St. Govan’s Chapel in Wales

This remote, picturesque stone chapel clings to the side of a cliff on the Pembrokeshire coast.

St. Govan’s Chapel perches halfway up a cliff on the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales. (photo by Lori Erickson)

Another of my favorite spots in Wales is St. Govan’s Chapel, which is perched on the edge of the sea in an impossibly picturesque location. In keeping with the quirky nature of the early Welsh saints, the number of steps to the chapel is said to be different each time it’s walked.

This extraordinary chapel is associated with St. Govan, a Celtic saint who lived in Pembrokeshire in the fifth or sixth century. It’s said that one day he was pursued by pirates while walking along the shore. When he hid in a crevice in the cliffs, the rocks closed around him until the danger had passed. He made this remote spot his home until his death in 586, worshipping and teaching.

The number of steps leading down to St. Govan’s Chapel are said to change each time they’re walked. (photo by Lori Erickson)

Another story says that Govan had a silver bell that he used to warn people when pirates were in the area. After the pirates stole the bell, angels brought it back to him and set it in stone so that Govan could continuing using it. With some imagination, you can still see the bell encased in stone near the chapel.

For Camelot fans, there’s also a legend that Govan was really King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain. As far as I’m concerned, the more myths the better about such a place!

The chapel, which is just 12 by 17 feet, probably was built around the 13th century on the site of an earlier structure. Whatever its origins, it’s a remarkable feat of engineering, wedged into rocks halfway down a cliff.

Just outside the chapel is a holy well inside its own little stone structure.

Be aware that the chapel is located in a firing range used by the Ministry of Defense. If the military is using the area the chapel may not be accessible.

Map showing location of St. Govan’s Chapel

Back to main page for Sacred Sites in Wales


Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of books that include Holy Rover, Near the Exit, The Soul of the Family Tree, and Every Step Is HomeHer website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.

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