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Caldey Island - A journey through more than a thousand years

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

The UK is, of course, an Island, together with Ireland making up a whole group of islands

known as the British Isles.

The two largest Islands, Great Britain (Made up of Wales, England and Scotland) and the

Island of Ireland (divided into Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is not) are well known, but dotted around the vast and sometimes inhospitable sea surrounding them are smaller islands, each with their own history and local culture.

Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Caldey Island (the name from comes from the Viking word for Cold) is a tiny Island, a short Boat Ride away from the tourist town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales. What makes this Island remarkable, apart from the stunning views and untouched nature, is the community of Cistercian Monks that call the island their home. The Cistercians are just the most recent in a long line of religious orders that have used the Island as a peaceful place in which to reflect and carry out their spiritual duties.

Caldey, known in the Welsh Language as Ynys Byr (after Saint Pyr, who was ironically

described as “An unsuitable Abbot”) has been home to Religious communities since at least the 6 th Century CE, Starting with a Celtic Monastery and changing hands various times until the current Catholic Monks bought the Island in 1929 from another group of Christians called the Anglicans (the official state Religion of the UK).

Caldey Island Monastery

The main Priory (Where the monks live) was built in the 12 th Century during the Norman

occupation, and is now protected as a Grade 1 Historical Building under the United

Kingdoms Listed Structure programme, meaning it cannot be altered or demolished.

The newest and most used Abbey was then built in 1910 by the Anglican Monks, and today stands as the largest structure on the Island. It is there the monks carry out most of their religious and earthly duties.

Whilst monks live lives mostly dedicated to worship and prayer, they are also expected to

work. Throughout history, Monasteries produced many things, from books to beer, and they are permitted to sell these things to help with the upkeep of the Abbey. The Monks of Caldey are known for the chocolate and exotic perfume they produce, and visitors are encouraged to purchase these unique goods as gifts for themselves or family members.

Aside from the fascinating and lengthy spiritual history of the Island, it is also known for the rare animals that thrive due to the islands remoteness. Wild birds such as cormorants have formed large colonies there, and the pastures that surround priory and settlement are populated by rare breeds of sheep and cattle. As recently as 2016, the beautiful Red

Squirrel, native to the UK but sadly hard to find on the mainland due to predators and

competition from the foreign grey squirrel, was reintroduced to Caldey and has been reported as breeding successfully, so it remains one of the few places you stand a decent

chance of catching a sight of this iconic creature.

Tenby Life Boat Station

I would highly recommend a visit to both Caldey and the Neighbouring mainland town of

Tenby. Both are utterly breath-taking, especially in the summer, and would rival anywhere on the Amalfi Coast. A visit to Caldey is a journey through more than a thousand years of the complex but wonderful history of the British Isles, and one feels that it is a place where time neither flows nor touches. It remains, to this day, a frozen part of a long forgotten country.

It takes an average of 1h 41m to travel from Swansea to Tenby by train, over a distance of around 33 miles (53 km). There are normally 7 trains per day travelling from Swansea to Tenby and tickets for this journey start from £7.50 when you book in advance.

Learn more about Caldey Island on this link:

Choosing Wales as a destination to study English will provide you with opportunities to visit stunning historic places and a wonderful coast line.

Blog Written by: Evans Jones, Academic Team, City School of Languages

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