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Tenby: A Dreamy Beach, Tudor Merchant's House and A Victorian Fort

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

I recommend a Tenby trip to everybody. Tenby or Dinbych-y-pysgod in Welsh. It's a gorgeous seaside town in South Wales that has great railway connection and even greater vistas. Walk from the train station for about ten minutes and the sea will just appear to you. (At least that's what happened to me, and what's more - 'How Far I'll Go' from "Moana" was playing on my Spotify mix - true story).

The ruins of Tenby castle, several cannon and a Victorian Fort just off the beach on an island of its own. Definitely is a sight I won't soon forget. It's one of Palmerston Forts built by the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston in 1860's to ward off a possible invasion by Napoleon III of France. This fort is also where they filmed the last episode of BBC's 'Sherlock' - 'The Final Problem' back in 2016. It is open to the public (when not pandemic). Also, when in Tenby, do pop into a National Trust site called Tudor Merchant's House. It used to belong to a successful merchant, as the name suggests, and it’s been recreated to look the way it would have been in the year 1500 when it was first built. The merchant would have lived upstairs and traded on the ground floor of the house.

The exhibition is touching upon the British trade and the importance of goods imported. Curious to see what was shipped and how much it cost. Being inside places like these, where a period of history is recreated, has a strong time travelling aspect to it, as you can see the everyday interior of 500 years ago, seeing it as people then would have seen it. On plaques throughout the property there are further insights into what life was like back then.

There are three stories of Tudor life in this tucked-away museum, it's not a big house, but there's plenty to learn, experience and admire.

Tenby itself is very charming. It has a long history as well. The Normans invaded it in the early 12th century, and due to the seaport trade succeeding, it became known as 'Little England beyond Wales'. They also built a stone castle on what is now Castle Hill. The Welsh, of course, were having none of it and fought back. Several times. By the 13th century, the English had had enough and surrounded the town with stone walls.

Tenby also has a connection to the early Tudors - Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry, future Henry VII. Jasper had the town refortified in mid-15th century, as the it came under his domain - Pembrokeshire. In 1471 before his exile, Henry hid in Tenby before fleeing into exile. He returned fourteen years later, landed in Milford Haven (same country, but more west), and won the battle of Bosworth.

Tenby would see more military action - it happens to seaside towns, I'm afraid. It got damaged by the Royalist forces during the mid-17th century Civil War. A plague outbreak killed half of population several years later, leaving the town in a state of ruin and abandonment. But being a seaside town also means sea-bathing, and in Georgian times Tenby's frown was turned upside down when it started having success as a fashionable seaside resort. Victorian era saw Tenby exercising both aspects: a tourist attraction and a military defence station. Luckily, Napoleon III did not invade, Palmerston Fort did not get its baptism of fire. Tenby's military aspect was thus consigned to the past, leaving the tourists with its fetching fortifications.

Tudor Merchant's House:

Here's their official website.

Address: Quay Hill, Tenby SA70 7BX

Entry: £6, or free if you have National Trust membership.You pay £6 a month and get into any National Trust-owned or managed sites in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Island. Very handy as there are a great number lot of them. Culloden Battlefield & Fountains Abbey are some of my National Trust favourites.

Public Transport Access: 🚂 10 minute walk from Tenby train station.

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