Just where do you exercise your pet cheetah if you find yourself unexpectedly staying in the UK? It’s a tricky question but not one that troubles most people. However, it was a very real concern to the exiled Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. He lived in many places in the UK during this time but it seems his pet cheetah favoured the sandy beaches of Tenby. It’s one of those quirky little facts that neatly illustrates Tenby’s attraction. It has certainly seen a lot of life and is a richer place for it.
Today the beaches are mercifully free of leggy top predators, but cheetahs clearly know their stuff when it comes to sand. After a visit earlier in the spring I can confirm that Tenby is a glorious place to spend a bit of quality time by the sea, with or without a pet.
There are two, namely North and South beach (although at low tide they are joined). Between them they provide a huge expanse of fine, golden sand that seems to go on forever. Access points are multiple and vary from steep steps directly from the walled town, to a couple of ramps making it easier for toddlers, pushchairs etc… The beaches are very clean and ideal for children (of all ages) to let off steam.
Inside the well preserved town walls, which date from the late 13th Century (a very literal stones-throw from my flat window-see below), Tenby town-centre offers both small interesting streets befitting an ancient port and a main high street that could be anywhere in the UK. This means that in the course of a walk you get lovely craft and curio shops ( such as the amazingly Tardis like ‘Equinox’), interesting pubs, a fishmongers, historic buildings, a covered market, restaurants, takeaways, ice cream parlours and sweet shops – as well as the more humdrum national chains providing overheated/overpriced coffee, medicines, magazines and such like. It’s a very appealing place all in all and relatively easy to navigate around.
A gentle walk down St Julian Street eventually brings you to the picturesque harbour and the point where North and South beaches meet. This area (Castle Square) gives you many choices. You can either go left, leading you down onto North beach, straight ahead onto the harbour walls, right (and up) to the bandstand, the remains of the original 12th Century castle and an excellent museum (free admission for children, £5 per adult and well worth a visit) – or right (and down) onto the end of South beach via the aforementioned ramp (pausing for a cup of tea or ice cream at the welcoming Dennis café on the beach side). If the tide is sufficiently out you can also access St Catherine’s Fort/Island which recently reopened as a tourist attraction (although I never quite made it).
If you like fresh fish there is an excellent fishmonger in Castle Square, as well as numerous little wooden buildings where you can sign up for boat based fishing/adventure trips.
Tenby has many restaurants and takeaways able to cater for most tastes and budgets and the majority are within an easy walk if you are staying in the town. For me, a visit to the seaside means at least one portion of fish and chips. This can all too often be a disappointing game of hit and miss, but after asking the lovely chatty lady on the supermarket till (while picking up provisions) I called into the Fish and Chip shop on Park Road (which I had already passed on the way to and from the shop). It’s a busy restaurant and takeaway so the food took a while, but it was freshly cooked and with a good portion size. I ate there a second time during my stay and it was equally good, but the wait wasn’t any shorter (maybe take a magazine as there are only so many times you can read the menu).
There is no shortage of hotel and self-catering accommodation available. I was after a self-catering place, close to the thick of things, but without the prospect of being disturbed by any late night revellers. After a bit of searching and with help from the team at FBM Holidays, I stayed in a recently renovated flat in a lovely old townhouse, just outside one of the original town gateways.
The flat was actually at the top of the building (you could potentially refer to it as a penthouse?) commanding great views and well away from any noise. There was plenty of space, a well-equipped modern kitchen, elegant double bedroom, swish bathroom and a large, airy living/dining room with large sofas and picture windows offering views over Tenby town and out to sea. You couldn’t ask for a better spot really, as long as you don’t mind a few stairs (which I don’t).
Getting to Tenby.
The town is blessed with an attractive little train station that is just a short walk from the compact town centre. Despite its quaint looks the station provides a reasonable service, with regular connections, making the town accessible for weekend breaks by rail. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for more info.
Car users are well catered for, with plenty of pay and display parking. There is only limited free parking on the streets however.
See Spetchley House Flat for property prices, more photos and availability.