Carmarthen & Llansteffan
It’s a touch of Merlin’s magic
St Catherine’s Walk
Merlin conjured up a magical place of intrigue and pleasure when he created Carmarthen. The oldest town in Wales has evolved around its sturdy Roman defences with a rich blend of modernity woven into its mystical and gladiatorial heritage. Just strides away from the Roman ramparts sitting majestically over the serene River Towy, coursing like a silver ribbon down arguable one of Wales’s most beautiful valleys, is the ultra modern St Catherine’s Walk. It boasts all the top shops and retailers behind glitzy glass emporiums and yet round every corner you can slip down historic streets sprinkled with the dust of days of yesteryear to stumble on retro and chintzy bijou shopping opportunities selling everything from cheeses to fashions and fine wines.
Nearby, Carmarthen market has been restyled and relocated to jigsaw old with new and it is a fabulous opportunity to shop for anything from the famous Carmarthen Ham - a favourite of HRH Prince Charles - to laver bread and cockles.
There is even an old jailhouse dating back to the 1530’s that has been turned into a museum at Castle House nestling within the outer walls of the imposing County Hall that dominates southern and eastern approaches to the town. You can pop in its cells and sense and the screaming solitude and anguish. Don’t let the door clag shut unless you have the keys. Documented stories of prisoners and the reasons for their arrest will make you laugh and cry, especially for those whose fate was to be extradited to the land of Oz or more inhumanely, the hangman’s noose from the gallows on the Castle walls.
Coracles and sail ships
Head for the river from Carmarthen’s town centre and with the wave of Merlin’s magical wand you step into Merlin’s Walk yet another shopping centre watched over by an 11-foot statue of the Wizard himself. This centre and its side streets is a kaleidoscope of natural wonders created out of 18th Century houses that tumble down to Carmarthen Quay created by the Romans and until a century ago berthed ocean going sail ships. River Towy is famous for its salmon and sea trout sewin and on its upper reaches fishermen still use coracles to catch them.
All aboard a puffing paradise
The Gwili Railway
The Gwili Railway is an attraction that will appeal to all members of the family and for steam buffs, its a puffing paradise and just a short drive from Carmarthen Town. It is chance to climb aboard a 1960’s steam train hauling a variety of coaches including a dining coach and enjoy Orient Express style white napkins and waiter dining service as you tuck into your Sunday roast leaving a plume of feathery steam billowing through a heavenly steep sided river valley. Through the year the Gwili Railway Society organise a truck full of treats appealing to all ages with trips ranging jazzy Chattanooga Choo Choo excursions, train driver excursions and children specials including Thomas the Tank engine days.
Target a 'turkey' at Xcel
Trot along to a bright new attraction of Carmarthen’s Xcel Bowl and claim your "turkey" - that’s tenpin talk for three strikes in a row. There’s 12 lanes, free car parking, a soft play area for toddlers and a licensed bar and restaurant with a surprisingly good menu.
Go nuts at this market
Carmarthen Indoor Market
No your not going nuts - with apologies to Beatrix Potter’s Nutkins fans - you really can add squirrel to shopping list at the game stall near Carmarthen’s Indoor Market. There is wild boar and a speciality venison too. If you are out to impress. Inside the market there is the more traditional Carmarthen Ham that carries the Royal seal of approval being a well publicicsed particular favourite of HRH Prince Charles.
Wheely surprising park attraction
Just a short walk from Carmarthen’s shopping centre is a delightful park with an unusual attraction, a Velodrome. So if you have your bicycle in tow it is one of those rare chances to cycle an oval dished track. Carmarthen’s has been recently refurbished. There a skateboarding and children’s play area set in spacious grounds and a tea room to take the edge of any exertions.
Knickerbocker glory gem
Cowpots Ice Cream Parlour
Mooove along to Cowpots Ice Cream Parlour and milk shake bar in the town centre and treat yourself to some splendid ice delights. It is a family concern that will have you returning time and competing with all ages to get to the front of the queue for the fabulous ices.
Champion leisure centre
Carmarthen Leisure Centre
An eight-lane swimming pool with an artificial horizon is the sporting attraction of Carmarthen Leisure centre but there are champion standards all about with squash, badminton, a health suite, dance studio, conference facilities and an indoor adventure plan area. Professional staff are at hand to lend assistance at this activity hub just a short drive from the town centre.
Seven miles south of Carmarthen, this large peaceful beach with views across the River Towy to Ferryside, has lovely soft sand to sit on and firm sand for building sand castles. The beach is covered with cockle shells and the rock pools are alive as you venture towards Scott’s Bay. Unique selling point: the lovely fish & chips to be had from a little "hut" by the beach. Overlooking the beach is another of Wales’ famous castles, the 12th century Norman built stronghold (Llansteffan Castle) which is known for its monumental Great Gatehouse. The village was once a fashionable holiday destination for Victorian and Edwardian folk from the towns.