NEWPORT AND DISTRICT:
THE TOP FIFTY HERITAGE SITES
These are the “top fifty” cultural localities in the area, listed for visitors to explore for themselves. Some of the sites have interpretive panels.
The sites listed (in no particular order) are mostly within 5 miles (8 km) of the centre of Newport, which means that they are within easy walking distance or cycling distance of the town. N = within the town. OT = out of town.
1. Newport Castle, the Moat and the Castle Mill (N).
The castle is the great symbol of the Anglo-Norman settlement, and the focal point of the feudal system in the Middle Ages. It’s not open to the public, and part of it is used as a private residence. The mill near the castle entrance had an extraordinary water collection system incorporating the moat. After a long period of dereliction, the mill has been rebuilt and transformed as a residence.
2. St Mary’s Church, Church Chapel and Churchyard (N).
The church, although now largely Victorian, has its original squat Norman tower. It was clearly linked to the castle. Is the churchyard a pre-Christian round sacred site?. The Church Chapel was built and used by the early Methodists -- thanks to the generosity of the Bowens of Llwyngwair.
3. Street pattern and burgage plots (N).
The old north-south axis of the town was perpendicular to the route of the modern main road, with streets running from the castle down to the estuary. Several “abandoned streets” are seen close to the shore. The elongated gardens of the town show the outlines of the burgage plots, many of which were unoccupied until there was a big expansion of the town after 1800..
4. Llwyngwair Arms (N).
This is an old 3-storey coaching inn and the traditional meeting place of the Court Leet. Newport has a number of “feudal relics” including the Barony of Cemaes, the Court Leet, the Lord Marcher, the Mayor Making ceremony, the Burgesses, and the accidental continued existence of the Ancient Borough. (Actually the current Lord Marcher is too young to be counted as a relic……)
5. Parrog (N)
Many maritime traditions are associated with the old port. It was one of the greatest centres of the British herring trade in the 1500’s. Later it was expanded with the reclamation of a spit of land on the river bank, protected by new slate walling. There were trading quays, slipways, stables, warehouses, shipbuilding yards, lime kilns, sailing vessels, a mortuary, and offices used by export and import merchants. Then the estuary silted up, and the coastal trade died away. Now the Parrog is used entirely for leisure purposes.
6. The Parrog guest-houses (N).
In the early days of the tourist industry, after 1850, a number of lodging houses were built on the Parrog, expanding the community considerably — having previously been a hamlet of fisher-folk, merchants and seafarers. Later, it was a popular holiday destination for South Wales miners and their families.
7. Carn Ffoi fortified settlement (N).
This hillfort is easily accessible from Ffordd Bedd Morris. It’s a small site with simple fortifications. Probably it dates from around 500 BC or even later. Tradition has it that it was used in the Dark Ages by Irish brigands who terrorised the neighbourhood.
8. Cattle Pound, near Ffordd Bedd Morris (N).
An excellent example of a cattle pound, on Barony land. Thirty years ago it was in a bad state of repair, but it was restored and tidied up during a major community project. Stray animals were locked in the pound until they were reclaimed by owners on payment of a fee.
9. The town chapels (N).
These are the symbols of the foundations of nonconformity -- Ebenezer, Bethlehem, Tabernacle, Capel y Mynydd, and the St Mary’s Church Chapel. They were all enlarged at the time of the great evangelical revivals during the 1800’s, but are now sustained through the efforts of very small congregations.
10. Old Primary School (N).
Built in 1875 and much modified. When the children moved to the light and modern Ysgol Bro Ingli, the building became the Old School Business Centre and youth hostel. The old Caretaker’s House was converted as the office of the local charity ECO Centre Wales. The PV installation on the roof (dating from 1996) was a pioneering initiative — the very first grid-connected solar power station in the UK. From small beginnings great things grow.
11. Madame Bevan’s College (N).
The college was located on College Square. It was set up as part of the Circulating Schools movement pioneered by Griffith Jones, and the main benefactor was Madame Bevan of Laugharne. The school provided education for local children between 1804 and 1875, and it was also used for teacher training. John Morgan was head teacher for 47 years.
12. The Lifeboat Station at Cwm (N).
Built 1884 and abandoned in 1895 because of the difficulty in launching the lifeboat at certain states of the tide and with an onshore wind. A good example of noble intent and extremely bad planning!
