22nd October 2018
The Skint Traveller – A weekend in Wales
Because who needs sun-kissed beaches, crystal-clear oceans and swaying palm trees when you can have southwest Wales in October?
It feels like one of those nearby lands that’s always taken for granted – Wales: “We love what you’re doing, Wales, but I’m currently eating Haggis in Edinburgh, then hiking through the Lake District, before grabbing a Guinness or two in Dublin.”
My aunt, a staunch advocate for all things Welsh – so much so that she sticks little red dragons on every birthday/Christmas card she sends me – has a house down in the resort town of Tenby on the southwest coast. During one of my I-want-to-go-on-holiday-but-I-didn’t-win-the-lottery-this-week-and-life-is-so-unfair episodes, I asked her if some friends and I could stay in her house for a long weekend.
She sent me the keys in an envelope with a little red dragon.
Though there were many things to adore about the break – excluding the six-hour drive – here are just a few reasons why you don’t need a pricey plane ticket to get away from it all…
The Welsh language
It’s like someone pulled a handful of letters out of the Scrabble bag and founded a town with them. I can’t pronounce most of the road signs on the drive past the Severn Bridge. To hear the Welsh language spoken is poetic, and almost exotic; and although it has evolved substantially over the centuries, it’s beautiful to see a dialect that could have fallen into obscurity being kept alive.
The hidden treasures
Walk down every laneway you encounter and you’ll uncover all sorts. There’s a bookshop in Tenby, right by the Tudor House, if you care to hunt it down. The place is in disarray, but in a good way – it’s a post-apocalyptic literary wonderland. There are piles upon piles of new books, old books, really old books, and there’s absolutely no sense or logic as to how they’re arranged or displayed. After hours of hunting through the stacks, I bought a guide to etiquette from the 18th century, which, to be honest, turned out to be a little disheartening.
During the War of the Roses, Henry VIII’s uncle, Jasper Tudor, made Pembrokeshire his seat of power, and had invested heavily in the town’s defence against Yorkist invasion. It was also a busy seaport that enjoyed trade from the West Country, Spain and Portugal. There are many nods to this thriving era littered about the place – just step outside! A must-see for history buffs is the Tudor Merchant’s House: Built around 1500, it’s been lovingly restored to reflect the life of a merchant at that time.
The dining experiences
Let me introduce you to The Plantagenet House. This is the oldest building in Tenby, with parts of it supposedly dating back to the 10th century, and today remains one of the most popular restaurants in the area. It’s a hearty menu – the type of food that feels like a cuddle by the fire at Christmas – and, if you’re quick enough, make sure you book a table located in the Medieval Flemish Chimney.
If you have a car, you can embark on a picturesque 30-minute drive to Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse. This pretty little cottage – built by the hillside and overlooking the coast – was home to the poet, writer and broadcaster for the last four years of his short life, before he succumbed to illness. It’s been beautifully preserved and is brimming with Thomas’ letters, works, photographs and musings. If you’re not a poetry fan, the house itself is worth your time, due to the abundance of wildlife and spectacular views.
A rugged trail of caves, cliffs, colour-pop townhouses and islands, this small patch of southwest shore is a sight to behold. It rained while we were there – it was October in Wales, after all – but the poor weather only made the coast an eerie but romantic backdrop as we walked along the sand. For you Sherlock diehards out there, the third and final episode of the fourth series was filmed on St Catherine’s, a small tidal island linked to Tenby. Sadly, it’s been closed to visitors since 2016, but still makes for an iconic view and photo opportunity from the edge of the cliffs.
If you’d like to find out more about taking a trip here, head on over to the Visit Tenby website.