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Tenby – From Medieval Fortress to Seaside Resort Town
With its gorgeous beaches stretching out for miles along the Pembrokeshire coast, Tenby has become one of Wales’ most popular seaside resorts. Initially founded as a defensive medieval settlement protecting the sheltered harbour, the town has retained many features from this period, including its iconic castle and large sections of the ancient town’s walls. It is especially well-known for its picturesque harbour and the narrow cobblestoned streets of the village centre that have attracted visitors since Victorian times.
Beautiful Beaches as Far as the Eye Can See
While Tenby itself is incredibly lovely, many summer visitors come to the area to experience the beaches that stretch out along the Pembrokeshire coast. The ease of access from Cardiff and Swansea, and even London, brings in day and weekend trippers, often looking for a great late deal offered by one of the seafront hotels. Being so close to the village, Castle Beach is one of the most popular, with great facilities in a sheltered cove. South Beach stretches for two miles and allows beachgoers prepared to walk a bit, an escape from the crowds. This is also the place to access the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This path stretches far beyond the beach and affords ramblers great views and fresh salty air. Those looking for a bit more excitement than walking, should head to North Beach, where operators can set you atop your very own jet ski for a high octane trip out into the bay.
A Compact and Picturesque Village Centre
Strict zoning regulations and great efforts in preservation have resulted in the Tenby village centre remaining compact and especially attractive. Most of the streets are narrow and cobbled, adding to the picturesque village atmosphere. It is said to have a more English atmosphere than almost anywhere else in Wales and is sometimes referred to as “Little England beyond Wales”. Cars are banned from the centre in summer, allowing pedestrians to enjoy it to the full. Most of the hotels are along these narrow lanes, though visitors who are not looking for a typical hotel room have other options like guest houses and B&B’s as well. The area does have a number of more formal attractions. The Tudor Merchant’s House on Quay Hill Road allows visitors to be transported back to the 15th century to see what daily life was for the commercial classes at that time. The village centre is best known as a place to stroll and enjoy the atmosphere. It also has more than its share of tea rooms and quaint shops that rely on the tourist trade.
Incredibly situated Castle and Medieval Attractions
From its dramatic promontory position, the Tenby Castle site dominates the town’s beachfront area. While mostly in ruins, the effects of centuries of raids and conflict, what remains has been well preserved and the site is open to visitors to explore. The tower is perhaps the most popular building, with this and the eastern walls being the best preserved parts of the site. Significant sections of the town walls, dating from the 13th century, are still standing, as is one of its gates. Well preserved, and a big hit with history buffs, the Five Arches Gate is located in the village at the end of St. George Street – close to all the hotels and other amenities. Together with a section of medieval town wall and tower it makes for what must be the most dramatic entrances into the village. The Tenby Museum and Art Gallery, situated on the castle grounds, is the best place to learn about Tenby’s medieval history, but also features displays of more recent local history, geology and archaeology. There are particularly fascinating displays highlighting the region’s maritime history and struggle with piracy.
A Good Base for Exploring Pembrokeshire
Those who find Tenby Castle to be a little unimpressive, on account of it being in ruins, should head west and into the heart of Pembrokeshire to Pembroke Castle. The birthplace of Henry VII, it is very grand and quite well-preserved. While it is privately owned, it is open to the public and features a unique map of Wales in its courtyard that is said to be the largest in the nation. Nature lovers generally head for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which preserves a huge part of the coast for future generations while offering present day visitors a spectacular range of coastal walks. In the park’s northern section, travellers interested in archaeology will find the Pentre Ifan Dolmen, a series of seven standing rock monuments similar to Stonehenge. They date from 3,500 BC and are though to be part of an ancient burial site. Much of Pembrokeshire can be explored on day trips, so there’s no need to check out of your Tenby hotel.