Travels – Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire

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The weather forecast is excellent so we decide to do the boat trip to Caldey Island. We buy the tickets (the old sailor manning the booth stares at the credit card and shakes his head. Cash only please!) Then we kill a bit of time in the Tenby museum which is up Castle Hill. It’s a small but interesting museum and has a room for art, which was hosting “Celebrating the Sea” an exhibition by the Royal Society of Marine Artists

Then onto the beach to wait for the boat! A tractor drags a walkway up to the sea, so that we can get on the boat the Nemesis! We wait for a few latecomers including a very reluctant labrador then head out to sea, where the boat bobs up and down and towards the golden shores of Caldey Island. We head up the path towards the village.

Caldey has been inhabited since the Stone age and home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order and the picturesque monastery overlooks the village green and cottages. In the village you can buy perfumes, chocolate and shortbread made on the island. There’s also a post office where you can get your post marked with the Caldey postmark! We find a picnic table and eat an early lunch, before heading up the path towards the lighthouse.

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The hedgerows are high with cow parsley and buttercups, swallows swooping over our heads. We pass a man who is rebuilding a dry stone wall, he nods a greeting. Then right past the scenic pond, the ruins of the old abbey set off by blue skies.  By the lighthouse (now a house) we reach the coast path where tempting paths lead left and right. The coast opens up spectacular panoramic views of the Pembrokeshire Coast, Tenby and the Preseli Hill, Gower Peninsula and Lundy Island.

Jackdaws strut on the cliff edge, and we walk through great drifts of sea pinks along a chalky path.

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It’s an easy stroll and we soon reach the gully where a bench invites you to sit and enjoy the view. Greg has a catnap but I’m too excited by the sight of a family of choughs with their distinctive red feet and beaks. Fantastic.

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The most interesting buildings in Caldey are probably the Old Priory and St Illtyd’s Church. The priory was home to Benedictine monks who lived in Caldey in medieval times, close to the island’s natural water source. Built from local sandstone and limestone, the buildings now lie derelict, their only residents the Summer swallows that make their nests where they can.

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The tiny church of St Illtyds is  still a consecrated church, full of little slips of paper with prayer request, very peaceful and atmospheric. The beautiful mosaic stone floor is worn down with the path of many worshippers and visitors.

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We stop off at the chocolate factory for a tasty souvenir and head back and partake of tea and cake on the lawn. It’s such a peaceful and beautiful little island, a real oasis of tranquillity and a slower pace of life! On the way back to the boat, we take the path to Calvary and the beautiful tiny watchtower. Another oasis of peace and calm.

The journey back to the mainland is a little more adventurous as the tide is out so the boat can’t reach the slipway. The solution is the use of an amphibian dukw (duck) a vehicle with military camouflage that drives into us in to the water where the boat can reach us. Greg is in his element!

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Anyway we make it back safely to the sandy shore of Tenby where stroll back again for tea and welsh cakes (I think we are becoming addicted to these!)

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Travels – Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire

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