When David and I met, we discovered we had much in common, including a love of Tenby. My parents have a caravan in Tenby as they did when I was growing up and David’s family have a long tradition of holidaying in Tenby, stretching back to his grandparents. We got talking on one of our early dates and realised we’d probably been on the beach together at some point. Isn’t that crazy?
Since our meeting, Tenby has continued to be a place we both love, and now Ruby and Hugo too. This was the place where David and I first holidayed together with Ruby, over four years ago and it was where we brought Hugo for his first holiday, at eleven weeks. We always stay in David’s family holiday home but I’ve spent some wonderful times here as a child and when Ruby was little in holiday rentals. You can search them here, at FBM Holidays.
I’ve decided to write a little guide to this gorgeous seaside town, for those who don’t know Tenby at all, and for those of you who do, hopefully it’ll rekindle your love of it too. It’s not an exhaustive guide, just the places we love here.
It’s amazing to think that in 1996, 72,000 tonnes of crude oil was spilled off the Pembrokeshire coast following the Sea Empress Disaster; the clean-up operation was phenomenal and now these beaches are ‘Blue Flag’ standard. But don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself…
Tenby is steeped in history, with its roots in Norman times. There is evidence of their conquest on one of our favourite walks up and around the headland, or Castle Hill as it’s known, which juts out into the sea, separating the North and South beaches.
This headland has ruins of the Norman castle which once stood there and boasts panoramic views towards the Gower Peninsula and Caldey Island. Walking up around here is one of our favourite things to do. Ruby used to love looking at the statue of Prince Albert, which is a memorial for Queen Victoria and there are some canons to sit on too, so it’s a win-win situation with children, obviously. The pathway is easily accessible for pushchairs, although a little steep in places.
RNLI Lifeboat Station
On walking up to Castle Hill, it’s impossible not to notice Tenby’s two lifeboat stations. Old or new, they are both fantastic to look at and we love nothing more than leaning on the wall to take a peek at the old lifeboat station, which is now a residential property.
Further along the headland walk is the newer lifeboat station, which is open daily, where you can view Tenby’s lifeboat. We try to pop by the RNLI shop at the station on each of our visits to Tenby. Ruby is keen to support the crew and often spends her pocket money on trinkets from the shop, knowing she’s helping the community.
On our last visit in the summer, Hugo was lucky enough to purchase some of his very own RNLI wellies.
North Beach vs South Beach
Without meaning to be, I think most Tenby dwellers and regular Tenby holiday-makers are either ‘North beachers’ or ‘South beachers.’ Of course, it depends where you’re staying, so in this sense, I suppose we’d call ourselves North beachers, as we always stay overlooking the North beach, with its imposing Goscar Rock.
North beach has the benefit of being the beach you see as you enter Tenby and can be reached down a variety of steps, some of which run through private hotel gardens, or ‘the zig-zag’ as we call it. These slopes allow excellent pushchair and wheelchair access to the beach and promenade. David and I can both remember the arcades and shops which used to be tucked within the arches underneath the zig-zag pathway when we were little. Maybe we stood next to each other posting our 2p coins into the machine slots?
The beach itself is lovely at both low and high-tides, with soft sand and rock-pools to explore. In summer, there are kayaks and jet-skis to hire, next to a café which specialises in basic beach grub. At low-tide you can walk beneath the lifeboat stations and once or twice, at really low-tides, we’ve been able to walk all the way round Castle Hill and onto Castle beach. At the far end of North beach is Tenby harbour.
This is the classic picture-postcard view of Tenby, famous for its pastel-coloured Georgian town-houses overlooking the harbour. This beach is a favourite with families as it’s small and enclosed and it gets the late summer sun until way past bedtime. We like to take a ball or Frisbee across to Harbour beach of an evening, to soak up the last rays of the day.
This beach sits below Castle Hill and at mid to low-tide, is attached to South beach. It can be accessed from the pier and harbour area, down the slipway. This beach is pleasant for families because of its accessibility and also, the picturesque St Catherine’s Island, complete with fort.
Dennis’ Café sits at the bottom of the slipway and is ideal for a light bite or an ice-cream. For us though, this is somewhere we love to come for a hot-chocolate during the winter months, where we sit, cuddled up in one of the booths overlooking the beach. It’s basic but all you need on a blustery day.
Although I’d say we were North beachers, since coming here with Ruby and Hugo, we love nothing more than walking our favourite route, through town and along the Esplanade, which has a more Victorian feel to it, with large guest-houses enjoying the view, to the relatively new ‘South Beach Bar and Grill.’
