On a natural promontory of great strategic importance, beguilingly old-fashioned TENBY (Dinbych-y-Pysgod) is everything a seaside resort should be. Narrow streets wind down from the medieval centre to the harbour past miniature gardens fashioned to face the afternoon sun, and steps lead down the steeper slopes to dockside arches where fishmongers sell the morning’s catch.
First mentioned in a ninth-century bardic poem, Tenby grew under the twelfth-century Normans, who erected a castle on the headland in their attempt to colonize South Pembrokeshire and create a “Little England beyond Wales”. Three times in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the town was ransacked by the Welsh. In response, the castle was refortified and the stout town walls – largely still intact – were built. Tenby prospered as a port between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, and although decline followed, the arrival of the railway renewed prosperity as the town became a fashionable resort.
Today, wandering the medieval streets is one of Tenby’s delights. The town is triangle-shaped, with two sides formed by the coast meeting at Castle Hill, and the third by the remains of the 20ft-high town walls, built in the late thirteenth century and massively strengthened by Jasper Tudor in 1457. In the middle of the remaining stretch is the only town gate still standing, Five Arches, a semicircular barbican that combined practical day-to-day usage with hidden lookouts and angles acute enough to surprise invaders.