Goodwick and Fishguard - The home of the "Last Invasion of the UK"
The choice to stay in Goodwick or Fishguard, separated by little more than a mile, is generally dictated by whether you walk around Stumble Head in one, or two days.
Goodwick comes from the old Norse words Goor (good) and Vik (bay or cove,) and this is the more modern railway town which developed to support its impressive deepwater harbour.
The setting for the film ‘Moby Dick’ starring Gregory Peck, it's forever incorrectly referred to as Fishguard Harbour. Much of the town clings to the steep hillside of the Strumble Head peninsula, overlooking the huge 900m long breakwater which arcs out into the ocean, though the more modern parts now stretch inland behind the back of the bay.
The breakwater is an impressive structure built from nearly 2 million tonnes of stone excavated from the bay in attempts to deepen the moorings for larger ships. The modern day result of those efforts is the Stena Line Ferry to Rosslare in Ireland, which departs from here several times a day and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Walker will witness the huge ships gliding in or out of the bay at some point or other on their walk past. For those that have toiled the 18 miles from Trefin, there are places to stay after descending from Strumble Head. Further into Goodwick there are a couple of other small hotels and inns for those that can make it further.
For those finishing the walk here, Goodwick's has the benefit of being the only place on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path north of Milford Haven that has a train service which runs from its tiny station connecting with the ferry arrival twice a day.
A mile or so further round the bay and you reach Fishguard – derived from the Norse words for a “Fish Catching Enclose”. Like Solva further back down the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, this is split between its upper village, the main part of the town, and the smaller lower village called simply Cwm by the Welsh. Cwm is the more scenic and timeless spot spreading back from the old harbour wall to the narrow 18th century stone bridge which spans the Gwaun River Valley.
If it looks vaguely familiar it could be because Lower Fishguard was the location for the village of Llareggub in the film version of Dylan Thomas seminal book Under Milk Wood, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The old harbour was originally a herring fishing port and the pretty coloured cottages remain, as does the little flotilla of boats, mainly leisure craft these days, though a few fishing vessels still head out in the early morning to sea.
Upper Fishguard may be less picturesque but has good facilities and some fascinating history on tap for the overnight walkers. Here you will find banks, supermarkets, a post office, art and craft galleries, tourist information and even an Indian restaurant if you are missing that kind of thing by now!
The busy market hall often has local farmers and produce markets running and at the Town Hall you can visit the impressive Last Invasion Tapestry. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy the Welsh model tells the story of the doomed French Invasion of Fishguard in 1797 and there are over 30 metres of intricate cloth embroidered panels.
Across the market square from the Town Hall you should visit The Royal Oak Inn where you can still view the table where the surrender treaty was signed in this very Inn by the hapless Colonel Tate as well as all manner of other “last invasion” artefacts.
Finally at St Marys Church the British can give thanks at the much-visited gravestone of local heroine Jemima Nichols, the farmers wife who single handedly captured 12 of the hapless French soldiers armed only with her pitchfork.
Most accommodation is found in the upper town with a choice of inns and Guest Houses though there are one or two smaller B&B’s with rooms in the lower harbour