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Travel & Holidays in later life

EXPLORING THE TENBY COASTLINE WITH REG BUTLER

Tenby HarbourOn my first visit to Tenby years ago, I leaned over the harbour wall and watched the activity. Men in thigh boots and blue jerseys stomped around with boxes of newly-caught mackerel. Others were painting or scraping boat hulls, coiling ropes or just gossiping. 

Traditional store-houses and huts overflowed with all the tools and equipment of the seafaring life - nets everywhere and a jumble of gear. 

Go there now during the summer season, and the physical appearance is quite unchanged. But the sandy harbour is now packed with windsurfers, pedaloes and pleasure sailing boats of every type. 

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

Tenby, built on steep slopes, is difficult for anyone with mobility problems.

Try some local Welsh specialities: leek broth; baked Caldey Island bass; honey roasted Preseli lamb; Manorbier strawberries and cream; local cheeses. 

The Tudor Merchant's House is open from March till November, Daily, 11-17.00, except Saturday ( Open Saturday on Bank Holiday Weekends).

Tel: 01834 842279.

Tenby Museum and Art Gallery is open 10-5 daily Sprin, SUmmer and Autumn but weekdays only in Winter; Closed over Christmas period. 

Caldey Island

Boats run Easter until end of October, Mon-Fri to and also on Sats in summer. Never on Sundays.

For more information contact: Tenby Information Centre, The Croft, Tenby SA70 8AP. Tel: 01834-842404.

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The fishermen's store-huts have become the sales offices for boat cruises, water skiing and mackerel-fishing trips, deep-sea fishing charters and the hire or purchase of tackle and water-sport gear.

Over the years, Tenby has made the smooth transition from a thriving commercial fishing town to one of south Wales' most popular resorts. The town now earns its living almost entirely from the holiday trade.

Of course Tenby has plenty of natural and man-made plus points. Chief of these for the bucket-and-spade business are four superb sandy beaches backed by cliffs or dunes. 

Tenby was popular for family holidays even in Victorian times, when the gentry came to dunk in the sea, using bathing machines that were wheeled out into the waves. 

The town itself is fascinating, packed within its 12th-century Norman defensive walls. Close to the waterfront, sturdy fishermen's houses are brightly painted in pastel colours. Many of the houses are now owned by retired folk or weekenders, but it still makes an ideal picture.

Along the Georgian terrace called The Croft, small hotels and guest-houses have private gardens that run down the terraced cliff, a suntrap access to the golden beach below. Upper Frog Street was a main street of the medieval town, with charming side-turnings, cobbled lanes and alleys. 

In these streets, made for horses not cars, shops are decorated with patterned sun-blinds and hanging baskets of flowers. Tenby takes pride in its annual golden flood of daffodils, and is a regular winner of the 'Wales in Bloom Small Town' trophy. 

The most popular boat-trip is just a few minutes across to Caldey Island, home to an ancient Cistercian monastic settlement. The monks welcome visitors, and earn a living from selling perfume they make from local flowers and herbs. They also produce shortbread and hand-made chocolates.

Tenby is a good base for exploring other highlights of the rugged Pembrokeshire coast. For energetic hikers, the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a ten-day challenge from end to end, along some of Britain's finest scenery. En route are some 350 scheduled ancient monuments.

On the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Visitors to Tenby can sample a cliff walk along part of this National Trail, towards Saundersfoot. That's another sandy-beach resort which converted from old-time industry to holiday business. Formerly Saundersfoot was a grimy coal port, shipping anthracite throughout the world.

Manorbier Castle Westwards are several castles, including 14th-century Manorbier which overlooks a sand and shingle beach. But the finest is Pembroke Castle, which was the pivotal point of a 14-mile system of medieval defences. 

Birthplace of Henry VII - founder of the Tudor dynasty - the massive castle with its superbly-engineered fortifications is crammed with history


From the battlements are good views of the Pembroke River estuary, like an inlet of Milford Haven. Take binoculars, to enjoy the wealth of birdlife feeding on the mud-flats. 

Milford Haven itself was rated by Nelson among the world's finest harbours (and also where he first met Lady Hamilton). The ship-building industry vanished in 1922, when the naval yards of Pembroke Dock were closed, and many workers moved to Portsmouth. 

Try exploring by boat inland, up the Cleddau River through an idyllic area of National Park countryside. Despite the relative proximity of the oil terminal business at Milford Haven, there's no pollution. 

Instead there are trout and salmon farms upstream, and even oyster beds planted with ten million oysters. Quite apart from the fish-farming, salmon still run in late summer, while birdlife flourishes. 

There's a couple of Norman castles - otherwise, little habitation. Oak forests reach down to the peaceful waterline, and there is teeming birdlife, including cormorants, shags, herons and Canada geese.

Back in Tenby, take another good look at the town's historic past - those ancient city walls, and the museum on Castle Hill. 

Gannets on an off-shore islandVisit a 15th-century National Trust property called the Tudor Merchant's House, furnished in the style of a successful merchant family home of Tudor times. It's a reminder of Tenby's earlier centuries of prosperity as a port dealing in coal, fish and cloth exports against imports of wine and olive oil.

But most visitors just come to enjoy the gorgeous sands and Pembrokeshire's magnificent coastline. 

Here are more ideas on where to go in Wales

CARDIFF - great to visit any time

CARDIGAN - Self-catering along the Heritage Coast

LLEYN PENINSULA - Go walking around the Edge of Wales

SWANSEA - On the Dylan Thomas trail around the Gower peninsula 

WALES - Steam up for North Wales

WALES ALONG THE A5 - Follow the historic highway for great sightseeing

WELSH RAREBITS - for a taster of Wales


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Pembrokeshire Coast - Alf Anderson, John Cleare (Photographer), Ian Mercer - A detailed guide to the coastal attractions, including birdlife, beaches and historic sites.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path - The most up-to-date guide for those intending to walk the distance.

Pembrokeshire and Gower Walks (Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Guides)  by Brian Conduit - An indispensable guide for the keen walker.


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