stone steps lead down the cliff side to the entrance of the historic St. Govan’s Chapel, an iconic place of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

This 13th century chapel was built over an earlier cell and the final resting place of the mysterious Celtic Saint Govan, who died here in 586 AD.

The steps to St. Govan’s Chapel

There’s an old legend that if you count the stone steps on the way down to the chapel and then recount the steps on the way back up, the numbers never match. We find out later if there’s any truth to the legend.

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Stone steps down to the Chapel

At an archway entrance to the chapel, you enter into a sparse small dark room with a single window outlook to the coast. Some visitors say that on entering the chapel there’s an eerie feeling, as you leave the modern world behind and step back in time to an age of Celtic myths and legends.

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Govan’s hiding place and imprints in the rock  

In the east wall of the room is an archway crevice in the rocks. One of the legends pertaining to St. Govan is that when fleeing a raid by pirates he sought safety by hiding in this space. As he prayed for help, the rocks miraculously closed around him until the danger passed, so saving his life. There are markings in the rock which according to the legend are the imprint of Govan’s ribs which were cast into the rock encasing him.

Looking out on the wild and windswept cove you take in a view that Govan himself would have seen and imagine his peaceful, but bleak life spent at this extraordinary place. Take a moment here at a place that still retains an air of ancient celtic mystery.

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St. Govan’s Chapel

Steps lead down a rocky slope to a small stone covered ‘holy well’. From medieval times up until the early 20th century, pilgrims and sick travellers came from far and wide seeking miracle cures from the healing waters of St. Govan’s Holy Well. Even today this is an isolated place, so you have to wonder how infirm these travellers really were if they had managed to make it to this far flung corner of Wales!

St. Govan’s Well in the rock strewn cove
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The chapel’s unique setting wedged between limestone cliffs.

On the south side is an impressive rock arch and richly coloured limestone cliff face with the backdrop of St. Govan’s Head in the distance.

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Rock arch at St. Govan’s

Leaving the chapel and the ancient world behind us, we climbed the stone steps back to the clifftop. On reaching the top we compared step counts and yes, we did have differing numbers! So there’s some substance to that old legend!

Castlemartin coastline

Back on the coast path we passed the military gateway from where a rough stony track heads westwards. Although the official advice is to keep to this track on the range, doing so would really deprive you of enjoying some spectacular scenic views along this stretch of coastline and would be an uninspiring trek.

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Keep to the track – and miss out on incredible scenery

The next 3 miles of coastline is internationally acclaimed for having some of the finest examples of geological rock patterns in the UK, so it’s definitely worthwhile going off track to explore where possible and importantly, safe to do so.

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Go explore the spectacular coast

The coastal landscape is exposed to the full force of the elements so the wind is bracing, ranging from blustery to almost galeforce at times and sea waves swell and crash thunderously into the rocks below.

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This all adds to the experience and the reward for walking nearer to this rugged and wild coastline is spectacular views of towering cliffs, rock arches, hidden caves and incredible scenery at every turn.

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Castlemartin range coastline

Huntsman’s Leap is a narrow rock chasm with massive sheer sided cliffs. The name originates from the local legend of a huntsman who rode his horse to jump the gap and having successfully done so, he looked back into the chasm and promptly dropped dead from shock. It’s not known how his horse reacted to the feat.

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Huntsman’s Leap

Near Bullslaughter Bay some distinctive red-legged, red-beaked Choughs performed aerial acrobatics and followed for a time with their distinctive calls echoing along the cliffs.

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Cliffs above Bullslaughter Bay

Further along is Flimston Bay, a secluded beach with rock pillars and massive vertical cliffs which make it incredibly scenic.

Scenic Flimston Bay

Further on is the headland known as The Cauldron with fearsome sheer vertical cliffs, definitely best viewed from a safe distance!

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The Cauldron

Next are the magnificent pair of limestone pillars, Stack Rocks, also known as the Elegug Stacks. These huge rocks provide a major nesting site for masses of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes during spring & summer. Elegug is the Welsh name for Guillemots and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has a Razorbill as it’s logo.

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Stack Rocks / Elegug Stacks

After passing the Stack Rocks we head towards one of the most spectacular sites on the Pembrokeshire coast and probably one of the most famous and picturesque landmarks of Wales. A path leads to a viewing platform, set near a prominent cliff edge, which offers a breathtaking viewpoint for the Green Bridge of Wales.

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The Green Bridge of Wales is a truly impressive monumental limestone arch and pedestal rock feature, regarded as a true natural wonder and icon of Wales.

The monumental rock arch ~ Green Bridge of Wales

In the distant past, the rock would once have had a double arch span but the effects of continuous weathering and erosion from the elements over millennia have reduced it to the present, single arch, form. The pedestal rock nearby is now all that remains of that second arch.

In October 2017 during Storm Orphelia a huge slab of limestone was sheared off the seaward edge of the arch changing the appearance in an instant, the exposed face a noticeable copper colour.

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A visit to this landmark wouldn’t be complete without a viewpoint selfie, although a windswept experience!.

The viewpoint is near the boundary of Castlemartin Range West, a military restricted area with limited access for guided walks only by permission of Ministry Of Defence a few times a year. Read about our walk across Castlemartin Range West. The coast path route therefore goes inland from here, along a road past Flimston Chapel before joining a country lane to the village of Castlemartin.

We returned to St.Govan’s then back to the village of Bosherston. The local pub, St. Govan’s Country Inn, is a ‘walkers welcome’ pub with a good food menu and comfortable bar, providing the perfect finish to a walk.

One thought on “Pembrokeshire Coast Walk 9. St. Govan’s & Green Bridge of Wales

  1. Pingback: Pembrokeshire Coast Walk 8. Bosherston to St. Govan’s – Short Walks & Long Paths

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