The Legend of Saint David
Those already familiar with Pembroke will know that this headland is named after local boy and patron saint of Wales, Saint David.
David, or Dewi as he is known in Welsh, was born in around 500AD, possibly to the then king of Ceredigion, but possibly not. According to legend, David was conceived through violence and his mother gave birth to him on a cliff top during a violent storm. He was probably educated at Whitland in Carmarthenshire under Saint Paulinus of Wales and was baptised by St. Ailbe.
He travelled widely, and became renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements and churches in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany in a period when neighbouring tribal regions were still mostly pagan. He rose to a bishopric, and presided over two synods, as well as going on pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem where he was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriach.
He is said to have performed many miracles, the most famous of which goes that while preaching to a crowd in Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, the ground on which he stood rose up to form a small hill, so that all the spectators could hear and see him. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder - a sign of God's grace and blessing.
He established a monastery at Glyn Rhosyn in Pembrokeshire, which was then one of the wildest, most remote places in Britain, and on which St David's Cathedral and city now stand. The cathedral in its present form was built in 1181.
Apparently David lived for over 100 years, and died on a Tuesday 1 March (now St. David's Day) in around 589 or 590. The monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'. He was buried at St David's Cathedral where his shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Unlike many contemporary 'saints' of Wales, David was officially recognised by Pope Callixtus II in 1120 thanks to the work of Bernard, Bishop of St David's.
Rock ClimbingThe South Face, North Buttress and Craig y Crisial are all in some way affected by the tide, the degree of which can depend of the time of year and weather. All of the crags can be reached by scrambling down rocks on the apex of the promontory, which are free at all state of the tide.
Crags and climbs are listed from left to right, and are graded and rated with the aid of the Climbers Club Guide to Pembroke and the Pembroke Supplement, so for full descriptions, please refer to those books. Technical grades are generally only given to climbs graded adjectivally as Hard Severe (HS) or above.
Routes are rated using the British Adjectival Grading System. A conversion table of international climbing grades by SP member Corax is available HERE! With the exception of Tenby South Beach Quarry, bolting is strictly prohibited everywhere in Pembroke, so don’t even think about it here.
Craig y Crisial
This south westerly facing crag is on the north side of a small bay immediately north east of the main bulk of St. David's Head. An early route climbed a break up the left centre of the easy slabs Central Groove (VD, 24m), and can be approached by easy angled slabs on the north side of the cliff. Most modern development has taken place on the compact wall of some 25 metres height, which can be reached via abseil at low to half tide.
The Thought for the Day is Goose, Pinch and a Punch and Headbager Wall require an abseil onto ledges at the base of a chimney on the right hand side of the crag.
The northern side of St. David's Head is divided into two tiers, each of around 15 metres in height. The lower tier holds the most interest, although vague lines can be traced on the upper one. To reach the lower tier follow a wave cut platform from the upper one down to the base of a steep and compact buttress with an overhang at about 6 metres.
This is the small compact cliff on the southern side of the low headland which juts out beyond the main bulk if the headland and beyond the obvious zawn. The cliff can be easily reached from its western side via a rock ramp which is crossed by an indistinct drainage gully. Overhanging Buttress and Central Crack lie directly above this gully.
The wall immediately right of the crag has a ramp/ledge leading up from right to left, which gives another easy route - The Staircase (D, 21m), while the rest of this section of cliff yields a pleasant sea level traverse for several hundred feet at about VS standards.
There is a small upper tier about 100 metres east of the main South Face and is just right of the steep part of the descent used to gain the aforementioned crag. The 8 metre buttress is steep in places, and boasts an obvious overhang towards its centre, which can be climber at about 4a/b on its left and around 5c up its centre.
Weather Conditions and Tides
This section displays the weather forecast for Solva, which is located to the southeast of St. David’s Head. It isn't the closest settlement to the crag, that honour goes to the eponymous city of St. David's, unfortunately the tool for St. David's doesn't seem to work. Either way, this still gives a pretty good indication of what the weather will be like on the crag, as both Solva and St. David’s Head sit at around sea level.
