The Spooky Side of Pembrokeshire
Published: Wednesday 30th Sep 2015
Written by: Anita Lee
From the appearance of the first humans in Wales there have been great tales of spooky mystery. With its historic churches, numerous castles, and ruggedly sailed coastline, Pembrokeshire is home to many of the scariest ghost stories in all of Britain.
For those staying in one of our great holiday cottages in Tenby, especially this Halloween, there is the perfect opportunity to get into the spirit without travelling far from your temporary home.
There is a guided Ghost Walk through Tenby that helps to conjure up the spooks the village has to offer. Ghosts, fairies, witches and more are discussed on this unique tour through Pembrokeshire’s scary past. Starting from the Lifeboat Tavern on Tudor Square, the walk has previously been named by the Sunday Times as one of the top 5 ghost walks in Britain. Much of the walk has also been included in Richard Felix’s book The Ghost Tour of Great Britain: Wales.
If you are looking for an even spookier adventure, there are a few more places throughout Pembrokeshire for you to investigate… if you dare!
The A4076 Ghost
In Haverfordwest, there have been numerous reports of a ghost walking a rural highway. The A4076 is said to be haunted by a lonely woman walking the road. Paranormal investigators have been called to examine the area, and have spoken to local media about the phenomenon.
"We have had around six people contacting us with the same story,” Shaun Sables from Pembrokeshire Beyond said in 2011. "It’s something we really need to investigate. They all report getting a glimpse of a woman in the corner of their eye as they approach the crossroads. Then they are convinced they have hit somebody or something, they get out of their cars but find nothing."
The sightings have continued. Earlier this year, more motorists claimed they saw a shadowy woman – leading to people naming the road the most haunted in Britain.
“Perhaps it is merely reflections of light or a hoax played out by a daring and suicidal prankster,” said Gavin Davies from the Paranormal Chronicles website. “It has certainly a very spooky story and has really captured the imagination in the county of Pembrokeshire. It’s a paranormal epidemic.”
Wirt Sykes and his Goblins
In the 1800s, Wirt Sykes was a local chronicler of ghost stories. He gathered the scary traditions of Western Wales.
In 1881, a tale was passed on about the ghost of a small cow. In his book, British Goblins, Wirt Sykes wrote:
“A black calf, which haunted a Pembrokeshire brook early in the present century (early 1800s), was believed to be the devil in familiar guise. It appeared at a certain spot near the village of Narberth — a village which has figured actively in mythic story since the earliest ages of which there is any record.
One night two peasants caught the terrible calf and took it home, locking it up safely in a stable with some other cattle, but it had vanished when morning came.”
Sykes also retold the story of a local ceremony courting the devil. He gives the following account of a devil-summoning ceremony performed by a schoolmaster and a renowned Pembrokeshire conjurer named John Jenkin. A group was brought together to solve a mystery about some stolen money from the school.
After calling forth several spirits, and emotionally scarring a young boy in attendance, the whole event ended in flames.
He wrote of that particular evening:
“But when he did call, there came out of the wood a spirit dressed in white, and went about the circle. 'Ah' said the schoolmaster, 'we shall now hear something from this.' And sure enough 'this' told the conjuror (in a language the boy could not understand) where the money was, and all about it. Then it vanished in red fire; and that boy 'has never been well since, the effect of the great fright still cleaving to him.’”
Finally, he wrote about the haunting of the original chapel founded by St Canna in Llangan. At night, he writes, one can hear goblins speaking in Welsh as if they are building the church.
Sykes tells us:
“In the middle of this parish there is a field called Parc y Fonwent, or the churchyard-field, where, according to local tradition, the church was to have been originally built; but the stones brought to the spot during the day were at night removed by invisible hands to the site of the present church. Watchers in the dark heard the goblins engaged in this work, and pronouncing in clear and correct Welsh these words, "Llangan, dyma'r fan," which means, "Llangan, here is the spot."
Llangan straddles the boundary between Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. It was also thought to have been the occasional residence of Hywel Dda, the greatest king of Wales.
The Mysteries of Carew Castle
Located in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Carew Castle has a reputation for sheltering the paranormal. The Castle boasts two ghost stories that have been entertaining visitors for years.
In the legend of Princess Nest, there is a white lady who walks the ruins in daylight or appears when there is a full moon. Thought to have once been the most beautiful woman in all of Wales, the ghost of the Princess Nest supposedly welcomes visitors to the castle – and has done so for 900 years.
Nest was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, the king of Deheubarth. According to the story, Nest fell in love with Henry I of England. She gave birth to his son, but was forced to marry another. Throughout her life, Nest became embroiled in a variety of love triangles and was often involved in intrigue with her various husbands and lovers.
When she died, locals say she returned to Carew Castle where she was born, but her spirit never rested.
In Carew’s other famous ghost story, locals speak of the spirit of a rescued ape that inhabits the castle. Sir Rowland Rees, who lived in Carew during the 1700s, returned from an expedition from the Barbary Coast – now North Africa – with an ape. Rees trained the ape to obey him using a whistle.
But, when Rees tried to command the ape to attack a rival, he was said to have been cursed by the man. After a fight between the man and the ape, all that remained of the ape was a pool of blood. Ever since, especially on stormy nights, the ghost of the ape is said to return to the castle and scuttle through the halls.