Carmarthenshire has some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes in south west Wales. Travel over breathtaking mountains, through lush, green landscapes and secluded, ancient forests to the vast expanses of our golden sandy beaches.
The River Tywi is the heart and soul of Carmarthenshire. At its source in the remote Cambrian Mountains, hardy walkers may be lucky enough to spot a red kite, a bird often associated with this area, but if not they’ll certainly be rewarded with the dramatic sights of the tumbling, crashing river.
Gentle cross country walks and riverside paths can be found further downstream as the landscape flattens out and the green, green grass of home stretches out for miles around. It’s perhaps in this area that the Garden of Wales name was coined, for the nearby National Botanic Garden of Wales, Aberglasney and Dinefwr delight visitors to Carmarthenshire throughout the seasons.
The National Botanic Garden is not only a masterpiece of historic and futuristic influences but is also helping to conserve some of the rarest plants in the world. Walled gardens, flowerbeds and ornamental features are ranged around a stunning centrepiece – the ‘Great Glasshouse’ where the climate is always Mediterranean. This spectacular dome is the largest single span glasshouse in the world, and was designed by Norman Foster and Partners. Little wonder then, that it’s the most visited garden in Wales!
Less modern, but no less charming, is Aberglasney, the intimate ‘garden lost in time’ that sprang to prominence in a BBC TV series of the same name. This rediscovered cloister garden – a rare survivor in Britain from the 16th and 17th centuries – is still revealing its secrets. Carmarthenshire boasts several other nature and country parks, such as Llyn llech Owain and Ynys Dawela. National Trust’s Dinefwr, one of Britain’s finest 18th century landscaped parks with a priceless collection of ancient trees is another gem.
Carmarthenshire also has its own spectacular beaches. And they’re big beaches at that – Cefn Sidan, one of the largest beaches in Europe, is one of the longest, sandiest beaches you’re ever likely to set foot on; it’s part of Carmarthen Bay, the intriguing seascape which so captivated Dylan Thomas when he lived and worked there and continues to delight locals and tourists alike.
At Pembrey, 202 hectares of sublime parkland incorporates a wild and unspoilt blue flag beach. There’s plenty of family holiday activities afoot here – with a train ride, kids adventure playground, pitch and putt, picnic areas and a choice of walking trails as well as horse riding along the beach and even dry ski slope and toboggan run!
Visit the nearby Museum of Speed that overlooks Pendine, the long beach used for daring land speed record attempts. Or you can have a go along the Millennium Coastal Path, a stunning 22km traffic-free coastal path on the Burry Estuary, which overlooks the spectacular Gower Peninsula. Linked together by this cyclists’ heaven, the Millennium Coastal Path features a unique array of attractions such as WWT National Wetland Centre Wales, Machynys Peninsula Golf Club and Burry Port Marina.
The award winning Discovery Centre, situated at the centre of the Millennium Coastal Park, is a landmark building, a Tourist Information Centre AND the perfect place for a refreshing cuppa or cooling ice cream – right on the beach!
Carmarthenshire is a county steeped in Arthurian legend. Visit one of many castles such as medieval Kidwelly, Dinefwr or Carreg Cennen, an unforgettable ‘eagle’s nest’ perched on a precipice overlooking the Black Mountain, and you’ll feel the history and magic of the places wrap themselves around you.
Other historic towns include Laugharne, Dylan Thomas’ sleepy sea-town on the Taf estuary, where you can visit Dylan’s Boathouse and writing shed; Llandovery with its old marketplace, coach inns, castle and crafts centre; Llandysul with the River Teifi and its championship-standard canoe slalom course; Newcastle Emlyn offering fine period architecture and a ruined castle and St Clears home to West Wales Centre for the Crafts and the Glyn-Coch Craft Centre.
For a real treat, head to Llandeilo – a picturesque country town of pastel coloured houses rising above the River Tywi. The town’s pretty streets will reveal delicatessens, organic foodie shops, fashionable galleries, contemporary jewellers and craft houses and purveyors of exclusive ladies fashion.
Nearby, the Brecon Beacons National Park is a landscape of contrasts, with wild open moorland, water falls, windswept mountains and sheltered valleys. This beautiful and dramatic National Park is backdrop to other small towns including Brecon, Glynneath, Ammanford and Abercrave – home to Dan yr Ogof show caves and Madam Adeleina Patti’s Craig y Nos Castle.
With rolling green countrsyide, the occasional mystical castle, and long sandy beaches the list of available activities is endless! Carmarthenshire offers a raft of activities to get your pulse racing – from paintballing at Cenarth to golfing at the Machynys Peninsula Golf and Country Club. Mountain bikers are well catered for too at Brechfa Forest. Dramatic views and deep valleys offer enthusiasts a great (sometimes muddy!) experience.