This charming seaside town is the jewel in Pembrokeshire's crown. Standing on a rocky peninsula (at the western edge of Carmarthen Bay), it has two golden sandy beaches and a picturesque harbour, backed by fine Georgian/Regency buildings and gaily painted cottages. Tenby's narrow medieval streets, which run back inland from the harbour are rich in character and charm. Outstanding examples of Tenby's historic architecture include its medieval castle and fine stone walls. Also a 15th-c Tudor Merchant's House (open to public) and St.Mary's Church, said to be the largest parish church in Wales.

Tenby Harbour (by Tim Hill (CC0))

Tenby boasts several first class beaches. The wide golden stretch of South Sands extend for approximately 1.5 miles south of the town, bordered by golf links. The other main beach, North Sands, can be accessed from the harbour or from the northern promenade. Facilities here include fishing, boating, diving, sailing, plus deck chair and wind break hire.

The town also affords a wide selection of facilities for visitors. There is large indoor heated swimming pool in Marsh Road and the Royal Playhouse in White Lion Street is the town's cinema. There is dancing most nights at the new de Valence Pavilion in Upper Frog Street. Amusement arcades can be found in Warren Street and near North Sands. Other outdoor facilities include bowls and putting at South Cliff Gardens and an 18-hole course at South Sands. A good range of shops can be found in High Street, Upper Frog Street and St George's Street.

For those looking to stay here a while, there is a wide variety of hotels and guest-houses available around the town. Excellent caravan and camping sites are also to be found on the outskirts.

History of Tenby

The clue to the town's history is in its Welsh name Dinbych-y-pysgod, which translates as 'little fortress of the fish', reflecting its origins as a coastal port. Tenby's story starts with the Normans, who built a castle here to protect the area from Welsh aggression. A thriving community grew up around the castle and the sea port was born. Attacks on the town by the native Welsh during the 13th-c, led by Prince Llewellyn, devastated the town. This prompted the Earl of Pembroke to take control. He ordered the building of a 15 ft high impenetrable stone wall stretching from cliff to cliff, with towers and archways, which still stands to this day. The wall's famous gatehouse, known as the ring of five arches, comprises of five massive gothic pointed arches.

Tenby harbour and quay is one of the oldest in Wales. It was once an important port, trading with Spain Portugal and Ireland. Rich merchant shipping helped Tenby to become extremely prosperous. Many wealthy traders and merchants built grand houses in the town, such as the Tudor Merchants House. However trade fell drastically after the Tudor period when Tenby fell into serious decline. The final blow came when Tenby was struck by the plague in 1650, wiping out almost half the population. Much of the town became derelict and was left in ruins for a long period until the mid 19th-c, when Tenby was revived by the Victorian practice of enjoying the health giving properties of the sea. The beaches would have been littered with bathing machines is this era, providing seclusion for the bathers is to get changed. One of the old Victorian bathing houses still survives in the town. The arrival of the railway (in 1856) put Tenby firmly back on the map, opening up the town to the masses as a seaside resort.

Tourist Information Centre:

Unit 2, Upper Park Road, Tenby, Pembrokeshire SA70 7LT
Tel: 01834 842402

What to see and do in Tenby

Just off the mainland is the tiny island of St Catherine's. A further two miles offshore is Caldey Island, with its working ancient monastery and Cistercian monks, who specialise in producing scent from the island's flowers. Trips out to the island are available in summer.

The nearby Manor House Wildlife and Leisure Park also provides an interesting visit.

Tenby Castle

The remains of Tenby Castle (which begun in the 12th-c) stand evocatively on a headland jutting out into Carmarthen Bay. A statue of Prince Albert surveys the fragmented castle walls and the town museum is housed in its renovated keep.

Tenby Museum & Art Gallery

Located on Castle Hill Within the remains of Tenby Castle. It covers the local history and the town's development as a tourist resort in the 19th century. You can also explore galleries devoted to archaeology, geology, maritime history, natural history and militaria. The natural history section includes the Smith Collection of local cave-animal and mammoth remains. The art gallery contains an important collection of local works by Augustus John, Gwen John and others.

Opening times: all year, 10am to 5pm Castle - Admission Charge
Location: Castle Hill, Tenby, SA70 7BP - Tel: 01834 842809 - Website

Tudor Merchant's House

Recalling Tenby's history as a thriving and prosperous port, the Tudor Merchant's house is a fine example of gabled 15th-c architecture. A traditional herb garden is located at the rear.

Opening times: Mar~Nov, Sun-Fri 11am to 5pm - Admission Charge
Location: Quay Hill, Tenby, SA70 7BX - Tel: 01834 842279 - Website

Map of Tenby


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