Go green this year and visit the ultimate retro destination, the good old British seaside. For candyfloss, sandcastles and knickerbocker glories, there is no better place to go than Tenby
Whilst the credit crunch is forcing families to 'go green' and stay at home this year, I for one can’t resist it. A good old-fashioned seaside holiday is surely the ultimate in retro vacations.
As our archaic Volvo estate rumbles across the Severn Bridge, rattling a bootful of buckets and spades as she goes, I get a flicker of excitement as we’re welcomed to Cymru (Wales). Our family have been holidaying on the Pembrokeshire coast for what seems like centuries and Tenby, in all its pastel-hued glory, is still the jewel of the region.
There’s something about a seaside holiday - maybe it’s the tacky plastic emporia flogging seaside paraphernalia or perhaps it’s the hordes of cheery dads who choose to wear Speedos with a football shirt. The sugary crust of hot doughnuts and the sweet scent of freshly spun candyfloss... whatever it is I’m a real sucker for it.
Tenby is a pretty little town, unlike the neighbouring resorts of Saundersfoot and Lydstep, and although in Wales, it has a very 'English' feel about it. Rows of candy-coloured Regency terraces dominate the promenade and overlook the grey-green waters of Carmarthen Bay. It has a wealth of decent beaches, all of which are decorated with the Blue Flag of cleanliness. All kids want from a holiday is an endless supply of ice cream and a soft sandy beach to play on, and Tenby has both. The waters are shallow and temperate, and the caramel-coloured sand is fine and perfect for building sandcastles.
Tenby never seems to change. The small, winding streets of the town’s centre brim with high street stores, tea shops and the aforementioned seaside emporia. It takes less than 15 minutes to walk through and, before we know it, we’re on the palm-lined prom overlooking the bay.
There are three beaches to choose from: Castle Beach, North Beach and South Beach and visitors always have a favourite. North Beach is mine; it’s the closest to an ice cream shop/pub/chippy and has decent loos nearby. The tiny but oh-so-pretty harbour has a handful of old sea dogs offering boat trips to neighbouring Caldey Island. As one of Wales’ holy islands, Caldey is home to an order of Cistercian monks who reside in the picturesque priory.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Tenby is an old-fashioned resort and this is no more apparent than in its range of accommodation available. There’s an abundance of homely guesthouses, all of which dutifully fill their beds season after season. Without a boutique B&B or a Hotel Du Vin in sight, the nearest you will get to glamour is the Atlantic Hotel
, a style-less venue with modern conveniences. Three miles outside Tenby, however, is St Brides Spa Hotel
. Recently opened, it offers guests a little bit of peaceful luxury away from the crowds of Tenby. Hotels and guesthouses are not the only way to stay. This year, due to an unprecedented increase in children, we’re staying in a very reasonable self-catering cottage just outside of town.
If building sandcastles doesn’t fill you with eternal glee, you could take a walk out to South Beach towards Giltar Point and the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. There’s 186 miles of glorious coastal walks taking you all the way to Cardigan Bay over on the west coast.
Finally, you can’t visit Tenby without experiencing the ultimate in retro dining - a knickerbocker glory at Fecci’s Ice Cream Parlour on Upper Frog Street. Fecci’s has not changed in more than 20 years and offers a wafer-topped flashback to the innocent joys of childhood.
It's late afternoon and as the sun starts to set, pink-tinged folk drift away from the beach. The coloured lights that cats-cradle between the shops suddenly flicker into life, reinforcing Tenby as the ultimate place for a seaside holiday.