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Monday, 25 November 2019

The Missing Island

One of the very beautiful bays on Caldey Island
Have you ever dreamt of being marooned on a desert island? 
Having the whole place to you yourself?
I experienced a taste of this in September when staying on Caldey Island. Just 2.7 miles off the coast of Tenby, South Wales and with a crossing time of 20 minutes, it was the Island that I least expected to be marooned on, but marooned I was. Thankfully, not completely alone. There were the two other guests staying at St. Philomena’s, the retreat house I stayed at, and the fabulous wardens – Serena and Lloyd with their dog Louie [who has sardines for dinner], and the local population of 20 islanders which includes Rita, a feisty 89 year old ex-Carmelite nun who has lived on Caldey for nearly 40 years.

Rita, who 'grew up in one of Wales' most haunted houses and has never worn make-up' can be seen speeding around Caldey on her bright red scooter. 'Listen to the horn, it's rubbish,' has no time for Monks who are late for their religious services. If they are tardy - she'll leave a note on their pew telling them as much. And of course there's the resident population of Cistercian Monks, only 11 now, who live in the huge Italian inspired monastery built in the 1920s to house 300, although the Island has been a Holy one since Celtic times. The Celts LOVED Islands as they saw them as portals to their underworld.

Even with all these people also marooned [they’re used to it] it was very easy to wander around the island, follow the footpaths and explore the ruins, and not see anyone else. It was truly magical and I’m grateful that the ‘wind was blowing from the wrong direction’ on this occasion. 
Obviously, this wasn’t such a good thing for those who’d been looking forward to their own stay on the island as with no boats to take us off there were no boats to bring in visitors, post and supplies.

And there's more to tell: such as joining some of the Monks daily services, what life on the Island is like now compared to how it was, the red Squirrels [lots], the views and the ruins....but I need to save some things for the book!

Why Caldey? Why Now?

When I started my UK Islands Project way back in 2017, I was booked to go to Caldey but my stay was cancelled and the retreat house closed. I was never really given a reason at the time, but discovered that they needed to carry out some changes to the building and the way it was being managed. Actually, it all worked out for the best. The new wardens are fantastic, I met some great people, got marooned and can now say I've completed the set I'd planned to and it's no longer my 'Missing Island.'  Hurrah!! ;-D

Fancy your own Caldey Island Adventure?

You can stay at St Philomena's retreat house on the island from Easter to October on a donation basis [recommended minimum is £50 a day]. This includes a simple and clean single room, shared bathroom and three delicious vegetarian meals a day with the freedom to do as you choose. You can create your own retreat.

It's open to all faiths and none. Even though the accommodation is basic it's very clean and having a room of your own, although small, is great. The only thing that they really ask is that you are on time for the meals [packed lunch is an option] and to help with the washing up and setting the table for the next meal, which is an easy task.  I'd really recommend staying here for an affordable island adventure. It’s a real gem and I was so well looked after. I can't guarantee you'll be marooned there, but I'm sure you'll have a fabulous and interesting time if you go.  Let me know if you do!!
Visit the Caldey Island website for full details: caldeyislandwales.com
Happy Adventuring!

Morwhenna
xx
A snapshot of Caldey Island:
The Monastery. Built in the 1920s to house around 300 monks, only 11 currently live here.
Beach to myself!
Part of the ruins of a Norman building which was as the original monastery before the new Italian inspired building was built.
Lots of lovely textures to be found around the island

One of the many beautiful stained glass windows that was designed and made
by one of the monks in the 1920s.

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