Walking Along the Preseli Trail
Pembrokeshire is blessed with lots of gorgeous landscape and the best way to enjoy it is to walk the Preseli Trail. The 108 km or 67 mile walk takes you through the county’s distinct culture and unique landscape.
Paths are not way marked or signposted on the open hills so that the quality of the experience of the Preselis can be maintained. On clear days one can see not only the wonderful local landscape but also the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Black Mountains and even the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. And, as you walk, undoubtedly you’ll feel the presence of the Iron Age warriors and the megalithic people who built the Iron Age forts, the Neolithic burial chambers, the Bronze Age cairns, the stone circles and standing stones.
The Preseli Trail begins in Fishguard, then heads inland through the Gwaun Valley. Prehistoric sites abound, giving you a real sense of the people who lived here. The area is enveloped in folklore and mysticism with its links to the Mabinogion (a collection Welsh medieval stories) and the Arthurian legends. The area is also right up to date as the home of two microbreweries.
The melting water of the ice age carved the steep-sided valley and helped to preserve its distinctive human communities. Carn Ingli or the Mount of Angels was visited by St. Brynach in the 6th century and is the site of an Iron Age fort with stone embankments and a hut circle. As you visit places such as the awe-inspiring Bluestone quarry you may wonder at the feat of moving these stones all the way to Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain.
As you leave the Preselis, you’ll see Frenni Fawr (a 1297 ft. hill/mountain). Perhaps you’ll find the gold treasure that legend has it is buried there. The trail continues to Cilgerran along the path where the once very busy Whitland & Cardigan Railway ran. The railway line from Whitland to Llanfyrnach was opened in 1873 and carried goods to and from the slate quarries. Crymych was added in 1876 and the railway was extended to Cardigan by 1886. Sadly, the line was closed to passenger traffic in 1962 and freight traffic in 1963.
The next major point along the trail is the Teifi Gorge and the Teifi River with the ruins of Cilgerran castle high above. Fishermen in the area still use coracles that are very good in fast flowing rivers. A coracle is an oval vessel that looks like half a walnut shell and has been used in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and parts of southwestern England since at least the 1st century BCE.
The River (or Afon) Teifi flows onto Cardigan and St. Dogmaels. In 1120, following the Norman invasion of Britain and replacing a Celtic monastery, Benedictine monks built a superb abbey at St. Dogmaels, the ruins of which can still be visited today.
As the turn of the Trail heads west, the next 14 miles include the charming village of Newport with its cosy cafes, restaurants for fine dining, the Newport Collective – a cooperative of local artists, swimming or walking at Parrog and Newport beaches and Carn Ingli, the mountain that dominates the village.
Although more of a sleepy village now, Newport used to be an important trading and ship building centre from the 16th century onward. Newport castle, now in ruins, was built in 1200 by the Norman, Lord William Fitzmartin.
The final stretch of the Trail includes Dinas and Fishguard. Fishguard is an important port today for the ferries to Ireland but it was an important trading centre two centuries ago as well. At that time lots of ships sailed into and out of Fishguard harbour, exporting/importing goods. This was true until the railways came and changed how goods were transported.
Four Napoleonic warships arrived in Fishguard harbour on the 22nd of February 1779. As part of the last invasion of the British Isles, the 1400 French soldiers landed and ran riot, looting local farms. As the legend goes, Jemima Nicholas, single-handedly captured some of the soldiers, forcing the rest to surrender to the locals on Goodwick Sands.
With its folklore, rich history, magnificent scenery and welcoming locals, the Preseli Trail is not to be missed.