West Blockhouse

Dale, Pembrokeshire

Overview

West Blockhouse stands alone, perched spectacularly on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. This fort once held accomodation for 34 men and one officer. A battery of six heavy guns once commanded the entrance to the harbour, with defensible barracks behind to give protection from attack on the landward side. Built with comfort in mind it has fine views along the Pembrokeshire coast and there is a sheltered south facing beach within a few hundred yards.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • Outside Dining FurnitureOutside Dining Furniture
  • RemoteRemote
  • ShowerShower
  • Table Tennis TableTable Tennis Table

Beds 3 Twin 1 Double

Sleeps
8
4 nights from
£423 equivalent to £13.22 per person, per night

Protecting Milford Haven

This is the outermost work of the mid-19th century fortification of Milford Haven. The fort was completed in 1857 and contained accommodation for a garrison of 34 men and one officer. It continued in use until after the Second World War, updated from time to time with new guns and new emplacements.

The walls of finely dressed limestone are of exceptional quality (as too were the repairs to them). The size of the granite coping stones on the parapet of the battery itself will astonish even those familiar with Victorian ideas of how a job should be done. The Victorians also knew how to make themselves comfortable: inside, the rooms on the first floor are lined with thick pine boards so that, with the coal fire burning, you are cosily remote from the elements.

A view to savour

This is is a vertiginous spot but the view down the coast of Pembrokeshire is one to savour. Victorian fortification and more recent industry alike are dwarfed and absorbed.  You can still enjoy the spectacle of a big ship feeling her way into the mouth of the haven at one’s feet. In contrast, there is a sheltered south-facing beach within a few hundred yards.

Floor Plan

‘Where else would you get such a view? Ships going into the haven, gannets diving for fish, ravens overhead and wild flowers down the path.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

West Blockhouse stands on the edge of the south side of the Marloes Peninsula, with magnificent views of the Pembrokeshire coast. The beach at the nearby village of Dale is perfect for water sports.

At Marloes Sands, on the opposite side of the peninsula, you can explore the shingle beaches and rocky coves, famous for historic shipwrecks, and take a boat trip to Skomer Island, home to fantastic wildlife like Manx shearwaters and puffins.

Pembroke Castle, the birthplace of Henry VII, is a magical day out for all with lots of special events for added interest.  

Visit the lively town of St David’s with its Cathedral and St David's Bishop's Palace, where open-air theatre performances are staged. Oriel y Parc is an interesting gallery and visitor centre in the city with exhibitions of local arts.

Adventure seekers will love Celtic Quest Coasteering. Suitable for all ages and abilities, this is a truly unique way to explore this stunning area of coastline. 

For more information on things to do during your stay at West Blockhouse, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

West Blockhouse
Dale, Pembrokeshire
Clear directions

‘Where else would you get such a view? Ships going into the haven, gannets diving for fish, ravens overhead and wild flowers down the path.’

From the logbook

FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a track from the main road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Haverfordwest – 14 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    There is parking for two cars approximately 45m from the property. There is a steep footpath between the parking area and the Landmark.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters and an open fire.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Logs may be purchased and delivered under a private arrangement. Further details will be provided with your booking confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker, a separate freezer and a dishwasher. 
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There are two bathrooms, one with a free-standing shower unit and one with a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    There are no difficult internal stairs.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is a roof platform and open grounds. Please note there are external steps and a drawbridge. The drops from the cliff edge are sheer.
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact [email protected]
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.
History

Protecting Milford Haven

The West Blockhouse was built in 1854-7, but the value of the deep-water anchorage at Milford Haven which it protected had been recognised long before that. Concern about invasion by the French (or indeed the Spanish) was as fierce in the16th century as the 19th, and Henry VIII had ordered two circular blockhouses to be built as early as 1539. The one nearest Dale was named the West Blockhouse, and gave its name to the point on which it stood. In 1814, during the Napoleonic Wars, the great Royal Dockyard at Pembroke Dock was established but it was to be another forty years before plans for increased protection along the coastline became a reality under the aegis of Lord Palmerston, a great believer in ‘gunboat diplomacy’ himself. Relations with France, meanwhile, were rapidly deteriorating in the 1850s.

Warfare on land and sea was about to change out of all recognition with the advent of steam and modern technologies, but in the 1850s military engineers still held fast to what they knew and buildings like the West Blockhouse show how the engineers of the day tried to prepare for the warfare of the future.

Four new forts were built at the mouth of the haven: on Thorn Island, Stack Rock Island, Dale Point and, most westerly, on West Blockhouse Point. It was intended that these forts’ artillery would de-mast any enemy ships before they reached the docks (the new steam-driven screw was still believed to be an auxiliary form of propulsion). Sadly, all plans and records for the building of the West Blockhouse have been lost and we do not know who designed it. But by 1857 a battery holding six guns had been built, with accommodation behind for 41 men and one officer, all of finely dressed limestone. From plans made in 1866 we know that the soldiers were to sleep in barrack rooms on the ground and first floor, where they would also eat and while away their leisure hours. Six 68-pounder guns were also in place by 1859, standard smooth-bore issue that had been in use for twenty years, 10 feet long and weighing 95 cwt. The rails on which the wheels of the gun-carriage slid up as it recoiled on firing can still be seen on the east flank of the battery.

