Mason describes these caverns in 1880 as only: "... four miles from Tenby, and can only be visited at low water and the spring tides... . After passing the village, you proceed down a lane about 274m towards the sea to Lydstep Lodge, thence along a trackway over the hill, from the summit of which there is seen, in the centre of a romantic and sequestered glen, the 'Guide's cottage', keeping close to which we walk down the bottom of the rocky defile, until, after passing over some fragments of rock, we arrive at the shore. The view on either hand is grand and beautiful in the extreme, but especially on the right, where a high cliff descends sheer as a wall to the sea, and is seen to great advantage through a natural arch, (see cover illustration) a portion of the nearest cavern ... It is only at the equinoctial spring-tides, and not always then, that the caverns to the extreme right and left are accessible; the rocks over which the explorer passes are, in the spring, crimson with the young fronds of 'Plocamium coccineum', and other 'Rhodosperms'. The 'Laminaria' is covered with the pretty little pellucid 'Patella'; and many other shells., scarce at Tenby, are abundant here; the deep, clear, rock pools are miniature museums of animated nature; and the only regret of the gazer into their varied stores is, that he dare not begin to inspect them at his leisure, for the inexorable tide is fast cutting off his retreat. The cavern farthest to the west is one of the best - the prospect from it is magnificent; looking seawards from which, to the right, is an enormous cliff, rising nearly perpendicular from the shore; to the left the cliffs are precipitous, while the roof of the cavern is curiously perforated; the rocks below high-water mark are covered with seaweed, whose varied hues assist in adding a degree of enchantment to this pre-eminently picturesque and beautiful scene."
Mason continues, speaking of Lydstep, " ... the fine coast scenery between Giltar Point and Skrinkle Bay should only be undertaken in very calm weather, as when it is unsettled heavy seas prevail. Mr. Gosse says: "once round Giltar, the coast becomes picturesque; the crags were fantastic, the precipices abrupt and sheer, and the shutting in and opening up of the little rocky coves every instant, as we sped along, gave a perpetual interest to the scene, changing it like a moving panorama. Caverns with funnel openings above were numerous, and there were many others deep, and highly picturesque, one in particular has received a name from its singular appearance; it is a yawning chasm in the face of the cliff, in the centre of which there is a most excellent image of the face of a colossal bear, as if crouching in the cave, with his nose on the water's edge. The pointed ears, the half-closed eyes, the nose and muzzle are all excellent, almost too good to be true; till on approaching, you discern that every feature is merely some natural crevice, or angle, or rounding of the wet and slimy rocks... ."
"Close to the right of Bear Cave, that is on your right as you look into it, stands a jagged peak in the sea, which is connected with the main natural bridge ... Beyond this we see a succession of arches, and caves, and flat-roofed rooms, perforating the foot of the cliffs ... One of these arches is named Rouse Hole ... The stratification is absolutely perpendicular, we are under Lydstep Head, 130 feet high ... Presently we come to the Droch, where a more majestic cavern than any we had yet seen appears. Upon a beach of yellow sand its immense span is reared, with a secondary entrance. The arch of uniting stone is thrown across with beautiful lightness, and it appears as if hewn with the mason's chisel. All the ledges are horizontal like courses of masonry; all the fissures vertical."
Today Lydstep Caverns are owned by Lydstep Estate who run a holiday centre with restaurant, snack bars, shop, etc. An admission / parking charge is made for day visitors, but as the author was refused admission because he drove a van, an alternative free access route is suggested. Take the footpath which runs down beside Lydstep Post Office to Lydstep Haven and follow the right hand fork to the caves.
Smugglers' Cave consists of three entrances, and includes a karst window or skylight. It is a large sea cave about 300 feet long with an average passage cross section of 20 feet wide and 30 feet high. The upper end opens out into a grassy doline in which steps and hand rails were provided.
On the same beach, but a little further to the west, is another cave called The Droch. Here, an entrance 20 feet wide and 50 feet high opens out into a chamber 60 feet wide and 60 feet high, a short distance along the coast again is a rift filled with Pleistocene material. The coast certainly lives up to its name, the 'Bay of Caves' as there are many more sea caves here which may also be visited, provided, of course, that you remember to bring a torch.
reprinted with grovelling permission from Caves of West Wales by Tony Oldham.
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