13. Shiphill Lime Kiln (N).
A spectacular lime kiln on the shore of the estuary, near the Iron Bridge. There was also a small shipyard here at one time. The lime kiln was almost lost in the undergrowth, but it was renovated with help of funding from Aderyn , and it is hopefully now secure for future generations to admire!
14. Pilgrim’s Stepping Stones (N).
The stepping stones over the river, adjacent to the Iron Bridge, are traditionally associated with the pilgrims who were travelling to St David’s via Nevern and Newport. However, they were in solid use by the community for almost 300 years before the first iron bridge was built here in 1890.
15. Carreg Coetan Arthur (N).
Excellent and easily accessible burial chamber dating from Neolithic period, about 3500 BC. Excavated in 1979-80. There’s an adjacent information board. Located in a small housing estate.
16. Communal water sources (N).
Piped water did not arrive in the town until 1929, and before that local people obtained their water from about 20 water-spouts, taps, pumps and natural springs. Each one was known as a “pistyll”. Five beautiful cast iron communal taps remain: one is on College Square, and another on Goat Street.
17. Market Street and Ffair Gurig (N).
The name gives the game away. But look at the width of the street as well — it was clearly designed from the outset to be the places where markets — including the selling of livestock — could be held to maximum advantage. Some sections of the wide verged have now been enclosed. The biggest fair held here was Ffair Gurig, in the month of June. The market tradition has recently been revived with the popular Monday morning street market.
18. Memorial Hall and the Medieval Pottery Kiln (N).
The Memorial Hall was built in 1922 by public subscription to honour the local people who fell in the First World War. It also included a library and reading room. Work on the foundations revealed two 15th century pottery kilns — the only ones surviving in Wales. One of the kilns is revealed through a glass screen, following a major restoration project.
19. Carn Cwn and the Wishing Well (N).
Not far from the top of Greystones Hill is a fascinating tor made of volcanic rocks, accessible via a number of footpaths. Why is it called “dog rock”? It’s wild and beautiful! Beneath one of the great slabs of rock is a hidden pool of water, known down through the generations as a Wishing Well. Throw in a bent new pin, and make your wish. The water is also supposed to have healing qualities.
20. Bethlehem Baptistry (N).
Members of the Baptist congregations in Wales were always baptised through total immersion. Sometimes baptisms were conducted in favourable spots in a stream or river, but some chapels had their own beautifully fashioned baptistries, complete with sluice gates and ornamental ironwork. One such is on Mill Lane, above Pont Henrietta Mair.
21. Traeth Mawr (OT).
Newport’s “big beach” — a vast expanse of fine sand backed by sand-dunes. The 18-hole golf course is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Wales. Back in Elizabethan times the old game of cnapan was played on the sands, involving up to 2,000 players. At one time seine net fishing off Traeth Mawr made an essential contribution to local food supplies..
22. Cerrig y Gof burial chambers (OT).
This is a very unusual collection of five Neolithic burial chambers clustered together -- dated to around 3,000 BC. Easily accessible from the main road, but be careful with fast traffic.
23. Pentre Ifan burial chamber (OT).
This has to be included here since it is the most famous burial chamber in Wales! It was excavated in1936 and 1959. It’s one of those “not to be missed” locations. There is good parking, and an information board on site. They do say that this is a place where fairies dance.
24. Bronze Age enclosures on Carningli Common (OT).
There are abundant circular enclosures, traces of embankments, clearance cairns, walls, sunken tracks etc near the path from the town up to the summit. These are thought to date mostly from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
25. Bedd Morris Standing Stone (OT).
This famous Bronze Age standing stone (called the grave of Morris) is at roadside opposite a parking area. There are various legends about his identity and his demise. The stone also function as a boundary marker for the parish, and it is visited every year by townspeople during the “Beating of the Bounds” perambulation.
26. Carningli Iron Age hillfort (OT).
The old fortified settlement on the summit of the mountain is one of the most spectacular Iron Age sites in West Wales, with massive defensive walls (that have been slighted), animal enclosures, hut circles and windswept summit crags. On the summit, St Brynach communed with the angels.
