Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Island Hopping

Have you heard of Caldey Island? It’s a small island, only about 1 x 1½ miles big. It lies not far off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales, near to Tenby. It’s so close you can easily see it from the beach – I have even kayaked out to it many years ago.

But I have never visited it before! And nor had my friend Sarah, who is also from Pembrokeshire and has lived here all her life!

With a good weather forecast last Saturday, we decided to rectify this situation… We headed over to Tenby on Saturday morning, and after a couple of quick errands and a coffee in Sarah’s boyfriend’s favourite coffee shop, Caffe Vista, we wandered down to the harbour to buy our boat tickets to the island. Just £11 each for adults, not too bad for a unique day out.

The boat left from the beach near the harbour, via an ingenious jetty that is moved by tractor to match the tides :)

The weather was glorious, and as we rounded the coast we could see Caldey in full view.

For some reason, I hadn’t expected to see a white sand beach on Caldey, but as we landed the sand and sunshine made it look as though we had travelled to some exotic island, not just somewhere in Wales!

The only thing I had really known about Caldey was that a) they had their own postage stamps, and b) there was a Monastery there. The Monks there are Cistercians, a strict, contemplative offshoot of the Benedictine Order, but none-the-less they are welcoming to their island:

Sarah and I were surprised at quite how many buildings and houses there were! Most were whitewashed, which looked beautiful against the gorgeous blue sky – and really added to the feeling of being abroad! Mediterranean maybe?

But amongst the white, this little cottage caught my eye. I love the colourful fishing buoys and the wiggly driftwood, and the deep veranda is brilliant. Very much like some of the traditional Queenslander-style homes Adam has shown me pictures of over in Australia!

We continued on the path to the small and simple St David’s Church, a Norman construction.

More driftwood in the form of a small cross by the door…

Inside is small and simple, beautiful in its simplicity :)

I love this stained glass – the colours and design are gorgeous, I love how the actual sun is shining through the stained glass sun :)


Back outside… The simple wooden crosses mark the graves of Monks who have passed on from their earthly toil.

We follow the path away from the church and take in the views over the woodland part of the island

Then return to the centre for lunch, which we eat with the Monastery overlooking us. This is certainly not what we expected! We both imagined hewn stone and stark lines, not this magnificent Italianate edifice!

Below the Monastery is the little island post office, where you can buy an envelope with the island stamps – these days they require a normal stamp for postage too, but by posting them on the island they do get marked. I bought a set to send to my mum, and I was hoping to have a photo of it by now to include here, but apparently postage from Caldey is very slow!

Edit to add: The post arrived! Hooray! Here are the Caldey stamps:

We walk towards the western side of the island next, and pass a field of horses. This one catches our eye – his mane makes him look like a New Romantic horse!

Over at the far edge of the island, just a few minutes’ walk from the centre, is the light house. I love the cheery little Lighthouse Keeper at the gateway to the grounds!

Not a great photo, but the land beyond the light house there is the Gower near Swansea, South Wales, and then Devon is visible where it reaches further west past the Welsh bit! Quite amazing, to be as far from the Welsh/English border as you can get in Wales, but just be able to gaze over the sea to England :)

We were too late arriving to have long on the island and the last boat back was at 5pm, so it was time to turn around and head back to the little harbour.

On the boat ride back, I couldn’t resist a photo of the bright red ensign against the blues of the sea and sky :)

On the return, we didn’t land at the beach but instead went further round to land at Tenby Harbour. This meant we passed the Lifeboat Houses: the one to the left is the new one, which is the current Lifeboat House, while the one to the right (the red and white one) is the old Lifeboat House. This one is now privately owned, and has been converted into a home – this transformation was featured on the TV show Grand Designs! 

I had never seen Tenby Harbour’s pastel houses from the sea before…

See this house on the harbourside? See the blue plaque up there? This was something else new to me…

Look closer

In all the time I lived in Pembrokeshire, and in all the time Roald Dahl was such a favourite author of mine, I never knew he used to holiday in Tenby!
You learn something new every day :)

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