Travel: The Things I've Seen: The chapel of St Govan

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The Independent Travel
TO GET to the chapel of St Govan you have to cross a Royal Artillery Corps firing range. The road sign says, unhelpfully: 'WARNING. The Range road is OPEN'. My assistant worried that we and his Morris Minor would be blasted away.

The wind was high and the rain heavy. It was probably the wrong day to be descending the cliffs of west Wales. But down below was sanctuary; 1,400 years ago the Irish abbot, St Govan, came here when he was pursued by pirates. Somehow he eluded them, and his miraculous escape encouraged him to stay here as a hermit living on the seashore. He died in AD586.

Sometime during the first millennium a tiny stone chapel was built in his name among the rocks and clefts, facing the sea. The nave measured a mere 17ft 6in by 12ft 6in. The chapel survives, although the bell was stolen years ago by pirates.

'St Govan must have had a hard life,' my assistant remarked grimly. The Atlantic crashed and boomed against the cliffs in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the ancient chapel. We watched the ocean, soaking up the wild Celtic atmosphere. When we were soaked through, we went home.

St Govan's, Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SR967929.