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St David's Bishop Palace


Visited May 2015

Location St David's, Pembrokeshire 
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby No 
Parking Yes 
Facilities Gift shop, Toilets


One of the most popular tourist sites in Pembrokeshire, the Bishop's Palace is sited right next to the Cathedral which gives St. David's its city status. It was the final resting place of St David, the patron saint of Wales, and so was always a holy place. It was also very remote, prompting the Vatican to declare in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St David's equalled one to Rome.






The Palace fit for a bishop was the work of Henry de Gower, started some time after his appointment in 1328. De Gower was an enthusiastic builder of palaces, he also contributed a new hall to Lamphey Bishop's Palace, also owned by the Bishop's of St Davids. The similarities of the two buildings become obvious when you compare the two great halls - both have rows of arcade windows, although those at St David's had the extra decorative feature of checker board tiles, some of which still survive today.


The quality and splendour of the architecture is obvious everywhere at the palace, with the most striking feature being the wheel window in the great hall. Carved from Bath stone, and at one time glazed in colourful stained glass, the window would have faced the Bishop's dining table in the hall, giving Henry de Gower and his successors the finest of views!





In addition to the great hall there are substantial undercrofts to explore- the Bishops seemed to like good living and the cellars would have been full of the finest wine and provisions. As expected in a Bishop's residence there is a great chapel, with the remains of a piscina in the wall, this would have been used to wash out the communion receptacles at Mass, and is also thought to be the work of de Gower.


Children may also find the wooden latrine block in the great chamber to be interesting, there seems to be something about ancient toilets that fascinates them!  





On the day we visited there was a children's trail available which was pretty good fun, the prize for completing it was a badge. There is a well stocked gift shop and toilets on site, but no cafe. However, right next door to the palace is St David's Cathedral, which has a refectory. The Cathedral contains the shrine of Saint David, as well as the tombs of later Bishops. We did not get to see the interior though as the day we visited there was a music festival which was a ticketed event. Slightly higher up on the hill, the cathedral gatehouse was open, with a small exhibition inside it is worth a quick look.


After we had finished our visit to the palace, we headed to Whitesands Bay, a ten minute drive away. There is a large sandy beach with a cafe and toilets, and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path passes along the bay giving access to some lovely walks. There is a car park there which I imagine  gets very full in the height of summer. 









More info:  CADW St Davids Bishop's Palace

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