Tenby was my first excursion in Wales in 2015, so I was delighted that it was once again on our itinerary in the fall of 2019. A resort town in West Wales, it’s popular in the summer but retains all of its charm and seaside ambience in October. The air was crisper, the wind more biting and the rain colder, but when the clouds finally cleared and the cheery pastel-coloured faces of Tenby’s buildings were awash in sunlight, it was (almost) as nice as any summer day.
It had been pouring all morning by the time we left Chepstow, so we hardly had high hopes for a day of full sun in Tenby. Nevertheless, the weather obliged us with a few rain-free hours and even some sunshine in which to explore the town. We only had an afternoon there- so how exactly should one spend three hours in Tenby?
1. Explore Tenby’s Tudor past
Perched on cliffs overlooking the western side of Carmarthen Bay, Tenby is an ancient place. With its strategic location, it has been a port for centuries, and it is indeed still the sea today which makes Tenby so desirable, albeit as a holiday destination rather than one of business. Its walls date from the 13th century, and its 16th century-gatehouse with five arches is distinctly recognisable. Jasper Tudor, uncle to one Henry Tudor (later Henry VII), helped to fortify these very walls, and Henry himself stayed in Tenby during the Wars of the Roses. The town is littered with historic sites; St. Mary’s Church in Tenby’s centre mostly dates from the 15th century and is still an active house of worship today. At the Tudor Merchant’s House, tucked down a lane on Quay Hill, see how a well-to-do merchant and his family might have lived in medieval times, and then grab a fresh crab sandwich at the nearby (what else?) Plantagenet House (it’s the oldest building in Tenby; some parts are said to date from the 10th century).
2. Stroll the beaches’ golden sands
If you’re tempted to walk off your meal, there are a number of steep staircases leading from town down to the beaches. Tenby’s coastline, after all, is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which winds all around West Wales’s stunning cliffs and coastline. And no matter what side of the town you find yourself on, there’s sure to be a stretch of golden sand accessible to you- Harbour Beach, Castle Beach, North Beach, and South Beach together offer nearly 360 degrees of oceanfront playground. It’s the perfect place for a stroll or a jog, but be aware that some of the beaches have dog restrictions at certain times of the year. (It also goes without saying that you should probably check the tide schedule if you’re planning to be down on the sand for a while.)
3. Wander the town and indulge in some window shopping
Enclosed in Tenby’s walls are plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants begging for you to have a look in them. Whether it’s an old-fashioned sweets shop, a nautical-themed pub, or the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.
West Wales is a bit of a haul from Cardiff, but Tenby (and lots of other gems of towns- more on that later) is worth the trip!
Have you been to Tenby? What do you love most about it? I’d love to know!