Porthgain bay is eroded out of Ordovician shales, with the headlands on either side of it being composed of more resistant igneous rocks. Although huge dumps of the shale can be found on the cliff top, fossils are sparse.
♦ Park in the free car park in the centre of the village.
♦ From the car park, head towards the harbour. You will see massive brick-built hoppers on the harbour-side which were used during the 19th and early 20th centuries for a variety of rock based industrial applications. There is an information board at the base of the hoppers which provides a fascinating insight into their history and the village’s industrial past.
♦ Walk below the hoppers and at the end of their walls you will come to a small house with steps leading upwards next to it. Climb these steps to the top. There are excellent views of the industrial ruin as you ascend.
♦ At the top, go through the stile and follow the path for about 50 meters. You will come to a large area covered in broken masses of shale. This is the main fossil hunting area.
♦ The area of shale stretches right to the cliff edge, so take care!♦ Ref: 51.94788°N, 5.18499°W
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦ – There is a vast quantity of shale to look over, but fossils are very infrequent. The location is extremely beautiful however and the village has a fascinating history of exploiting the local rocks for road stone, roofing tiles and brick making etc. The most striking legacies of this industry are the huge brick-built hoppers that are situated adjacent to the harbour.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – The walk up to the fossil hunting area is short but the steps that must be climbed are steep. The shale dumps stretch right up to the cliff edge, which is unguarded, so it is advised that younger children are restricted to the path.
ACCESS: ♦♦♦♦ – Free parking can be found in the centre of the village. Local shops and businesses are nearby, as are public conveniences. The walk to the fossil hunting area is short but steep at the steps.
TYPE: – The piles of shale found at Porthgain are another reminder of the Village’s industrial past. They are quarrying waste from its roof tiling phase which occurred between 1850 and 1910.
If you find any fossils here you can count yourself lucky. The shale at Porthgain is practically barren and an hour of searching may reveal no fossils at all.
Graptolites are much more abundant at Druidston Haven to the south, but Porthgain is such a fascinating and beautiful location that it is recommended none-the-less. There is a huge amount of shale to look through. Look on the surfaces of the bedding planes of the pieces of rock and if you are very lucky you may find a graptolite.
This site is Ordovician in age – Llanvirn and Llandeilo shales.
The biggest danger at Porthgain is the proximity of the shale piles to the edge of the cliff. It can be windy here also, so don’t go too near the edge. Mobile phones may not have a signal at this location. It is therefore especially important that you tell someone where you are going and what time you’ll be returning.
Most fossils can be collected from moving shale around.
Conservation area. Please treat the old buildings with respect.