Caldey Island’s imposing monastery

Fiona Barltrop takes a boat trip with a difference to the beautiful island of Caldey, Pembrokeshire

“THE BOAT TO CALDEY– where does it go from please?” The woman at the kiosk pointed towards Castle Beach: “Down there, look for the tractor on the beach. You can buy your ticket there.”

Harbour or jetty?

A few minutes later I was standing at the water’s edge by the tractor, to which was attached a long wooden mobile jetty leading out to the boat. At high tide, I learned, the boats leave from the harbour, but at low water from here.

In no time at all we were off and away for the 20 minute crossing from Tenby: a lovely little ride, especially on such a fine sunny day.

Short boat ride

In no time at all we were off and away for the 20 minute crossing from Tenby: a lovely little ride, especially on such a fine sunny day. Though it was mid October, it felt like a summer’s day, warm enough for shorts and T-shirt. In summer it would no doubt have been a lot busier, but today there were just half a dozen of us on the small boat.

Landing was an unexpected surprise, with a transfer onto an ex-military amphibious craft – used, I was told, at very low tide – which took us the final few yards to the island’s jetty.

Explore the island

It was now 1 o’clock, and the last boat back departed at 4.30pm: ample time, it seemed to explore the little island…. From the beautiful sandy beach of Priory Bay where you arrive, a short walk along a shady track leads inland to the green, overlooking which is the Italianate style abbey, home to monks of the Cistercian order. Around the green, where peacocks freely roam, you’ll also find a gift shop, perfume shop, tea shop and post office-cum-museum, two churches nearby, as well as a small building where a short video about the monks of Caldey Island is shown.

Caldey Island lighthouse

Caldey Island lighthouse

But all of this could wait until later; right now I was keen to set off and explore the island. Though there are maps displayed on boards around the island, and the signposting is good, it’s handy to pick up one of the leaflets from the gift shop which has a map showing the various paths you can walk.

I headed on up the track to the lighthouse, situated on the highest point of the island. The views on such a clear day were superb with Worm’s Head on the Gower Peninsula visible to the east and St Govan’s Head along the Pembrokeshire coast to the west.

Down on the rocks below the cliffs some twenty or more seals were basking in the sun.

Caldey Island chocolate and fudge

I followed the glorious cliff-top path that leads west via Red Berry Bay to Sandtop Bay, then headed inland and called in at the Chocolate Factory, next door to the Old Priory, and came away with my pack that bit heavier….both chocolate and fudge are made and sold here, and are well worth trying!

Where the time went I don’t know, but in the end I only just made it back to the jetty before the last boat left, wishing I’d had longer to linger on this beautiful, peaceful island. Another time….

How to get there

Boats run from Tenby to Caldey Island from Easter to October. The island is closed on Sundays. For more information see:

Fiona Barltrop

Fiona Barltrop

This article first appeared on the official Visit Pembrokeshire website in 2015, and is re-published here with the author’s permission. Copyright © Fiona Barltrop 2015. All rights reserved.
Fiona Barltrop is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, with a particular love for coastal walking. She has been a regular contributor to UK walking magazines, including The Great Outdoors and Country Walking, for many years. She is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and available for commissions.