Tide times can have a significant impact on where and when one climbs. It is therefore extremely important to check the timetables before embarking on trip to the area. UK tides information for all standard and secondary ports is provided by the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and displayed on the BBC's website. The link below provides a link to the nearest monitoring station to St. David’s Head:
When to Climb and Essential GearThe most reliable conditions are in the summer, but the low altitude of the crag may make it a viable option in winter. The gear needed depends entirely on the routes you plan to do. Easier routes will only require a moderate rack, while harder routes will require a something more comprehensive; a good compliment of friends or other camming devices will certainly help. A singe 50 metre rope should serve well on most easy routes, however, twin or double ropes would be a wise choice for the harder stuff. In addition to your usual gear, you might want to bring along an abseil rope to speed up access to the base of the crag.
Getting ThereAlthough there are a variety of ways to get to St. David’s Head, most will probably be coming from the west. If so, when approaching from Carmarthen (SN 405 196) take the A40 Truck Road signposted for Saint Clears (SN 274 160). At the Saint Clears roundabout, continue along the A40 towards Haverfordwest (SM 962 158). Here you will need to leave the A40, take a short detour through the town, and take the smaller A487 which will signpost St. David’s (SM 753 253). Drive into the centre of the city and at the traffic island at the bottom of the hill (marked in the centre by a tall Celtic cross), continue along the A487 signposted for Fishguard and Cardigan. Just as you are about to leave the city limits, there is a left hand junction (SM 757 258) which will signpost Whitesand Bay. Take this junction, and soon afterwards another left hand junction, and follow the road (the B4583) to the Whitesand Bay car park (SM 734 272). Park at the car park, where you will be charged a small fee for the privilege. There is a café and toilet facilities here. Incidentally Whitesand Bay is home to one of the best beaches in Britain, and is well worth a post climb visit.
From the car park follow the coastal path north to Porthmelgan (SM 728 279). Here the paths split, and you will need to follow the westward path along the coast. Soon you will reach the first rocks of St. David’s Head (SM 722 279). Craig y Crisial is on the westward facing slab just to the north. For the South Face, scramble over the headland and descend to an obvious zawn. Cross the narrow coll past the zawn and continue to a broad gully running from north to south across the headland. Descent gently southwards along the gully to a rocky platform just above the high tide line. From here, when facing inland, the South Face crag is just to your right. It has a small drainage ditch in its centre and a line of quartz running laterally across its base.
Red Tape and AccessNo red tape here!
Although unlikely it's worth checking the countryside access map provided by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) regarding whether or not any restrictions on movement in the area are in place.
Countryside Access Map
Camping and AccommodationThere’s an almost unlimited supply of accommodation within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park so it would be inappropriate to list it all here. The city of St. David’s and its hinterland is particularly well provided for. For budget accommodation it’s worth checking out some of the following sites:
Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Pembrokeshire
For everything else and more see Visit Pembrokeshire’s website.
Government Bodies and Other Organisations
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
Council for National Parks
Association of National Park Authorities
Pembrokeshire County Council
Carmarthenshire County Council
Ceredigion County Council
Countryside Council for Wales
Forestry Commission Wales
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments in Wales
Dyfed Archaeological Trust
The National Trust
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Outdoor Organisations and Companies
British Mountaineering Council
Pembrokeshire Climbing Club
Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group
South Wales Mountaineering Club
The Climbers Club
Weather from the Met Office
Weather Channel UK
BBC Tide Tables
UK Hydrographic Office
South West Wales Tourism Partnership
Local Information from Pembrokeshire Pages
Local Information from Pembrokeshire Online
Welsh Public Transport Information
Uk Train Timetable
Youth Hostel Association in Wales
Independent Hostel Guide
Campsites in Pembrokeshire
Maps and Guidebooks
Climbers Club Guidebooks
Mid Wales Climbing
Cordee Travel and Adventure Sports Bookshop
Wildlife and Conservation
Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre
South West Wales Wildlife Trust
Pembrokeshire Bird Group
Welsh Language Board
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg Welsh language pressure group
Cymuned Welsh language pressure group
Yr Urdd (Welsh Youth Association)
Welsh-English / English-Welsh online translator
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Dictionary
Welsh-English / English-Welsh Online Lexicon