With a population of just 1,600, St Davids is the smallest city in the UK. This charming Welsh gem is best known for its cathedral, where the patron saint of Wales was laid to rest. Ancient monuments and mediaeval religious buildings make St Davids an exciting destination. Learn about what to see there and discover how the new UK ETA for St Davids will affect your trip in this complete guide.
St David: The Life and the Legend
Born around 500 AD, Saint David became one of the most important early figures in Welsh Christianity. Known as a preacher and teacher, David founded an ecclesiastical settlement known in Welsh as Tyddewi (David’s House) here. He was said to have performed miracles during his lifetime. The most famous of these saw him create a hill as a platform on which to stand while preaching. As the hill rose up out of the ground, a white dove settled on David’s shoulder. This dove became his emblem, and he is often depicted accompanied by it.
David was dedicated to the monastic lifestyle. Under his leadership, monks would pull ploughs themselves while working in the field rather than relying on animals. They could drink only water and eat only plain food. He became particularly associated with the leek, which was later to become the national symbol of Wales. David died in the monastery he had established. Legend says that angels filled the monastery upon his death, singing him to his rest.
A Centre of Pilgrimage
David was buried within the site that he had established, which became a popular destination for pilgrimages. Pope Calixtus II encouraged this, declaring that two pilgrimages to St Davids were equivalent to one pilgrimage to Rome. Even some monarchs made the trip to St Davids: William the Conqueror came here to pay his respects in 1077, as did Henry II in 1171 and Edward I in 1284. With a thriving ecclesiastical community and a bishop in residence, St Davids flourished. Under the Normans, the cathedral was expanded. Today, some of the earliest existing sections date back to this time.
The Decline of St Davids
Henry VIII’s Protestant Reformation, and the subsequent dissolution of the monasteries, led to an instant decline in St Davids’ fortunes. In 1536, Bishop William Barlow sold the lead from the roof of the Bishop’s Palace, a clear sign of the lack of interest that the clergy had in the saint’s burial place and pilgrimage site. Barlow later moved his residence to Abergwili, abandoning St Davids. For centuries, it lay neglected, eventually shrinking to resemble a small and impoverished building, with just the cathedral remaining as a hint of St Davids’ former glory.
It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the city was restored. Today, it has been revived as a tourist destination, with 210 listed buildings to admire and many walking routes around the city. Some modern pilgrims have returned to the city in an attempt to revive the ancient pilgrimage route.
Things to see in St Davids
St Davids Cathedral
St Davids Cathedral is one of the most important religious sites in Wales, thanks to its long history and its status as the burial site of the country’s patron saint. Some of the oldest parts of the current building date back to the Norman era, but it was also heavily restored by George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. At least three services take place each day.
Once a spectacular mediaeval palace, today, the Bishop’s Palace is ruined. However, it continues to attract visitors and is one of the city’s most important sights. Many walls still stand, and one of the most impressive pieces here is the wheel window that can be seen high in the ruins of the Great Hall. Today, the palace is sometimes used as an open-air theatre.
St Non’s Chapel
Just outside the city, the Chapel of St Non overlooks the sea and is close to the popular walk of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This is one of the oldest Christian buildings in Wales, and early pilgrims would visit it as part of their pilgrimage to St Davids. The well that forms part of the site is said to be holy, and Pope Benedict XVI used water from it during his 2010 visit to Britain.
The UK ETA for St Davids
Visitors to St Davids, from 2024 and onwards, will need to be aware of the UK’s new ETA system. This programme will replace the visa waiver system currently in place and is based on programmes currently in effect in countries like the United States and Canada. It is part of the government’s plans to digitalise the UK’s borders, giving greater oversight over entries and departures.
The UK’s visa waiver programme currently allows citizens of 92 countries to enter the country without needing to apply for a visa. It is these travellers who will be affected by the new system. They will still not require a visa. However, they will need to apply for an ETA before they can enter the country.
With an ETA, travellers will be able to spend up to six months in the UK while they travel for leisure, business, or visiting friends or family. They may not work while in the country, but they can enrol in courses of study. Travellers who currently require a visa, which includes those who plan to spend more than six months in the United Kingdom, as well as visitors who intend to work in the country, will still need to apply for a visa under the new system.
Applying for the UK ETA
It is essential that visitors apply for their ETA before they begin their planned trip to the UK. An approved ETA may be a condition of carriage, so carriers can deny boarding to passengers who do not have one. With this in mind, travellers should apply well in advance of their journey. They will need to complete the application process online. There are no paper-based alternatives, as this is a fully digital system.
A list of requirements has been published. Travellers should familiarise themselves with these requirements before they begin their application. They will need to hold a valid biometric passport and will also be expected to provide personal information, including contact details, date of birth, employment status and so on.
Applicants will also need to disclose information about their past. If they have a criminal record, they will need to disclose this on their application form. They will also need to report if they have ever been a member of a proscribed group or if they have ever committed any immigration offences. In addition to this, applicants will need to provide information about their planned trip to the UK. They should provide an address at which they will be staying while in the country and may also be asked for a brief itinerary of their trip.
The ETA application also has a non-refundable fee. This must be paid in full before the application can be processed. Applications can take up to 72 hours to be approved or rejected, so applicants should keep this in mind to allow enough time before they start their journey.
Travelling With the UK ETA for St Davids
Within the UK, there is no border control between the four constituent countries. This means that a visitor with a UK ETA for St Davids does not need to stay in Wales. They can move freely between Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland during their trip. However, the ETA does not extend to any other countries, including the independent Republic of Ireland. Visitors who want to go to the Republic of Ireland or any other European country during their trip should ensure they are familiar with the entry requirements for these countries.
Your Trip to St Davids With the UK ETA
A UK ETA for St Davids allows curious travellers to discover the UK’s smallest city. Follow the ancient pilgrimage route, discover St David’s tomb and admire the architecture of this historic settlement. Follow the Pembrokeshire Coast Path to explore some of Wales’ beautiful nature areas. Put on your walking shoes, apply for your UK ETA for St Davids and prepare for an adventurous holiday.