A Trip to Caldey Island

Last week we all set off on an exciting adventure – over the Severn Bridge and into Wales to visit somewhere I’ve always wanted to see – Caldey Island, just off the coast of south Wales at Tenby.  This is one of Britain’s Holy Islands, where there has been a monastery, home to a community of Cistercian monks since Celtic times.

More recently, back in the 1970’s, Caldey Island was the place my father’s elder sister, my Auntie Kathleen, used to visit most summers to work as a volunteer in the monks’ gift shop and chocolate factory.  My father – in the true spirit of younger brothers everywhere I suspect, used to tease my Auntie unmercifully about the monks and the chocolate factory – since when I’ve been curious about what drew her back to the island year after year.

We were staying in a lovely stone cottage in the village of St Florence, not too far from the town of Tenby, where we needed to catch the boat to Caldey Island.  We were blessed with fine weather as we walked down to the harbour….

Our boat was to be the little blue one tied up hard against the harbour wall in the background.  Daisy wasn’t too sure about the steps, but with some huffing and puffing, and quite a lot of help from her family, (don’t forget she doesn’t see too well, so found the experience of boarding the boat a little alarming), managed to clamber on board.  It took about 20 minutes and then we disembarked almost straight onto the most wonderful beach….

All the beaches around Tenby are the most glorious golden sand – I have some more beach photos to share, and will be sure to share them later in the week.  But we didn’t linger long as we were anxious to begin the walk up a gentle slope to the main monastery buildings….

Somehow to me they are almost Swiss in appearance.  It was so peaceful though as the small ferries are the only way for visitors to get to the island, so it’s never overwhelmed by sightseers.  After stopping for refreshments (I can totally recommend the homemade Bakewell slices!) we walked up the hill past the millpond….

With its two resident black swans – you may just be able to make them out in this picture….

And St Illtyd’s Church with its leaning steeple (yes it really is leaning, it’s not my bad photography!), to the famous Chocolate Factory….

As you can see, by this time Daisy had quite recovered from her boat trip and was very much hoping she could have a sneaky swim in the millpond (this definitely didn’t happen!).  I could imagine my Auntie in the Chocolate Factory – the very air seemed to be saturated with molecules of the delicious substance, and I purchased some to bring home for treats.  But all too soon it was time to return to Tenby on the little ferry boat, which this time took us to the beach as the tide was out and the harbour completely dry.  We disembarked onto a tractor drawn jetty….

And while Freddie paddled (that’s him with Dan and Rosie at the bottom of the beach), Daisy sat and dreamed of more seaside adventures to come!

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