Like the small towns of the Cinque Terre, Italy, Tenby is comprised of artistic stonework and many tall structures. Like Charleston, it is a riot of colorful buildings lined up for marveling over. Like those cities, Tenby’s unique history makes it a great place to visit…and take a tour.
We wound up in Tenby three times, once more than we intended. The first time we went on purpose to see the town we’d read about since 2014. We enjoyed walking the tidy streets, being humbled in St. Mary’s Church and ambling the lengthy beach.
The second time was because our Pembrokeshire Coast hike took us from Saundersfoot to Tenby. We took delicious refreshment at Caffi Pura located on Upper Frog Street next to the city’s town council offices.
The third time was after our trip to Manorbier Castle. The bus dropped us in Tenby with a couple of hours before the next one scheduled to Saundersfoot. By now, we thought we’d seen Tenby…
Jackie dawdled in the corridor of the public works building while I used the restroom. In the less than two minutes I was gone she’d made a new friend. Trevor is the four-time former mayor of Tenby and his self-induced role as tour guide was better than reading Lonely Planet. His demeanor and smooth voice made Jackie think of Anthony Hopkins.
Trevor asked the present mayor if he could show us the “Mayor’s Parlour.” Jackie envisioned major consequences to tagging behind a stranger along a dim corridor and down a dark stair with no idea where we were going. Trevor unlocked double doors with an old skeleton key and took us through the rectangular room set against the Thirteenth Century town wall. Our history lesson of Tenby began as he explained the fortress walls by age built and took us in a corner turret where we could be inside the wall and yet see the wall. He taught us about the military proficiency and skill of twelfth century long-bow archers. The cross-shaped openings in the city walls were for arrows to get through, because of the method of shooting them with a slight spin. We thought they were religious.
After this, he took us to The Market located in the 1860 Town Hall building, to show us the historic mural emblazoned across the wall at ceiling height. Embarrassed, we admitted we’d been in the market the day before to buy Caerphilly Cheese (yummy) and hadn’t noticed the painting.
Politely asking repeatedly if we had time before the bus, Trevor continued to point out more of the town than we saw during previous visits. Jackie said, “If we miss the bus, you’ll have to drive us to Saundersfoot.” Unfazed, he replied, “No problem, my car is right up the street.” Seriously.
Next, we went to St. Mary’s Church and Trevor noted things we may have seen but did not see. The chain mechanism bearing the mass of the baptismal font made the weighty looking thing quite easy to move aside. Trevor directed our gaze to the carvings of the saints along the ceiling beams. We had noticed the faces at beam junctures but missed understanding that the carved images were the saints. He showed us a relief sculpture of Tenby-man Robert Recorde, who invented the “=“ sign.
The journey wasn’t finished as we returned outside and Trevor took us to one of three house chimney’s remaining within the original city walls. It would not have caught our eye, tucked behind structures as it was. He explained that Tenby’s narrow streets, the ground floors of buildings were quite spare, but the first floor would jut out to get as much space as possible in the upper rooms.
All this because Jackie was browsing used books for sale outside the mayor’s office.
Next: How Hard is the Pembrokeshire Path Saundersfoot to Tenby?