27. Castell Henllys Iron Age settlement (OT).
This is a small fortified settlement site inland, initially excavated when it was owned by Hugh Foster, a very colourful local character. Following his death it was taken over by the National Park. Faithfully constructed Iron Age huts, visitor centre, education centre, car park and picnic area etc. (Entry charge)
28. Sea Quarries (OT).
There are several old slate/shale quarries along the cliffs between Parrog and Aberrhigian. Working conditions were appalling, with great exposure above and breaking waves below. Horses and carts hauled away much of the slate, but in calm weather barges were loaded in little docks — some of which can still be seen. Some of the quarries were owned by the Llwyngwair Estate.
29. Nevern Church and Churchyard (OT).
Enough here to write a book! This was the site of St Brynach’s monastic community. The squat Norman tower and the stone-built church came centuries later. The tower now houses a full peal of bells. The churchyard has several famous burials — see the Bowen family tombs. Nevern Celtic Cross is one of the most famous in Wales, and there are carved stones with Ogham script on their sharp edges. . Bleeding yew trees, horse mounting block, nearby Pilgrim’s Cross, and a magnificent bridge. The community hall was once a primary school, and before that (1811-1876) it was a chapel used by the Methodists.
30. Nevern Castle (OT).
Excellent example of a motte and bailey castle. Norman originally, but occupied later by the Welsh princes. Earthworks include a substantial castle mound with traces of masonry. There’s a strange “inner castle” with a rock-cut ditch and ruined tower. Local legends of persecution, betrayal and family feuds are associated with Lord Rhys and his sons. Free entry -- information panel.
31. Tregynon Fort, near Pontfaen (OT).
A small Iron Age camp or fortified settlement on a spectacular site above Cwm Gwaun. A nice example of a “family” site with simple defences -- there are many others in the Newport district. There is a nearby high waterfall that sometimes has water in it.
32 Llwyngwair Manor (OT).
The best preserved local mansion or gentry house. The estate dates back to the period of Anglo-Norman settlement. Once owned by Cole family, it was late in the ownership of the powerful Bowen family. The mansion is now used for functions with facilities for the surrounding caravan park. There’s an attractive gatehouse adjacent to main road, and Pont Newydd is an attractive old bridge over the Afon Nyfer.
33. Pont Ceunant and the stone walls (OT).
This is a beautiful example of an ancient stone bridge (or more properly a viaduct) over a stream in a deep valley. Note also the stone walls on the flank of the mountain, including a V-shaped arrangement of walls used for driving and sorting sheep. Complex animal enclosures or folds -- how old are they?
34. Felindre Farchog (OT).
Old settlement on the main road, originally a “knight’s mill-town”. Road bridge, old mill, Salutation Inn, a beautiful cattle pound, and George Owen’s “College” — one of the best preserved Elizabethan buildings in Pembrokeshire. Its main purpose was as a courthouse for the Petty Sessions and Court Leet. There are old and new chapels on opposite sides of the road -- Cana Chapel has a very posh facade, made of spotted dolerite stone.
35. Cwm yr Eglwys (OT).
A small sea-trading and fishing community on the sheltered eastern side of Dinas Island. All that’s left of the stone church is one gable end — now stabilised as a result of major sea defence works. Contrary to local legend, the church was not destroyed in a great storm in 1859 — it was already on the way out, but that storm was the last straw. For at least 50 years before that, erosion of the graveyard had caused abundant human remains to drop down onto the beach. Very disconcerting.
36. Cilgwyn Church and Fagwr Lwyd (OT).
The Henry Tudor connection. The young prince and his mercenary army camped and worshipped near here en route to Bosworth Field in 1485. The Victorian church, with its family burial enclosure, fell into disrepair but is now a family dwelling.
37. Pandy in Cwm Gwaun (OT).
Here, not far from Llannerch in Cwm Gwaun, there are traces of a millers cottage and pandy or fulling mill, with an old leat and pond. One of very few traces in West Wales. Nearby, in the headwaters of the Gwaun river, there are beautiful pools connected by cataracts.
38. Brynberian Chapel and hamlet (OT).
This is a fascinating small village, more modern than most of the villages of North Pembrokeshire. On some of the older maps it’s not even named. Capel Brynberian is one of the earliest nonconformist chapels in Wales, dating back to 1690. It has been rebuilt many times, and has its entrance on one of the long walls. The old school has been refurbished as a splendid community facility with a wildflower garden.
