Where Drinkim Bay, on the eastern side of Caldey Island facing out across Carmarthen Bay, got its name is a puzzle which locals seem unable nowadays to explain.
Has it got Norse associations like so many place names around this coast, including Caldey itself? Has it anything to do with the fact that this coast at one time was swarming with pirates and smugglers, who were evidently dealing in drink of all kinds? Not even the local historians seem to be able to put their finger on a plausible answer.
Drinkim is one of Caldey’s galaxy of exotically named bays and beaches. Sandy Bay, Sandtop Bay, Red Berry Bay, Bullum’s Bay, Paul Jones Bay and Priory Bay give the explorer a wide choice of a place to picnic, bathe, play games or simply bask in the sun. As soon as the visitor steps off the boat at the jetty in Priory Bay the beautiful golden sands stretching over to the east invite a visit. The sand is so soft and deep, it is a pleasure to walk on and the temptation to build a sand castle is irresistible. And why not? For the 12th century priest and writer Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman), who was born at Manorbier, is said to have built castles and maybe even cathedrals on these sands and the beaches across the water in Tenby. Cathedrals were something he was interested in from an early age, it is said, as he aspired in later life to become Bishop of St Davids, an ambition thwarted by King John. Gerald, who at different times was Rector of Tenby and Archdeacon of Brecon, went into the priesthood despite the fact that his family was fiercely military.
Most people, when visiting Caldey by way of the frequent boat service which plies from Tenby Harbour from Easter to October, take the well trodden path into the village, dominated by the imposing white-walled Abbey with its red roof and Italianate architecture. It is an enchanting experience, like being transported back in time to a Mediterranean monastic settlement. There is more to Caldey than the Abbey. There is the post office and gift shop, museum. tea gardens and tearooms, most of which sell products made by the enterprising monks who generate revenue by selling their home-made perfumes and delicious chocolate, yoghurt and icecream. The walk to the lighthouse is a popular one, taking the visitor past the old Priory, St Illtyd’s Church and the farm in a further step backwards through time. The view across Carmarthen Bay from the lighthouse and the cliffs overlooking Drinkim Bay is breathtaking, with Lundy Island and the hazy outline of the Somerset and North Devon coasts on clear days. Caldey is a paradise for the photographer or sketcher. When the island farm was rented out at the turn of the last century, Drinkim Bay was kept as the exclusive right of the landlord, Rev W. Done Bushell, who bought the island in 1897.