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Welsh: Abergwaun
Fishguard Harbour.JPG
Lower Fishguard
Grid reference: SM955375
Location: 51°59’54"N, 4°58’49"W
Population: 3,300  (2006 est.)
Post town: Fishguard
Postcode: SA65
Dialling code: 01348
Local Government
Council: Pembrokeshire
Preseli Pembrokeshire

Fishguard is a coastal town in Pembrokeshire, which a population of some 3,300; in 2001 the "community" of Fishguard and Goodwick had a population recorded of 5,043.

The town of Fishguard is divided into two parts, the main town of Fishguard and Lower Fishguard. Lower Fishguard (locally known as 'Lower Town') is where the River Gwaun meets the sea in a deep valley. It is a typical fishing village with a short tidal quay. The settlement stretches along the north slope of the valley.

The main town contains the parish church, the High Street and most of the modern development, and lies upon the hill to the south of Lower Fishguard, to which it is joined by a steep and winding hill. The western part of the town, facing Goodwick, grew up in the first decade of the 20th century with the development of the harbour.

Name of the town

The name Fishguard derives, it is believed, from old Norse fiskigarðr meaning "fish catching enclosure",[1] This would indicate that there may have been a Scandinavian trading post here, although there is no historical record to confirm this.[2]

The town's Welsh name is Abergwaun, meaning "Mouth of the River Gwaun").


Early years

The Old Fort

Fishguard is within the historic Welsh cantref of Cemais, once part of the Welsh kingdoms of Dyfed and Deheubarth.[3] During the Viking Era the coasts of Deheubarth were plagued by Viking raids, and in the latter part of the 10th century Norse trading posts and villages were build, of which Fishguard, judging by its name, may have been one,[3] although there is no historical record to confirm this.[4]

Fishguard was once a marcher borough, surrounded by stout walls. In 1603, it was described as one of five Pembrokeshire boroughs overseen by a portreeve.[5] The Norman village lay along what is now High Street between the church at its north end and the slight remains of a Norman motte at its south end. Lower Fishguard developed as a herring fishery and port, trading with Ireland, Bristol and Liverpool.

In the late 18th century Fishguard had 50 coasting vessels, and exported oats and salt herring.[6] In 1779, the port was raided by the privateer ship Black Prince, which bombarded the town when the payment of a £1,000 ransom was refused. As a result, Fishguard Fort was completed in 1781, overlooking Lower Fishguard.[7] The port declined in the latter half of the 19th century.

The last invasion

The Royal Oak

In 1797 the Battle of Fishguard ended the last armed invasion of Britain.

A force of 1,400 French soldiers landed near Fishguard;[8] a motley rabble who hoped to stir revolutionary feelings amongst the rural population, but instead they stirred its patriotism. It seems that on seeing women dressed in the Welsh costume of the day, the French were startled and mistook them by their tall hats for soldiers. The local militia arrived, engaged the French at Fishguard and brought the invasion to an end.

The French surrender was signed at Fishguard's ancient Royal Oak pub. Outside Fishguard there is a stone monument commemorating the signing of the French surrender.

The whole story is told by the Fishguard Tapestry, which was created for the 200th anniversary as a deliberate echo of the Bayeux Tapestry, and is on display in a hall near the town centre.

The 19th and twentieth centuries

The nineteenth century vicar of Fishguard, the Rev Samuel Fenton, wrote the noted book 'The History of Pembrokeshire'. The ancient Parliamentary Borough of Fishguard was contributary to the Borough of Haverfordwest.

During the Second World War, the Fishguard Bay Hotel was Station IXc of Special Operations Executive, and submersibles were tested in Fishguard Bay.

Modern ferry services since the war have built the new port up into a modern facility outside the town.

Birds, beasts and blooms

Fishguard in Pembrokeshire

Fishguard, its coasts and its seas are rich in wildlife. The fields display a wide variety of colourful wild flowers. The seas are rich in fish, and attract grey seals, dolphins and porpoises.

The local birdlife include curlews, redshanks and sanderlings, regularly foraging in the lower Fishguard harbour, and stonechats, cormorants and fulmars, which can be seen from the coastal path.


The town's very name is redolent of its intimate connection with the sea. It is therefore unsurprising that sea fishing and the port are the principal industrial activities in this town. Fishguard Harbour opened in 1906 and today is used by ferry passengers to Ireland and also well known for herring fishery.

Sights of Fishguard

The Lower Town Harbour

Outside of Fishguard there is a stone monument commemorating the signing of the Frech surrender after the last invasion of Britain in 1797. Women dressed in Welsh costume startled the invaders and the local militia fought them to a surrender. Also there in the 19th century parish church of St Mary's is the grave of the heroine Jemima Nicholas. There is also a Bi-Centenary memorial stone monument in West Street, Fishguard to commemorate the Invasion. A tapestry was created in 1997 to commemorate the invasion and can be viewed free of charge in Fishguard's Town Hall.

Fishguard has many hotels and is the main shopping town of North Pembrokeshire with a busy Thursday market in the Town Hall.

Big Society

Fishguard hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1936 and 1986.

Fishguard has a thriving Round Table with 20 members doing all sorts of good work including running the Fishguard & Goodwick Carnival which has been voted the most popular community event.

The Gwaun Lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, is also a thriving charitable organisation within the community who host a number of sponsored events and other community works throughout the year thanks to the influx of younger brethren to the Order.

Fishguard has a 180-seat cinema/theatre called Theatr Gwaun which provides a venue for film, music and live theatre.


A regular ferry leaves for Rosslare in County Wexford, Ireland from the port of Fishguard Harbour (which is not actually in Fishguard, but a mile away at Goodwick). Fishguard is the terminus of the A40 London to Fishguard trunk road. It is in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Fishguard is served by train at Fishguard Harbour railway station.

In film and television

Fishguard has acquired a reputation as a result of "Hugh Pugh", a comic character in the Welsh TV series Barry Welsh is Coming, who reports from Fishguard and constantly points out the rivalry between Fishguard and Haverfordwest.

Fishguard's Royal Oak pub appeared in the film I'll Sleep When I'm Dead starring Clive Owen.

Lower Fishguard was used as "Llareggub" in the film of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole.

The film Moby Dick (starring Gregory Peck) was filmed here in 1955.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Fishguard)


  1. Charles, B. G., The Placenames of Pembrokeshire, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1992, ISBN 0-907158-58-7, p 50
  2. Charles, ibid, p xxxvi
  3. 3.0 3.1 Davies, John, A History of Wales, Penguin, 1994, foundations of pgs 17,19, 43, Migration of the Desi into Demetia, page 52 Demetia 17, 30, 34, ruling house of 52, 72, 85, 87, and the Vikings pages 85, relations with Alfred of Wessex, page 85, and the Vikings/Northmen page 98, and the Normans 106, 112, 114
  4. Charles, ibid, p xxxvi
  5. Owen, George, The Description of Penbrokshire by George Owen of Henllys Lord of Kemes, Henry Owen (Ed), London, 1892
  6. Barrett, J. H., The Pembrokeshire Coast Path, HMSO, 1974, ISBN 0-11-700336-0, p 44
  7. Sites and Stones: Fishguard Fort, Pembrokeshire
  8. Latimer, Jon (12 July 2003). "The Battle of Fishguard: The Last Invasion of Great Britain". Retrieved 7 May 2009.