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St Davids

St Davids - the smallest city in the UK!

Situated on a rugged peninsula, this land is a patchwork of history. Neolithic burial chambers stand in silent command, overlooking sites of Viking raids, while the memories of thousands of pilgrims moving silently to and from the shrine at St Davids, give an air of peace and tranquility.

St Davids Cross SquareBeneath St Davids lie some of the oldest rocks in Britain, dating back to the Pre-Cambrian period, around 600 million years ago. When drifting continents collided the rocks on ether side buckled and split. You can see spectacular evidence of this in the cliffs all around St Davids.

All the rocks you see in the area are at least 400 million years old. Rocks younger than this have been worn away by the action of sea, ice and rivers during the last 20 million years. This has created the flat open plateau you see today, dotted with rocky outcrops too hard to erode.

In Victorian times this was a geologists' paradise. Many of Britain's most famous geologists used the area as a test bed for their theories. They made important fossil discoveries of early life-forms. Many classifications of rocks and some fossils, such as the trilobite Paradoxidesdavidis, have made local names famous worldwide.

St Davids was once the centre of the known world, far back in prehistory this was a point where sea routes and overland tracks met. People have lived here for at least 6,000 years; the rocky outcrop known as Clegyr Boia was a thriving village in the Neolithic era, the time of the first farmers. The peninsula is dotted with Neolithic tombs, bronze age standing stones and iron age forts.

The area is full of legends rooted in the landscape, where place names reflect ancient memories. Saints and chieftains, pirates and kings have all left their mark on the map of Pembrokeshire. There are many names associated with King Arthur. The mythical hero has merged with a real Arthur, a prince of Dyfed in the sixth century.

Legend says St David was born above a rocky bay to the south of the city, a magical spot which has been sacred for 4,000 years. Here a ruined chapel dedicated to David's mother, St Non, lies within a bronze age stone circle. Nearby is a holy well said to have appeared as a spring at the birth of David. 

In the Middle Ages St Davids became a thriving centre of pilgrimage. Pope Calixtus II had decreed that two pilgrimages here was equal to one to Rome, and suddenly both visitors and their offerings flowed in. The Church grew rich, and a grand building scheme produced the magnificent Cathedral and Bishop's Palace set in the same sheltered little valley that David himself chose for his community.