Tucked away behind the village church, Gorllan is an endearing Grade II-listed Pembrokeshire cottage. A pretty, symmetrical façade is finished in neat black and white render and bookended by chimneys. With likely earlier origins, a carved stone plaque with the date 1726 is set into its northern gable. The 18th-century cottage is ensconced in the village of Eglwyswrw, which is nestled along the rolling coastal landscape of the ancient Preseli Hills. Fishguard station is just under half an hour away, providing access to Cardiff and Bristol, as well as connections to Ireland via a ferry that departs from Fishguard harbour.
Setting the Scene
This cottage is the perfect escape, surrounded by the West Wales countryside of myth and legend. The area abounds with prehistoric sites and ancient woodlands, and is in easy reach of the rugged Pembrokeshire coastline. The quiet lane outside belies its previously prominent position, with the house likely once used to collect tolls, as indicated by a small window to the north side of the façade, still intact. Money would have been exchanged for access to what was once a medieval thoroughfare. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
The doorway to this quaint cottage is deeply set in the centre of its charmingly asymmetric façade. Black decorative raised banding traces around the windows, plinths and quoining, in contrast to the white roughcast render. The building has opposing chimneys on each end and a 20th-century lean-to.
Entering the main living space, the traditional proportions of the cottage are immediately apparent, an exposed timber ceiling bringing a sense of warmth to the room. The main feature of the room is the original stone inglenook fireplace; original bread oven and recessed shelving intact, it now houses a racing green range cooker.
Separated by a rustic timber wall is a snug sitting room centred around a fireplace, with a wood burner sat on a substantial slate hearth. A timber sash window is set into the deep stone wall and timber floors run throughout.
The kitchen is bright and well-considered. For washing up with a view, a large Belfast sink sits below a wide picture window looking onto the garden beyond. A drying rack is integrated into the timber joinery, a lovely touch that adds to the cottage-style charm. The ground floor is completed by a concise bathroom finished with fresh white tiles.
Stairs to the first floor add plenty of character, with a large rough-hewn stone curtain step. They lead to a spacious open landing characterised by a vaulted ceiling and exposed original timber beams. Beyond, the bedroom is generous and bright, well-lit by a conservation-style roof light and low-level window. Eaves space is well utilised behind bespoke joinery.
The Great Outdoors
Despite its location in the middle of the village the cottage is in a very peaceful setting, backing onto a churchyard and surrounded by trees.
Leading off the yard through an arch of greenery is a secluded garden with plenty of potential. One corner is currently established as a vegetable garden, with a glass greenhouse. The space is bound by a verdant green hedge and has bucolic views of the church roof.
Out and About
Eglwyswrw is in the far north of Pembrokeshire, on the very edge of the national park, and is centred around its primary school and church. This area of south-west Wales feels incredibly rural and remote, but the larger towns of Fishguard and Cardigan are well under half-an-hour’s drive away along the A487.
This is an ancient area defined by a landscape unchanged for centuries, having been isolated from invasion and influence but deeply connected to the coast. The village itself is bordered by Pengelli forest, a serene oak woodland thought to date back to the last ice age. Its importance as a habitat is reflected in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserve; oaks grow alongside birch and alder, while honeysuckle scents the woodland on summer evenings and white wood anemones, violets and adder’s-tongue ferns carpet the floor in spring. Nearby, equally ancient Coed Tŷ Canol is one of the richest sites of lichens anywhere in Britain.
To the south, the majestic Preseli mountains stretch from east to west. A range of wild moorland, heath and grassland, the mountains are home to a huge range of rare plants and animals, and an ideal location for extended walks. These hills are steeped in myth and legend, home to tales of King Arthur and the Mabinogion, from the gateway to the fairy world at Ffynone waterfall to the Golden Road, which tracks an ancient route along the spine of the mountains, used since the neolithic period as the main route to and from Ireland. This gently undulating route, with views out towards Ireland, deep into South Wales, and north up the arc of Cardigan Bay towards the peaks of Eryri National Park, links ancient monuments and burial places, cairns and rocky tors.
Bordering the hills, the deep Gwaun Valley is known for a slower pace of life, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature, where Bessie’s Dyffryn Arms pub still pours Bass bitter from a jug. For the brave or neoprene–clad, Rosebush quarry is an opportunity for an inland swim in icy blue waters; warmth and local ales can then be found at the community–run Tafarn Sinc.
For a coastal swim, the smaller, secluded beaches of this stretch of coast can’t be beaten; Aberfforest and Pwllgwaelod are particular favourites. Further afield, the coastline to the north and south has some of Wales’ most distinctive and romantic beaches, from the expansive Poppit Sands to the historic harbour of Porthgain.
Cardigan, a 10-minute drive away, has a range of shops, cafés, and the well-preserved Cardigan Castle. The Fforest team have two sites in the area: the relaxed Pizza Tipi and the recently renovated Albion Aberteifi, both situated by the River Teifi.
The Victorian university town of Aberystwyth can be reached in just over an hour’s drive, while the cities of Swansea and Cardiff are accessible within two hours. The closest train station is Carmarthen, with direct connections to London in approximately four hours.
Council Tax Band: D
Despite Wales’ reputation for dramatic castles, it is the humble cottage that can be considered the true icon of Welsh architectural heritage. Dating back to 1726, Gorllan is a small, lofted cottage built in the basic but ingenious style typical of southwest Wales. Far from being poor substitutes for something more elaborate, they made resourceful use of locally available materials and show an awareness of local environmental conditions which is often lacking in more developed building styles.
They are a blue-print for sustainable building today – all elements break down and return easily to the landscape from which they were built, and to which they belong. This double-room cottage is constructed from rubble stone, finished with whitewashed roughcast render in the mid-twentieth century, and contrasting black decorative raised banding around the windows and doors. The roof, now tiled, would have been originally thatched with a locally sourced material.
The cottage itself is embedded into the wall of St Christiolus church graveyard, in the centre of Eglwyswrw. The site is thought to be ancient, and excavations in the 1990s revealed one arc of a possible quarry ditch for a Bronze Age round barrow and several burial mounds. Ffynnon Fair, a holy well, is situated to the southwest of the church, alongside Castell Eglwyswrw motte and bailey castle and the three may well be associated with one another and are indicative of the long-standing importance of the village.
This area of lowlands to the north of the Preselli Hills is thought to be the source of the Bluestones, transported to become some of the central parts of Stonehenge.
Further evidence of longstanding inhabitation in the area can be found at nearby Castell Henllys, a reconstructed Iron Age hill fort complete with roundhouses and other buildings, built in exactly the same place as buildings identified by archaeological excavations. Re-enactments throughout the summer bring the settlement to life.
Eglwyswrw is also known as a key location for the Rebecca Riots of the 19th century. Following the introduction of the Poor Law system and the imposition of tollgates on many roads, local farmers and agricultural workers targeted tollgates, workhouses and other symbols of authority.
The protests were a symbol of resistance against the oppressive economic and political conditions of the time, and they helped to shape the popular perception of Wales as a nation that was prepared to fight for its rights. Today every August, a Ras Beca (Rebecca Race) is held near Ffynnon Groes. First run in 1977, the race is a five-mile course across the Preseli Mountains and culminates in the winner smashing a gate to commemorate the Rebecca Riots.
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