Sandtop Bay Beach

Sandtop Bay is one of the lovely sandy bays which make Caldey island off Tenby such a desirable place to visit.

Situated on the island’s western shore, it looks out towards Lydstep and Old Castle Head with Stackpole Head and St Govans Head in the distance.

But, with all its visual beauty, Sandtop Bay has an ugly side. It is regarded by the locals as very dangerous for bathing, and some say they would not even paddle there without feeling insecure. The reason for this is that there is always a venturi effect in any sound, where the narrowing of the channel causes the currents to race and the projections of headland and island cause swirls and changes of direction, which make the waters unpredictable, especially at the turn of the tide. At high tide, the flow round St Margaret’s Island, and through the fang-like rocks between it and Caldey, accelerate and collide with the heavier mass of sea rounding West Beacon Point from Carmarthen Bay. The contrary currents that scour Sandtop can whip someone out of the bay in a moment, and the steeply sloping shore creates a strong undertow. So beware bathers.

A poignant reminder of the dangers of Sandtop Bay is to be found near the spot where a little girl disappeared there. Six years old Teresa Biggs was staying with her grandparents at St Philomena’s Guest House in 1977 when she went with a picnic party to Sandtop Bay. The little girl went into the water unobserved and no-one knows exactly what happened to her. Flowers are often placed on the little cross which marks the location where she was last seen. Another tragedy is commemorated by a tombstone in the Caldey graveyard, and again it serves as a warning to those who might be tempted to take liberties with the tide through Caldey Sound. It was 1924 that Emma McEntee, who lived on Caldey, invited a friend called Miss Trusty to stay with her. It was on a beautiful May day that they decided to cross the rocky causeway between Caldey and St Margaret’s Island for a picnic. The islands are only connected at low tide and the crossing is tricky and short-lived between tides. It is not the sort of adventure to undertake unless you have an intimate knowledge of the tides and the time limits available to you. The channels between the rocks are deep and the tide can rise quite quickly. The two young ladies left it too late to cross safely and were faced by a fierce running channel of sea ahead of them. And when they turned to make a hasty retreat, they found the same conditions behind them and they drowned. Emma’s body was washed up at Freshwater East and buried in St Davids, but her friend Miss Trusty’s body was never found. The moral of these sad stories is don’t take chances at Sandtop Bay or St Margaret’s Island. Just admire the view.

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