39. Bedd yr Afanc (OT).
This is a fabulous site out on the open moor — reachable via a lane adjacent to Brynberian Bridge. It’s a gallery grave, probably of Neolithic age, made up mainly of two parallel rows of small stones. According to local legend, this is the burial place of a local “afanc” or water monster that was killed by the men of the community after it was tempted out of the river by a brave and beautiful virgin.
40. Carnedd Meibion Owen (OT).
This is the name of four prominent tors on an upland ridge above Tycanol Wood. They are ice-smoothed crags made of dolerite rock. According to legend, the four crags are the petrified remains of the last giants to have inhabited this area. Easily accessible by a short walk from the Brynberian road. Fabulous views.
41. Ty Canol Wood (OT).
A local nature reserve — carefully protected as an SSSI because it is an ancient woodland of twisted oak trees and moss-covered boulders, with abundant lichens that thrive in this very special environment. Rocky crags among the gnarled oaks, and meltwater channels cut during glacial episodes. There's also an Iron Age fort in the woods. In May, the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells.
42. Moylgrove (Trewyddel) (OT).
A steep hillside village on the coast road between Newport and St Dogmaels. It’s very pretty — sheltered in a deep wooded valley. In 1386 it was called Molde Grove. It’s named after Matilda, wife of the first Lord of Cemais. The 200 acre grove was a part of her dowry.
43. Ceibwr and the Witches Cauldron (OT).
Truly spectacular coastal scenery, with contorted sedimentary beds exposed in the cliffs, and tall stacks close inshore. Ceibwr is a small sheltered cove, but without a sandy beach. Meltwater channels and ancient glacial deposits. The Witches Cauldron is a collapsed cave with a tidal pool, connected to the outer coast through a series of tunnels. The stream, rich in iron and manganese, was reputed to have healing properties.
44. Cwm Gwaun (OT).
One of the most beautiful wooded valleys in Wales, running like a deep gash from Cilgwyn to Lower Town Fishguard, about 12 km away. It’s a textbook example of a glacial meltwater channel, probably formed about 500,000 years ago. The valley community still celebrates Hen Galan (The Old New Year) on 13th January each year. The valley has more than its fair share of tales of the supernatural.
45. Pentre Ifan Urdd Centre (OT)
An ancient farmhouse on the minor road heading from Newport to Pentre Ifan cromlech and Crosswell. About 40 years ago it was used as the HQ for Resurgence magazine which promoted green issues and self sufficiency, linked to other initiatives in communal living at Fachongle Isaf and Brithdir Mawr. More recently the Gatehouse has been tastefully converted into a centre for youth activities and courses by Urdd Gobaeth Cymru.
46. Ffald y Brenin (OT)
This is a Christian retreat centre on the side of Cwm Gwaun. It used to be called Sychpant, but in 1984 Phyllida and Peter Mould set about converting the buildings with the help of architect Chris Day and local builders. It was renamed Ffald y Brenin, and now attracts residents and day visitors for retreats, prayer, study and refreshment. The buildings are quite famous too!
47. Bayvil Church (OT).
A little Georgian church not far from Nevern, in open country where there used to be a village. It’s been deconsecrated, and is now looked after by the Friends of Friendless Churches. Slate floor, box pews, double pulpit and even a bier for carrying coffins in and out. It’s serene and very beautiful.
48. Llanllawer Holy Well (OT).
The only known holy well or spring high on the Carningli-Dinas Mountain ridge is at Llanllawer, adjacent to a semi-derelict bellcote church which was rebuilt in 1859. The spring, which still flows, is contained within a rough stone-vaulted structure open on one side.
49. Carningli Mountain Railway (OT)
The green track that runs up Carningli from the parking area on the Dolrannog road once supported a flimsy single track railway line. Cable-hauled wagons carried quarried stone blocks down to a crushing plant on the Cilgwyn road. The most prominent traces left of this short-lived enterprise are the stone towers which supported a cable drum — used to control the descending full wagons and then haul them back up again.
50. The Dyffryn Arms, Pontfaen (OT).
We have to include Bessie’s pub on this list, because it is an institution, renowned throughout the land. It’s been operating since around 1840. Here you can obtain Bass from the keg, served in perfect condition in a space that is more like a private front room than a public bar. Don’t ask for food or anything fancy, since you will be disappointed. It’s back in action again following a serious fire some years ago.
Here is a challenge: match the pictures to the locations!