Tenby, Wales – the setting for one of the world’s most iconic sporting events, Ironman. Almost 2,000 triathletes descend on this Pembrokeshire town every September to attempt a 2.4 mile swim in Tenby harbour, an unforgiving 112 mile bike around hilly Pembroke followed by a marathon effort. No. Mean. Feat.
Tenby itself is tranquil and very pretty – I took the photo above in a rare moment of sunshine of Tenby South Beach the day before the race, and I honestly think its one of the most breathtaking beaches in the UK. We wondered around the candy-coloured houses and down into the harbour, past the inshore lifeboat station (of course!) and over to North Beach where the athletes would set off from the following morning.
Deciding to stay outside of Tenby town in order to escape some of the pre-race buzz and hysteria, we booked for three wonderful nights at the incredible St Brides Hotel Spa in nearby Saundersfoot. The hotel has been a labour of love for owners Andrew & Lindsey for the past decade, and the hard work and attention to detail really shows – from the ‘delighters’ in the hotel rooms of Coast magazine and delicious Belgian waffles, to the reception staff knowing Ben’s Ironman completion time when we came to check out, this luxury spa hotel has it all, and that’s without mentioning the jewel in its crown – the dramatic views across Saundersfoot bay from the spa’s restaurant and infinity pool (yes, really!).
The hotel itself is the definition of ‘boutique’ – super stylish, good food, service, little luxuries and a general feeling of romance and escapism. The corridors are painted muted hues of beige and grey and the *smell*, oh my! If the hotel bottled it and sold it I’d buy it in abundance!
This was the view from our balcony of our hotel room – Wales keeping up its reputation for moody skies & rain, you’ll see:
As part of the bed & breakfast rate we were able to book a complementary 90 minutes in the spa, a sumptuous experience that left both of us feeling completely calm & relaxed before race day. The ‘thermal suite’ is your introduction to the spa and has themed rooms and experiences: a salt infusion room that claims to boost blood circulation and clear congestion; a sensation shower, three water experiences of differing temperatures (I may only have tested two!); an aroma steam room, and a herbal rock sauna. You’ve also the option to simply enjoy the panoramic views of Saundersfoot bay with a book and a cup of coffee on the loungers in the adjacent room.
The highlight for us was waiting just around the corner in the form of the marine hydro infinity pool, heated to body temperature and with the added bonus features of a swan neck shower to ease away neck tension, and hydrotherapy jets that keep you suspended above an underwater recliner – incredible! When the tide is in, the pool edge almost seemingly blends with the sea below, an optical illusion of course but stunning all the same. We capped off our spa session with a sumptuous couple’s 60 minute massage overlooking the beach below.
Of course, we were in Tenby for a reason, and nothing made me prouder than seeing Ben cross the finish line on Sunday evening, 12 hours 45 minutes after he started the gruelling swim (completing in a phenomenal 1h08). If you ever get the chance to spectate at or support someone at an Ironman event, do it – the atmosphere is incredible and the strength, grit and determination of these ‘athletes’ – who are actually ‘normal’ people – is inspiring. Thankfully, I was joined by our friends James & Sarah to cheer on competitors and spot Ben in the throng of athletes. We also had a fair amount of time to kill in between spotting him, and found ourselves in a quaint fish & chip pub between Ben’s penultimate and final marathon lap. (The contrast wasn’t lost on us!)
We left Tenby the following day feeling thoroughly revived after a delicious breakfast of smoked salmon and bagels. If you’re ever Saundersfoot way then make sure you check out St Brides – a fantastic jewel in the Pembroke crown.