A sweet assortment of candy coloured houses line Tenby’s historic streets; from Castle Hill to the harbour, there are subtle reminders of bygone years in this popular seaside resort.
The Five Arches
As you enter Tenby, you’ll undoubtedly cross the path of the five arches. Built in the 11th century, the walls were initially constructed by the Normans to protect the town against an attack from the local welsh population. They once formed a gatehouse, guarded by soldiers, armed with their bows and arrows.
Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, the town’s walls were expanded and strengthened. Improvements were paid by the taxes from ships that utilized the harbour. Throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras, Tenby came to be seen as a fashionable seaside resort, as such many of the town’s defences were demolished to provide better sea views.
Fortress of the Fish (Dinbych Y Pysgod)
Walking through the labyrinth of medieval streets you get a feeling of history around you. While there are a handful of high-street stores, I’m pleased to see that the majority of shops, cafes and restaurants are independently run. The town centre comprises of a hotchpotch of mismatched colours and calligraphy; old tainted by the new. From the high street, there are a number of avenues you could take, through castle ramparts or down hidden alleyways.
The Esplanade & South Beach Sands
Wandering the outskirts of the castle walls, I’m led on to the esplanade, i.e. the main promenade. A sweet assortment of pastels adorn the terrace of hotels. Strolling by the cliff-top gardens I take a seat on a bench and tuck into my fish n’ chips. The evening is yearning and the skies on the horizon are tainted by the waning sun. I watch the seagulls hold their weight against the wind, performing an aerial display before my eyes.
The sands of Tenby’s South Beach stretch long against the tide. A child buries their mother in the sand, as kites soar high in the stream of the breeze. A young couple are taking photos by the ocean, storing memories of days gone by.
Island Life – Caldey & St Catherine’s
The Pembrokeshire coastline is littered with islands, of which Tenby has two right on its doorstep. Caldey Island sits approximately 2.5 miles from Tenby and is a popular destination for day-trippers. The island can be reached via boat access from Tenby harbour, from Easter through to the autumn months. Caldey has a population of 40, along with a varying number of Cistercian monks. Visitors can view the island’s monastery as well as sampling its local produce. Today Caldey is farmed by the monks, who make cheese, shortbread and perfumes, amongst other items. These are then available for tourists to purchase, providing the monks with revenue to maintain the island.
St Catherine’s Island, is mere steps from the beach below Castle Hill. At low tide you can walk all the way from South Beach to the rocky outcrop by St Catherine’s Island. When the sea is far enough out you can also forage through the sea cave in its belly. Palmerston Fort sits distinctively on the island’s fringe. Built in 1867, its intended purpose was to protect the coast from landing forces. The building has since fallen into disrepair and signs warn beach-goers not to trespass on to the steps of the island. The distant view proves intriguing for visitors none-the-less.
As Tenby grew to become a desirable seaside resort, holiday-makers would flock to the Castle Hill. Here the Victorians would promenade, whilst listening to tunes from the bandstand. On top of the mound you can gauge panoramic views from the town, right round to South Beach. It’s also a great place to catch the sunset. The sandy inlet below Castle Hill, provides steps up to the viewpoint, but it can also be accessed from the town.
A path from Castle Hill, winds down towards the lifeboat station and round into the Tenby’s picturesque harbour. The spectrum of candy-coloured Georgian houses surround the harbour wall. Rustic storage sheds line the curved path down to the sand, some of which have been spruced up into quirky coffee shops or retail stores. As your feet meet the beach, there are a cluster of old stone buildings and a quaint parish church. The small cove provides welcomed shelter, for the tethered vessels that bob gently with the waves across the water.
Tenby really is an idealised example of a traditional seaside town. Its deep history and sandy alcoves appeal to the passing tourist, while its civilized community and stunning setting only add to its charm. I’d recommend Tenby as humble respite for any city-dweller. An inquisitive coastal haven along the western shores of Wales.
If you would like to read more about Tenby: http://www.tenbyvisitorguide.co.uk/