This week’s issue of The People’s Friend carries my travel piece about Caldey Island on its front cover.
Caldey Island lies about a mile off from Tenby on the Pembrokeshire Coast. It’s a truly magical place that feels a completely different world. There are few motorised vehicles (a tractor or two and an amphibious people carrier – more on that later!), and so exploration is done on foot.
But first, you have to get there. Arrive at the harbour early to maximise your day, and queue up for your ticket at the Caldey Island Kiosk.
My advice? Pick a day when the sea is calm. It might only be about a mile off shore, but even on the calmest days there can be a good breeze across the water.
When you arrive, there’s a good map to help you get your bearings. But then, let’s face it, it’s a relatively small island, so you can’t really get lost! Follow the main track to the monastery and then decide where to go to explore.
The Monastery isn’t quite in the centre of the island, but it’s certainly the heart of the place, and where most visitors congregate. There are refreshments to be found here, and many people head for some tea and cake before doing anything else. I opted to continue exploring. Being on one of the first boats of the day it meant I could explore and have more of the island to myself.
While the Monastery takes pride of place in the heart of the island, there are, in fact, two other churches. Near to St David’s is a statue of Saint Samson, who is the patron saint of Caldey, having lived here during the 6th century.
The small church of St David’s is tranquil with nobody else about and full of some wonderful stained glass windows.
Visitors can look inside the monastery when services or prayer are not taking place. In some ways, the quietness is profound. So why do these places always have the noisiest of door hinges? It’s not possible to quietly slip inside these places!
From here, I headed south, to the furthest point away from Tenby, and the venue of a wonderfully positioned lighthouse. From here, it’s possible to gaze right across the Bristol Channel and there, in the distance, I spy Lundy Island.
Always stick to the footpaths on Caldey, of which there are several to help you explore. I took the route from the lighthouse round to the far west, where there are opportunities to spot wildlife, such as seals, basking on the rocky beaches below the cliffs.
The Old Abbey is near to the chocolate factory, and like St David’s church, has some marvellous stained-glass windows.
Look out for the Watchtower, a wonderful, circular building with fine views across the sea back to Tenby.
And when it’s time to leave, if the tide has turned, your escape involves more than a boat. Remember that amphibious vehicle I mentioned at the start? All aboard!