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Caldey Priory

Visited July 2023

Location Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire
Entrance Fee No- but boat ticket required
Railway Station Nearby Tenby 
Parking City Centre Car Parks (Tenby)
Facilities Cafe, Gift Shop, Toilets


Caldey Island sits just off the Pembrokeshire coast, and is reachable by boat from Tenby beach, between the months of April- September. It is a beautiful Island with a pristine beach, perfect for small children. However, the island also has a long and interesting history, with historic buildings to visit. 






Caldey Island has been inhabited for about 1,500 years, and was originally established as a home for religious orders in the sixth century, when a celtic monastery was built. After the Norman Invasion a priory was built for monks of the Benedictine order, and this was active until the monasteries were closed by Henry VIII. 





To reach the old priory you walk straight up the path from the landing stage and then head up the hill and follow the signs. The priory buildings are in ruins, but the Priory church dedicated to St Illtud is still in use as a catholic church. It is very simply decorated inside, and contains the Ogham Stone, which dates from around the 5/6th century. The stone is inscribed in both Latin and the Ogham script, which originates from Ireland. 


The rest of the priory is in ruins, but it has a distinctive spire. The buildings surrounding the priory were once a farm, but are now used as a chocolate factory, making Caldey chocolate which is sold in the shop. There are sometimes chocolate- making demonstrations, but we didn't see any the day we were there. 





The Old Priory is not to be mistaken for Caldey Abbey, which is a much more modern Arts and Craft style building, which is still in use today and occupied by trappist monks, who own the Island. The abbey is private but there are good views of the exterior building from the tea garden lawn, and also from the duck pond, which gives the impression of a quaint village with a green and village pond. There are toilets , a cafe and the village souvenir shop and post office here too. You can also visit St David's church, which was the village church for many years. 


If you have time it is well worth following the path past the old priory and walking to the Light House, which is situated on the south side of the Island. There is a terrific view over the sea from the cliffs.  There is also what initially seemed to be a WWII pillbox close by, but on closer inspection we believe it is a look out as the hole for the gun was pointing inwards towards the Island, which would be unusual for a defensive structure. 


On the other side of the Island, close to the landing jetting for the boats, is a watchtower, which the monks have turned into a quaint chapel for prayer. 


There is also a woodland walk, which takes about 30 minutes to complete, and it is these woods that red squirrels have been reintroduced- if you are lucky you might spot some, although they were disappointingly shy on the day we were there. The woodland walk can be extended to take in the cliffs on the eastern side of the Island, which were once a hide out for smugglers.


Visiting the Island with children is a great adventure for them, and they all seem to love the boat trip over and the wildness and open space on the Island. The main beach is called Priory Beach, is the only one with public access and it is beautiful with sparkling water and looks almost tropical with its white sand.


The boat journey there and back takes you past St Catherine's Island which is just off Tenby, and is the site of St Catherine's Fort which is open on certain days during the summer. 





More info:  Caldey Island

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