We rave about the Aegean and delight over pictures of the Caribbean, but there are some idyllic places closer to home that are perfect for a last-minute weekend getaway. Take Tenby in South Wales – a historic walled town entered through a five-arched barbican entrance in the massive city walls. It’s a great introduction to this mediaeval fishing village with its pastel painted guest houses and hilly cobblestone streets.
Just inside the archway is the Tenby National Park Visitor Centre, a good place to pick up information about local attractions. Tenby has over two miles of beautiful sandy beaches and miles of stunning coastal walks along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, part of this coastal National Park. Saundersfoot is about 4 miles distance, a good distance to work up an appetite for Welsh cakes and tea before the return walk.
Within the 13th century mediaeval walls you will discover plenty of independent gift shops worth browsing. There are pint-sized museums, churches, art galleries and the pretty harbour with its bobbing fleet of fishing and pleasure boats. The sheltered inlet made Tenby a natural place for a settlement and probably included an early hill fort.
Overlooking Camarthen Bay, the 12th century stone fortress was sited on Castle Hill where remains of this Grade II listed ruin can still be explored. The original Great Hall now houses the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, the oldest independent museum in Wales. Tenby Castle became obsolete with the building of the sturdy castle walls which still enclose the Old Town. Tourism arrived in the town in the early 19th century with the fashion for healthy saltwater bathing and brisk walks along the seafront.
Many of the Georgian and Victorian properties date back to those heady days and now provide boutique hotel accommodation and intimate restaurants. Try The Mooring on Tenby’s High Street for memorable seafood dishes cooked from scratch by the owner chef. Another top place to dine is Plantagent House Restaurant with its exposed beams, enormous fireplace and mellow music creating the perfect ambience for intimate gourmet dining.
Things to do in Tenby
Even on a short weekend break in Tenby, there are some must-sees. St Mary’s is the largest mediaeval church in Wales and is designated a place of exceptional architecture and historic interest. Look out for the carving of the “Green Man” in the ancient stonework, along with fish, mermaids and more biblical themes. Read the dedication to Robert Recordes, Tenby’s famous son who was born in 1510, attended Oxford University at the age of 15 and wrote the first book in English on algebra. He later became Controller of the Royal Mint. Learn how his fortunes turned and he died a pauper in prison.
The Tudor Merchant’s House beckons, now a National Trust property, offering tours of this oldest house in Tenby. Take a tour of each finely reconstructed room with knowledgeable guides in period costume.
If you want to escape the town, take the 20-minute ferry trip to Caldey Island, one of the holy islands of the UK and still home to a community of monks. Take a picnic and explore the island with its rich variety of wildlife and seabirds. Experiencing the gentler pace of life enjoyed by the island’s few inhabitants makes a refreshing break from 21st century life – and that’s exactly what a weekend getaway should be all about!