David and I can both remember there being nothing much here in terms of refreshments when we were little, and so this is a welcome addition, reached by another ‘zig-zag’ pathway down from the Esplanade and onto a modern boardwalk.
It’s a lovely place to sit outside or in, in both summer and winter and is always the mid-point of our walk, before heading back through town. Again, it’s really accessible for both wheelchairs and pushchairs.
This beach is great for a long walk too and is flanked by sand dunes which are ideal for barbecues in summer months. At the far end of South beach, the headland at Giltar Point is beautiful and at low-tide it looks like you could walk across to Caldey Island here. David and I have been for a couple of runs to Giltar Point, so I’d recommend this route if you’re interested in running too.
There are regular boat trips across to Caldey Island, launching from Castle Beach and the harbour. I went there as a child but haven’t been since; it’s on our list of things to do with Ruby and Hugo next summer. There are only 40 residents on the island and a handful of Cisterian monks, so it’s the ideal place to spend an interrupted day of lazing on the beach.
Tenby is full of little boutique shops, along with some bigger high-street names you’ll recognise. Among our favourites is ‘Equinox,’ which has everything, from gifts and souvenirs, to Silly Putty, ladies’ clothing and jewellery. Ruby absolutely loves going in here, as I did as a child. We also love ‘Jago,’ which has beautiful kitchen-ware, gifts, clothing and candles. In the last couple of years, ‘The Nook‘ has taken our fancy too, but beware, you’ll spend money in there. It has THE best Christmas decorations.
You wouldn’t be British if you didn’t suss out the nearest fish and chip shop the minute you arrived in a seaside town. For us, there is only one fish and chip shop to go to in Tenby. ‘Fecci’s’ is a family-run business and has been around for at least three decades. This is where I can remember coming as a little girl, in my pyjamas, ready for bed, with my Dad to get a late-night treat (7.30pm) when we were staying in our caravan between Tenby and Saundersfoot. David has always eaten here too; maybe he saw me, aged 7 in my pyjamas back in the day? As an adult, and with gluten-sensitivity, I was really pleased to discover they’re also an award-winning Coeliac restaurant.
We have our favourite sit-in restaurants and cafes too. We always appreciate a family-friendly service and front-of-house greetings make all the difference. For this reason, we love ‘The Mooring’, with their super-smiley staff and split-level dining area. This is situated on Tenby’s main street and always has the best, locally-sourced ingredients on offer within their menu. It has a great café by day feel to it and is a cosy restaurant by night.
Another favourite, and further down the main street, towards the harbour, is ‘The Lighthouse Kitchen,’ boasting views between the properties opposite, across to the lighthouse on Caldey Island. We really like the feel of this eatery, which has plenty of space between tables and a relaxed, informal feel about it. We can vouch for the cream-teas in here. We also really like the way they are passionate about sourcing local produce. They were deserved 2017 winners of the best restaurant in Wales.
I’ve already mentioned the ‘South Beach Bar and Grill,’ which is extremely spacious and has a real walk-in-off-the-beach look and feel to it. Of course, the views along South beach are superb. If I wasn’t gluten-free, I’d definitely try their posh fish-finger sandwich; I’m assured it’s delicious.
For a more formal dinner, ‘The Plantagenet’ offers a delicious menu, again, locally sourced, in a traditional, harbour-side setting. This is the oldest building in Tenby, some parts dating back to the 10th century. It’s more compact and grown-up than our other favourites, so maybe save it for a romantic treat.
We were thrilled to hear that Tenby was getting a brand-new bakery and delicatessen. ‘Loafley‘ is situated just off the main street and serves up the most delicious fresh breads, quiches, sausage rolls and tarts, but get there early, these treats are highly sought-after. They are also passionate about using local produce.
Nearby Attractions and Places to Visit
There are many places to visit around Tenby too. Among our favourites are ‘Folly Farm,‘ for a day out with the children, Narberth, for some serious gift-shopping, dinner at ‘Coast’ restaurant in Saundersfoot and Barafundle Bay for the panoramic, wow-factor. My dad used to call this ‘The Secret Beach’ because it can only be reached by walking across the headland; an explorer’s dream.
Of course, these are just our favourites and I’m sure you’ll find many more. Any season, any weather, I can’t help but fall in love with Tenby each time we visit and we’re looking forward to Ruby and Hugo growing up with the same fondness of this beautiful seaside town too.