Caldey Island Pembrokeshire


Located off the coast of Tenby, Caldey Island is one of the most fascinating Islands in the UK. An order of Cistercian Monks have been resident on the island since the 1920s, but there have been monks in residence since Norman times!

Caldey Island – Ynys Bŷr

Located off the coast of Tenby, Caldey Island is one of the most fascinating Islands in the UK. An order of Cistercian Monks have been resident on the island since the 1920s, but there have been monks in residence since Norman times!

Getting there

A fleet of boats runs to the island from Tenby Harbour from Easter to October. The boats are owned by local boatmen, many of whom are members of the crew of the Tenby Lifeboat.

Fares: Adults £10.00
Children (14 and under) £5.00
Group rates and family tickets available on request. Tickets can be bought from the Caldey Island Kiosk at the top of Tenby Harbour. The ticket price includes return boat fare. You can travel and return on any boat.
Boats run Monday to Friday, from Easter to the end of October and on Saturdays from May to September.

The Island is closed on Sundays.

Sailings approximately every twenty minutes from approximately 10am to 3pm. Last return boat usually 5pm.
Note: Times and open days may vary.
At high tide boats leave from the Harbour and at low water from the landing stage on Castle Beach. Crossing time is about 20 minutes.

Brief History of Caldey Island

Caldey Island has always been associated with monks, firstly in the 6th century a Celtic monastery was founded by Abbot Pyr. Later an order of Benedictines from nearby St Dogmaels took up residence, having been given the island by the mother of a Norman nobleman, Robert Fitzmartin. Originally, the island was a gift from King Henry I, in 1113. Fitzmartin gave the island to his mother, who then passed it to the monks. In 1536 Henry VIII decided to throw the monks out of their island home and over the next couple of hundred years the island changed hands many times, until in 1798 Thomas Kynaston, The Earl of Warwick, purchased it and decided to make a go of it. Kynaston increased the economic output of the island by quarrying limestone and exporting it to the mainland to take advantage of the new and booming road and construction industries. After Thomas Kynaston died, his son Cabot, took over. Like his father, he cared for the welfare of the islanders and was often called “The King of Caldey”.
After Cabot’s death, the island was owned by James Hawkesley, he too was interested in enhancing the economic welfare of the island and purchased greenhouses to grow produce, and devised new ways of irrigation.
Following his death, the island was owned for a short time by Thomas Cunningham, who showed very little interest in the place and sold it to Rev. Done Bushnell who invited his friend Dom Aelred to establish a monastery on the island once again.

The current residents are Cistercians, an order founded in 1098 in France by St Robert, the Abbot of Molesme. During the 12th century, the order began to grow rapidly and by the 16th century there were 68 monasteries in Wales. However, following Henry VIII’s destruction of the monasteries their occupants scattered. The monks reformed over the next few hundred years but in some instances their views had become extreme, and even quite harsh. This is when they became known as Trappists, after the monastery at La Trappe in France. Pope Leo XIII split the order into Cistercians of the Common Order and Reformed Cistercians (Trappists) and it is the latter group that the monks of Caldey belong to.

Today the monks follow the rule of St Benedict and attend 7 prayer services a day, starting at 3.15am! They farm the land and make a living by producing perfume, chocolates and shortbread which are all available from the village shop.

Geography of Caldey Island

On the south side the island and that of neighbouring St Margaret’s Island, are nesting seabird colonies and grey seals. Access to the cliffs is allowed around the area of the lighthouse but elsewhere is out of bounds.

Attractions in Caldey

The most fascinating attraction on the island has to be The monastery. It is Italianate in design, and beautifully perched above the village green.

The village perfume shop is a must for any visitor.

The churches of St David, and St Illtud are well worth a visit and for those wishing to attend mass, it takes place most days at 2.45pm at St David’s church. The building dates back to the Norman times but there are parts that date back to the 6th century!
A short walk up to the lighthouse opens up fantastic views of the coast and displays the breathtaking beauty of the island. For the less energetic, a stroll along one of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful beaches, Priory Beach, on Caldey could be just the thing.

Shopping in Caldey

There are two shops and a café on Caldey as well as a Post Office and Museum. The Perfume Shop sells soaps and perfumes made by the monks, The Gift Shop sells a wide range of gifts and souvenirs including some produce from the Abbots Kitchen, such as chocolate and shortbread. There is also The Tea Gardens café which offers a range of snacks and drinks.

Nearby Attractions & Towns

The nearest town to Caldey is Tenby.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015