This summer, I’ll be hitting the road westwards, heading for the Pembrokeshire coast. Our destination is the beautiful city of St Davids. ‘City’ may seem a strange noun to attribute to this idyllic coastal town, but the official prerequisite for city status is a cathedral. And few cathedrals are richer in history and cultural significance than the one gracing this ancient settlement. Its roots stretch back to the 6th century and the days of St David’s monastery, around which the present-day town blossomed. Down the ages, the cathedral was repeatedly plundered, burnt and restored by various visiting parties such as the Vikings and the Normans. Over the medieval period, this humble settlement took in folds of pilgrims looking for spiritual guidance, and continues to beckon those in search of some connection to the Welsh patron saint. As such, the cathedral is well and truly the age-old heart of this popular tourist destination.
However, its modern appeal may rather lie in its expansive white sand beaches, rolling out for miles on end and lapping up some of the best waves for surfing that the UK has to offer. The beaches are drawn up with craggy cliffs that arch over the crashing waves, making for the perfect coastal stroll. Sometimes I forget just how peaceful it is there. I recall the sound of the sea, the cushions of foxgloves spread over the cliff faces (my favourite flower, for their wilderness), the endless blue of the sky, and the scent of sun cream and sea salt. And more than anything, I miss the sparkling clusters of stars that stud almost every inch of the nocturnal view. It’s a world away from looking up at London’s night sky, rouged with the city’s pollution; or falling asleep to the sound of inundating traffic every night; or the aesthetic attack of the BT Tower et al. that invades my vision daily. For all I love of London, there are times when I just need to escape the grip of the city’s excesses.
It’s in these moments that the thought of the sea is particularly inviting. For someone who grew up on the Welsh coast, the sea holds a special place in my heart. Embedded in my sense of home, I’m drawn to the shores when I seek an escape.