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History of St David's Peninsula

A patchwork of ancient farmland at St David's peninsula
Looking towards Ramsey Island and Carn Llidi | © NTPL/Joe Cornish

Named after the patron saint of Wales, St David’s is the smallest city in Britain and is home to a wealth of history and culture. Follow in the steps of the pilgrims from years ago and discover everything from Celtic roots to Neolithic tombs, Iron Age forts and ancient rocks.

Celtic roots at St David’s

People have lived in St David’s and the wider area for at least 6,000 years, with reminders of our prehistoric ancestors dotted across the landscape. You’ll find the remains of Iron Age forts, ancient field patterns, enclosures and defensive banks.

Wales’ patron saint

St David is believed to have been born in AD 500 to St Non, in the area just south of the city and later baptised in Porth Clais. David had a religious upbringing and upon reaching adulthood was ordained a priest, working firstly in Wales before travelling to England, Brittany and even Jerusalem.

St David’s final resting place

He founded the monastery, where St David’s Cathedral sits today, in AD 550 – although being so close to the sea meant the structure was prone to Viking attacks. The cathedral that now stands proud in the city dates to the 12th century and is the final resting place of David.

Pilgrimages to St David’s

He was made the patron saint of Wales in the 12th century. Pope Calixtus II stated that David’s shrine was so important that two pilgrimages to St David’s were equivalent to one to Rome and three were equivalent to one to Jerusalem.

His shrine has become a popular destination with pilgrims from far and wide.

St David's City Cross

This well-known landmark in the centre of St David's is a medieval preaching cross – it’s been in our care since 1983. The shaft is original, the head and six-step base being more modern.

The monument is one of many along an historic route of pilgrimage to the cathedral. The cathedral itself was built with stone from our cliffs at Caerbwdy on the Solva Coast.

The Monks' Dyke

The Monks’ Dyke or Ffos y Mynach is thought to mark the limit monks and priests could move from St David’s Cathedral. It runs across the St David’s Peninsula, joining Morfa Common in the south, Dowrog Common near the city and Pen Beri on the north coast.

Sunset from the high point of Carn Llidi on St David's Head, Pembrokeshire
Sunset from Carn Llidi on St David's Head | © NTPL/Joe Cornish

Wales' oldest rocks

The peninsula is dominated by some of the country’s oldest rocks, dating back to the Pre-Cambrian era, the earliest of the geologic ages.

Formed around 600 million years ago, the layers of sedimentary rock would have been volcanic in origin. These ancient sediments are now covered in places by layers of younger Cambrian rock, which are still over 400 million years old.

Standing stones and tombs

Coetan Arthur is a Neolithic burial chamber on St David’s Head that dates to around 4000BC. It has a huge capstone almost 20ft wide, supported by a side stone over 3ft tall, and was almost certainly built this way.

It mimics the shape of Carn Llidi, the peak behind it, and its silhouette can be seen on the skyline from the Whitesands car park.

Iron Age forts

Look for the coastal fort site at the end of St David's Head; 2,000-3,000 years ago our Iron Age ancestors opted for promontory cliffs as a defensive position and built large ramparts to protect their homes from landward attack.

Pembrokeshire was a popular spot for Iron Age forts, with around 50 scattered across the coast. We look after half of them including nearby Caer Aber Pwll at Pwll Caerog Farm (a short walk from the Blue Lagoon in Abereiddi) and Porth y Rhaw, just west of Solva.

View over St Bride's Bay, looking East from Porth Clais harbour with dramatic cliffs and a colony of seabirds, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Discover more at St David's Peninsula

Find out how to get to St David's Peninsula, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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