There is no evidence that the West Blockhouse was ever garrisoned in the 19th century, as the threat of invasion faded. In fact, the blockhouse was obsolete almost as soon as it was built and would have been unlikely to withstand the latest cannon fire. In comparison with the more massive forts that followed in the 1860s the West Blockhouse seems almost friendly, its open, exposed batteries directed as much against a landward as seaward attack. Its site and design would have made it quite effective had a land attack ever materialised, the landward side being protected by what is effectively a dry moat, crossed only by a drawbridge. The parapet which protects its roof is also higher on the landward side – but neither fort nor battery would have withstood attack or siege for long.

The West Blockhouse was to see more use in the 20th century during the two World Wars than in the 19th. In 1900 the Milford Haven defences were re-armed and a new battery built outside the blockhouse. In 1904 a very thorough survey was made of both new battery and old fort, which was invaluable as restoration work began. In WWI West Blockhouse Battery, by now with new Breech Loading guns, was designated a Counter Bombardment Battery and finally received a garrison of the Royal Artillery, although it never saw action. After the war a caretaker was once more left in charge, the battery used for exercises with a skeleton staff maintaining the guns, one of whom was Cliff Gough, later Brigadier.

In 1939 the battery was once again manned in earnest and German bombardment of Pembroke Dock began in July 1940, followed by the laying of aerial mines, increasingly effective despite the laying of a boom across the mouth of the haven. In these early stages of the war the only defence against the enemy bombers came from machine guns at the coastal batteries, although ack acks eventually arrived, together with protective gunhouses. Life at the West Blockhouse in these years must have been hectic, other duties including firing warning shots across the bows of ships failing to comply with port regulations and guiding the RAFs flying boats back to Pembroke Dock with searchlights. After the war the fort was used for a while for Territorial Army exercises but finally closed formally in 1956. The fort remained in MOD ownership although the land around was sold.

Restoration

Vandalised but still sound

The Landmark Trust bought West Blockhouse Fort in 1969 and the land behind it in 1970. The fort had been vandalised, but was still basically sound. Restoration finally began in the autumn of 1986. The two greatest problems were repair of damage done by 20th-century alterations to the windows and to the roof. Metal shutters had been fitted to the windows on the seaward side and to make these fit, the stone reveals had been crudely cut back.

Strips of stone had to be cut and then pieced in to fill each missing section of these reveals, a very long and laborious job. A new window was made at the same time, where a door had been cut through into the lower barrack room when it became an engine room.

The roof of the fort was not originally designed to support guns, being constructed in the same way as other mid-19th century barrack buildings, with shallow brick vaults strengthened with iron girders, and a layer of asphalt on top. When two guns were mounted on the west wing in 1901 a concrete structure was cast to support the weight, cutting through the brick vault. Girders were added to give extra strength. Besides disfiguring the interior, this was not in fact doing the roof itself any good, and so we decided to remove it altogether and to remake the brick vault. Ideally we would then have liked to lay a stone roof, but the structure was not strong enough to support it, and so the present tiles were laid instead. Several of the granite coping stones of the parapet also had to be replaced, where they had been dislodged, or were damaged.

As the original drawings were lost, we did not know details of any joinery or interior fittings that had subsequently been altered. Luckily, the very thorough 1904 survey provided most of the information needed, such as the design of the windows. We decided not to make use of the ground floor as the accommodation on the first floor, if one barrack room was subdivided, was quite large enough and more pleasant to live in. Unfortunately, the vandals had burnt all the floor boards in the north barrack. The boards lining the walls were also mostly gone but enough survived to show us what it had looked like and pitch pine salvaged from a warehouse in the Liverpool docks was used to renew it. The new floor is higher than the original enabling you to see out of the windows on the seaward side of the fort - a privilege (or risk) denied the garrison men. New doors were made, copying one that survived, and the rooms inside are surprisingly snug and well insulated from the tempestuous winds.

Outside, building sheds and other flotsam were cleared away. One such unwanted object turned out to be part of a mounting for a 19th-century gun and this was put back in position. Two Vavasseur mounts were also stacked at the back of the fort and these too have been repositioned. Unfortunately the great granite coping stones of the battery parapet had mostly been thrown down the cliff when they were removed to make way for the new guns in 1901 and there seems to be no way of getting them back up again. The drawbridge had rotted beyond repair and so a new one was made to the same design, with a new handrail, and winding chains. The steps were provided with new railings and the approach straightened and tidied. Given its more peaceable use today, the last word on the fort should perhaps go to one of the men who served at the West Blockhouse in the 1930s. Charged with waking his fellows, he was remembered by Brigadier Gough, as yelling: 'Come on, just have a look at the view, there are people who would pay pounds for this opportunity!'

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.