Heritage hunting along the Solva Coast
Heritage hunting is easy along the Solva Coast, with lots of historic remains to look at. Iron Age settlements take pride of place on the headlands and fossils have even been found here in the past.
The harbour itself holds many stories and its connections to the sea proved to be a lifeline for the remote village before the road was built. Of course, the coast comes with its own chronicles of shipwrecks and a chilling lighthouse tragedy, which you can uncover too.
You’ll find lime kilns in Solva Harbour; view them from the path or get a closer look at low tide. They’re thought to be at least 200 years old, dating back to an age when lime was widely used as a building material and as a soil improver on farms. Limestone was heated here to create quicklime. Limestone and coal for the kilns were delivered in flat-bottomed boats that were unloaded onto carts at low tide.
Iron Age forts
Pembrokeshire’s known for its collection of Iron Age forts, with around 50 scattered across the coast. We care for half of them, including the three promontory forts of note that you’ll find near Solva at the Gribin, Porth y Rhaw and Dinas Fawr.
Built with their backs to the sea to defend them from attacks from the land, they were occupied 2-3000 years ago. Coastal erosion has worn away most of the land the ramparts used to guard, except at the Gribin, which is sheltered by the headlands on either side.
Just past Porth y Rhaw is the Nine Wells Valley, a steep stretch that runs down to the sea. There used to be two mills here, which were used for corn and cloth until their closure in 1915. Can you find the foundations?
There have been many wrecks along this treacherous coast, and there’s a fine tradition of smuggling. The Phoebe and Peggy, bound from Philadelphia to Liverpool, was wrecked in 1776 close to the entrance to Solva Harbour.
All the ship’s company were lost along with several Solva boatmen who were trying to rescue them. Bodies washed ashore were, however, stripped and robbed.
The first lighthouse for the Smalls – a dangerous reef 24 miles out to sea – was built out of wood in Solva in 1776 and towed into position by a barge. There were originally two lighthouse keepers; Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith.
In 1801, Griffith died in a freak accident. Fearing he might be accused of murder if he discarded the body at sea, Howell built a make-shift coffin and attached it to the outside of the structure to keep until the next relief boat arrived.
However, bad weather saw the box break apart and the body lashed against the hut window in an almost life-like manner, much to the distress of Howell, who still managed to keep the lighthouse lamp lit until help eventually arrived.
As a result of the chilling occurrence, which left Howell deeply traumatised, maritime policy was changed so that lighthouse teams comprised of at least three people.