‘I’ll send you selfies of me laughing while you sit outside.’ Dan teased on the morning of our trip. He’d woken up in a glowing mood and was clearly optimistic for the day in Caldey Island, despite the forecast of thunderstorms from four pm.
What he was referencing was my plight as a woman. Although women are very much allowed on the Island, we are restricted from the Abbey, on the grounds that we unfortunately aren’t born with the essential, additional unit. Dan did not let me forget it.
‘Even Ted can go in,’ he continued, chuckling to himself. ‘You’ll have to sit on your own.’
It was nice to start our day with a tease and a joke the way we did when we first met. Three years, a house, a dog, and opposing work schedules mean that it’s hard sometimes, but holidays are out time to remember what drew us together in the first place – our love of exploring.
And we started such exploration in the fairly large seaside town of Tenby. With roughly 5000 residents and over 300,000 visitors each year, we knew that parking would be hell; we rushed out of our Saundersfoot cottage after only slice of toast for breakfast. The first boat to Caldey Island sets out at 10am, and we had to catch it.
The bright terraced houses must have been freshly painted when we visited in 2019 for they cast a spell to lure in seaside loving Brits like a siren. We took an opportunity in front of a row of them to look out across the beach, trying to spot the Island in the distance before finding our way to the harbour. Tenby’s streets are a maze, but we eventually located it and joined a short line in front of a worn fishing hut.
Caldey Island – £14 Adults
‘Through the arch and onto the beach’
Dan and I caught each other’s eye before we moved. The beach? We suspiciously followed the instructions and found ourselves walking onto actual sand dunes in socks and trainers, and joining another line, almost ankle deep in sandy sludge. It took moments for my shoes to become soaked and sand stained, and my jacket flapped chaotically in the wind. Our key destination was a green tractor parked in the centre of the bay. It was attached to a jetty that bobbed rather aggressively with the morning waves.
Behind us, and endless line continued to form, and we found that boarding the boat was no easier. It’s big enough to sit about forty people, and since I have a history of motion sickness, I made a beeline for the bow. Ted sat on my lap for safety, coating the remainder of my coat in sodden sand.
The Irish Sea was choppy (possibly due to the oncoming storm), causing the boat to lurch from side to side. With one particular lurch, I was soaked by a splash, and Dan, on seeing my discomfort, started to laugh.
‘Ah shit!’ he cried moments later for he too was slapped by nature, providing me an opportunity to laugh. It brought back memories of his last battle with the mighty Poseidon: in Mexico, he was hit by an enormous wave and promptly robbed of his sunglasses. Thankfully, we were close enough to the Playa Del Carmen centre to purchase a new pair, but only after an hour of pure futility, searching the seabed for them.
After the boat docked in Caldey Island, I disembarked with jelly legs.
We decided to aim for the lighthouse, the furthest point of the island, a solid 30 minute uphill walk. To reach it, we passed through the village square first, which consists of a café, a shop, and a museum. Truly, we could be in any tiny British village, were it not for the white walls of the monastery looming on the hill behind the green. As we passed, I realised that were I allowed to enter, I’m not sure I could have. There is no discernible entrance – all possibilities are marked with scarlet No Entry or Keep Out signs.
It’s almost as if they were up to no good in there.
Dan and I ploughed on with Ted tottering cheerfully beside us. Soon, we reached a clearing, honey coloured fields on either side and a single road leading up to the lighthouse, far in the distance. Unlike the red and white striped tower I had imagined, I was faced with a stubby white stump on a cliff face – highly disappointing. We did snatch a glimpse of a black robed monk meeting with the lighthouse keeper though.
What’s much more impressive is the cliff edge. The sun had broken through the heavy morning clouds. The climate transformed into a particularly warm day, and become perfect basking weather. We stripped off our jackets while walking, allowing the breeze to caress our skin. I considered asking Dan to take some Instagram photos, although am fully aware that I am not, in any way, shape or form, Insta-influencer worthy, especially when I’m competing with the magnificence of British cliff faces.
Ted, however, is not as enthusiastic as us. He was starting to overheat under his thick, long coat, and his panting was becoming excessive. We decided to take a quick break outside the ‘Chocolate Factory‘.
The ‘factory’ is the perfect example of hyperbole – I’d call it a workshop. However, the scent of cocoa and sugar was overpowering as I stepped through the door. It’s not just chocolate for sale, no! Caldey Island produces its own fudge too. A creature of habit, I had to part ways with some cash (they don’t take card) and buy samples. I picked one of each flavour of chocolate – white, milk, 70%, 85% – and a few blocks of fudge. Back at the village green, under the shade of a tree, Dan and I tucked in to our finds. The chocolate tastes very similar to Nestle.
Our snacking made us realise just how hungry we were. Since the cafe was busy, we decided to take a short walk around the gardens before making our way back to the mainland for some lunch. Our boat trip back was much smoother than the way out, although Ted seemed to have his first taste of sea sickness. Dan hugged him tightly as he shuddered, turning almost three shades paler. It used to be me who suffered with motion sickness so I felt sorry for my poor Ted.
Unfortunately, Caldey Island is closed to the public due to Coronavirus, but will welcome visitors again in 2021.