Walk: Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire

Explore the historic Welsh island of Caldey and its Cistercian abbey, where woodlands resound with birdsong and path verges blush pink in spring with clumps of thrift

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Caldey Island lies a few miles off the magnificent Pembrokeshire coast of west Wales. It is one of Britain’s Holy Islands and, today, the Cistercian order continues to observe traditions begun in the 6th century by Celtic monks. 

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The imposing 20th-century Arts and Craft-style white monastery, with its red-tiled roofs, perches above a village green and duck pond, surrounded by deciduous woods. Explore the trees, glades, fields and cliff tops of this peaceful island – past historic buildings and a small chocolate factory – on winding, flower-banked paths. A ferry runs daily (except Sundays and weather permitting) from Tenby harbour, Easter to October. Look out for seals as you cross the sea to Priory Bay.

Look for cormorants and other birds on the cliffs
Look for cormorants and other birds on the cliffs ©Getty
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Village life

From the jetty, you can either follow the track directly to the village or take a short detour uphill through the trees to Calvary, with its wooden crucifix and ancient watchtower chapel. Either way, you’ll soon arrive at the village green tearoom and Swiss-style post office. There is no access to the abbey, but a path below it leads to a video room, showing a film about monastic Caldey. Visitors can also explore St David’s Church – featuring beautiful stained glass, including an unusual Fish Window – near a statue of St Samson, the second abbot of Caldey. The gallery at nearby Abbey Church is also worth a visit.

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Past the pond

From the statue, you can take a circular woodland walk, brimming with birdsong, to the island’s eastern cliffs, where you can spot cormorants and other seabirds. Otherwise, turn left from the post office to reach a medieval pond – home to black swans – and the ruins of the Norman priory. Cobble-floored St Illtyd’s Church houses an ancient stone inscribed with both Ogham script and Latin text.

Elegant black swan lake enjoying in the water
Black swans can be seen in the pond next to the post office ©Getty
Back on the road, a path opposite takes a meandering course to the lighthouse at Chapel Point, with its picnic tables and stunning views out to Lundy Island and the Gower peninsula.
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Bay to bay

Continue along the thrift-lined cliff path, keeping an eye open for seals bobbing in the waters of Red Berry Bay. From here, you can cut back to the priory.

The main route continues on the West Caldey Walk, soon reaching Sandtop Bay where, after a pool, a path heads through fields to St Illtyd’s Church.

If time permits, you could visit the chocolate factory in the farmyard, take the nature trail past the old mill, or just relax on the glorious sands of Priory Beach, before catching the boat back to Tenby.

Map

Click here to head over to the OS Maps website for an interactive version of this route.

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Main image ©Getty