A pleasant boat trip from Tenby Harbour takes you to this beautiful, fascinating island. Caldey has been inhabited since the Stone Age and home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order, whose picturesque monastery dominates the village with its imposing white facade and red turreted roofs. The Abbey Church, where the monks begin their seven daily services at 3.30am each morning, is striking in its elegant simplicity, and seems to echo the values and dedication of the monks who use it.
Caldey is a monastic island, but also much more. At the top of the jetty where you come ashore, a large-scale map shows the paths and many places of interest on the island. The glorious sands of Priory Beach spread out below you as you make your way to the village. There you can enjoy a drink and a snack in the Tea Gardens, among tall pines and friendly ducks, in the pleasant surroundings of the island’s picture-book village.
From the Island Post Office you can send postcards with an additional hand-franked Caldey stamp. It is also a museum, showing the heritage and history of the island and you can find out still more from the free video, showing continuously in the nearby Video Hall. The well stocked Abbey Gift Shop offers shortbread baked in the Monastery and chocolate made on the island, while in the Perfume Shop a wonderful fragrance greets you, and you can try some of the unique Caldey Abbey Perfumes, made on the island since the 1950’s. There’s a different, but equally delicious aroma in the Chocolate Factory, where a small viewing area gives a tantalising glimpse of the process in action.
For those who like to get off the beaten track, a walk up to the Lighthouse offers truly spectacular panoramic views. Caldey is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and perhaps the best way to experience its outstanding natural beauty is to walk the waymarked Cliff Path. Atlantic grey seals can sometimes be seen basking in the sun on the rocks below. There is also a circular Woodland Walk, an easy stroll along the island’s quiet wooded paths
Caldey has a surprising variety of interesting religious buildings. Just off the Lighthouse path is the Old Priory, with its medieval courtyard and leaning spire. Inside this atmospheric old limestone church stands the Ogham Stone, inscribed in ancient script, a reminder of the half-forgotten Celtic saints who once roamed these shores. The little village church of St David’s has Norman architecture, Celtic foundations and 1920’s stained glass. And on the cliff behind the beach are the Caldey Calvary and Watchtower Chapel. In this simple chapel, with its towering sea view, visitors leave messages and prayers on slips of paper, inspired perhaps by the many centuries of prayer and quiet living which seem to resonate in the very stones of this special island.
Here on Caldey the monastery and ancient churches seem to combine with sea air and quiet, beautiful surroundings to create the island's unique atmosphere of timelessness and peace. It’s a place to forget the car, the crush, and the bustle of the world, where all the family can enjoy a few hours of true relaxation and peace.
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