………on the ‘cold island’ or Caldey Island to give it it’s true name.
Its Saturday and we take a short drive from Manorbier to Tenby for a trip to Caldey Island. This small island is located just off the coast and today is owned by The Reformed Order of Cistercian Monks. Originally devoted to peaceful farming alongside a small village community, their existence is now more reliant on tourism.
The monks produce a number of homegrown items: chocolate, fudge, ice cream, clotted cream, shortbread and yoghurt, plus perfumes and hand lotions derived from wild flowers that grow on the island.
To get to the island we head down to the harbour and purchase tickets from the boatman by the tractor (at low tide the jetty is located on the beach across the small headland, with a portable pontoon).
The boat journey is a slow, peaceful affair, perhaps in keeping with the quiet lifestyle of the island dwellers. A wide boat with a low draft that tootled along for 20 minutes. We are greeted at the jetty by one of the cleanest beaches I’ve seen in a long time, which is probably due to the fact that it’s a private island and landings are not allowed.
We head for the Abbey and its enclave of buildings which include a number of small churches, a Post Office, a Museum and a Perfume shop. Apparently they have one of the best lavender products in the world!
Just after midday we head to the Abbey church, as the ladies are keen to hear the monks recite their Sext prayers. It’s an ethereal experience from the choir loft above the chapel.
We then make our way to the island’s parish church, St David’s, which also holds the cemetery for the monks and villagers. The church is of Norman construction but the original chapel would have dated back to the 6th Century. The church has some wonderful stain glass windows: St David, Our Lady & the Infant Jesus, the Tree of Life and the contemporary designed Fish Window. All of these windows were designed by one of the Benedictine monks living on the island in the 1920’s (the Cistercians arrived in 1929 from Scourmont Abbey in Belgium).
Next stop, the Chocolate & Fudge shop with an exploration of the Old Priory on the way, which incorporates the Catholic Church of St Illtyd, which is still in use and again originates from medieval times.
Last stop is the lighthouse on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean for views of the more pastoral side of the island, before we head back towards the boat and our return to Tenby.
A really lovely day out, blessed with more sunshine.