We were underprepared for the tourism economy of Tenby.
We took a bus from Swansea to Carmarthen and the train from Carmarthen to Tenby. We followed other tourists up Warren Street into White Lion Street and to its conclusion at the sea.
We had come with the intention to leave Tenby for Caldey Island. After getting coffees because the morning was chilly and gray and we had woken fairly early, we found the Caldey Island Shop down a narrow alley off of Tudor Square. We asked about tickets there, but the tickets onto the ferry for Caldey Island were more expensive than we had anticipated.
The Cistercian monks of Caldey Island are said to produce the best chocolate in all of Wales. We found some of their chocolate in the Caldey Island Shop in Tenby. My sister and I both brought home bars and thought it very good chocolate. We passed on tickets to the ferry though.
Our main plans thwarted, we ended up spending a good deal of time wandering the streets inside the old city walls (east of the Five Arches, so we really only explored a small portion of Tenby), ducking into bookstores, art galleries, quirky shops, and tourist shops.
The same alley as Caldey Island Shop boasted an old fashioned sign that just read books. The bookstore that that sign marked, Cofion, was too disorganized, its books stacked higgledy-piggledy and floor to ceiling, for me to dare to venture inside. I have had too many stacks of books collapse on top of me for me to find such an environment relaxing. But we ventured into other of the city’s bookshops including Tenby Bookshop, and admired many of the children’s books and bookish gift displays. We stopped in the art gallery of John Cahill and his friends.
We also hunted for a sweatshirt to keep my sister warm.
We wandered up to the remnants of the castle, a gate and a tower on a hilltop. We climbed Bridge St, passed through the gate, but found that way to the tower blocked by the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, which had an entrance fee too, so we turned around again to continue wandering.
Eventually our wandering brought us down to the beach, as all good wanders should do.
We’d arrived at low tide so were able to cross to the tidal island of St. Catherine’s. To climb the steps onto the island and enter the fort cost another fee. So I played around in the caves and the natural bridge beneath the island for a little, though the largest cave at the time we were nearby was flocked with children on a tour, so I stayed in the smaller of the caves.
We found a set of stairs from the beach that did lead up to the top of Castle Hill, so we were able to reach the solitary tower that remains of the castle and walk on the heights above the beaches where there was an asphalt walking path that looped a small park. The path follows the original curtain walls.
We found the lifeboat station, and entrance to that was free, so we went inside there for a moment to admire their lifeboat and read the placards.
The pastel houses and narrow alleys and medieval walls and certainly the sea were beautiful, but it was a city in which we should have planned to spend more money. Too little was free. A good deal of that onus is on us for not doing the research ahead of time.
Then it was nearing time already to catch the train back east, though I found time to briefly follow a path a little ways past the Tenby Golf Club that claimed to lead to “South Beach;” I didn’t have time to find the beach.
We’d bought return tickets in Swansea that morning. When we arrived in Carmarthen however, we’d missed the last bus back to Swansea, and Carmarthen was all shut up for the night when we arrived. We talked to a bus driver in Carmarthen when one arrived, explained our situation, and that driver very kindly helped us out. We needed new tickets, but we eventually did get home. We were taken to Tycroes. We were at that point trusting the drivers to get us home. We were let off on at a stop not far above the company offices and directly across from a public footpath. Our first bus driver talked to our next, who was just setting out. We were retrieved and brought back to Swansea.
The confusion left us tired and exhausted, but I am so glad there were kind adults who took pity upon two weary travelers on a foreign adventure. Otherwise I really don’t know what we would have done.
All photographs are mine. Several can be enlarged if you click on them.