Tenby North Beach
The beautiful resort of Tenby, often described as “The jewel in the Crown” of the Pembrokeshire coast, has been a popular watering place since Georgian times.
But its history goes back into the mists of time, its origins possibly an 8th century Norse settlement and a 9th century Welsh stronghold, its name deriving from the Welsh ‘Dinbych-y-Pysgod’ (Little fortress of the fishes).
Its Norse associations are marked by some of the names of its rocks and islands, notably Caldey (Cold Isle) and Sker Rock (skare is the norse name for rock).
The eccentric Victorian politician and merchant banker, Sir William Paxton, whose prominent folly in honour of Lord Nelson stands sentinel over the Towy Valley near Carmarthen, where he acquired the Middleton Estate, built a bath house at the harbour in 1810. His intention, he said, was to provide wealthy and fashionable visitors to Tenby “with every means of bathing, either for health or pleasure in all weathers and at all hours,“ and above the door was inscribed a Greek quotation from Euripides which is translated as “The sea washes away the ills of man.”
Not that Tenby needed a bath house for its beaches are pristine, golden and family friendly, the crescent-shaped North Beach particularly picturesque as it curves round to the harbour with Goscar Rock, which children love to climb, standing sentinel in the centre. The famous Tenby-born artist Augustus John once dived off the rock and knocked himself unconscious, an incident which some people quoted as an excuse for his wild Bohemian behaviour. Author George Eliot visited briefly in 1856. Tenby’s population of just under 5,000 multiplies by a factor of 10 in the season when all the hotels, guest houses and caravan parks are busy, but there is still plenty of room on the north beach and the two mile long south beach. The town is one of few in Wales whose stout medieval walls remain almost intact. Built by the first Earl of Pembroke, William de Valence, in the late13th century, they loom high over the streets, pierced by The Five Arches to allow access. The resort provides a host of attractions and activities for visitors. It has a splendid museum on Castle Hill, where the seagulls perch on Prince Albert’s statue. There are regular boat trips round the bay and back and fore between Tenby and caldey, the monastery Island where the monks sell home-made perfume and chocolate and where the imposing white Italianate monastery seems to bask in a time-warp of Mediterranes sunshine.
Tere are horse-drawn cart trips round the town, there are walking tours with an expert guide and the town’s male voice choir is always busy entertaining in the chapels, church, hotels and sometimes in the open air. The restored Tudor Merchant’s House is well worth a visit and there are regular events which combine entertainment with fund-raising for the local lifeboat. Never a dull moment in Tenby, from where Henry Tudor fled into exile in 1471.