Caldey Island is an island just outside of Tenby where you’ll find an old priory, an Abbey, and two beautiful churches. The island is mainly inhabitated by the Cistercian monks, who also own the island, in addition to around 40 permanent residents. If you don’t have time to head over to the island, there is a store in Tenby named Caldey Island Shop, where they sell treats and items from the island.
Personally, I love castles and history, and there are some great castles near Tenby. Don’t miss Pembroke Castle, where King Henry VII was born (you know, the guy who won the War of the Roses?). They put on reenactments and fairs from time to time, and the castle has even been used for the filming of several movies.
Another castle I love is Carew Castle, where there is said to be a ghost of a monkey haunting the towers! Enter if you dare.
Pembroke Castle is just a short drive from Tenby
St. Catherine’s Island is a tidal island, which means that you can practically walk there when the tide is low. The island is where you can find St. Catherine’s Fort, a fortress build in 1867.
St. Catherine’s Island was actually not accessible when I was studying in Wales, but opened to the publish in 2014 (for the first time since 1979). So now you are free to visit the island whenever you’d like, and there are tours to join through the fort itself.
You can’t visit Tenby without spending some time exploring Tenby Castle. There are mentions of the castle dating as far back as 1153, but the main structures remaining are from the 13th century. Tenby was a great place for a fortress and a castle, strategically speaking, and the castle was originally built by the Normans during the invasion in the 1100s, and then destroyed by the Welsh again.
200 years later, by the late 13th century, the Tenby town walls were built, which made the castle itself less needed. Jasper Tudor, the uncle of the above-mentioned King Henry VII, contributed to the improvements to the castle walls in the 1400s.
#8 Go on a guided tour to learn the Story of Tenby
Tenby is an incredibly interesting place, and a town drenched in history. That’s why anyone wondering what to do in Tenby shouldn’t have a problem finding something to do!
For example, King Henry VII (who, as mentioned, was born in Pembroke Castle just a short drive away) actually escaped from the beach in Tenby when he was sent into exile during the York rule in the War of the Roses. The remnants of the city walls also have a story to tell, and so this tour is not to be missed. Get all the info you need here.
The oldest standing house in Tenby is the Tudor Merchant’s House, which is also a Grade I listed building. It operates as a museum of a historic house today, and is definitely one of the top things to do in Tenby! It is run by the National Trust today, and you’ll be able to see what it was like to run a merchant’s shop in the 1500s. The house itself would have belonged to a merchant trading with all the goods coming in and out of the harbour, as Tenby was a popular commercial port for trading.
#10 Go for a walk and take in the colours of the town
Tenby is a well-known image of the perfect Welsh fisherman’s town, with its colourful buildings, white beaches, and blue waters. So what better place to simply go for a walk?
Strolling through the streets of Tenby, you’ll find yourself utterly charmed by the beauty of the buildings, with it’s summery colours. It’s the perfect location for an #Instagram photo, right?
Tenby Harbour is one of the reasons why the town is so popular
In the middle of Tenby, overlooking the town square, you can find St. Mary’s Church. Visiting the church is often overlooked amongst the things to do in Tenby, definitely something that should be on your list. The church dates back to the 15th century, with some features dating as far back as the 13th century.
Of historical interest is the tomb of Thomas White, who was Mayor of Tenby in the 15th century. He is mostly known for hiding the future King Henry VII from King Richard III before he later beat him in battle to seize the throne.
Side note: If you, like me, are interested in the War of the Roses and Tudor history, I strongly recommend Philippa Gregory‘s books! The Red Queen is one of my favourites, and it tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, King Henry VII’s mother, who gave birth to him at Pembroke Castle when she was just 13 (!), and spent her whole life fighting for his throne.
Did you know that Tenby houses the oldest independent museum in Wales? That’s right, the Tenby Museum and Art Gallery was established in 1878, and is one of the absolute best things to do in Tenby, especially on a rainy day. The museum has an impressive collection of artefacts, and you can also find an impressive collection of images and crafts created by national (and local) artists.
The exhibitions cover topics ranging from local history and geology, to maritime history and even piracy (the latter is super interesting!).
All year, and especially in the summer, there are lots of events and activities going on in Tenby, Wales. From the popular (and freezing) Boxing Day Swim to local productions and markets, there is there is always something to do. So if you’re wondering what’s on in Tenby during your visit, make sure to hit up these links before you go!