Situated in the Country of Pembrokeshire in the south west corner of Wales, the ancient township of Tenby has changed little over the centuries, surrounded as it is by the sea on three sides and on the fourth a well preserved Medieval Town Wall. Regarded by many as the’ jewel in the crown,’ it is one of the most photographed harbour towns in the British Isles.
Chocolate box pretty, with multi coloured pastel painted Georgian houses, ruined castle, cobbled streets and long stretches of golden sand, it was immortalized by artists such as Gwen and Augustus John, Nina Hamnett and John Knapp-Fisher.
Dinbych Y Pysgod, its Welsh name, means ‘fort of the little fish’. The fishing industry has long gone, and Tenby now plays host to a thriving tourist industry, a tradition started by the wealthy Victorians who knew how to enjoy themselves and came to inhale the bracing sea air.
Nowadays, Tenby has more to offer. Its visitors enjoy a wealth of entertainment. The Tenby Arts Festival, celebrating its sixteenth year, plays host to national and international musicians for a week in September. The Tenby Blues Festival, attracts local and international Blues bands for a weekend each November. Concerts and workshops are held in various venues throughout the town, earning Tenby a well deserved reputation as the music Mecca of West Wales.
In August, Tenby is closed to traffic between 11am and 5pm . Tables and chairs spill onto the pavements as the many restaurants, pubs and cafes embrace the Cafe Culture. Visitors enjoy the freedom to amble through the narrow streets and soak up the Continental atmosphere.
The Firemen’s Carnival, Summer Spectacular, Pembrokeshire Fish Festival , Tenby Sailing Regattas, St Margaret’s Fair, Sand Sculpture Competitions and French Markets are a few of the attractions held throughout the summer, whilst the Winter Carnival takes place in December. Fishing trips, seal safaris and Cadley Island ferries depart regularly from Tenby Harbour. Caldey Island, just off the coast of Tenby, is home to an order of Cistercian Monks who make chocolates, yoghourt and perfume to sell to day- trippers.
Every year Tenby and Pembrokeshire attract hoards of holidaymakers. They come for many reasons. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is the only coastal National Park in Britain and you can tread the 168miles of footpaths from Amroth to Poppits Sands. Pembrokeshire is renowned for its rugged cliffs, magnificent sandy beaches, secret coves and islands teaming with wild life. The bird sanctuaries of Skomer, Ramsey, Grassholm and Skokholm Islands are some of the most important breeding grounds in Europe. Manx Shearwater and Puffins are found in this part of Wales. While ‘Whale Watch’ excursions by ‘Voyage of Discovery’ regularly sight pods of dolphin, porpoise, minke whales and grey seals around the island waters (Boats depart regularly from St Justinian, just outside St David’s.)
Pembrokeshire is not just for gentle pursuits. Freshwater East, Freshwater West, Tenby, Manorbier and Newgale are popular with the surfing fraternity. Many of the beaches around the county have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag for water quality, making bathing and surfing safe. Kite Surfers, Wind Surfers and Wakeboarders invade the waters of Tenby and Saundersfoot, whilst the vast beaches of Pendine and Tenby are suitable for Sand Surfing , especially in winter months when the beaches are deserted. Lydstep Caverns and the surrounding cliffs are ideal for abseiling, orienteering and caving.
There are so many things to do here, the list is endless. Of course, if you are not that energetic, then, Pembrokeshire has some first class tourist attractions to entertain you. Oakwood Amusement Park, Folly Farm, Heatherton Country Sports Park, The Blue Stone Project (an undercover water park and eco village is due to open in 2008) are some of the major theme parks in the area.
For those interested in art and history, Tenby has plenty. It has been a fortified walled town since the 13th century and is the founder member of the Walled Town Friendship Circle. The ramparts of Tenby Castle house the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery; The Tudor Merchant’s House is furnished to recreate family life in Tudor times and St Mary’s 13th century parish church, the largest parish church in Wales, is full of interesting features. The commemorative plaque to Roberte Recorde, born in Tenby in 1510, and, who was responsible for introducing the equal sign = to mathematics, can be found inside the church. There are also guided Ghost Walks through underground passages around the town.
Pembrokeshire is the least mountainous county in Wales so was easy prey to Norman invasion. The county is divided by the Landsker Line into the fertile south and the more rugged north. The Landsker Line is a line of over 50 castles and forts built by the Normans and Flemish to keep the indigenous Welsh out of South Pembrokeshire. Three of the most impressive castles, Manorbier Castle, set on a hill overlooking the sea, Carew Castle and Mill Pond and Pembroke Castle, the start of the Tudor dynasty where Henry V11 was born, are but a stone’s throw from Tenby. You needn’t scale the walls to see them, they are open to the public, and in the summer months are once more alive with jousting, pageants, concerts and Shakespearian plays.
Christianity played an important role to the Celts and there are a number of 6th Century Celtic Crosses to be found in the county. St David’s, named after the patron Saint of Wales, is the smallest city in the British Isles. A monastery was founded by St David in the 6th Century on the site of the present Cathedral. It was regarded as an important site by the pilgrims, two pilgrimages to St Davids equalled one pilgrimage to Rome. The Bishops Palace in St David’s was built in 13th & 14th Centuries, even as a ruin one can see how magnificent it must have been. The Bishops were powerful statesmen as well as religious leaders, and in keeping with their wealth and status they built themselves a country seat in Lamphey. The ruins of the Bishops Palace in Lamphey are also worth a visit and are only 5miles from Tenby.
Pembrokeshire is a contradiction. The words ancient, modern, gentle, rugged, raucous, peaceful, calm, wild, barren and fertile are all adjectives which aptly describe this beautiful county. Proudly it manages to preserve its heritage, whilst embracing the modern and new. With such a long tradition of hospitality, you will truly find a ‘welcome in the hillside’ of West Wales.